Cited recently as the most attractive career path by 87% of skilled graduates entering the jobs market, contract recruitment is a growing preference that already accounts for 91% of the recruitment industry’s £35.7bn turnover.

For the ambitious that turn their hand to contract, there are some fundamental differences that recruiters familiar with perm might need to consider.

Speed is vital

Recruitment moves quickly at the best of times but in the contract market time really is the biggest killer for deals. Recruiters need to work with a sense of urgency as roles are filled far quicker in the interim world and the early bird catches the worm.

To stay ahead of the game, recruiters need to be aware of vacancies prior to them being advertised. This means actively monitoring their networks and always asking who’s hiring, and what projects are gaining traction. It also relies on knowing which candidates meet the criteria and if they are readily available.

Candidate relationships are more important

Contract differs to perm in that an on-going relationship with candidates is not simply good practice, but a necessity. Nurturing your contractors and keeping them happy is key to securing repeat business when they re-enter the market.

They are also a lucrative source of market intelligence as contractors are your eyes and ears in the industry, and consequently the best way to ascertain where the next deal can be found.

Recruiters should be following-up at the end of the first day of placement, the close of the first week, and then checking-in – including meeting in person – every few weeks to nurture the relationship.

The market is different

One of the fundamental differences between the markets is that perm has an abundance of vacancies with the emphasis being on the recruiter to headhunt the best talent.

In contract recruitment, a good recruiter already has a strong repository of candidates in their mix, with the impetus being on sourcing the suitable role.

Every client and candidate is an opportunity to glean the health of the market, do they know of managers hiring, what projects are hot, and are there other potential interested contractors they know?


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More resourceful candidate acquisition

The best candidates in contract are tucked away a little deeper in the nooks and crannies of the market, which is why recruiters need to be more resourceful in their talent acquisition strategies.

For contract candidates there are more attractive incentives than salary and career packages, with flexibility and work culture having more weight and relocation being less of a barrier.

Long term plans and career development are not really a consideration for contract recruitment.

Weathers economic downturns

Pay attention to the shifts and trends in the market because when a financial downturn or headcount freeze takes place, perm vacancies close their doors and contract goes into overdrive.

A recruiter needs to ensure they are available in the right place at the right time for this, as changes in the contract market happen quickly and require a rapid response.

2008’s global financial crisis triggered a sharp rise in unemployment, peaking at 2.7 million in 2011, up from 1.6 million in 2008, the highest level for 17 years in the UK. However, the recruitment industries unique position enabled it to weather the storm. Between 2008 and 2010, UK recruitment industry turnover dropped 15% before rebounding to grow by 25% in 2011.

We explored some of the key reasons surrounding the recruitment industries continued growth here.

This article was published in October 2014 and updated regularly. The last update was October 2019