In this article, I'll cover the mindset new contractors may want to consider as they enter the world of contracting. In particular, I’m going to focus on agency and independent contractors for this article (not freelancers)
Also, if you haven't read the other articles in the series, check out the last article where I talked about some of the advantages of incorporating:
As a contractor, even though you may be doing similar work to your employee colleagues , the relationship between you and your client is different. It’s important to understand that contractors are responsible for their own career path and your clients generally do not care about your growth, development, and future aspirations within the company. You’re hired to solve a specific problem using a specific technology stack so interviews traditionally lean heavily on assessing the level of knowledge on that technology stack.
Many organizations have term limits on the length of contracts that can be signed. Though contract extensions are always possible; as a contractor, you will typically be going for interviews more frequently then your employee counterparts.
Organizations interview contractor candidates differently from employees, but as a whole you will still see a wide range of interview styles as a contractor (questions, white-boarding, take home assignments etc.). However, you will not be asked questions about your future interests or growth in the organization and you shouldn’t take this as being inconsiderate - remember, the interview process for contractors is largely an assessment of current skills. That being said, there are two techniques of interviews that you may encounter more frequently than when you were an employee.
Upon reviewing your resume, some organizations will run a very simplified in-person interview for contractor candidates with the intention of judging overall fit. The contract will allow for a short two-week evaluation period. If you do not meet the client’s expected experience after this period, you will be let go. Because organizations can release (from a legal and HR perspective) contractors easier than full-time employees, many organizations adopt this method of on-boarding contractors. You should be paid for the two-week trial at your negotiated rate and your contract will state any notice termination time frame (if any).
Contrasting heavily from the aforementioned on-boarding process, some organizations adopt a heavy technical assessment in their contractor interview process. This approach typically involves technical questions specific to the stack you will be required to work on. It may optionally include a take-home exam. Organizations sometimes adopt this process in order to assess a candidate’s immediate impact on the team.
Regardless of the interview style, the entire process is generally shorter (and you get responses faster) because you are fulfilling an immediate need in the team. Many contractor positions expect you to ‘hit the ground running’.
Keep in mind the length of time invested to obtain contracts. Though many organizations have shortened interview processes for contractors, some send contractors though the same evaluation pipeline as employees. This may result in 3+ rounds of interview and a take home assignment for a 6 month contract! As a contractor, you need to evaluate if this revenue prospect is worth the effort. For inexperienced contractors, take home tests are the norm. But for experienced contractors, many will not accept take-home assignments because it’s not worth their time (and they have existing anchor clients for work).
Employees are a valuable asset to an organization. Thus, employee interviews are regarded as a two-way evaluation - i) to see if the candidate is an appropriate fit to the organization and ii) if the organization can provide the mentorship and growth for required by the candidate. Contracting is different - these organizations are your clients and you are a service provider.
While some of the things I mentioned might seem daunting, there are many things that contractors do to mitigate interview thrashing (stay tuned for another blog post!). If you enjoy specializing in specific technologies or prefer a more business to business relationship between you and the people you work for, then contracting might be the path for you!
In my next article, I’m going to talk about specific aspects of contracts. Stay tuned!