Let’s say that, after months of roaming from company to company as a contractor, you finally find a workplace where you’d like to settle down. The good news is that, with the tech unemployment rate so low, most employers are willing to fill full-time openings with proven contractors—provided you take all the right steps to score an offer.
Here are some factors that could influence employer decision-making, along with some tips for converting a contract position into a full-time job. When it comes to contracting, you can use the current employer hunger for highly specialized talent to win everything you want out of a gig.
Companies use contractors to provide an immediate dose of technical expertise on a short-term basis. Interim workers are also flexible in terms of scheduling and workloads, which makes them cost-effective, especially for limited-duration development projects and the like.
Any technologist hoping to jump from contractor to full-time employee needs to convince an employer that such a move presents long-term value. For starters, identify a problem that requires ongoing attention, and that you can solve with your unique combination of skills. That will help justify a continuing investment in you as a regular employee.
In order to build your case, don’t just lay out the basics of your potential role for your employer; show how you can have a widespread effect on the business and its products. While still a contractor, ask for additional projects (if you have the bandwidth), or offer to share some of your deep expertise with employees. Not only will volunteering to solve additional technical issues make you more invaluable to the organization, but it will help underscore your worth when you begin your negotiations for a full-time position.
“Continue to push the limits of what you can do,” advised Harold Dill, senior technical recruiter for The Goal, a technical staffing firm. “Act as if you already have a full-time position because you really don’t want to go perm at a company that will limit what you can do or hold you back.”
Asking for feedback from your manager over the course of an assignment can help you assess your chances of transitioning, and may provide the proper forum for expressing your interest in joining the company.
Remember that being too pushy or issuing ultimatums about employment may result in an early exit, especially if the company just isn’t that into you (no, it won’t matter that companies really need the talent; they reason that they’ll eventually find someone else). Try a more diplomatic approach, as any permanent relationship depends on mutual interest. And do your best to negotiate from a position of strength whenever you can; scoring some wins, and demonstrating your value, will compel a manager to sit down and negotiate.
In many respects, moving from a contract role to a full-time job is similar to landing a promotion: insiders have a distinct advantage. Once you’ve decided that you’re contracting for your ideal employer, slowly expand your circle of influence at the company so that, when a new position becomes available, you can leverage endorsements and support from your in-house network to seal the deal.
“It’s a lot harder to get rid of someone that everyone knows and likes,” advised Ben Casteel, team lead for talent acquisition at IT services firm Ascendum Solutions. “Try to make a positive impact on the culture by getting out of your cube and building relationships.”
If you’re working through a staffing firm, your recruiter can act as your liaison to the company of your choice. They can gauge the tech manager’s receptivity and help facilitate a smooth transition if you bring them into the loop right away, Dill said.
A manager usually needs an approved requisition and position budget to bring you onboard; plus, some employers use contractors because they don’t want to pay a substantial placement fee. Keep all that in mind before you make your pitch.
“Your recruiter can support you by working through the financial barriers that may keep you from converting,” Dill noted. “We know a company’s practices, budget constraints and the cost of letting a tech pro with highly specialized skills get away.”
While it might be tempting to accept a full-time offer when you finally find a manager and technical environment you like, it’s ultimately a candidate’s market. If things don’t work out at one company, it’s only a matter of time before you find a permanent home.
“More than 50 percent of the time, your ability to stay on long-term is up to you,” Casteel said. “If you show up with the skills and the right attitude, they’re going to try to find some way to keep you.”