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How to source your next contract

 

Searching for a contract can be a daunting and energy-sapping exercise, whether you are a first timer looking to move away from the perm side and stepping into the relative unknown or a battle hardened professional contractor with 15-20 different projects under your belt. 

 

The UK job market is full of recruitment agencies, umbrella companies and end-clients themselves offering contract job openings with various rates and benefits; so it is inevitable that any contract candidate might need some guidance in order to ensure you have the best chance of success to keep finding a suitable contract every time you need to. 

 

There are 4 main avenues when searching for a job. 

 

Option 1: Recruitment Agencies & Agents
This is probably the most common way for a contractor to find a new position. A recruitment consultancy will usually have a whole host of contract roles available on behalf of their clients, and it is wise to research its credibility in the market, to look for the tell-tale signs that not only do they have a sound reputation, but also that they suit your requirements. 

 

The UK market is saturated with recruitment agencies, so it is a good idea to use one that specialises in not only contract assignments,, but also the sector or skillset you specialise in (for example Technology in Finance or SAP). These agencies are well-placed to know their market, so can offer sound advice about your contract career, and have a strong client-base or good network of organisations who seek contract professionals on a regular basis.

 

Another good sign that an agency is reputable will be its membership to trade body organisation, such as APSCo, REC or IRP. Membership to these bodies not only involves a significant membership fee, it also means they will be audited each year, ensuring it is compliant.  One other idea is to ask about for testimonials on the agency with other contractors or in online forums so that you can get an overview from someone on your side of the fence.

 

Option 2: Job Boards
The second main option is using the online job boards of which there are many operating. There are many job boards that will cover your sector, for example the likes of Jobserve, CWJobs and ITJobs have been operating for almost 2 decades. Other well known sites that cover a host of sectors in the UK include Monster, Jobsite, Totaljobs and Reed. Each board will allow you t build up an online presence where you can post your CV, advise what location you want to work in, what rates of pay you are looking for and more importantly what your headline skills are. 

 

This is a great way for hirers to come to you when they conduct a search for talent, be it a recruitment consultant or someone at the end client themselves. Every agency needs to post their jobs on the boards, and many end clients are now advertising direct as they have in-house recruitment teams. 

 

A quick google search will bring up the most used job boards in your sector or area of expertise. Be sure to check the credibility of the site or board in question before you spend too much time applying for specific positions. It is easy to submit your CV to lots of roles advertised online, but it may be time wasted if the positions are either out of date and no longer receiving applications, or worse still aren’t what they say ‘on the tin.’ This is unfortunately still a common complaint amongst many contractors.

 

Option 3: Go direct to the end client
A third sourcing option available is to go direct to the end-client that has the project or requirement for extra skills, and bypassing the use of an agency who commonly act as the middle men in the contract market. This has long been the tactics of career contractors, who leverage opportunities off the back of their own network or return to employers that have previously engaged them (usually via an agency in the original instance). The benefit here is that the agency margin is completely cut-out, and as that can often be up to 25% of the total daily budget, it offers a significant saving to the end client while offering the contractor a more attractive daily rate. 

 

Not all businesses will use a recruitment agency to source candidates as many have in-house teams made up of ex-agency recruiters who are able to handle the process by advertising direct and managing the whole process. It is well worth keeping an eye on the career section of organisations that you would like to work at or have positive things about. It is a good idea to not only keep a history of those companies where you have worked at in the past, but also the contact details of the hiring managers and other senior team members – if you have a good track record with them it stands to reason that they would take you on again. Never they will find you, as while hiring managers have a record of previous employees they won’t necessarily contact every previous supplier when an opening arises.

 

Option 4: Miscellaneous 
The fourth category of sourcing options is the catch all of everything not listed above. This includes (online) social media, and offline resources such as trade magazines.  Social Media has exploded in recent years, and tagging onto that is the recruitment process, meaning it is now one of the most popular, not to mention successful, ways to source a job.  The first stop here is to make sure your LinkedIn account is up to date, and if you do not have one then open one immediately. LinkedIn is a great tool to show off your work history, what your skillset is and what your current situation is (working or seeking assignments for example). 

 

99% of all recruiters and direct hirers in the UK have a profile on LinkedIn, and use it as a platform to advertise positions, source contractors and announce upcoming projects. Best of all, for applicants, it is completely FREE to use!

 

Despite the shift to online sourcing models which continues to gather pace, it also pays to consider the traditional print media in your job search. Industry publications still have a huge readership and all have recruitment pages which are strong tools for an employer to use. 

 

Perhaps the most important avenue in this 4th section is your own professional network of contacts which can be invaluable to use in your career (and is another reason to get on LinkedIn if you are not using it already). Keep in touch with former colleagues – both contractors and permanent employees – on a regular basis. They will be able to flag any positions they know of and vice versa.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying for Contracts
The two main sourcing options you will probably find yourself using the most are the agencies and job boards (they go very much hand in hand). When using these methods it is prudent to remember a few pieces of advice to do and to not do in your search..


When using job boards do not apply for every single opening that is a vague match for your skillset. It is very tempting to apply for everything when out of work in order to find something quickly, but adopting this ‘scatter gun’ approach can be to your detriment. You will quickly be seen as an individual who doesn’t take their career seriously and consequently agencies and recruiters will not take your application seriously, which could lead to you gaining yourself a reputation that you do not want. Make sure you have an up to date CV posted and also that you fill your profile where possible with keywords for your skills, experience and what you are looking for, as this will help you stand out in searches conducted by hiring parties.

 

There are many top notch recruiters in the market who will often go the extra mile to help individuals who are serious about their contracting career, but  it pays to note that using a less than reputable recruitment agency will leave you open to nefarious tactics - We’ve heard of several horror stories of contractors applying for contracts that do not exist, being promised one rate and getting offered another at the last minute, and CVs/information being put forward for a role without their consent. Tactics like this should hold no place in the industry, however they do occur which is why it is so important that you research an agency before committing to working with it.

 

Contracting can be a fantastic career option. It is stimulating; offers plenty of diversity, can prove lucrative, is a means to quickly up-skill yourself and offer you a degree of flexibility with a better work-life balance than your ‘permie’ counterparts. By following the above advice, you have a great chance of finding yourself, and controlling, the career that you desire!

 

Remember, if you’ve got any questions, please do get in touch. We’re only a phone call or email away. 

Landing the job

 

Looking for work in the UK? Need information about working in the UK? Transition ll UK can assist you. As well as offerin g a full review of your CV, we also provide comprehensive advice and guidance on employment and career opportunities for senior management and executive positions, and introductions to Specialised Employment agencies in the following sectors: IT, Finance and Accounting, Banking, Management Consulting, Engineering

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