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Peter Pilgrim :: Java Champion :: Digital Developer Architect

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Why aren’t you getting the best contractors and what can you do about it (Part 2)

18 July 2016 3 comments

9 minutes


Why aren’t you getting the best contractors and what can you do about it

In Part 1, we look into the question of why companies suck at finding great contractors. We covered reviewing the genuine opportunity. We touched on why demand for great contractors outstrips the supply. We saw why TEST-FIRST recruitment is an abject #EPICFAIL.
Finally, we learnt the basics of how to write an appealing advertisement.

In this second part, we expand on the question.

Part 2

Some do not believe that great contractors are in short supply. Well it stands to reason, if a contractor is already working on a job, because under 3, 6, 9 or even 12 months contract then they are unavailable for immediate requirement. Unavailability is one answer. Some contractors that are supremely good are almost operating like consultants. In other words, they have many choices, and a few frugal contractors, may have a substantial war chest, so they will wait until a juicy project [read “challenge”] appears once they have finished an engagement.

Everyone can shoot themselves in a foot.

Recruiters can shoot themselves in the foot, because they fail to handle the client’s true requests. They may not have the experience and the knowledge of the technical and/or business challenge. If the recruiter keeps sending you CV with generalist Java developers, when you actually require a Java developer with IBM MQ Series then there is probably a miscommunication between you and the recruiter. However, it might be also true that there are no MQ Series Java engineers available right now and for the significant near future. What can you do? Of course, chucking money at the problem rarely solves the long-term pain.

Clients can also definitely shoot themselves in the foot. An obvious way that will happen, is that the business suddenly unprepared for demand. The so-called impossible deadline caused by sales and marketing, which causes a miscalculation of the effort to deliver the product on the time. Ergo: the product was undersold to the customer. With this scope, you need schedule in order to maintain quality. However, you can’t save face by going to the client and then demand more money from them. Now you are stuck. Now the company has to commit more bodies to product. (This is a very bad idea see The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks.) Therefore, it may easy and tempting to rush-release a tired out-dated job specification to any recruiters. I believe in American Football, they call this idea something like the “Hail Mary pass!” Don’t do this! It leads to resentment and eventual offence. Rather the business strategy should have been clearer months earlier rather than today.

Contractors can also shoot and blow their foot off. A contractor can become too uppity and stupid just like another person who rediscovers a silver mirror and vanity. It is up to contractors, and indeed, consultants to stay real. Contract can rest on their laurels with inactivity, boredom and mundanity.

Moral: Take your sodding time and definitely make time when hiring a top talented contractor. It is your money to waste, if you get it wrong. However, don’t take an ice age to respond in order to avoid losing the guy to the competition and also know exactly what you want to achieve.

Let’s move on economics.

hiring processes for top-tier contractors
Figure 1: Contrasting the hiring processes for top calibre contractors. It rather shouldn’t be a mystery! We have yet to reach a point where the IT decision maker is throwing down a dinner even to get a contractor interested in their business and it will come though, mark my words, the way things are going.

The sea is rough about there and there are no excuses

The economy is the true driver of supply and demand. As a technical leader you are at the effect of it, and you will find job market place and the economy blows hot and cold for certain periods. As a rule of thumb, in the UK, recruitment falls off in July and August and also around Christmas and New Year. Demand typically starts on the first week in January, after the tax period in April and then there is autumn run from September. This is well understood, because IT directors will sign-off for multi-phase projects just before and after these periods.

However, in the year 2016, there was a sudden difference of opinion and attitude to general life not just in digital, or information technology. We are all at the effect of #BREXIT and we still are not sure how this will affect the long-term economy. One thing that is definitely understood is that we have different political opinions, and what we want to get out of leaving the European Unions. In other terms, politics and general attitude WILL affect all of us.

Some people have a practical model of the situation in their heads about economy, society and politics. They explain the situation of bad economy like rough seas using a metaphor; equally a calm sea is like a boom economy.

Consider a flexible approach

With flux and constant change, people expect improvements in their quality of life. It is not just about work sitting constantly in front of computer screen. Experienced people often are older, if not wiser; they can see life differently to when they were just starting out. The best may want a flexible work-life balance?

Do you really need a contractor or a consultant to be on site (BoS) every single day? Some corporations do, indeed, insist on this requirement, because they have a culture of in-grained authoritative leadership. Hey! I’m sure that you heard of the old phrase, “If you can’t change the organisation, then change the organisation.”, and usually that applies to permanent people. But guess what? How do you think the best consultants evaluate companies when they want to find the next engagement? Same logic applies to decent contractors!

There are real-world changes in the demography of the IT industry. Women in IT need more flexibility to work from home, because they are often looking after of children. No offence to all men, who deliberately take time off, between contracts and consultative engagements in order to give their partners, spouses and wives a much needed break from looking after the kids and playing house. Do you really believe that being in office 40+ hours a week and chained to work desk in sometimes crappy conditions is befitting of the best technical people out there and inside your team? No. I didn’t think so.

Astrid Byro remote project manager

As you take the full advice of this article, then you reduce the influence HR in the picture and write your own bespoke advertisement. For large organisations, this is very hard to do. However, you should be prepared to go on the offensive, especially if you want find great people? Now is the time to rethink how we hire people and that includes contractor and consultants. You also need to work a lot harder to find ethical shepherds, the recruitment agency, who will consider your choices and provide brilliant advice. Just remember to guide them to your genuine requirements and push your extra value-adds. If you consider this, you should find better quality contractors and also staff. Good luck.


14 July 2016


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