This article about stealing a contractor’s job, is by an agent.
We asked an ex-agent to have a series of confessions about the dirty tricks that agents get up to with contractors. One of his favourite ‘confessions’ is to how agents put one over on contractors when callling them up.
By Agent X
Fooled by an Agent
“When are you next available” we ask. We fully intend to make sure that you will definitely be available then.
Many contractors get fooled by the ‘When are you available’ call when they are in the middle of a contract. We would tell them that it is so that we can start looking for work for them closer to the date.
Not True Confessions
It’s not the truth!
If we have a position available we can simply post it in Jobserve or CWJobs and get as many good contractors as we want. In fact, far too many.
No, what we really want when we call you up is to get your job. It’s really to know when a contractor’s job becomes available and not you.
It’s like the old Aesop’s fable where the fox manages to talk the crow into dropping the cheese.
Here is the line of questioning and what it tells us:-
‘When are you next available’?
This tells us also when your JOB potentially becomes available. It’s possible that you will be renewed at your current client’s – but not if we can help it.
‘Where are you currently working’?
We want the name of the company here. This is zooming in on the potential ‘kill’. Once we know this information we will know who will potentially have a position open when you come up for renewal (or get booted out).
‘Who are you working for. This is for future reference purposes and we won’t contact this person until you allow us to’.
Like hell! We’ll be straight on the blower to this person to see if they have any vacancies. They may or they may not have.
However, they definitely will have when you come up for renewal and we will call again then.
‘What skills are you using there”?
We need to know this to help us in our search for your replacement, hopefully, when you come up for renewal.
‘Can I ask what rate you are currently on”?
Once we know this, we know how to undercut you when you come up for renewal.
True Confessions – The Kill
So, now we have everything that we need to know in order to make the kill. Other agencies haven’t got this information so we are the sole ones who will get this opportunity.
It’s us alone and we have only one rival for this nice piece of business – you!
Any agent worth his salt now knows what to do. Most contractors don’t get spoken to about a renewal until about a month to go or less.
We don’t want to jump the gun too quickly so we wait till about 5 weeks before your contract is up.
Then we pounce!
True Confessions – Selecting Your Replacement
We’ve got to make it good. Just before that date, I’ll put an ad in one of the main job boards asking for the very same skills that you are using at company X.
Once I have a whole host of those I then select the ones which I think will outdo you and whose experience will outdo yours. Hopefully I’ll have your CV in front of me and those I pick out will be the ones that are a better fit for the contractor’s job than you are.
Now, I’ve got to talk to them about rates. There’s no point in putting up candidates who are more expensive than you are.
Alos, there’s got to be a reasonable gap. There’s no point in putting someone forward who is only £25 quid a week cheaper than you are.
If you are earning £1,500 a week, I’ll want to try and get some people for around £1,300 a week, or maybe £1,350 a week.
Confessions – Sowing the Seed
Once I get the CVs together of those who are better than you, I then call the client.
I tell him that my agency specialises in the areas where he needs the skills. I’ll say that we have a number of really good people with those skills who are available or are becoming available.
I then say “Can I ask what you are paying for people with those skills”?
Once he or she tells me I then say “Do you know that you are paying over the market rate for those skills”.
I don’t want to push it too much at this stage. What I’ll say then is that I have a number of CVs that are suitable and I’ll send them to him or her with no obligation so that they can compare prices and experience with the tools and skills that he or she uses.
Job Done as Regards Contractors’ Job
That’s all I need, i.e. to get the CVs and prices in front of him or her. That’s most of the job done. No one wants to pay over the odds.
Hopefully he’ll have those CVs sitting in front of him when your agency gets on the blower asking him or her for a rise for you from your current £1,500 a week.
It doesn’t always work but it works a surprising amount of times.
I bet most contractors have lost a renewal because of information that they have given out to recruitment consultants about their own jobs.
They’ll never know what has happened to them. It is happening every day to contractors up and down the land. They must score the most own goals of any professionals in any profession.
Many will have been surprised at not getting renewals that they expected to get.
They would have been even more surprised to find out that it was their own fault and that they supplied all the ammunition for the gun that ‘shot’ them.
As I say, I am no longer in the business and write these articles only because I’ve been asked to by the site proprietor and to give contractors an insight into what is happening behind the scenes.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed as they say. That’s why I am giving contractors these confessions.
So, what should contractors do when a contractor’s job is at stake?
Well, they should be in control of the relationship between themselves and recruitment consultants and not let it be the other way around.
They should only talk to agents when it suits them and not when it suits the agency.
If an agency calls up asking the questions above you should simply tell the caller that you will be in touch when you become available, but that you aren’t available for the present. It won’t be easy to shake them off as they will try to badger you into getting at least some of the information needed.
Some contractors think that they may lose out by doing this, but ask yourself this – have you ever got a contract through an agency who contacted you in this way?
The only exceptions would be if it was an agent who has got you work in the past and who you know quite well. They may be genuinely keen to get something for you if you have been good for them in the past.
Contractor v Agent – Unequal Contest
So there you have it!
The battle between contractors and recruiters is not an equal one over a contractor’s job.
Many agents are doing this kind of thing all day long and are adept at it. Contractors only do this kind of thing every so often and are no match for most recruiters who are much too wily for them.
All you can do is to try to think what and agent could do with the information that you are giving him or her.
The best to advice is to give out no information at all – until a time and a place when it suits you.
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