Obtaining Leads from Contractors – Confessions of an Agent

Obtaining Leads
Obtaining Leads from contractors and clients

Obtaining Leads


Agencies are usually one step ahead of contractors as regards obtaining leads. Gerry asked me to write a series of articles explaining how we do it.

I worked as a recruitment consultant for many years in several roles (yes, we do have different roles).

In fact, I actually placed the proprietor of this site twice (probably the only one ever to do so).

We have remained in contact for a number of years. So, he asked me to spill the beans on some of the ways we have of staying one step ahead of the contractor.

Confessions of an Agent
Confessions of an Agent on agency tricks played on contractors

Leads United

So, let‘s begin!

I used to work on the obtaining leads section of a major IT recruitment agency.

We were not part of the sales force, so we didn‘t actually have any contracts in our pockets ourselves.

Very often those recruitment consultants who had clients were able to generate their own new work. However,  they still needed us to work out who was looking and for what.

We were a very successful team in obtaining leads. In fact we used to term ourselves Leads United. We had two main ways of getting new leads:-

1) From clients
2) From Contractors

1) Clients

As far as clients are concerned, we used to look at the main ads in computer papers and job boards and try to match up the requirement with the companies that we knew and the skills that they had.

Good Idea

We knew most of the major clients and their skill sets. So we had a good idea who was advertising at any one time.

If the client was advertising for permanent employees, then we would tell our sales force. They would get in touch as regards permanent employees that we had on our books.

More importantly, we made a note of each of the clients and then contacted them a few weeks down the line to see if they would like any contractors. This would be after their recruitment drive for IT employees stalled. Then they needed people yesterday to work on their projects.

Hooking Contractors
Hooking Contractors – by an agent

2) IT Contractors

As far as contractors were concerned, that was fairly easy. Most contractors don‘t realise that what we use are tried and tested techniques.

In fact I know some firms who actually train their Leads staff on how to do it, often with the aid of videos.

The idea is for one of the Lead Generation department, in our case the Leads United team, to call up contractors who were on our database with the purpose of obtaining leads.

We would check the skills that they had first.

Then we would call them saying that we had just the position for them with exactly the skills that they have.

Of course, they always wanted to know more.

However, I have to say that this was only the bait and we didn‘t actually have any jobs for them. All we wanted was information from them and obtaining leads from them. There were two ways of achieving this:-

1) Obtaining Leads – References

We would ask them for references and ask them whom they were working for now. This was in order to find out the names of people at different companies who hire contractors. And especially those who are hiring them currently.

Contractor Perceptions
Contractor Perceptions of Agencies

So, if the contractor coughed up, these leads would then be passed to our sales staff. The clients mentioned by the contractor would shortly be receiving a call to see if they had any current positions spare, and, if not, to ask them if they would contact us when they had a vacancy.

2) Fresh Leads

We would say to contractors that we were going to put their details through to several companies, but that it would work against the contractor if his or her CV appeared at the client‘s company more than once.

We therefore asked the contractor to give us the names of companies where he or she had been for an interview, or where he or she had their CV sent.

This was really useful stuff as it lets us know which companies are CURRENTLY looking for contractors.

We would then be able to contact the companies and put our own candidates up against the contractor giving us the info.

A Bit Dodgy

I realise that this was a bit unfair, if not a bit fraudulent on the contractor, but it is standard practice in the industry, and if we weren‘t doing obtaining leads this way then we would fail to meet targets and they would just employ someone else to do it.

It also helped us to get other contractors work – although in saying that we didn‘t usually generate new work from new clients. We were just finding our about requirements which existed already.

 All a Game

I think it is all a game and it is really down to the contractor to be aware of what is happening.

Dodgy Agency Practices
Dodgy Agency Practices

We used to call it getting contractors to drop their cheeses, after the Aesop‘s fable of the fox and the crow, where the fox flattered the crow that he was a great singer so that the crow opened its mouth to sing, so dropping the cheese.

The Correct Response

So what should contractors do when they receive these calls?

Basically to realise that there is nothing in it for them, and those calling are possibly not even employed in contacting clients to sell them to them, but are probably just the Leads Generation unit involved in obtaining leads.

They should tell the recruitment consultant who calls, that references will be provided when an interview is obtained, and that to avoid CVs appearing at a company twice, the agency should first give you the name of the clients, or at least a reference number for the contract.

Often the rec con will still cling on for dear life, but the contractor will do no harm to himself by simply putting down the phone.

Pretty Naive

I don‘t know why contractors don’t know better about these calls. To be honest, the Leads United team used to joke about it and say that it was like taking candy off of kids.

Contractors do seem very naive in the main compared to more street wise recruitment consultants – especially when the rec cons have had training in ‘˜contractor conning‘ techniques.

As I say, I am out of the game now.

I hope that contractors will find this article useful, and they will be forewarned when crafty recruitment consultants come calling.

Agent X



  1. A few years back I put a rule, no references, company names until I have an interview. Personally I wouldn’t mind sharing the job offer as it can help companies find candidates, but my clients were a bit annoyed by recruiters and recruiters would take way to long to talk about this. so today is what’s the rate, what’s the company name (to avoid duplication) and references after interview 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here