Challenging perceptions towards contractors

Samantha Coombs is an experienced Procurement Professional with experience gained across a range of sectors. She thrives on working in collaboration with others, is skilled at developing relationships with stakeholders and has the ability to hit the ground running and make an impact whenever she takes on a fresh challenge.

Despite being the proud owner of a range of skills and experience that most CPO’s would dream about hiring into their teams, she recently told Supply Management that she has faced numerous challenges in securing a permanent role, simply because for the past ten years she has been a professional contractor, taking on projects rather than committing to permanent opportunities.

One of the key barriers Samantha talks about involves the antipathy of recruiters when it comes to her CV. While displaying an outward illusion of open mindedness their tendency to dismiss her candidacy because of a lack of permanent work history seems to have been almost 100% unanimous.

As a professional recruiter of procurement talent I felt compelled to respond, firstly because I sympathise with Samantha and understand how frustrating it must be for a skilled professional in her situation to be faced with this kind of close minded response. Secondly however I wanted to respond from a recruiters’ perspective, to try and shed some light on why our industry puts up these kind of barriers to contractors before open conversations have even been held.

Can I start by explaining that any recruiter worth their salt will recognise the value of a genuine contractor when it comes to an interim or temporary opportunity. They will know that the ability to work on numerous projects across different industries, often to tight deadlines and always with the expectation of a quick ROI requires a specific calibre of person. What they also know (or think they know) is that these talented individuals have chosen contract work specifically because they don’t want the long term commitment of a permanent role, preferring instead to do what they do best, jump in, bring everything together and move on to the next challenge.

Whist this is certainly true of many contractors, there are also those who appreciate and enjoy the challenges of temporary and permanent work. Many are ambitious and insightful, and having proved themselves in permanent employment recognise that they can broaden their skills and capabilities by taking on interim and temporary opportunities. Others may have worked extensively on short term projects and reached a point where they want to see past the delivery stage of their work. These individuals (like Samantha) are often particularly skilled in relationship building and stakeholder management and desire an opportunity to see the relationships they have nurtured develop over a longer period of time.

It’s true that a small handful of contractors will be considering permanent work for different, less attractive reasons. The less capable ones may be finding work has become scarce and see permanent employment as a safety net. Others may have faced redundancy and rather than let a gap form on their CV’s have rebranded themselves as contractors, using the term to cover up two or three years of disparate work history.  While these individuals undoubtedly exist and continue to populate the job market, without taking the time to have an open conversation with them recruiters cannot possibly make a decision as to whether their intentions for switching from contract to perm or perm to contract are valid and/or viable.

The fact is that by taking the path of most resistance towards contractors, recruiters are missing out on some highly talented people not to mention further restricting the talent pool. Some even recognise that this talent is viable but don’t have the confidence to sell the concept to the businesses they are partnering.

My advice to Samantha therefore would be to find a professional recruiter with a good reputation who understands the value of an open and honest conversation, shows commitment to seeking out the right kind of career opportunities and has the credibility to influence senior decision makers and open doors to roles that would otherwise remain inaccessible on behalf of those they represent.



About the Author


Founder and Director of Procurement Heads. Level headed, solutions focused, highly experienced recruiter with a detailed knowledge of the procurement market and the ability to challenge accepted norms to achieve effective outcomes. Specialist for the Southern region.

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