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There is a common misconception that contract workers are somehow inferior, lower-level, or not the “cream of the crop.” However you want to say it, the belief is that candidates only take contract assignments because they were passed up for direct hire jobs.

That is definitely a myth. For many high quality candidates, contract staffing is not a last resort. They are choosing contracting as a lifestyle to achieve more flexibility, variety, and growth.

This is especially evident in the recent 2012 MBO Partners State of Independence in America report which found that 57% of the “independent workers” (e.g., contractors, contract workers) they surveyed consciously chose to work on a contract basis. Furthermore, only 13% of those working independently would go back to a traditional employment relationship.

“These findings debunk the popular misconception that workers are forced into independence due to job loss or lack of alternatives,” the report stated.

In fact, there are a number of reasons a star candidate would choose to work on contract:

  1. They need flexibility – This is probably the most common reason workers contract. Many people are juggling careers with childcare and other responsibilities. Contract assignments are often project-based, so companies may be willing to be more flexible with contractor work schedules and location (i.e., home).
  2. They don’t trust corporate America. One unexpected layoff can be enough to make anyone leery of traditional employment. When they contract, they know from the get-go that their assignments are temporary, so they are not blindsided.
  3. They want to be a “free agent.” Many workers don’t want to be tied to one employer. They want to depend on their own skills and take control of the futures. This is especially true of Millennials.
  4. They want challenge and variety. For many workers, especially the younger generations, simply getting a paycheck isn’t enough of a reason to get up in the morning. They want to make a difference, and they want to be challenged. Companies often use contractors to meet critical deadlines and complete projects, so it’s easy for workers to see the impact of their work… and then move on to the next challenge.
  5. They don’t want to relocate. A worker may not want to uproot their family, or they may not be able to sell their house in today’s market. But they may be willing and able to work away from home for a short time or try a location and company on a contract-to-direct basis before accepting a direct hire offer.
  6. They want to retire – sort of. Today’s older workers want to remain active, and many can’t afford to retire. They want to be able to work when they need or want to, not be tied to a traditional, 9-5 job.
  7. They want to make more money. Contractors are paid for every hour, including overtime.

To get high caliber candidates, companies may find that they have to allow them to work on a contract basis. This is especially true in certain industries. For example, Adam Greenberg told Top Echelon that healthcare providers often have difficulty finding Health IT professionals who will work directly.

“The staffing industry within IT is one of the businesses that most perfectly follows the law of supply and demand,” Greenberg said. “In our business, when it gets very difficult to find people, the price goes up. And when they can’t find full-time employees, they must fill their open positions with contractors. What we’re seeing now is the price of contractors is going up as the demand is going up.”

In fact, he said Health IT contractors are making upwards of $80 per hour, more than double what healthcare providers typically pay a traditional, direct hire employee in these positions.

Another industry that is seeing employees move toward contract staffing is pulp and paper, Gilly Hitchcock, owner of FPC Bangor. Many companies in the industry are in remote locations, so workers are reluctant to take accept a direct positions. They also like the independence of contracting.

“They feel like they have a little bit of autonomy, that they are not necessarily beholden to that job or that company for the rest of their lives,” Hitchcock said.

So don’t pass over a resume or candidate because they have a variety of jobs and experiences. Someone who has enhanced their skills and expertise through contract assignments could be your best candidate.

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