Why go direct?

Using a recruitment agency to hire contractors is not every IT manager's cup of tea. James Rogers looks at the pros and cons of...

Using a recruitment agency to hire contractors is not every IT manager's cup of tea. James Rogers looks at the pros and cons of recruiting direct

The classic form of direct recruitment is to place an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. The difference between this approach and using a recruitment agency is that your company will have complete control of the recruitment process. Finding contractors in this way has, it must be said, both its good and bad points. If you or your HR department is prepared to sift through reams of contractor CVs and conduct several series of interviews then direct recruitment could be the answer. If, on the other hand, you have more pressing concerns (such as running your IT department) then the agency route is probably still the best option.

The biggest potential benefit of going direct, however, is cost. Professional Contractors Group member Tim Ward, of Brett Ward Consultants, says, "The main advantage is that you are not paying an agency." It could also be worth a try if you have not been overly impressed by your experiences with recruitment agencies. Ward believes that some agents do not have adequate technical skills to effectively filter CVs and provide their clients with the most appropriate candidates. "Often the agent does not know what any of the words mean so he hasn't a clue what is a suitably related field," he says.

Moreover, hiring contractors direct can also give companies a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to contract negotiations. Ward says, "You can negotiate contract terms with the contractor that suit you both, without an agency insisting on its 'standard' terms that suit neither of you." Fellow Professional Contractors Group member Tim Corringham agrees, "One advantage is that clients can outsource small jobs." He believes that few agencies are interested in small contracts of less than a week.

Having a pool of direct contractors ready to undertake small contracts at short notice is a major benefit to an IT manager. In some ways it could even be seen as the perfect solution to the technical problems and crises that often beset IT departments. The downside is that you will first have to find the contractors and, more importantly, manage your relationships with them.

One of the most popular routes for IT managers seeking contractors is the Internet. A Web search will throw up any number of sites devoted to putting companies in touch with contractors and vice versa. Just as the services that are offered by agencies have become increasingly sophisticated over the past few years, so a number of industry Web sites have followed suit.

The recently launched clubitc.com is a good example. The site describes itself as "a lifestyle club for IT and communications professionals" and offers a job board which could prove useful for IT managers seeking contractors. Individuals, clients and agencies can all register free of charge for the careers section of clubitc.com, although users have to pay if they want to get the full benefits of the club, such as discounted accountancy services.

James Molloy, director of clubitc.com, believes that the site could be useful for IT managers looking to recruit direct. "An IT manager could register with the Web site, go onto the job manager section, register his company, and post the jobs that he has available," he says. Applicants apply direct to the site and the e-mails they generate can then be forwarded to the client, preserving the company's anonymity, he adds. The site also allows companies to receive applications direct. It is worth noting that clubitc.com offers a facility that allows IT managers to see how many applicants have viewed a particular vacancy.

Another option could be the Professional Contractors Group portal, a business-to-business contracts matching service for independent consultancy and contracting companies, their clients and agents. Users can register to access this part of the site free of charge.

While the Internet offers a large audience, often at a low cost, it does have its downside. Mike Berry, UK regional director of Elan Computing, believes that it increases the potential that you will receive applications from unsuitable candidates, thus extending the amount of time needed to create a shortlist. He acknowledges, however, that it can be a cost effective recruitment method.

The problem is that not all companies have either the expertise, time or resources to go down the direct route. David Clayden, contract sales director at recruitment firm Preferred IT, says, "If you talk to any senior HR person in a big organisation, they would often prefer to leave the recruitment of temporary staff to a recognised recruitment consultancy because they don't have the technical expertise in-house."

There are obvious benefits to both hiring contractors direct and using a recruitment agency, although two issues remain constant. One is time - the other, money. If cost is your main concern, then it could be worth looking at the direct route. On the other hand, if you need a contractor on site yesterday, then it is probably worth sticking with your agency.

The benefits of recruiting direct
  • Improved brand awareness

  • Can be more cost effective

  • Can re-run an advert quite cheaply

  • Surplus candidates can be used to fill other vacancies

  • It allows you to target a particular market area

  • Provides a bigger pool of candidates

  • Gives you total control over the information provided to candidates so a better chance to match candidates with requirements.

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