Given so many technology folks are entering the contingent labor market for the first time in their careers, I am often asked “How should I decide on which firm or firms to work with?”.
Here is a list of 10 questions and answers I provided to a friend recently.
1. Ask the recruiter / sales person / everyone you talk to how long they have been with the company. It should generally be two years or more.
a. If the tenure is short, then the consulting company likely has high turnover in its internal staff. Given staffing is a relationship driven business, high turnover translates to weak sales and consultant relationships.
2. Tell me about your client base. How many client companies do you have? How many are new this past year? Who are your largest three clients?
a. Ideally, the consulting company will have five or more client companies and will have opened at least one new client during the past year. A broad and growing client base is important as it is an indicator of the strength of the sales team and number of opportunities that may be available to you.
3. What is your policy on converting over to full time with the client?
a. Some firms discourage and even prohibit this. If your plan is to eventually go to full time employment with the end client, then it is important.
4. How do I get paid? W2 Salary? W2 Hourly? As an Independent Contractor?
a. See other posts in my blog for a discussion of this. Regardless of your preference, you need to understand pay and benefits!
5. Tell me about your employment agreement. Is there a non-compete clause? Can you give me a copy for review?
a. Some staffing company employment agreements have restrictive non-compete clauses that prohibit the consultant from working for other consulting companies should they leave. A reasonable non-compete is one that allows you to work for other consulting companies, but prohibits you from going back in to the same client for up to a year.
6. Tell me about your benefits.
a. Seems simple, but you would be surprised at the number of companies that don’t offer benefits. Don’t “assume”. This can be a “gotcha” if you don’t find out until the end of the negotiation.
7. What can I expect if I allow you to represent me to your clients?
a. You should expect simple things, like:
i. Being asked for your permission to be submitted to a client (some firms send your resume’ all over town without your knowledge or consent!)
ii. Coming to agreement on a salary BEFORE being submitted to a position. Some companies are vague about a salary, have you interview, and then when the client wants you, they offer a salary lower than what you discussed initially.
iii. Getting regular (weekly) feedback on sales and interview activity.
8. How long has your company been in this market?
a. Firms come and go in this space all the time. Related to the tenure question, it takes some time to develop relationships and a steady stream of business. Also reflects the firm’s commitment to the market.
9. Tell me about training opportunities.
a. Given that IT consulting has shifted towards temporary staffing, there is less and less company supported training, and even then most of it is on your own time. However, if it’s important, ask. This is only important if you actually devote time to self development.
10. What happens when my assignment is winding down and coming to an end? What happens after my assignment ends?
a. This is where your questions about “the bench” are answered. Most firms today do not carry folks off assignment, or if they do it is for a very limited time. Generally, when your assignment ends, your employment ends. The firm should be able to articulate a remarketing program to you so that as you come to the end of your engagement, sales activities are ramped up to help you stay on assignment.
I am sure there are many more good questions, and I welcome your thoughts!