How do Contract Jobs work?

Nov 17th, 2015
How do Contract Jobs work?

Got a call from a staffing agency about a potential contract job at Apple or Google? Wondering how these things works. Here are the steps involved in how someone gets a contract or temp job at a Fortune 500 company. We've mapped out the process so you understand what's involved and can be prepared.


Step by Step Process of how Contracting works at most Fortune 500 companies

1. A Manager in the Big Fortune 500 company realizes they need some temporary help and decides whether they want to hire a contingent worker or a shop to come in and help him/her do a project.

2. The Manager contacts their Procurement person and the requirement is sent to it's preferred staffing agencies through informal email or phone calls or a 'Request for Proposal' (also called an RFP). The requisition (or Req) includes a job description and rate range they expect to pay. Many companies hire contractors so often that they have an automated system called a Vendor Mananagement System (VMS) for this.

3. The staffing agency assigns the open position (Req) to one of their recruiters, typically someone that specializes in those kind of roles or for that client company. A recruiter typically works on between 5-30 open positions at the same time, and usually talks to 10 candidates before they get one qualified candidate. This is why they don't have time to respond to every single application or can't remember you even though you may have spoken a few days earlier.

4. The agency's recruiters start their search for candidates in their currently available list or rolling off candidates first, then high potential contacts they know are looking, and only then job boards like Monster, Dice, etc. They sometimes check LinkedIn but rarely because it is very hard to determine who is passive vs. active and very hard to get a hold of the person. Posting a job on a job site is a pain for most recruiters as their agency might have purchased only a few job postings on the major job boards. Often they have to send the job to someone else in their IT/HR dept that manages their job board account or career site.

5. The recruiter shortlists 2-3 of the best candidates they find and submit to the Client Manager typically within 48hrs. A recruiter doesn't usually have the time to go back and tell every candidate if they have been submitted or not. If they have submitted you, they follow up with you regularly to keep you warm- i.e.. check your availability status and tell you about what is going on with the position. If they go silent on you, it means they are probably not serious about you as a candidate. (We are not encouraging or condoning this - just telling you how it is)

6. The Client's Hiring Manager typically reviews the resume and responds within within a few days if the need is urgent but it can sometimes extend to weeks if the position is not urgent or if they get a lot of applicants.

7. If you are shortlisted there might be a quick 30-60 minutes phone screen to make sure there is a basic fit and if the Manager thinks you might work out they'll ask you to come onsite for a 2-3 person interview loop with other members of their team.

8. The client might interview candidates one-by-one and select one as soon as they find a god fit or if they are not in a hurry they will interview 3-4 candidates in a week and then decide on who they like best.

9. If they like you and want to hire you, they will make an offer to the staffing agency that submitted you. No, they won't tell you directly of the result and they won't discuss rates with you. This is standard procedure at all client companies and Managers will rarely deviate from these. Don't try to bring this up in your interview with the client as they are not supposed to discuss this with you. It also reflects poorly on the staffing agency for not preparing you on how contracting works. The clients usually have pre-negotiated rates with the agencies for most positions and the agency should have told you what they can pay you (typically a portion of the client bill rate) before you interview.

10. The staffing agency will then finalize the terms with you and ask you into the office to complete the paperwork, do a background check which could take a few days to upto 3 weeks if you studied or worked abroad- and onboard you  which includes getting you setup with a client's email and network account, laptop with the client's image, etc.

11. The time to get started after getting an offer varies. It is usually within 3-4 days for temp staffing role since this doesn't involve much paperwork and a cursory background check (Federal) which takes 2-5 days. If you are joining as a consultant on a project, it takes upto 2-4 weeks as this requires a contract (Statement of Work) to get approved by the Manager, Legal, Finance depts, etc. and then the issuance of a Purchase Order (PO). If you are joining an existing project where a PO alredy exists you could join within a few days after your background check is cleared. Some companies may do a more comprehensive background check including college degree verification. If you are from a foreign country like India or China, expect this to take significant time- 2-3 weeks.

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