Both umbrella company and limited company contractors are part of a group of workers that have played an increasingly significant role in the UK labour market in recent years. With skills shortages an ongoing problem in key sectors such as engineering and technology, some employers have turned to contractors and self-employed professionals to acquire the expertise they need.
According to recent figures from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, the number of contractors on assignment in June 2017 was four per cent up on a year earlier. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that there are now 4.81 million self-employed people in the UK, 23,000 more than a year ago.
Given the importance of contract workers in the labour market today, recruitment agencies need to think about the most effective ways to identify and engage with the right candidates within this portion of the workforce. Here are a few strategies that could prove useful:
Harness the potential of technology
Whatever industry they work in, most modern-day contractors will be accustomed to using technology to manage large parts of their working lives, whether it's keeping track of their professional finances, looking for a new job, or managing a project that's already underway.
Recruitment agencies should therefore be taking full advantage of every technological avenue and solution at their disposal to engage with the right candidates. That might involve utilising tools such as a CV import function to get the information you need from applicants as quickly and easily as possible, with minimal form-filling and admin.
It's also crucial to leverage social media channels - particularly LinkedIn - for all they're worth. Most contractors will have a presence on LinkedIn, showing their connections, key skills and experience.
In an article for Business Insider discussing his strategies for finding the best job candidates, Zac Carman, CEO of news and reviews platform ConsumerAffairs, said he relies heavily on LinkedIn and views potential hires as "a customer whom I seek to understand and cultivate".
Make the most of referrals
Referrals can be invaluable for recruiters, particularly when they come from a trusted source such as a candidate you have worked with before who has always done a good job for your clients.
If someone with a proven track record for professionalism and a strong work ethic is willing to vouch for a fellow contractor, you can feel fairly confident of the referred candidate's ability to get the job done.
In order to obtain as many referrals as possible, try to build up a wide network of contacts within businesses and keep in touch with previously placed candidates. This will put you at the front of the queue to hear about talented professionals who might be on the lookout for a new opportunity.
Get out in the community
Don't expect the most in-demand contractors to come to you. Instead, make an effort to get out and mix with professional communities that are relevant to the industries, businesses and specific roles you are recruiting for.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is by attending industry conferences, trade shows and forums, not only to meet people and develop contacts, but to deepen your understanding of your clients' sectors.
If a contractor has already met you and can put a face to your name, they will be much more receptive to job offers and more likely to come to you when they are looking for work.
Stay visible and accessible
Networking and contact-building can be extremely beneficial if you're recruiting for a specialist position, but it's also important for recruiters to have maximum visibility and accessibility when advertising roles in general.
If you find that you are having difficulties finding the right people for attractive positions, consider whether you are promoting in the right places and using the right language and information in your advertisements.