A specialist recruiter has offered contracting IT professionals some sage advice on whether or not to succumb to the temptation to obtain higher pay rates by “jumping ship” and starting an apparently promising new contract.

Noting that skills shortages are driving strong pay inflation in the IT contracting sector, Bowers Partnership Co-Founder Natalie Bowers cites a recent observation from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) that market forces around specific IT contractor skills mean that there is now a “strong chance of getting a pay rise” simply by switching jobs.

Yet while the promise of increased pay is undoubtedly enticing, Bowers cautions that it can also be perilous and advises contracting IT pros to observe three basic safety tips before taking the plunge.

Firstly, she suggests that the wisest policy when tempted by the headline rate for a new IT contract is to ask a simple question: does it look too good to be true? If it does, it probably is.

She writes: “In a candidate-short market, employers and agencies will go out of their way to get you to apply for their job or contract. And one of the tricks of the trade is the ‘knock ’em dead rate.’ It puts your current contract (and all others for that matter) in the shade – and gets candidates queueing round the corner for the hirers.”

Before hitting the “apply here” button, Bowers suggests a tactful telephone enquiry with the advertiser first. The aim is to subtly check if the offer is real gold, or merely the fool’s variety, before creating an unwanted scenario wherein “the world and his brother” gets wind that you’re back on the market.

Secondly, she advises against the temptation to take an exciting, well-remunerated role that lies outside one’s normal niche. This could result in contractors getting marooned in a sector without a route back to their “normal hunting ground.” Too many switches from niche to niche usually simply dilutes a contractor’s market value. Generally, it’s wisest to stick with the specialism that you know.

Thirdly, even if a prospective candidate has done their homework and verified that the contract and rate are genuine, adopting a longer-term perspective before making the move is always advisable. The high rate will have its allure, naturally, but if the next gig has no prospect of becoming a long-term opportunity, an extra £50 a day will look less attractive after three months if a freelancer then finds themselves off-contract and back on the market for weeks or months because demand has cooled.

The basic message is “Look before you leap” by observing these three safety rules first.

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