IT staffing companies can help connect IT workers to leads on full-time jobs, but they can be difficult—if not outright dodgy—to do business with. Here are six questions you should ask a staffing firm before accepting any assignment, to make sure you don't get burned.
Staffing companies are often the first place IT professionals send their résumés after they've been laid off. Unemployed IT pros view staffing firms—and the contract IT work they offer—as a stop-gap measure on their way to finding a full-time job. Sure, IT staffing companies can help connect IT workers to leads on jobs, but they can be difficult—if not outright dodgy—to do business with.
Experienced IT professionals who've worked for staffing and recruiting firms gave me a laundry list of 'situations to watch out for' should an IT professional turn to a staffing firm for contract work, to make sure he or she doesn't get taken advantage of. Their advice is detailed in The Dangers of Getting Contract IT Work Through Staffing Agencies. My sources also suggested that IT professionals ask staffing firms the following questions, to help them determine whether a given project is right for them and to prevent getting burned.
1. Who am I working for? What kind of work will I be doing?
These are obvious questions to ask, but the recruiter's response to them will be telling. For example, if the recruiter at the staffing company can't give you details about the client or the work you'll be performing, you may want to think twice about taking on the assignment, says Walter Poe, an SAP systems engineer for The Temkin Co. The risk is that you'll enter into a contract that you later wish to break, either because the work is nothing like what the recruiter described, the work environment is completely dysfunctional, or you're either over- or under-qualified for the project. Breaking a contract can hurt your reputation in the industry at a time when you're trying to find work.
On the other hand, adds Poe, if the recruiter can give you some history on the company and project and comes off as a representative of the company, you're less likely to find yourself in a position where the recruiter has misrepresented the client and the work just to place you.
2. What are the client's expectations of me? How fast will I need to adapt to their environment.
Temp work isn't always cushy. Poe recommends finding out whether you're going to need to hit the ground running, and if you're going to be a senior person on a team or doing tech support.
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