May 22, 2018

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Direct Hires vs. Contract Work

The Truth About Direct Hires Positions

Why do you think you need a direct hire in order to make a living? It seems that 99% of ‘direct hire’ job seekers are looking for security above everything else. But the truth of the matter is that over the past 2-3 years the bulk of companies in America experienced a slowdown and were forced to layoff both contract employees as well as direct employees; but when things started coming back around in 2004, guess who those same companies hired back first….the contractors!

Contract hire work is often times a different line item on a company’s budget than a direct hire employee. Companies can hire contractors without having to pay their benefits, unemployment insurance, holiday & vacation pay, (usually the recruiting firm pays for these items) or match their 401k plan. This makes hiring contractors a relatively easy and painless task for a company going through a slowdown. The projects/work might not be as plentiful, but they still need employees in order to do it!

Have you ever been with a company as a direct hire and fantasize about NOT working for that company? The road ahead looks grim and job hunting is tough to do while you are trapped in a cube 8 hours a day. But you have security there, right? You get a raise once a year, as long as the economy is strong. As a contractor you only have to stay for your project/assignment and then you are free to go (or if another project comes up internally, they might ask you to stay), then on to the next gig for a more attractive price!

Or, on the other hand, I can think of countless times where a company has hired on a contractor through me, and they were such a good match, at the end of the contract they hired the contractor on direct with a raise and all! You can’t win if you don’t play. In fact, there are some companies that ONLY hire certain disciplines on a contract basis before making any sort of long-term commitment. Am I talking about a ‘contract to direct’ or ‘temp to permanent’ placement? No, they are open-ended contract positions with no long-term commitment.

“I don’t want my resume to look like I am a job hopper!” That’s exactly what it will look like if you try to play ‘Contractor’ with direct hire positions. A contractor’s resume may or may not even have dates on it. Companies usually don’t care how long a contractor was at his/her last position. But if you show a Hiring Manager your Direct Hire resume and it has 10 different companies on it in a 3 year period, what would make the Manager think you were going to stay put at their company?


Personally, I would rather take a 1-year contract position with a certain Minneapolis-based medical giant than a direct hire position with Bob’s Medical Device Company. This particular medical giant is a highly acclaimed company recognized throughout the world and the experience I would gain there is more than likely hand-over-fist more valuable than any direct position elsewhere.

Contracting is especially good for Junior level candidates who don’t really know what their niche is yet. If you are a Jr. level Mechanical Engineer but you don’t know if you want to do design work, project management, engineering sales, or whatever else, contracting is a great way to figure out your calling. If you start out on contract doing design work and you hate it, then once the assignment is over, you can eliminate ‘design’ from your checklist and move on to the next discipline.

The Joys of Contract Work

There are so many perks to working contract it’s almost hard to address them all! Here a small sample:

How Do I start?

Some folks think that you have to be a big risk taker in order to be a contractor. What I actually see is people who aren’t necessarily risk takers at all, rather people who stay on top of a small database of recruiters and consistently contact them with updates. I have worked with plenty of contractors who aren’t even looking for a new gig, but stay in touch with me on a weekly or biweekly basis. They update me on the status of their current project, whether the company they are with is hiring or laying-off and any new updates they want to add to their resume (or my database). The whole call lasts 3 minutes, but one thing about contracting it is a contact sport-the more people you contact, the better you do.

I would recommend working with 3-5 different recruiters; provide them with your resume, cover letter, and 2-3 professional references. Call or email them on a weekly or biweekly basis and let them know that you are in fact excited about short or long-term assignments.


I couldn’t even tell you the number of Contractors I know that wouldn’t trade their career for anything. Some of these people have traveled literally all across the globe on different assignments, while others choose to stay local. Contract work is a great way to expand your comfort zone, work in a variety of industries, and meet lots of new people. Not to mention it’s a great way to control your own career, set your own pay rates, and plan your own vacations! Who wouldn’t want this?

- Dale De Steno

Technical Recruiter, Kelly Engineering Resources


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