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Lack of niche skills fatal for contractor prospects, say recruiters

Employment services provider Parasol asked more than 40 recruitment consultants to describe their policy towards contractors nearing the end of an assignment.

The vast majority (97%) said they regularly track when a contractor is due to complete his or her latest assignment, with 69% pro-actively seeking out new opportunities for them in advance. 

Asked about times when they decided not to seek out new assignments for a contractor, several recruiters said a lack of relevant skills had been a key factor. 

One recruiter wrote: “If the contractor has generic skills that we are not looking for, we would not pro-actively & lsquo;sell’ that kind of person.”

Another said: “If we are simply too busy filling current vacancies in areas where the contractor does not have relevant skills, we will not spend time on finding them work.”

A third respondent stated: “If there is no demand for their skill set I won’t pro-actively find them (the contractor) another assignment.”

Jeff Blakemore, sales director at Parasol, described the findings as a “timely reminder” for contractors and freelancers of the importance of honing and enhancing their skills.  

He said: “We predicted that 2014 would be the year of the niche contractor, and that the era of the generalist was over. These results seem to confirm that trend.  

“Plenty has been said and written about the UK’s skills shortage in recent months, and we at Parasol are firm believers that contractors can help plug the gap.

“The talent crisis only represents an opportunity, however, for those contractors who possess the expertise and niche skills that recruiters and their clients are crying out for.

“As economic conditions improve and demand picks up, contractors who invest in their own professional development and continually enhance their skill set are in a fantastic position.

“In contrast, those who have failed to carve a niche for themselves may find opportunities drying up.”

Other reasons cited by recruiters for not seeking out fresh opportunities for candidates included “poor performance” during an assignment and negative client feedback.

A change in the contractor’s personal circumstances, such as them moving to a different part of the country or returning to traditional employment, was also a common reason.  

The survey found that recruiters typically place a quarter of contractors on second and third assignments after their first one ends.

Just over three quarters (76%) of respondents described their desk as client led, while 24% said their desk was candidate led. 

Parasol, part of the Optionis group, has provided employment services to more than 70,000 contractors, freelancers and contingent workers.

The Cheshire-based company works with thousands of professional staffing firms across the UK, including some of the biggest names in the industry.


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