For Engineering Contractors: How Staffing Firms Really Work

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman    

Even if you’ve been contracting for years, you may not understand exactly how staffing firms work. The more you know about the industry’s inner workings, and the nature of its relationships with engineering managers, the more you can use them to your advantage.

Here’s the inside scoop about how professional staffing firms really work, and some tips for developing a mutually beneficial partnership.

engineering staffing

Does the Staffing Company Specialize?

Recruiters can be a valuable asset in helping you find consistent and interesting engineering projects and assignments. But with dozens of staffing firms to choose from, how can you tell if a recruiter is right for you?

It’s hard to be all things to all people, so best professional staffing firms and recruiters focus on a particular market segment, industry and set of clients. Their clients’ needs influence everything from staff backgrounds to operating structures, placement processes and even the firm’s technology platform.

For example, if you want to work on R&D projects in major aerospace or telecommunications companies or, say, boutique bioengineering firms, you not only increase your chances by selecting a staffing firm that works with those clients, you’ll also improve your rapport and comfort level with the staff.

Recruiters Have a Stake in Your Success

The success of a staffing firm and its contractors are intertwined. Engineering managers judge recruiters on their ability to provide qualified contract professionals quickly. In fact, an engineering manager may only review one or two resumes for each project, or he may submit a requisition and scope of work to several staffing firms and interview the contractor who seems like the best match on paper. Some larger companies use software programs to scan and rank the resumes of contractors submitted for an assignment.

Since staffing firms can lose the trust of engineering managers for failing to meet their expectations, it’s no wonder that recruiters have a vested interest in making sure that you are a good fit, and, if so, that you ace every phone screen, interview and assignment. Be sure to tap the power of your recruiter’s experience, because he or she is an abundant source of market intelligence and helpful job acquisition tips.

For instance, recruiters know the best way to format your resume, the going hourly rates for each discipline and industry, typical hiring managers’ hot buttons, even what questions a particular hiring manager typically asks during an interview. You should never walk into an interview blind when you’re working with a staffing firm.

Returning his or her calls quickly and keeping your profile and project history up-to-date helps your recruiter respond quickly and present your background in a way that captures the attention of busy engineering managers. Always provide feedback as soon as you leave an interview and confer with your recruiter if you hit a snag during an assignment – as he or she may be able to resolve the issue.

By the way, if you’ve worked with an engineering manager through another staffing firm or applied for a full-time position at a firm, always give your recruiter a heads-up. It may not matter, but a recruiter might need permission to submit your resume if you’ve recently applied for another position.

They Serve Two Clients

Most staffing firms understand that they have two clients: their engineering customers and their employee contractors. Recruiters need to keep both of you happy to sustain a viable, growing business.

In addition to handling payroll and paying the employer’s portion of your payroll taxes, staffing firms often offer benefits such as a 401(k) and health benefits. They may also provide career resources such as training and counseling, and you can collect unemployment insurance if you have a few weeks off between projects. Don’t be afraid to discuss your preferences, goals and wages expectations with your recruiter. You won’t know what’s possible unless you ask.

Recruiters as Career Consultants

Staffing firms earn revenue when contractors like you are on assignment. To make sure you stay busy, recruiters proactively market your skills and expertise to engineering managers, negotiate offers on your behalf and keep previous clients apprised of your status. The more they know about you, the more they see you as a valuable resource. Developing a professional relationship with your recruiter can pay dividends for years to come.

Most importantly, staffing firms have access to projects that aren’t advertised on company websites or job boards, and they often get advance notice when a major project is on the horizon. Recruiters have relationships with engineering managers and major companies that are hard to contract on your own. Being represented by a reputable talent agent not only gives you a competitive edge in the marketplace, but also a partner who has a vested interest in advancing your engineering career.


Other information of potential interest

17 Great Mobile Apps for Engineers

Six Steps to Better Communications with Your Engineering Manager and Colleagues

Convince Your Project Manager to Give You More Responsibility

How to Engineer a Productive Relationship with a Recruiter

Defining the Ideal Resume for Contract Engineers

Five Tips for Landing Repeat Assignments

Help PEAK find the right placement for you:  Submit or Update your resume.


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