Flexible Labor or Full-Time Employee: Which is Best For Your Business?

Do you know why you instantly eliminate up to 90 percent of available job candidates when you limit your search to temporary workers?

If your firm struggles with efficiency or redundancy, do you know why immediately filling your full-time vacancy with a full-time employee can cause you to squander time and money?

Do you know why you should avoid sharing your company, department and job role needs before questioning candidates during your interviews?

These are innocent mistakes that nearly everyone makes when filling vacant positions. But with some simple knowledge, you'll have no problem avoiding them the next time you hire new staff.

First, understand that determining whether you need a consultant, temporary or full-time employee comes down to four factors:

1. Are there large fluctuations in work load?
2. How much bandwidth (knowledge/expertise and/or time) do you have internally to accomplish your goals?
3. Is the role and career defined for a full-time employee?
4. How much flexibility do you need with labor cost?

The benefit of using consultants and temporary employees is flexibility. You might need additional staff during peak workloads or to complete a short-term project. In these cases, consultants and temporary employees offer greater cost savings than a permanent hire.

Also, from a consultant perspective, you may not need a particular level of expertise all the time. In situations where niche knowledge is required, a consultant can share insight, develop best practices around a particular expertise, and then transfer the knowledge to you.

But if a temporary worker or consultant leaves and the transition is not handled properly, you risk losing time, money and, most importantly, the knowledge.

Are You Willing to Take These Additional Risks?

Temporary employees are frequently used on a "try before you buy" basis, which offers obvious benefits, including:

* You get greater flexibility when unsure about filling your position with a full-time employee - a fact that's especially helpful in uncertain economic situations.

* You get to evaluate a person from a technical perspective for an extended period of time. You also get to assess cultural fit and character traits, as well as how well the perspective employee's values fit into your organization.

Although these benefits outweigh the disadvantages, you should still consider the drawbacks.

For example, temporary employees may be presented with additional opportunities. So if your worker is lured away by a better situation, the time, money and training you invested departs with that person.

Also, if you only consider people available for hire on a temporary arrangement, you eliminate a large pool of candidates to fill your position, including anyone who is currently employed.

Remember, most candidates available for temporary jobs are in between opportunities. If you take into account the general unemployment rate - which today is approximately 10 percent - targeting temporary employees means you miss out on evaluating 90 percent of the other candidates (i.e., candidates who are currently employed) for your position.

3 Critical Mistakes That Lead to the Wrong Type of Hire

A common mistake that leads to ineffective hiring is not having a clearly defined role and an idea how that position might evolve. For managerial roles, smart companies hire a consultant first to do the job on an interim basis. That way all opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce redundancy and address future needs are evaluated.

This approach makes determining the best candidate for the role easier. If you're hiring for a staff level position, an overqualified temporary employee can help with the evaluation process. The end result of using flexible labor before hiring a full-time employee is it provides you with a better understanding of your full-time employee needs, which results in making a better hire.

Another common mistake is giving little consideration to how a person fits in a company's culture.

And although these two oversights are important, they're minor compared to the most common mistake of all - hiring a candidate based only on technical knowledge and experience, without considering character traits.

The best run departments and companies view character traits as important (if not more important) as experience, knowledge or skills. You can train candidates to reach technical requirements, but character traits and values are not teachable.

How to Conduct the Interview Process

To ensure the best candidate evaluation, you should avoid sharing your company, department and job role needs before asking questions. If you begin by describing anything related to your company, or the roles from your vacant position, candidates will often shape their responses around your perceived needs.

Here are several questions you should incorporate into your next interview:

Why did you want to leave your current role? And why did you leave your previous three positions?

Listen for logic in a candidate's career moves. This question also allows you to gather an understanding of what motivates them. (Incidentally, candidates who only leave positions for more money are a red flag ... as are candidates with frequent personality conflicts.)

Describe your ideal role, company and manager you would like to work for.

This response allows you to get a clean look at your candidate's desires. And, because you didn't reveal your needs ahead of time, you can better determine if the candidate's objectives fit your job requirements.

How do you see your career progressing?

Your candidate's future should align with what you offer.

If we spoke to your current manager, what would he/she tell us were your biggest accomplishments?

The phrasing of this question makes your candidate believe you'll contact a former manager. As a result, you'll hear more honest responses.

What motivates you?

This question allows you to evaluate how your candidate fits your management style and company culture.

What is the biggest misperception people have about you?

If you're hiring at a supervisory, director or managerial level, you must address this question to ensure your candidate has self-awareness and maturity. You can live with negative issues - how your candidate addresses those problems is what's important.

The bottom line: Take a strategic approach to selecting the best employee for your situation, and you won't get stuck trying to undo mistakes later. When you consider everything you lose when you hire a worker who isn't a good fit for your firm, the extra time you put in is well worth the extra effort.

Jim Wong,CPA is the founder of Clear Focus Financial Search, Brilliant Financial Staffing and Numerate Partners in Chicago. In addition to more than 15 years of experience in accounting/finance - executive search, temporary staffing and consulting, he on the advisory board for Northern Illinois University - Department of Accountancy and a board member for the NIU Executive Club. Get his free weekly email which provides useful insider information on accounting/finance, career management and recruiting by visiting or

Share Article

Sponsored Links

Related Articles