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Submitted by techmgr on


I'm seeing a trend for positions advertised as working for X large company, that turn out to be in reality contract positions working instead for the recruiting/staffing agency. So, working "at", but not "for" the actual company. I just see red flags. Right off the bat they want to know my hourly rate. They say they can't offer any paid vacation or sick time, only 6 paid holidays. I guess I have to factor in a cushion for taking unpaid sick and vacation time. The position I'm interviewing for right now Is a manager position, with hiring and firing responsibilities. I have to find out, are my directs working for the staffing agency or the "real" company. And how does that structure woek, in terms of performance evaluation and raises and promotions. Not just for my directs, but for me. What about lateral moves to other departments? Will I be treated differently by my boss, who works for the real company? And if my manager also works for the agency, how much could they really  advocate for my career advancement within the "real" company? 

I am worried that there will be too many questions I didn't know to ask. It just seems very risky. Am I wrong to think this is a bad idea? Any suggestions, what questions to ask? Thanks for any help, jeanne

timrutter's picture


First up, good on you for thinking ahead on this. I don't know where you are in the world, in Australia, this is fairly normal in the Engineering industry. (Personally think it's dumb, but it is normal).

As a contractor, I work out my desired rate on 46 paid weeks a year. This factors time off, sickness and public holidays. Depending on where you are, you may want to adjust that figure, but it's a place to start. I also factor all the other usual benefits like healthcare etc. into the rate as well as hours/days required to work.

Staff reporting wise, agencies don't tend to have evaluation for promotions and raises. It's a lot more haphazard and more 'dead mens shoes'. Someone leaves and you have to either promote internally and renegotiate the rate or  advertise from outside the team. Your career is not the clients' problem, so you'll probably have to do a lot of the development for yourself (factor that into your rate!)

You will have two 'bosses'. The agency (who negotiate your rate) and the client who you report too. I tend to think of it like a matrix organisation for simplicity.

My experience is based on engineering project work, so it's a limited term scope and schedule. We get it done and get laid off or moved to another project. I don't have the same level of experience in a permanently located firm using this method.

Hope this starts to help


techmgr's picture
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Thanks Tim, this will help me calculating the hourly wage.  I have a good feeling it will be higher than they want to pay. And the two bosses structure is a deal breaker for me. Short term is one thing, but long term this won't work for me. Thanks, jeanne