Friday, October 23, 2009

Defensive Staffing

Many job seekers get frustrated by the time and effort it takes to get a response from potential employers. Many times it seems that the HR departments of most companies exist only to prevent applicants from actually speaking to people who need new employees, and the nature of the process is not unlike a minefield – you have to find out about the position, successfully apply and make your way past the computer screener, the phone interview, the initial interview in person, to make it to the point where you are speaking to someone – perhaps – who would actually be making the hiring decision, all the while risking immediate elimination if someone inside the company is given the job, someone reaches the hiring manager personally, or the company decides not to fill the position after all. But for all of that, companies have worries as well, and the big one is the fear that someone may interview well enough to win the job, but prove a bad choice when they have locked in the position. It’s difficult for a company to let someone go once they have hired them without committing to a period of training and review, and even then the position has to be opened and applicants considered all over again, losing time and spending resources. Most companies would love some way to insure their choice, especially for a position that needs to be filled quickly but which needs both competency and a good fit with the company. And that brings me to the professional contract-to-hire position.

Many companies use contractors, but most often for low-level responsibilities and without the option for permanent hires. That is, a contractor often has to be exceptional to be offered a permanent position. This comes from budget concerns and the types of jobs filled, as many of them are seasonal or specific to a limited project. However, in recent months that thinking has changed a bit, as recruiters have offered a more enticing option – a sort of ‘no long commitment’ contract for managers and skilled professionals. The contractor in these cases would be hired for a specific project, usually lasting six months to a year, but the company would fill not only staff positions but management positions as well, and if the contractor performs up to a certain level, they might be offered a permanent position at the same level or even higher. For instance, a contractor might be hired to head a strategic project lasting six months, but if he surpasses a certain level of proficiency and ability, he might be offered the role of managing the whole department. This can be done most often in companies where managers have shifting responsibilities, and a new manager may be brought on to ease the workload of existing managers. While specifics have been closely guarded by the companies involved, informal accounts exist of even senior managers being hired in this way at some companies. While the practice is too new to be judged on its strategic value to the companies, the concept demonstrates a way by which a firm may take on high-level talent without committing for a long term until the new hire proves his or her worth.

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