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The Growth of the Contractor in the London Tech Market

by Richard Gale - 20th January 2014

Technology London Hire Digital Talent

As a recruiter who has worked in the London Tech Market for the last few years, I’ve seen a clear trend towards contracting amongst the developers; for some technologies (Ruby and Android, for instance), the market is now so heavily biased towards contractors that finding permanent developers can be a real challenge. It’s not hard to imagine why many developers (many of whom have been permanent for years) are moving to contracting:

  • The take-home pay (in real terms) often far exceeds what they could expect from a permanent role.
  • They get the opportunity to work on new projects and platforms with each new contract; they gain a massive breadth of experience in a relatively short period.
  • They get to meet new people and extend their network considerably with each new contract.

As a recruiter who works heavily in the contract space, I welcome this shift towards contracting… Viva la Contractor! However, as a recruiter who also works on permanent roles, it can be a challenge in the current market to find developers for permanent requirements – I mean, where are all the permanent Android Developers!? Many of my clients ask me how they can better source permanent people for their teams, some of whom have had unfilled requirements for months at a time before they come to me.

In such a candidate-led market as we find ourselves in, I find that companies need to make themselves the “destination-of-choice” for the most talented developers out there; there are tech start-ups sprouting up all over London, and making your company stand out can be a real challenge. There are a few main drivers for the best developers:

  • Using interesting technologies – bleeding-edge techs that will be in demand over the next few years.
  • Being part of a defined tech team where they can increase their skillset – learning from great people in the industry.
  • Being part of a growing team.
  • Being part of something that will “be big” over the next few years.
  • Great working environment, with a real buzz about technology.

Remuneration – not the most important driver for most developers, but it must be in line with salaries in the tech space in London, which are rising fast!

Great developers will be seeing multiple companies during a job search, and even passive candidates will be keeping an eye out on a few opportunities – by the time that they reach offer stage (which is usually within 2 weeks of starting their search) the best developers have multiple job offers . I find will that it’s at interview stage that most developers make their mind up about a company – if a company can show that they can fulfil as many as the above criteria as possible during that meeting.

One piece of advice I often give to my clients is to hire contractors while they take the time to find the right permanent developer; there is an opportunity / cost element to having an unfilled space in your tech team. The cost of a contractor, while it may seem at first prohibitive, can often be the best option with looming project deadlines on the horizon!

The good news is that the London Tech Scene has never been more vibrant; however, the demand for the best talent has never been higher or more competitive. It’s only through Executive Search of the passive candidate base that Technical Directors can hope to find the best permanent talent in the market, rather than the most available; consider taking on a contractor in the interim for particularly contract-heavy markets!

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