Every day Hollstadt recruiters are working with potential consultant candidates, explaining what Hollstadt offers and hearing about their experience and backgrounds. For those who are career consultants, with several years of consulting for various firms under their belt, it can be second nature to know what to ask a recruiter. But for people who might be exploring consulting as a next step in their career, potentially shifting from a full-time role, there are a lot of unknowns to figure out during the decision process.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with several professionals who are investigating whether consulting is right for them or not. During these conversations, my focus has been to provide the “glimpse behind the curtain” and share some of what I’ve learned. There are so many questions that candidates need to ask of their recruiting firm and recruiter to understand if it’s truly a good fit for them. An ethical firm should address these facts without prompting during the interview process. But unfortunately there are some less-than-ethical firms in our industry. So what should you ask when talking with a recruiter?

  1. What does their client base look like? Do they have a wide range of clients types, locations, industries, and sizes? Or do they only work with a few people? This will help you understand what type of opportunity will be available when you’re looking for your next contract, or if you’d need to plan on finding a new firm to get your next job.
  2. What percentage of their business is their largest client? Are they well diversified, or do they rely on one client for the majority of their business? This will help you identify how much risk there is in the case of a switch in the market or that client’s industry.
  3. What is their payment period? Do you get paid on a regular basis, or do you need to wait until the firm gets paid by the client before you get paid? Clients all have different payment terms, and in many cases the firm has to pay you before they get paid. Understanding the payment period will help you understand how financially stable they are and whether there is risk of working without getting paid (or having to wait 60 days to get paid).
  4. What benefits do they offer? Do they offer the minimal health insurance to comply with law, and charge expensive premiums? Or do they provide a comprehensive insurance plan and help share the cost of premiums to keep your share low? Do they offer a 401K, and if so what is the match and vesting period? Are there other “soft” benefits included in your plan? While pay rate is important, knowing your total compensation and how that fits into your long term career plan is critical. One firm may pay you a few extra dollars, but you may miss out on compounding investments through a 401K.
  5. Are you paid for every hour you work? What is a reasonable pay rate to request when looking for roles? Often when you are in a full-time role you don’t realize that your hourly rate, if you were to calculate it, is much lower than you’d think due to the number of hours that you work. While a 40 hour work week is what we “think” is standard, most of us put in many more hours than that. In consulting you get paid for every single hour you work!
  6. What type of support do they provide consultants? Do they offer any training or career planning? Do they have on-site support? How much interaction do their account managers and recruiters have with consultants? Where do consultants go if they have a question or issue at the client while on contract? Understanding their consultant support program is key especially for newer consultants, since you may end up in a new industry or in a challenging project. This will help you determine how invested they are in your success.
  7. Do they do any networking or team events? Do you get to meet other consultants from their firm? This will help you identify if you’ll end up “on an island” while on contract, alone without support, or if you still feel like you belong to a “home team”.
  8. What does remarketing look like? What happens if your contract ends early? How early do they determine if your contract will be extended or if you’ll need to find a new contract? This ties in with the support question, and will help you understand what their commitment is to helping you find your next role. It can be a stressful time when you get towards the end of your contract, and having strong support and communication is a comfort for many people.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully will give you a good idea of some of the key questions to ask. I know that Hollstadt can confidently share where we stand on each of these – and the answer to each is pretty darn good too! Come find out what makes the #TheHollstadtDifference.