The Top 7 Things Employers Look for in IT Contract Work

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The Top 7 Things Employers Look for in IT Contract Work

Considering a switch to contract work as an IT consultant? You’re probably curious about how you can increase your likelihood of landing great, fulfilling projects repeatedly. We’re glad you asked.

At ISG, we’ve spent nearly three decades helping IT consultants deliver incredible service to satisfied clients, and we’re confident we can help you do the same. Whether you’re interested in working with us for placement or you’re looking to strike out on your own, make sure you’re prepared by knowing the seven things employers look for in on-site IT contract consulting work today.

  1. Specific Skillset

As a consultant, you’re required to have job-skill expertise. There’s a lot to know in the IT world and clients usually outsource to a consultant with a precise skill set who will complete a specific, time-bound, IT-related task.

Perhaps the people you’ll work with don’t share your depth of knowledge or perhaps you’re the final puzzle piece in a team of similarly skilled professionals. Either way, you must be an expert in your field. It’s best to assume that your skillset will be comprehensively tested prior to project consideration.


  1. Industry Experience

Savvy companies understand that industry experience is the key to seamless contract work. Not only does your experience lead to better client communication due to your shared terminology, it also helps your clients realize a more competitive solution because you can quickly identify their nuanced positioning – and you already understand industry politics.

In addition, leading IT consultants work with multiple tools and businesses, so they’re regularly exposed to new ideas and methodologies. This gives them a competitive advantage over permanent employees who may see only a handful of products and approaches over time. Simply put, your increased industry experience matters.


  1. Cultural Fit

Often, contract employees think their personality doesn’t matter to clients since they’re not being hired for a permanent position. They couldn’t be more wrong. Not only do all the basic soft skills still apply for contract workers (companies always want self-motivated, polite, and friendly staff in their offices), smart clients will also look for consultants who fit well with overall company culture.

Because of this, your interviews will likely include assessments of your communication style, your personality, and your preferred work environment. After all, if you love working alone in a silent room but your client’s office is comprised of talkative teams that work at shared “workpods,” you’ll end up being unhappy and may quit the project before completion.


  1. Personalized Understanding

Contractors have limited time to complete projects, so clients expect that productive work will begin on Day 1. However, no matter how many skills you have or how deep your industry expertise is, you won’t know the specific project objectives unless you have a good understanding of who the client is and what they want.

We also covered personalization in our blog post about writing the perfect cover letter, but in essence, a hiring team will expect that you:

  • Know and support the company mission
  • Discern basic project goals
  • Recognize project “nice-to-haves” vs. “must-haves”


  1. Professionalism

When hiring for a permanent position, HR managers are trained to look for leadership potential. In consulting work, those same hiring managers may focus more on your overall professionalism instead. After years of answering the same leadership-oriented questions in interviews, new consultants are often surprised when they’re asked about day-to-day work habits:

  • Do you show up to work on time?
  • Do you work a full, productive day?
  • Do you meet the company dress code?

Good consultants have steady, predictable work habits that match the rest of the company. These seemingly basic questions assess whether you’ll show up to your Fortune 500 client’s job site at noon wearing flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt, then spend forty-five minutes hula dancing in the server room before focusing on your IT duties.


  1. 360˚ Vision

Though today’s modern labor practices emphasize process standardization so that work performance is as interchangeable as possible, experienced hiring managers understand that people aren’t interchangeable. Consultants are hired on the basis of qualifications and overall company fit, but your clients know that your unique viewpoint and ideas can help drive their company forward.

Taking the time to make carefully considered, respectful suggestions for project-related activities will provide outstanding value to your clients and will also show that you’re dedicated to the entire project – not just to your part of it.


  1. Project Commitment

The longer you work as an on-site consultant, the more likely it is that your teammates will befriend you and ask for your advice about their project areas. If it makes sense to jump in and lend your expertise, by all means, do so.

Remember, however, that your personal success as a contract employee depends on your ability to complete your job duties on deadline and with high-quality standards. Therefore, you must make sure you don’t let yourself become distracted with too much off-contract work. It is also completely acceptable to say no to outside requests.


Why These 7 Traits Matter

Clients turn to a consultant when they can’t get something done in house.

Perhaps their prior solution failed, or they don’t know exactly what they need or where to start. Perhaps they know exactly what they need and where to start, but they want to avoid fixed costs for noncore activities that don’t meet their strategic hiring goals.

Whatever their reason for choosing outsourced IT consultants, you can usually expect that any project you join is something the client wants done quickly and professionally, with minimal disruption. Demonstrating or expressing the seven traits in this article will help reassure your client that you can do the job, that you’ll do it well, and that you’ll manage yourself to get the job done on deadline.

Sound like how you complete work tasks? Take a look at the IT consulting opportunities currently available from ISG.