Hiring Best Practices: Traditional Workers vs. Contingent Workers

July 27, 2018
10 min

Not all workers are created equally. That rings true both for the performance and output exuded by an individual worker and also for the classification a worker falls under. Thanks to the skyrocketing rise of the on-demand economy, it’s no longer accurate to say all workers are either full or part time. Rather, this new wave of contingent workers is a class of its own — one that comprises a rainbow of employment designations, from contractor to freelancer, to gig worker and moonlighter.

Because there are so many different types of workers today, and each of them is looking for unique work that suits their needs and desires, the old-school hiring handbook is quite simply out-of-date and inapplicable to many potential employees. Sure, there are still millions of people who relish in a traditional, 9-to-5, full time job position. However, more than 53 million U.S. workers (34% of the workforce) took part in freelance work in 2014. In 2017, contingent workers — which includes freelancers, independent contractors and statement-of-work laborers — will make up 45% of the American workforce.

In order for companies to hire this ever increasing pool of talent, they need to restrategize their hiring practices. The old-school hiring handbook is a handbook for a reason — it worked for decades in recruiting and hiring people for the more traditional forms of employment that dominated those days. The rise of the on-demand economy and the new variations of workers necessitates a retooling of this book, or a separate one altogether. These distinct workers want different things out of their jobs, which means recruiters and HR professionals have to approach, attract and hook them differently than they would someone seeking more traditional employment.

To that effect, let’s compare and contrast some hiring best practices for traditional workers and contingent workers to highlight hiring mainstays and reveal discrepancies between the two that will make for smoother and more efficient hiring protocols. With all of that laid out, a hiring handbook for contingent workers should be well within every HR department’s grasp.

1. Applicant Hunting

Traditional Workers:

Word-of-mouth and networking is crucial for many large companies looking to fill full-time positions. These referrals carry a lot of weight and save HR professionals time and effort when they need to fill a position. It’s much easier to tap into these tools when looking for full-time employees, and social tools like LinkedIn make networking and identifying potential employees based on talent, industry and connections incredibly simple.

Contingent Workers:

With contingent workers, mobile-friendly job applications are the best bet. Many contingent workers are constantly on-the-go and bouncing from gig to gig at a fast rate. They need to be able to screen and search for jobs quickly in order to stay afloat. Job boards and social networking play crucial components in this as well. Key into all of those tech savvy means of getting seen, and attracting contingent workers will be a breeze.

2. Applicant Pool Management

Traditional Workers:

Most companies looking to fill full-time positions are on the hunt for a relatively small applicant pool comprised of highly trained and skilled professionals. While having a system in place to manage the deluge of resumes that will surely pile in is an HR staple, the number that are cherry-picked to move onto the interview stage will most likely be small and easy to manage. A basic management system or spreadsheet setup will most likely suffice for situations like this.

Contingent Workers:

When hiring contingent workers, most companies need a lot of workers fast. An applicant tracking system like OnboardIQ is the best way to manage and handle the sheer amount of applicants coming in. These sorts of hiring automation systems make it easy to store data and information on every single applicant, and track each individual throughout all stages of the application process in one neat, tidy space.

3. Job Applications

Traditional Workers:

A robust job application will prove essential for full-time hires. After all, companies will want to avoid high turnover rates in many of these positions. Knowing detailed information about these candidates ahead of time will not only help weed out many unqualified or ill-suited candidates, but will save time when it comes to the interview process. Having a solid understanding of the skills, expertise, strengths, weaknesses and backgrounds of these candidates will help formulate a picture of which one is right for the job.

Contingent Workers:

Most contingent workers aren’t hunkered down at their computers with hours to spare on a job application. These are busy, on-the-go people that need an application that is quick, easy and to the point. To go an even further mile, making job applications mobile-friendly is crucial in converting start rates of applications into higher completion rates. These candidates want something they can finish in under 15 minutes and while they’re out doing other things — that power lies in mobile, which is constantly in their hands.

4. Communication

Traditional Workers:

Hiring a full-time staff is a big decision. Taking some time before pulling the trigger to ensure that the best, most fitting candidate gets the job is completely understandable. These candidates are also perceived as more stereotypically professional, meaning phone calls and emails are perfectly adequate forms of reaching out and communicating updates throughout the hiring process. Phone calls in particular are a great screening method for initial interviews to get a better sense of a candidate outside of their paper-crafted persona, and are quicker, more convenient ways of vetting candidates than lengthy in-person interviews.

Contingent Workers:

Once again, go where they live — their cell phones. SMS texts and communications are the simplest, most effective way of reaching a contingent candidate and conveying information they need to know to make the hiring process go as smoothly and painlessly as possible. A simple text has a higher open rate than emails, and can convey everything from updates in the application process to confirming interviews or deadlines for supplemental materials needed. When in doubt, text it out!


These are just some of the ways recruiters and HR professionals can tweak their protocols and adapt their hiring systems to better accommodate contingent workers. And when all else fails — embrace technology! There are so many amazing and comprehensive hiring tools ripe for the taking that it would be downright foolish not to consider or implement at least one in order to create an even more well-oiled hiring system. The bottom line is that it all comes down to knowing the type of worker needed for the job at hand, and adapting to their needs. Understanding that goes a long way in fine-tuning the hiring practices needed to secure any type of candidate.

Fountain works with your existing HR software to automate and optimize manual tasks like scheduling interviews, running background checks, and more.

Teams like Safeway, Grubhub, and Deliveroo use OnboardIQ to build, analyze, and manage their workforce at scale.