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How to Go from Temp to Permanent

As recruiters, candidates often ask us how to obtain a permanent position when they are working temporary or contract jobs. These are tricky discussions for sure and can be awkward if not handled correctly. But with proper preparation, speaking up can be well worth the effort. The key is choosing the right time for the conversation, knowing how to state your case and managing your disappointment if they say no. Here are some tips for discussing how to go from a temp to permanent role.

Preparing for the Ask

When you are working on a contract basis, it’s really like a long-term job interview. You want to showcase your best work all the time because that’s what will earn you a permanent position.

Keep communications open with your manager by setting up regular times to check in. Ask questions like, “How am I doing? What can I do better? Is there anything else I can help with? Is there anything that I can improve upon?” The better the working relationship, the higher the chances of succeeding and being hired permanently.

Behaving like an employee makes it easier for your boss to see you like one. If feedback is not forthcoming, talk to your recruiter. They may be able to seek out information on your behalf that the manager is reluctant to share.

Be sure you also let your manager know that you have an interest in being a permanent part of the organization. Share what you like about the job and the company and why you want to be there. The more feedback you can share and interests you can express, the better.

The Conversation: When and How

When is the best time to ask the company where you’re working about moving from temp to permanent? A good rule of thumb is to broach the topic no sooner than two months into the assignment.

It’s been our experience that on average, a manager knows if the person is a good fit for the role in two to three months. It could happen sooner, or much later. For instance, maybe another employee left abruptly, and the organization needs to fill their position quickly. Or maybe it’s a new role but the manager doesn’t know if she will have the budget to make a permanent hire.

Once you (and your recruiter) feel the timing is right, prepare yourself for the conversation. You want to make a strong case so gather information like examples of good work you have done or feedback that you’ve gotten from colleagues. If you have had regular check-ins with your manager, show how you have responded to feedback and worked to improve.

As appropriate, be willing to share your personal situation. Let’s say you have been approached for interviews by other companies. Be honest. “I actually want to stay here long-term and not take those interviews. But if this really isn’t going to convert into a permanent position, I do want to keep myself open to other opportunities.” Share some of your personal reasons of why you would like to become permanent or full time sooner than later, even if it’s because you need health insurance. In this uncertain economic climate, employers understand.

Many times, the answer to your request might be “no” but sometimes it’s “not right now” and then later it’s “yes.” There are many reasons why the organization may not be able to commit at that time. It doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job, or they don’t like you. They may think you’re doing great and they would love to hire you. Often, there are business reasons that are impacting the timing and the ability to bring you on as a permanent employee or make you full time.

But if the answer is no, and they don’t give a reason, it’s important to explore why. Question what you can do better, express your interest, but then also ask if there is a business reason. They may not share it with you, but asking doesn’t hurt.

The Bigger Picture

There are many factors that impact converting a temp or contract employee to permanent. Unfortunately for the contractor, these conditions are often not transparent. Know that there can be a lot going on behind the scenes that the organization cannot share with you.

For instance, business needs may be in fluctuation and the company doesn’t know what they want or need yet, which is why they’ve hired a contractor. Maybe they were just acquired or purchased another company. Maybe they’ve just launched a new product but don’t know yet how it will impact the business. All of these can delay decisions around converting a temporary employee to full time or permanent. Or perhaps the manager doesn’t have the headcount approval or the budget to bring someone on full time.

And, yes, sometimes it is because the candidate isn’t who they picture in the role long term, but they’re too busy to replace them. They need someone to do the work, but they don’t think that the person is strong enough for the permanent role.

What’s key is to look at the big picture. For many companies, there is a lot of uncertainty right now. They may not have the budget or know how strong business will be in six months. For example, a company has several contractors that they would like to hire permanently, but sales have been up and down, and the numbers are still behind where they need to be for the year. Not knowing how the pandemic will affect the business long term is impacting the decision. The HR person is afraid to bring the temp employees into the organization permanently because if there is a layoff in the future, they might be the first to go because they were the last people hired. Their jobs might actually be safer if they stay contract because if there is a layoff, the company may allow managers to keep contractors.

How Your Recruiter Can Help

As you prepare for your conversation with the employer, use your recruiter as a sounding board. Think of him or her as a coach. Recruiters are a tremendous resource with their knowledge of the labor market and economy, the client/employer and how to successfully transition to permanent.

In their initial discussions with the client company, recruiters will try to determine the potential for permanent employment. Sometimes the client will allow the staffing agency to share this information with the contractor, but often the hiring company will want to keep this information private to help manage expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter if they have any inside knowledge on the company’s long-term hiring plans and history of converting temporary employees.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the present economy. It is impacting all hiring in general and permanent conversions specifically. If you want to become a permanent employee, pursue it with the company. But know that there may be many other factors besides your quality that can affect this decision. If it’s meant to be, you’ll get there. Work hard and keep the faith, there will be other opportunities.

Photo credit: Canva 


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