Working in the now: Here’s what you need to know about contract to hire work

Life coaches and gurus of all kinds often encourage their clientele to “live in the now.” After all, little can be achieved by habitually retracing one’s steps through the past or constantly looking ahead to the future. All we have is the present moment.

Philosophical implications aside, the same can be said regarding contract to hire work. So what exactly is a contract to hire working arrangement? Short-term by definition, contract to hire jobs allow employees and employers alike to “get to know each other” without making a full commitment. If the company and individual make for a great fit, a full time offer of employment usually materializes shortly after the end of the contract.

Contract to hire: The basics

Sometimes referred to as “temp to hire,” contract to hire job agreements are especially prevalent among sales, marketing, project management, and graphic design businesses. A key trademark of a contract to hire offer is the possibility of full-time employment with benefits once the agreed upon project or time period is over. 

Akin to an audition lasting weeks, months, or even years in some cases, contract to hire is quite distinct from a freelancing gig or temporary work offer. Generally speaking, both employees and employers enter into these types of contracts open to, or even expecting to, continue collaborating long past the duration of the contract, assuming the initial work period goes well. 

It’s also important to note contract to hire is quite different from freelancing or purely temp-based positions. A contract to hire arrangement typically means you’ll be a W-2 worker, which means the employer (or staffing agency) will take care of payroll, tax deductions, etc.  

Is a contract to hire scenario right for you?

While a contract to hire job may not sound all that attractive to the quintessential job seeker on the lookout for regular work at first blush, there are a number of benefits to taking on a trial period with an employer before making a more drastic commitment. While the employer will undoubtedly be evaluating how you perform and mesh with the rest of the company during your contracted stay, keep in mind you can also do some judging for yourself. 

No one wants to wake up every morning and report to a job they hate. This type of initial working agreement is a great way to dip your toes in an organization’s waters, so to speak, before going for a cannonball off the diving board. Moreover, contract to hire gigs are fantastic networking opportunities that can help you grow your professional contact list considerably, regardless of how long you stay with a given organization. 

Another common misconception: contract to hire arrangements raise more questions than reassurances when seen on a resume. To the contrary, these types of contract positions tell recruiters and hiring managers that you’re able to pick up new skills quickly, adapt to various work environments, and hold highly sought after skills in your chosen field. A typical contract to hire position entails making a meaningful impact within a relatively short amount of time. If anything, that’s an accomplishment worth highlighting on one’s resume.

Key elements of a contract to hire agreement

Contract to hire agreements can vary significantly depending on the needs of the employer, employee, and industry. That being said, most contracts will feature the following elements:

  • Scope of work: What are you expected to achieve during the duration of the contracted work period? Provided duties and responsibilities should be as specific as possible so as to hopefully avoid any issues or miscommunications later on. Some contracts may lay out detailed KPIs and timelines as further means of assessing performance.
  • Contract length: The agreed upon length of the temporary work period is a crucial aspect of any contract to hire agreement. Both worker and organization should be cognizant of just how long has been allotted to properly assess if a full-time position works for all involved parties.
  • Payment & benefits: While contract to hire positions rarely offer the full array of benefits provided to full-time employees, some organizations may offer temporary workers a more limited benefits package during this transitory period. Compensation, meanwhile, should be clearly defined as well (performance bonuses, hourly, salary, etc).

Next steps: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the contract needs to detail what happens after the agreement is over. What are the terms of potentially receiving a full-time job offer? Do certain performance milestones need to be reached? If a permanent position is on the table, have starting salary and benefits been agreed upon? Getting all of these specifics in writing is always advisable.