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UK – Lack of niche skills holding back contractors

21 August 2014

Contractors who fail to display niche and in-demand skills risk being overlooked by recruiters, according to a survey from employment services provider Parasol, which asked more than 40 recruitment consultants to describe their policy towards contractors nearing the end of an assignment.

The vast majority (97%) said they regularly track when a contractor is due to complete his or her latest assignment, with 69% pro-actively seeking out new opportunities for them in advance. 

When asked about times they decided not to seek out new assignments for a contractor, several recruiters said a lack of relevant skills had been a key factor. 

One recruiter wrote: “If the contractor has generic skills that we are not looking for, we would not pro-actively ‘sell’ that kind of person.”

Another said: “If we are simply too busy filling current vacancies in areas where the contractor does not have relevant skills, we will not spend time on finding them work.”

A third respondent stated: “If there is no demand for their skill set I won’t pro-actively find them (the contractor) another assignment.”

Jeff Blakemore, Sales Director at Parasol, described the findings as a “timely reminder” for contractors and freelancers of the importance of honing and enhancing their skills: “We predicted that 2014 would be the year of the niche contractor, and that the era of the generalist was over. These results seem to confirm that trend.”  

“Plenty has been said and written about the UK’s skills shortage in recent months, and we at Parasol are firm believers that contractors can help plug the gap. The talent crisis only represents an opportunity, however, for those contractors who possess the expertise and niche skills that recruiters and their clients are crying out for.”

“As economic conditions improve and demand picks up, contractors who invest in their own professional development and continually enhance their skill set are in a fantastic position. In contrast, those who have failed to carve a niche for themselves may find opportunities drying up,” he added.

Other reasons cited by recruiters for not seeking out fresh opportunities for candidates included poor performance during an assignment and negative client feedback.

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InterQuest Group plc

Mark Braund 21/08/2014 8:29 am

Good article, with relevant research to support the need for Contractors (& any employee for that matter) to continually develop, ideally into areas that emerge as important, i.e. stay ahead of the curve to be in demand & be more valuable.

One point worth mentioning though is that it has always been 'the year of the niche Contractor', 2014 is no more special than previous years; what does change from year to year is the development of new niche areas (as old ones mature & become more commoditised). It may be with an explosion in demand over the last few years in Big Data, Digital & Analytics more opportunities are chasing fewer available skills, however if there was anything about 2014 that is special in this context it is that more Recruiters are waking up to the idea that 'niche-skills' are becoming critically important, because 'generic-skills' can so easily be recruited by low cost alternatives; therefore 'niche' is where the value is.


InterQuest Group plc

Mark Braund 21/08/2014 8:19 am

Good article, with interesting research to support the need for Contractors (& any employee for that matter) to continually develop & ideally into areas that emerge as important, i.e. stay ahead of the curve.

One point worth mentioning though is that it has always been 'the year of the niche Contractor', 2014 is no more special than previous years; what does change from year to year is the development of new niche areas (as old ones mature & become more commoditised). If there was anything about 2014 that is special in this context it is that more Recruiters are waking up to the idea that 'niche' is important, recognising that 'generic' can be recruited too easily by low cost alternatives & therefore 'niche' is where the value is.


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