Advice on moving on from contract jobs to become a full time employee - Cosmetic Science Talk

Advice on moving on from contract jobs to become a full time employee

Hi.  I have been working as a contractor in the industry for 3 years since graduating from college.  During this time I have also been applying to opportunities as an employee and interviewed at a few places, but have had no offers.  I am applying to formulation product development roles and would like to formulate either surfactant based products or lotion/creams. I believe the main reason why I am not getting offers is the fact that during these interviews I am either asked directly if I am a contractor and why I was not hired full time at my current company and judged immediately or asked about my current pay (which is very low) and why I am asking for a higher pay. In one case the company I interviewed at wanted to pay much less than what I was making. I have always asked only for what I find to be a normal starting salary for today's standards between $50,000 and $55,000.  Although I tell the interviewer that I would be willing to negotiate, they are noticeably annoyed and I don't get called back.

After being a contractor for a few years and meeting many people in the industry, it is very obvious that there is a lot of discrimination in the industry with contractors and I'm not sure what my chances of getting hired are especially within my own group. My direct manager wants to hire me, but the upper management especially the director of our department is not very supportive of contractors and openly talks about getting rid of us to hire full timers. I work for a large well known company and when there are opportunities open, all of the contractors apply and very few get in mainly due to the fact that the company has a recruiting program which is for co-ops/interns that currently work at the company. Even though the contractors have more experience and actually help train the interns, the intern will always be considered first. Most of my friends that got jobs as an employee were hired outside of the company and we're not asked the same questions as I have during the interview process.  I have been talking to more people within the company I currently work for and have been told that my chances of getting a full time offer depends more on who I know.  

Has anyone else been a contractor and experienced the same?  Does anyone have any advice on trying to get a full time role? How would you answer questions in an interview about why you are a still a contractor or want to be payed more than what you are currently making? Thanks in advance and sorry if this sounds a little bit like a rant. 

Comments

  • edited July 9
    By "a contractor" do you mean that you are registered with an agency, and the agency finds you work to do on contract? EG to fill in a 6 month period prior to leaving the UK I registered with a contract agency and got a job as a project manager. And yes I did train my successor who came from within the company.
    You do not say what country but I would guess the USA. I can say this: as I recall, this attitude towards contractors is common in the UK too, from what I have seen in the programming (coding) fraternity and also in telecomms engineering, so it does not surprise me to hear about your difficulties. So, you have definitely decided you want to be a "permie"? Have you compared the pay of the average permie grad with 3 years experience in your company, with your stated expectations of 50 - 55K? I have the feeling you may find a big disconnect. In my experience contractors earn a lot more than permies but this causes the permies to resent them - which fits exactly what you have described.

    the upper management especially the director of our department is not very supportive of contractors and openly talks about getting rid of us to hire full timers - well of course! Not only do they have to pay you more but they also have the added cost of the agency fee.
    Design of anti-aging creams, gels, and serums; shampoos; and therapeutic cosmetics. In-house label and box design capability.
  • Simple. In your resume, lead-up talks and interviews focus on the skills that you developed and come off as extremely knowledgeable of these skills and the processes. If asked about being a contractor, spin it as an advantage; "It allowed me to get a much broader base of experiences than I would have otherwise." I have conducted numerous interviews at that level and it is really more about how you present yourself and how you can communicate your strengths.
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications.
  • 1) Industry recruiters still perform a valuable function, especially at your level. Get in touch with a few, you'll probably be surprised at how much they can help.

    2) Discuss salary with your recruiter(s) first, but you might need to be more flexible in your salary demands than you have been. You need to decide how much being a permanent employee is worth to you.

    3) Interviewing is a skill, and needs to be practiced. You need to plan, and rehearse, along the lines that Mark laid out for you.

    4) Networking is very important. Are you going to SCC meetings? You might even consider getting involved with your local chapter as a volunteer.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • I think this may be your disconnect.  When you are asking for a base pay of $50 to $55 K as a full-time employee, the company will also have to gross-up that pay level to include benefits, so the net cost to the company to hire you full-time may be on the order of $65 to $75K.  I am assuming you are not earning $50K to $55K per year as a contractor?

    So, from the Company's perspective they can train up and hire interns at starting salaries of perhaps $35 to $40K per year (I am just pulling numbers out of the air here, but just follow the logic) with a total gross-up cost of $50K per year including benefits.

    Have you done a salary survey to determine if what you are asking is market rate for your level of experience?  And, is it market rate for the types of jobs you are applying for at your level of experience?

    Is you contractor experience directly related to the types of jobs you are applying for?  If not, they'll have to train you up and you'll have to prove yourself in that job, so that's an additional consideration.

    It's always tough being a recent college grad in the job market.  Focus on the set of skills and experience you have gained in your contractor assignments and match them to the job you are apply for ... is there a match between the employer's requirements and your skill set?

    You have to sell yourself to the prospective employer that you can do the job and add value to their organization and that you bring directly relevant experience to the table.  You have to nail that down first before getting to salary negotiations, but you need to know your market value going in to negotiate effectively.

    Often times you are more valuable to someone else than you are to your current employer.  It sounds like you need a mentor/recruiter to help you determine your market value ... someone with knowledge of the salary structure within the industry.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • Here's another thought:

    Formulate a couple of surfactant products and a couple of creams/lotions ... your own creations ... test them thoroughly and make sure they are commercial quality prototypes.  Bring your prototypes with you to your interviews, leave them behind as drop-offs, but preferably, have the interviewer (assuming it's technical staff) sample them.  Prove to the prospective employer that you can develop these products on your own in addition to selling your three-years of diverse contractor experience.

    That will certainly set you apart from the other applicants for the job.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • Thanks for the advice and feedback everyone.

    Belassi, yes by contractor I mean that I work for an agency that pays me to work at the company.  I have met contractors that were payed more like you described, but these were older people with many years of experience and were eventually let go from the company. The agencies today are paying newer grads like myself smaller hourly wages.  I have looked into the typical salary of a permanent employee at the company I work for and my pay for 1 year is significantly lower and doesn't come close to even what an entry level employee makes.  Also, I didn't mention that I mainly apply to jobs in New Jersey and New York where the cost of living is higher, thus the pay for an entry level employee is typically higher.  
     
    Bob,  I haven't yet signed up as an SCC member, but plan to for this coming year.  I've spoken to recruiters through the years, but mainly only for contract opportunities.  Do you have any contacts you can share?

    Mark, yes, the jobs I have been applying to are closely related to my experience. I like the idea of bringing my own formulations into the interview and will definitely try this out.



  •  I have looked into the typical salary of a permanent employee at the company I work for and my pay for 1 year is significantly lower and doesn't come close to even what an entry level employee makes. 
    This is exactly the opposite of the situation in the UK. I am really surprised by this. I suggest if you cannot find a job except contract, you may consider leaving for another part of the US or even another country. Worth thinking about.
    Design of anti-aging creams, gels, and serums; shampoos; and therapeutic cosmetics. In-house label and box design capability.
  • Finding a good recruiter has actually gotten a bit more complicated these days.

    Are you on LinkedIn? If you can add me as a contact, I will send you some links.

    Otherwise, the SCC website has recruiters listed:
    http://www.scconline.org/referrals/cat/recruiters/

    I can personally recommend Rob Snyder and Dean Patsavas.

    I can also tell you (speaking as both a hiring manager and as a prior job candidate) that it is very exceedingly rare for a company to bring someone on with a salary offer greater than 10% over what they are making currently. Even more than 5% is unusual, these days. Exaggerating your current salary is also a bad idea - the company will check with your current employer.

    The only exception to this is if you are being hired by a large company with an established entry-level salary. In that case, you will be brought on at that level, even if you're being paid considerably less now. If you are expecting more, you will likely be disappointed - frequently.

    You need to remember that you are competing for each job against all the other candidates, and also with all the contract services available. Asking for a salary well over what your competition is charging is going to put you at the bottom of the list - if you even make the list at all.

    One way to get around this is to do as Belassi suggests, look for a job in another area of the US where there's less competition (and/or a lower cost of living).
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • edited July 17
    There are some things you're not considering, also.

    It's doubtful that you're getting benefits through your contract employer. If a company offers you less in cash, but substantially more in benefits, from their point of view you're getting a lot more. You need to acknowledge what they're offering, even though you might need to say "I can't possibly take less in salary than what I'm making now."

    When talking about salary in an interview, the person who mentions a salary number first loses a little in the negotiation. Your interviewer is trying to do at least three things with this question. First, they want to rule out anyone who has unrealistic ideas about how much they'll earn. Second, they want to see if your opening bid is lower than what they are willing to offer. That would be a win-win for them - they get a bargain, and you get what you asked for. Third, they want to see if you have an idea of how much other people are making in this position. It's better to throw the question back on them at least once.

    If/when they ask how much you're looking to make, your answer should be something like "I'd like to get a fair salary and benefits package for the position I'm applying for. What would you consider to be fair for someone with my experience in this position?"

    If they don't come across with a number, then this might be a good time to bring up what you make now, mixed with a little humor. Be honest. Say something like this - "Well, I'm making less now than I feel I'm worth, but I'm also in a contract position, which has no job security. So I'm kind of in a bind about what to tell you. I'd like to make the industry average for this position, but to tell the truth, I'd like to make a million dollars a year, too. And I know that you want to find a great person for this job, but you also want to pay as little as possible. I know I'm that person. But... maybe we're asking the wrong question. How much did the last person who had this job start off with?"

    If they still don't answer with a number, then you can say something like "well, the industry average for this position is x, and I'm making y, so I think somewhere in between would be appropriate." 
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
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