Hiring Best Practices: Traditional Workers vs. Contingent Workers, Revisited

Author Sean Behr Date Apr 03 2019

What are contingent workers?

Contingent workers are a group of people whose work is typically based on short-term engagements with companies. Additionally, contingent workers do not have explicit or implicit contracts that commit businesses to provide long-term opportunities.

The rise of the contingent workforce

The rise of the contingent worker has ensured that not all workers are created equal. This rings true both for the performance and output of individual workers and for the classification a worker falls into. 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 and freelancer to gig worker and moonlighter.

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of them are looking for unique work that suits their needs and desires, the old-school hiring handbook is quite simply out-of-date and inapplicable to many potential employees.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

Contingent workforce demographics

Contingent workers come in all shapes and sizes and consist of different age ranges, genders and races. Most industries use the contingent workforce to supplement their traditional workforce and, in some cases, replace the traditional workforce altogether.

Here are some interesting facts about the contingent and traditional workforce:

  • The majority of contingent workers are younger than traditional workers. A 2018 study debunked the myth that millennials are most likely to be contingent workers. According to research by Prudential, Gen X-ers work the most hours per week doing gig jobs as their single source of income.
  • Traditional workers (41%) were less likely to have a bachelor’s degree compared to contingent workers (44%).
  • Contingent workers were more likely to engage in part-time work than traditional workers.
  • Financial, managerial and business jobs were less likely to be performed by contingent workers (8% compared to 17% for traditional workers).
  • The education and health industries employ about one-third of contingent workers compared to about a quarter of traditional workers.
  • Traditional workers typically earn more than contingent workers. An average weekly pay for a traditional worker is $866 compared to $685 for a contingent worker.

Hiring practice – 2.0 for the contingent workforce

In order for companies to hire this ever-increasing pool of talent, they need to re-strategize 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 necessitate a re-tooling 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 this end, 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 this 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 are 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 these tech-savvy means of getting seen and attracting contingent workers will be a breeze. Gig economy apps are also popular with contingent workers. Companies like Uber, Deliveroo and PICKUP have made applying for gig work easy and accessible. The gig economy apps that consumers are using spans a wide variety of industries – from healthcare to retail.

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 is cherry-picked to move onto the interview stage will most likely be small and easy to manage. A basic management system or spreadsheet set-up 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 Fountain, 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.

It’s not unusual for companies who work with contingent workers to require hundreds or thousands of people at one time. Managing applicants at scale is simple with Fountain. Automation enables your recruitment team to significantly increase the number of candidates they’re able to handle. For example, Fountain has enabled each recruitment consultant at The Turas Group to handle nearly 2,000 candidates.

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 even further, 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 a mobile, which is constantly in their hands. Since 60% of candidates abandon the application process because it’s too long or complex, contingent workers won’t make the time to complete ‘chapter and verse’ of an application form when they can complete two or three applications in the same time. Drill down on only need-to-know information in your application form for contingent workers.

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4. Communication

Traditional Workers:

Hiring 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. They’re also 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!

Communication should also be smooth when scheduling interviews. The back-and-forth associated with arranging interviews can lead both your team and the candidates to pull their hair out in frustration. If not handled efficiently, interview cancellations or reschedules can result in mayhem. Using Fountain, the confusion and inefficiency of scheduling interviews are a thing of the past. Communication of interview dates and times is easy and stress-free because candidates get an email or SMS with a link to their interview. The interviewer’s time slots are automatically updated based on their calendar. Automating the interview scheduling process takes the hard work and frustration out of communicating with your candidates.

5. Onboarding

Traditional Workers:

The way a company onboards new employees is a key determining factor in relation to whether the employee remains in the job. According to research, 33% of traditional workers began the search for a new job within six months of starting employment because of inadequate technology and a poor onboarding process. After all of the effort that has been dedicated to the recruitment process, you should also make a commitment to provide a strong onboarding process to your staff. Typically, onboarding traditional employees will involve an explanation of the benefits package, administrative processes and a description of your business values, purpose and mission. Onboarding traditional employees can last up to a year while utilizing different in-person and virtual training methods.

Contingent Workers:

Contingent workers are entitled to a quality experience too. Contingent and gig work is on the rise, so getting the competitive edge in any way you can is a good idea. One way to welcome contingent workers to your business is to design a specific onboarding program. Onboarding your contingent workforce should focus on emphasizing how their work contributes to the growth and success of your company. Whether contingent or traditional, workers want to feel valued and you can use the onboarding process to communicate your appreciation.

Onboarding your contingent workforce demands a streamlined approach. Fountain provides you with the same efficient, mobile-first functionality to onboard your contingent workforce as it does for the hiring process. Features like customizable onboarding workflows helps you to get your contingent workforce up and running in no time.


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. When all else fails, embrace technology! There are so many amazing and comprehensive hiring tools ripe for the taking that it would be unwise 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 this goes a long way in fine-tuning the hiring practices needed to secure any type of candidate.

The hiring landscape has changed and your hiring practices need to keep up or you risk losing the best candidates to your competitors.

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

Whether you own a franchise, need to hire ten or 10,000 workers, Fountain is the hiring software you need to adapt to the new world of the fast-paced and dynamic contingent workforce.

Teams lik and Deliveroo use Fountain to build, analyze and manage their workforce at scale.

Click the button below to book your free and personalized demo of Fountain to find out how it can meet your company’s needs in this new hiring landscape.


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About the Author

Chief Executive Offier

Sean Behr

Sean Behr is the CEO at Fountain and has served in leadership roles at STRATIM (acquired by KAR), Adap.tv (acquired by AOL), and Shopping.com (acquired by Ebay). Behr also advises, mentors, and invests in entrepreneurs and early-stage companies.