In my session at Agile 2015, (Agile Hiring: It's a Team Sport) one participant asked me if I hire contractors the same way I hire employees. I do. I use the same approaches for reviewing resumes, phone screens, interviews and decisions. The one difference is the offer—instead of a yearly salary paid in some form of incremental approach, contractors get a dollar/hour over a timeboxed period.
One of the people in my session called contractors “consultants” and tweeted about it. She wanted to make sure the contractor had the same respect as a consultant.
That concern goes to why the hiring manager hires a contractor or a consultant.
If I need an extra pair of hands for a limited period of time, I hire a contractor. If I need guidance—which might include some hands-on work—I hire a consultant. You might like this perspective on how consultants work, from Choosing a Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation, by Champion, Kiel and McLendon:
What's important to me is who has the responsibility for client growth.
I expect a consultant to help me (or my team or organization) grow in some way.
I expect a contractor to provide extra pair-of-hands services. I do not expect them to help me grow. I might get that, but I definitely don't expect it, especially when hiring a developer, tester, project manager, Scrum Master, or some other individual contributor position.
To me, that is a big difference between contractors and consultants. I don't expect contractors to contribute to anyone's growth. I do expect consultants to contribute to growth. That's why I expect to pay more for consultants than contractors.
If you are worried about your sphere of influence in the organization, consider how you work. (You “agile coaches” especially, think about this.) Is your client hiring you because you are a hands-on expert and that's all they want from you? Is your client open to other possibilities, where you could facilitate or coach or partner?
Consulting is different from contracting. You might call yourself a consultant and be a contractor. I rarely see consultants who call themselves contractors.
If you want to provide more value to your client, have the respect you deserve and be hired for different work, show the client how you will provide growth.
(To see specifics of how I hire contractors, see Hiring Geeks That Fit.)