The Musings Of A Software Recruiter- Contract Or Permanent?

Posted 3 years ago

​2020….. What a year!

I’m writing that like it’s over, which of course it’s not, as I’m sure many of you couldn’t be more aware of, there’s still plenty of time left for things to get even weirder.

This week is National Coding Week, so I wanted to write a piece on a relevant topic in our current climate for the coding community.

So what is that?

I considered a piece on female developers and their history.

For example, I learnt recently that Margaret Hamilton was the lead software engineer for the Apollo project. She created a program that was able to override the normal operations and let the astronauts know when there was a problem and not to land!

A fantastic achievement, that really highlights the impact coding can have.

Then I thought about an article discussing Junior developers training moving forwards.

The effects working from home and permanent office closures may have on their ability to be trained efficiently.

Having spoken to MDs this has been a prominent concern for employers. But I am pleased to say I have heard some innovative solutions to the problem. For example, running learning retreats for new starters, allowing juniors weeks of immersive learning, before being left to program independently. I also felt the idea of creating buddy systems in which they are consistently on teams’ videos was strong. The concept being the juniors buddy is left permanently on their screens, whilst working so that any support or questions can be immediately addressed for them. It has been great to see employers looking to embrace this challenge head-on, rather than shying away from the issue.

So, choosing a topic has been a challenge.

In the end, I decided it would be for the best to focus on a topic that affects all developers.

That is Contract VS Permanent roles post-lockdown.

I find this topic an interesting and complex one, as I have found written studies vs the human element completely contradictory.

Each report I have read recently including the “UK recruitment sector, COVID-19 barometer forum, Strategy Group survey” from August 2020, claims that permanent roles in the IT industry are no longer available. That the future of the software industry is primarily contract focused and unless people changeover they will no longer have work.

I, however, have found the opposite. Whilst contract roles seem sparse, the permanent industry seems to have taken a substantial rise over the last three months. Showing rapid re-growth after the dip in the market during the initial lockdown period.

I speak to developers day in and day out who have been massively impacted by COVID-19. I’ve seen a large number of company closures, concerns as to whether once furlough ends people will have work to return to, and a large number of people who have had time to reflect and realised their company is no longer for them.

But no matter what the reason they have connected one thing stands out above all else; security.


Before lockdown this was a concern, but fairly low on the list, post lockdown it is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

With the whole country swarmed in such uncertainty people have really begun to value the importance of committed employers and employees, in a way that just wasn’t as high a priority previously.

With contract roles being terminated first as redundancies hit and IR35 meaning that commuting is now a far less appealing option for contractors. This combined with the hit on national insurance, has left contracts with something to be desired.

Now at this point, I must say that I have also spoken to many contractors who are still in great roles and doing very well, this is purely based on market feedback I have received over the last 6 months.

Interestingly when I held a poll asking my LinkedIn community “In the current climate, as a software developer do contract or permanent roles appeal to you more?” the results came back as an exact 50/50 split showing that both personal experience and the articles on development have substantial grounding.

So what’s going to happen next?

Due to the financial impact of many companies and the pressures to deliver urgent projects quickly, I think we will see an initial rise in short term contracts, then permanent roles will stabilise, and finally longer-term contracts will be re-instated longer term.

But whichever order it happens in please do take comfort in the fact that the market is recovering.

There are more roles with each passing week and opportunities are available for all skill levels.

COVID has made things incredibly unpredictable but there are signs of recovery in the market. In the meantime, you should make yourself available to both contract and permanent roles. If you are having no luck with either, then start work on a project that highlights your abilities or shows your passion. Put yourself in the best possible position for your next interview by having something to show for the extra time you have had during COVID.

What we do know is there is security in permanent roles and there are more of them with each passing day.

With the market being more limited, being open to travelling slightly further afield or adjusting your expectations will help and finally staying positive is vital!

If you want to know what current opportunities we have in the software market, take a look at our Mexa Solutions jobs page.

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