How to Hire Full Time Employees With Freelancer Backgrounds

The economy is rapidly changing, especially as it recovers from the downturn of 2008. Directly tied to these economic trends are the growing number of companies hiring full-time employees.

Simply Hired data shows that contract and freelance roles declined by nearly 16 percent since 2014 while jobs overall – most of them full-time jobs – grew by 20 percent. Shandy Dunn, a contact from High Tech Connect, an agency that places professional contractors agreed with this data, saying the number of consulting-to-hire roles has tripled this year, and the number of companies saying they’d rather hire full-time employees has doubled.

As companies add more skilled full-time talent to their rosters, many of the people who have been contracting and freelancing since the recession may become interested in these roles, leaving you in the position of interviewing a candidate with a great track record as a freelance employee.

Here’s how to evaluate the experience of job-seeking freelancers and contractors to determine if these candidates would be a good fit for your company. To highlight these examples, I’ll also share some of my experiences as a freelance writer considering full-time writing jobs – and what did and didn’t fit for both me and the companies with which I interviewed.

First, Find Out Why

Other candidates might come with typical work-related reasons for their job hunt. For example, candidates may want to move out of town, find a better opportunity or try a new field for their career. Freelancers may come with similar desires, but they are likely to have more deeply personal reasons for making a change than others because of the risk involved in freelancing.

Common reasons that freelancers return to a full-time career include:

  • Poor business performance (related to the economy or the freelancer’s ability to market themselves)
  • Unmanaged stress and overwhelming responsibilities
  • Difficulty adapting to the financial insecurity of running a business
  • Lack of social engagement and teamwork

There are more reasons, of course, but these four challenges address the major struggles that come with freelancing in any industry, and they are important topics to discuss when interviewing a freelance candidate.

In the interview, provide an opportunity for the candidate to explain his or her performance as a freelancer and the most significant reason they are interested in working full-time again. Then consider the answer in light of whether that candidate will be a good fit for your workplace culture. For example, if the candidate is returning to full-time work because they are tired of “wearing too many hats,” but the position itself will require a wide range of skills and applications, it might not be a good fit. If, on the other hand, the candidate misses team interaction and engagement but loves the rest of freelancing, he or she might be a great fit for the new position.

During my short job hunt, the interviews I took revealed to me that I only seriously pursued a full-time job because I was burned out from freelancing and feeling overwhelmed. I interviewed with several companies only to find that what I needed was a vacation — not a new job. The opportunity to evaluate my motives within several interviews for a full-time job was incredibly valuable for both me and the companies with which I interviewed because it allowed me to understand this about myself and pass on the offers I received.

Ask about Work Habits

By nature, successful freelance workers are detail-oriented, self-motivated and professional. These characteristics are ingrained in freelancers who manage client relationships, business goals and the work itself. Rarely will a freelancer have trouble with the actual job that you are hiring for because they are so well-trained to function as a principal employee. Speaking as a freelancer, I can say that the only thing to worry about are the work habits and attitude that come from working alone and working for your own paycheck for a long period of time.

Dig into the freelancer interview to find out about the candidate’s work habits and attitude towards working with others. Ask about the candidate’s current work schedule, including how many hours worked per day and per week and how often the candidate worked on site. If the work habits and expectations of the job for which the candidate is interviewing is dramatically different from their current day-to-day, it’s an important talking point to bring up.

Personally, I have found two years into freelancing that I mainly just wanted to work from home. The work I take on is very similar to what I did as a full-time employee, but having ultimate flexibility is invaluable to me, and that’s not something that will change anytime soon. Therefore, if I were to look for a full-time position, I know that a virtual position might be a good fit but that I should not apply to jobs where I am required to be onsite.

Ask About Client Relationships

Different freelancers maintain different relationships. Some build their business based on recurring, long-term clients. Others focus on a high volume of one-off tasks and projects. Both of these preferences can give you an indication as to whether or not a freelancer will be a good candidate for the position you are trying to fill.

Ask the interview candidate about the client relationships they maintain, including the client they most enjoy working with and the longest client relationship. Then compare the candidate’s answers with the environment that comes with the position to see if they are a good fit. Will the right person for this position need to meet and process lots of new clients over a short period of time? Or will they have long-lasting, low-volume relationships with several key stakeholders? How the freelancer has chosen to function in business will provide an indication of whether or not they will perform well in the new role.

My freelance client roster is as varied as they come. I have long-term, short-term, one-off and retainer relationships in several different industries. Over time I will be able to learn which clients and types of arrangements work for me and slowly prune my list into clients I enjoy working with. I will then be able to use that information to narrow down the best full-time job for me, should I choose to take one.

Consider a Trial Period

Consulting-to-full-time hiring is on the rise. If it suits your budget and project timeline, consider offering a contract-to-full-time position to a freelancer candidate. This will allow both parties to get a feel for whether or not the position is a good fit and give you first-hand experience in evaluating the candidate’s performance and cultural fit with your team.

As a freelancer with passion for what I do (which is often the best kind of employee to hire), I know that I would perform best working for a company I truly believe in with people I like. The only way to find that out conclusively would be to take on a full-time trial period, which would allow me to adjust my lifestyle, finances and approach to work accordingly. Then I could also see if the pros of taking a full-time job (and my passion for the company’s mission) outweigh the cons of losing my flexibility and taking a paycut.

As more employers seek to hire for full-time positions — and as it becomes more acceptable for skilled workers to move back and forth between freelance and full-time jobs — you may find yourself interviewing people with a variety of employment backgrounds. It’s up to you to reveal insight into what a freelancer is thinking and how to accurately assess whether they are the right fit for your company using these tips and questions as your guide.