The contract recruitment market can be chaotic at best. Many contractors are often left feeling dazed and confused by their job hunting experience. Whether it be from trawling through the endless pages of online job boards, or dealing with one of the many thousands of recruiters who ‘never call them back’, it can be a painful experience at best. Couple this with the emergence of the gig economy and it would appear this chaos is only set to get worse. However, there is now a company out there set to change all of that. iContract is an online contract recruitment platform looking to address many of the current issues surrounding this job market. We spoke to its CEO and Founder, Amanda Cai, to understand her motivation for starting the company, their journey to date, and what the future holds.
What’s your background, and what led you to start iContract?
My background is in the financial sector. I initially worked in corporate finance full time, working in risk management before I made the move to financial contracting, advising clients such as Lloyds Banking Group and National Australia Bank on derivative products. What led me to start iContract were both my positive and negative experiences of contracting. I loved the freedom and flexibility it gave me in my work life in contrast to the more rigid 9 to 5 structure in full-time employment which I didn’t find fullfilling personally. Contracting offered me great variety in my work life and I found it more benefical financially. I did find it frustrating though that despite the amount of opportunities that were available for contractors, there wasn’t really a go to place where you could find and apply for contracts. I also discovered that I was receiving numerous enquiries from recruiters to see if I was interested in contracts they had, but these contracts had no relevance to my profile or skill-set and weren’t the type of contracts I was personally seeking. I also found that there was no real community for contractors to seek out advice or talk about contracting as an industry. With that I wanted to create something that was of huge value to the continually growing contractor community where they could find contracts and manage their contracting work life all in one place.
Can you give us a brief overview of iContract?
iContract is an online platform connecting contractors with recruiters and hiring managers. Contractors can search and apply for contracts based on specific criteria they set, and get instant contract recommendations based on their profile and skill-set. Users can expand their network by connecting with other contractors and recruiters, and interact with them through chat, as well as access third party service providers to obtain advice on contractor related issues.
iContract aims to be a platform that provides transparency in the contractor market and connects the right contractors with the right recruiters and hiring managers, reducing the need for both parties to trawl endless amounts of job boards and databases.
The recruitment market seems to have been tarred with a bit of a negative brush over the years, why do you think this is, and how does iContract combat some of these issues?
I think recruiters have had a bit of a hard time because they can’t be everything that candidates want them to ideally be. I know a lot of recruitment agencies who have huge targets to meet and have to fill over 300 jobs a week. That is intense for them pressure wise so their time and energy is consumed in having to find these candidates, assess them initially, and eventually interview them. A lot of candidates haven’t had the best of experiences with recruiters as they’ve never heard back from them, and I think there just isn’t an understanding on the candidates’ behalf of how busy they can be.
One of the biggest challenges for recruiters is finding candidates and as previously mentioned, searching for candidates takes up a lot of their time. With iContract, we’ve given them a tool to find the correct type of candidate quickly and effectively, assess them as a candidate and communicate with them in one all encompassing solution. Rather than post endless jobs to numerous job boards and waiting for the many responses to wade through, iContract can connect them to the right candidates instantly.
What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
I think we’ve had two key challenges which have been development and education. With any start-up the development of a platform can be extremely challenging and not as straight forward as many would believe. In the run up to our live launch, we did encounter a few bugs which slightly delayed our originally proposed launch dates and that took time and patience to iron out. But our BETA launch where we invited a select few users to test the platfotm went very well and this put us in a good position to shape the platform and make it fit for launch.
Since launch it’s been about educating users on both sides about the platform. We’re still relatively young as a live platform and understandably things aren’t always going to be perfect from a user experience perspective and general user benefit. Our marketing activity in the last few months since our launch has been more educational in an effort to keep users engaged with the platform, introduce them to new features they might not be aware of, and ultimately ensure they have patience with the platform as it’s constantly evolving and being tweaked.
How has the company grown to date, and what are your future growth plans?
Since we launched live in August, we’ve seen an average of 200 users sign up per week which is fantastic. Currently we have close to 2,000 users registered with the platform. We’ve over 100 recruitment and direct hire companies using the platform and since our launch have seen over 1,000 contracts posted live.
Direct hire managers have been recently acquired as new users and we plan to engage with more direct employers in using the platform.
In terms of our development plans, we also have a mobile app planned to launch very soon, as well as a rating system to help candidates improve their profile and recruiter users to better assess them, plus a social universe where users can interact and share advice with each other in a more open style forum.
We want to make the platform as multi-purpose as possible and fit the many needs of the modern recruiter and hiring manager and offer a streamlined service to them. With that, we have plans to integrate with other platforms that offer in-demand services such as background checking and on-boarding.
Currently we have three sectors, legal, finance and tech, but this should hopefully expand into other industries such as marketing, education, healthcare and engineering, and we should hopefully see us expand into other countries where contracting is high in demand.
Will you be looking for funding?
So far we have raised over half a million from angel investors and we are now going through a new funding round of £500k from angel investors and crowd funding platform. We will be interested in hearing from any angel investors interested in this sector, as well as to launch crowd funding campaign in a few months time.