is contract-to-hire worth it?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job for about three and a half years, and have been in my current position for almost two of those. In theory, I know that I should really like my job; it involves some of the tasks that I am good at and like doing, and I have a wonderful set of coworkers and a great boss.

But for a while now — maybe the last eight months or so — I just can’t seem to be interested in my job at all. In fact, I feel almost exactly like the recent letter writer who spends her time online shopping or watching YouTube videos when she’s usually a top performer. I’ve had a lot of life changes this year, so I don’t know if it’s time to move on or not, but I am looking.

I’m in the second round interview with a company that is hiring for someone in my field but for a different type of job. While I think that there are some skills that I would have to learn, I think this has the potential to be a good resume builder and a step in the right direction professionally. Plus, it would be a 50% raise, which for someone who’s trying to pay off student loans is a pretty big deal.

My question is this. The job is being offered as a contract-to-hire, with a six-month contract length. This would mean that I wouldn’t have benefits, PTO, etc. during this time, and I don’t have a spouse or anyone who I could share insurance with. Plus I have a full-time job now that’s permanent; while it’s not my favorite thing, it is at least stable.

The recruiter is with a large, national, no one well-established company, but the company I would be contracting with has been through a lot of overhaul the last couple of years. They’re building up a team now, which I have the potential to be a part of.

Is the risk of contract-to-hire worth it when I have a full-time job? I really want to move on to something else, but I don’t know if I should wait until I find something permanent or take the jump and see what happens. Do you and your readers have any advice?

Readers, what’s been your experience?

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. SoftwareDev*

    That 50% raise likely doesn’t mean much if you don’t have benefits like health insurance or PTO. My guess is all the extra cash will be eaten up by providing those things yourself. I don’t think contract-to-hire is always a bad idea, but you’d need to be making significantly more money than 50% for it to be worth it.

    1. Kaitlyn*

      Don’t forget the 30% tax hit. My general rule is freelancing:contract work is 50% premium = exactly equivalent, and even that is undercutting benefits if you actually use them.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          That’s been my experience as well. I was a W-2 for 6 months on the agency’s payroll. OP should get that clarified.

          OP is probably also eligible to get COBRA from their current employer to cover the gap in insurance eligibility. It will cost more, since they won’t have the employer contribution, but may be a better deal than trying to get something elsewhere.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah. I did ~4 years as a W2 hourly employee of a staffing agency with a more or less permanent assignment, and while it wasn’t *ideal*, it was fine. (I was eventually hired on FTE.) COBRA can be insanely expensive, though, for most people ACA insurance is a better deal, or the agency may offer some options.

            1. melonhead*

              ACA insurance cost my family $1734/mo plus $7500 per person annual deductible, so do your research first.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Also if it’s through an agency, they may offer insurance. The one I used to work for did. They were kind of shitty, but it was ACA compliant and better than nothing.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            The flipside to this setup is that you’re then not eligible to get marketplace insurance in some instances, which may or may not be more expensive but then you get a bigger variety to choose from depending on your insurance needs =(

            1. Natalie*

              You wouldn’t be eligible for the advanced premium tax credit, but anyone can buy marketplace insurance.

                1. Natalie*

                  No, it doesn’t. It’s a bit dense to read but the ACA says in a few places that “qualified individuals” are free to participate or not participate in the exchanges, including state exchanges, as they wish. The restrictions on qualified individual are all related to Medicaid/Medicare, residency and citizenship, and incarceration.

            2. Quill*

              That was a pain in my butt last year, I was eligible for COBRA via a contract that ended in march, but it was impossibly expensive while on unemployment, so I had to deal with the tax shennanigans involved in not being insured, because I couldn’t switch to the ACA since I was still technically eligible for the COBRA & couldn’t join because the “qualifying life event” for joining was loosing the job that offered COBRA.

              1. Natalie*

                That shouldn’t have been the case – losing job based coverage is a special enrollment event even if you are eligible for COBRA. But if waited until the end of the COBRA float that would have been too long, unfortunately.

                Eligibility for COBRA continuation coverage won’t limit your eligibility for Marketplace coverage or for a tax credit. […] To qualify for special enrollment in a Marketplace plan, you must select a
                plan within 60 days before or 60 days after losing your job-based coverage. In addition, during an open enrollment period, anyone can enroll in Marketplace coverage.

                https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/faqs/cobra-continuation-health-coverage-consumer.pdf

                1. Quill*

                  Essentially I took COBRA, then discovered it was too expensive a couple months later, and then I wasn’t eligible.

          2. TrainerGirl*

            Before I joined my current company full-time, I was a contractor and had medical/dental insurance. Not as good as what I have now, but it was fine for the 9 months that I had it. I was making such an insanely high hourly rate that it was worth it. I was able to pay off debt and put away a lot of money. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the right position, it might be okay for you.

        3. The Original K.*

          Yeah, if she’s W-2 she’s just an hourly employee of the staffing agency. I’ve been in that situation before. She might even be eligible for health insurance through them, and she’d be eligible for unemployment (I did a yearlong contract in this situation. The agency paid half my health insurance costs, which was cheaper than what I would have gotten via the marketplace, and I got unemployment when it ended).

        4. T3k*

          Yep, when I was a contractor, I was still technically a W2 employee through the job agency (just considered a contractor by the company that I was working for) and while I did get benefits through the job agency, it was fairly costly (it was a certain amount per paycheck, and as I typically got paid weekly there, that meant I was paying around $225 a month). That said, the job paid well enough that the $225 a month wasn’t that bad.

      1. Natalie*

        As mentioned, contract to hire is almost always a W2 contractor.

        But also, even as an independent contractor there’s no “30% tax hit”. Income tax rates are exactly the same for employees or ICs. The only additional income taxes (technically payroll taxes) an IC pays is the employer half of FICA, which works out to a little under 6% after the credit you receive for paying the employer half of FICA.

      2. peg*

        I did a contract job for a year where I was hired directly by my company, but they put me through an agency who handled my pay (including payroll taxes). They also contributed a small amt to a 401k for me and I got very affordable medical insurance through the agency. I know this isn’t always the case but it definitely is possible.

      1. bluephone*

        OMG I feel like I wrote this letter. I’ve been discreetly job searching for a while (with no hits–fun!) and all of the recruiter calls I get are for contract-only or the vague “contract-to-permanent” (cha, yeah right). Like the OP I don’t have a spouse or parents whom could carry me on their insurance, I think my state is one of those “you can sort of use ACA but we don’t really want you to because the majority party thinks it’s Communism”, etc. It’s so frustrating.

      2. TrainerGirl*

        There’s also no guaranty with a full-time job. If the law allows, you can be let go anytime.

    2. Pants*

      Exactly. With the ACA in the States, insurance are up so much of my paychecks and then I couldn’t even afford to use it.

      Plus there’s the fact that you don’t get paid if you take days off. So if you get the plague, you are out for all the days you miss. It’s like you have to pay for your own time off.

      I was contract for a year and a half at my current job. They were on a hiring freeze when I came in. If I didn’t love the job and my boss so much, I’d have left long ago. I will never do anything other than direct hire again.

    3. Chili*

      Yes, the pay for this job is probably higher to account for the lack of benefits, which is pretty standard for contract gigs. It’s worth asking what pay and benefits you could expect if you were hired after the 6 month contract because it may not actually be the 50% raise you may be expecting (once they give you benefits, your in-pocket pay may go down, thought the benefits may make it about equal in value).
      Definitely do your research about insurance costs, how often this company actually hires its temps, and what the potential full time role would be like. I definitely know of people who have been burned by contract-to-hire positions that turned out not to be what they were sold as, but I also know of a bunch of people who did it and it worked out incredibly well. I think it’s just a matter of assessing your own comfort with the risk and making sure you wouldn’t be in a really bad place if you’re not hired on after the 6 month contract.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Definitely do your research about insurance costs, how often this company actually hires its temps, and what the potential full time role would be like.

        The bolded is especially important. OP, if you have a lot of student loan debt you’re trying to pay off, I would not leave a permanent position for something that may not lead to full-time, permanent employment after six months. If they don’t hire their contractors on with any type of frequency, you’ll be unemployed and will have to defer or get some kind of hardship forbearance on those loans, which will still accrue interest while on hold. Your total debt will then skyrocket (ask me how I know) – this is too big a gamble in this day and age.

        1. Quill*

          Seconded. I’ve been contracting since graduation in ’14, never been hired, often unemployed for 3+ months as a time after the latest gig cancels. If I didn’t live with my parents most of that time there would be a lot of debt going on.

        2. Gadget Hackwrench*

          This! I worked at one company Contract to hire for 2.5 years before realizing it was a sham and they were never going to hire me. I worked at another contract-to-hire on a one year contract… they decided not to renew the contract or hire me in that department, but arranged for me to be hired in another department as a full time real employee and I still work here 4 years later. It’s a bit or roulette. Some places mean it, and some places have NO intention of ever hiring and use it to string you along. Find out in advance which kind of company it is.

    4. Artemesia*

      And you have a 6 mos cliff. Why are they doing it contract to hire? If they really have the job why aren’t they hiring for it? I would assume I was likely to be played. I have had several friends who were promised a job at the end of a contract rainbow and only one actually got hired. I’d hang onto a solid job with benefits and keep looking unless you have evidence that this company actually does hire most of the people it hires ‘contract to hire.’ It may just be their way of never having to pay benefits.

      1. pentamom*

        There’s a well respected company local to me that now does all its hiring temp to hire. Maybe the difference is they *don’t* make promises, but their reputation is that if you are working out as an employee, you will get a full time position.

        So it’s not always shady. I think in their case it’s a way of giving employees a trial period. If a company is working through a temp agency, it doesn’t work as a way “not to pay benefits” because they’re paying a huge premium to the agency.

        1. Meredith*

          Most companies have a 30-90 day “trial period” anyway, sometimes in which you’re not eligible for benefits, but you’re still considered an employee legally. Contract-to-hire seems to give the company a lot more benefit than it does the employee, like many things in the hiring process. I can’t imagine how it benefits the company other than the fact that they don’t have to pay benefits… and that they can perhaps more easily let that person go in the 6-12 months when the contract is up.

        2. Harvey 6-3.5*

          In my wife’s company, they call this “temp to perm.” Meaning that if you work out, you will be made permanent but if not, they can simply choose not to renew your contract.

          Under OPs circumstances, I would keep looking for another permanent job that was better, rather than take this option. Unless the market is very small in OPs town/city, there will be other better jobs (and if it is that small, a move may be in order).

        3. Indigo a la mode*

          I still think that’s pretty lame. I committed to you, so why aren’t you committing to me? Obviously you thought I was goo enough to bring on in the first place. It’s like people who enter a monogamous relationship but want to “keep their options open.”

        4. Sian*

          Husband works for one of the big 4 health care companies. The ONLY people who aren’t temp to hire are the Director and above positions.

          Many, many industries are moving in this direction.

        5. Quill*

          In the industry I’m in, a lot of companies do this in R&D so they can just show you the door when a project is canceled or they want to cut budget for a quarter. (This is when I’ve been a lab tech, don’t know about other positions in the industry but from what I’ve heard from other contractors, contract-to-hire is almost always a lie.)

        6. TechWorker*

          Why in this situation do contractor for the first 6 months vs having a 6 month probation period (super standard). Hiring is at will anyway so it seems like an unnecessary mechanism if they actually *are* planning to take on the hire as full time as default. (If you think it’s more likely they won’t succeed in the role than they will, you’ve failed at hiring, no?)

        7. Anon Librarian*

          Yes. I once worked for a major company (could be the same one) that usually did contract-to-hire. Everyone was hired for a series of six month contracts and converted to full time if things were working out. I don’t remember the conversion being significant, though. Just a slightly better benefits package and a small raise.

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          Yeah, my company does contract to hire for all our creative roles. We have hired nearly all of our contractors. We only don’t when they’re clearly not a good fit. And then it gives the contractor a better answer for why they are looking for a job in other interviews. “My contract ended” is a better answer than “I was fired.” It’s also easier to let someone go at the end of a contract period than to fire them for not being a great fit for the team. That’s a much longer, more drawn out process, which can tank team morale if someone just isn’t a great fit for the team.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        I got a job like that once. It was at a defense contractor, and you eventually needed a security clearance. So they wanted both sides to be sure this was a good fit before going through that expensive and invasive process. The question you want to ask is “what is the conversion rate?” What percentage of the contractors go permanent?

      3. EngineerMom*

        I agree with a previous comment about checking into the statistics on the company’s record of hiring “contract to hire” employees. It’s pretty shady of a company to specifically call out “contract to hire” and then not hire, especially since you could just call the position “contract”.

        My company does a lot of contract-to-hire. It’s a fairly painless way (for the company) to get a feel for how the employee will work out, how the employee will fit within the team and general business structure. We also have an internal rule against retaining contracted employees for more than 4 years – after 4 years, they must be transferred to FTE or let go. What this means functionally is that most employees for whom the position is a good fit get hired full-time after a single 6-month or 1-year contract, not strung along as contracted indefinitely.

        Contracted professional employees are almost universally more expensive to the company on an hourly basis than just hiring a salaried full-time employee. Between paying the contracting company’s fees and overtime, plus the less-specific training expenses of onboarding new people all the time, it makes little sense for a professional company to repeatedly hire contractors vs. full-time employees.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I think this is the reason I was hired on at both of the temp jobs I worked in the past (between 2010-2012) – I was costing them way too much money in overtime pay, lol. They probably realized it was much cheaper to just buy out my contracts and pay me directly.

      4. Annonno Today*

        I wouldn’t default to “You’re being played.” There are lots of reasons companies do C-to-H. Plus, I think there are labor laws that limit the % of contractors within a company.

        But I also would ask how often the company converts contractors, and as someone else mentioned, what the salary range would be when converted.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      Some of the more reputable agencies will offer health insurance. Yes, you pay the whole premium, but at a group rate, and – the important part – it’s pre-tax, so the hit to your bottom line isn’t as bad. It might be a good idea to ask if their agency has this.

  2. Picard*

    Knowing nothing about you, your resume or your industry, I would not take a 6 month contract gig in lieu of an existing full time job. Keep looking.

    1. Shannon*

      I agree. Given that the LW describes their job in tolerable terms, they can afford to be pickier. Temp-to-perm isn’t permanent and unless they were throwing enough money at me to easily cover benefits and to live comfortably for six months if this job didn’t offer me a full time gig, I’d be very wary.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Same. Exceptions would be:

      1) Their whole industry works like this, so it is the only way to get a new job.
      2) This opportunity is uniquely exciting in some way.
      3) I had my own reasons for wanting a trial period in the new job.

    3. Happy Lurker*

      I agree too! I took a temp to perm and the 6 months of no benefits (days off, health insurance) was grueling. I learned some very bad habits, like coming into work with bronchitis because I had no sick time and bills to pay.
      Absolutely be choosy about your next place of employment.

  3. DaisyC*

    My current company that I’ve been with for years only hires this way and IF it were a 3-6 month contract that then went perm, that could be a good model and way to hire. However, if the workload is there, the contract is perpetually extended and contractors get frustrated going for so long without basic benefits, not even paid holidays. We just lost someone who was a really good worker after 10 months of being a “contractor”. I use quotations because they are not 1099 employees, they are W-2 just paid through a hiring agency and are not called temps. We have one contractor going on two years and I wouldn’t blame them for leaving for a perm position. I don’t agree with this hiring model at all, but I don’t have a say. The higher turnover puts an additional strain on long term employees like me.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      Plus, if it really were a probationary period… well, there ARE probationary periods in direct hire jobs. The fact that they’re not even willing to commit to that is suspect, in my book.

      In my experience, “contract-to-hire” is FAR more likely to indefinitely extend the contract aka “permalance” because they can have someone working like an employee without paying for any benefits. Much cheaper that way, plus the string-along of “we MIGHT hire you!” keeps people around longer than they otherwise would, based on the sunk-cost fallacy. Or I’ve also had the conversion offer come in as a massive paycut for the “privilege” of staying on. (They suddenly ran out of work for me and rescinded the offer when I tried to negotiate, even though they were currently expanding their business, and had been growing the entire six months I’d been there.)

      You could try negotiating them to direct hire, maybe with a probationary period, but my guess is they won’t play ball.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I had this kind of a job. The extension kept getting shorter, too – first term was six months, then three, then one month. I left when they literally did not tell me I was extended until the week the term ended – on a one month extension. I could not live with that uncertainty. The manager was disappointed – he seemed to think that was a perfectly fine thing to do. Yes they had health insurance available for me to buy pre-tax.

    2. MonkeyInTheMiddle*

      Agree the model is a crappy one for the contractors and FTEs. Companies just extend the contracts to avoid paying benefits.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. I saw that at a law firm I used to work for, though they did it with temps. One girl I used to work with had been there four years as a temp before they hired her on permanently. I was a temp for about a year and a half before they hired me on as a perm employee – it was ridiculous, but cheaper for them.

        1. Chickie Did It All....And Then Retired*

          Temp to hire feels like “try before you buy” to me. The employer pays no benefits (expensive, I get it!), and doesn’t have to follow all of the workplace laws that apply to employees.

          You’ll perhaps have a more complicated tax year than you’ve had in the past, but that manageable. You’ll need to get health insurance and if you want to save for retirement, it will be on you to make that happen.

          What I’m really wondering, though, is if this job meets the legal requirements of a contracted position. Will you be using your own equipment, setting your own schedule, and largely working independently? Maybe those things make it worth it to you.

          The insecurity of the situation would bother me. Though in many cases, being a FT employees just carries the illusion of security.

          1. Shad*

            If it’s a contract with an employment agency, and that agency is treating the employee as an employee, I wouldn’t expect the same strict definition of “contractor” to apply.

          2. wondHRland*

            It’s not necessarily cheaper for the employer to use a contract employee vs direct hire. I think some companies use this as their go to- consider it a 6 month interview- you get to see how they treat their employees while they see how you fit in with the group.
            also, if they’ve had a few new hires not work out, they may have decided to go temp to hire becuase thye suck at intervieweing.

    3. BlueDays*

      I was a contractor at a company for two years before leaving. There were a lot of promises about how contractors got hired as permanent employees before I accepted the job, but then I ended up being on a team of 20 contractors, and reminders about how they love to hire contractors as full time employees never amounted to anything. They didn’t talk about hiring me until I gave my two weeks notice, at which point I was obviously not interested.

      I wouldn’t take a temp-to-hire type job again unless it was a job I needed while continuing to job hunt.

    4. T3k*

      Yeeep. In the industry I’m in, sadly contractor positions are far too common, especially for entry level positions and, with it being such a desirable/competitive industry, they can sadly get away with this setup. Mine wasn’t renewed due to team re-assignments, but I knew people that worked for years as contractors at the same company only to be let go 3+ years later (never hired permanently).

      1. Quill*

        I have a friend who’s been a contractor at the same place for so long that they had to put her on “furlough” for a month to avoid being forced by state law to hire her on. Since I’ve been doing more lab work roles until now I was consistently lucky to make it 6 months anywhere, they really will just shut down R&D and QC at any minute.

    5. Quiltrrr*

      I applied for a position that should have been permanent, but was ‘contractor’ through an agency. I asked them why the position was a contractor position, and they said it came out of a different budget than for employee pay. I then asked how long their longest contractor had been there, and they said *8 years*. Imagine, 8 years with no sick/vacation. I did not pursue that position!

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Disgusting. Some policy wonks have been discussing the idea of universally portable benefits (including sick and vacation time) not tied to any particular employer, and we absolutely need to move in that direction.

        1. the sun is shining*

          Or get rid of the idea that only full-time/permanent employees are people who should be getting those things.

  4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    I would ask yourself:
    1) Can I afford to self-insure for six months, with the salary they will be paying me?*
    2) At the end of six months, how quickly can I find a new job, given my field and where I live?
    3) What will six months at this contract job do to enhance my resume and my connections?

    *Take self-employment taxes into account!

    I would not count on being at this company longer than the contract term. If you are, it’s a nice bonus, but assume that you won’t be. That doesn’t mean don’t take it – maybe it’s a good resume builder or a chance to break out of a rut – but don’t think of it as a new permanent job with benefits. If what you want is a new permanent job with benefits, look for that instead.

    1. Liane*

      “1) Can I afford to self-insure for six months, with the salary they will be paying me?*
      *Take self-employment taxes into account!”
      As someone else mentioned, these may not be applicable. In the USA, many temporary employees are not true contractors–they are legally employees of the agency, which takes care of payroll taxes and the like. Also, under ACA, those agencies now have to offer health insurance from the beginning, just like a company that hires someone directly for a permanent position would have to. I’ve had insurance coverage through an agency and for 1 person it was comparable to my portion of premiums at permanent jobs.

      But these are things OP needs to clarify with hiring company or the agency, if she hasn’t already.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Also, under ACA, those agencies now have to offer health insurance from the beginning, just like a company that hires someone directly for a permanent position would have to.

        This isn’t necessarily true. I worked for a temp agency after the ACA passed that didn’t offer health insurance – I think Office Team and one other smaller outfit were the only ones to offer it. The ACA’s language here was fuzzy in that they required staffing agencies to offer health insurance to “common law employees,” but a lot of these agencies argued that their temps weren’t common law, but were variable hour employees and, thus, shouldn’t be treated as common law employees that they would then be required to coven. The IRS responded that they have to consider a variety of factors to determine the true designation, so I think a lot of agencies can find ways to weasel out of this obligation, which stinks.

        1. Natalie*

          That and any business can just decide they’d rather take the tax hit. The penalty isn’t actually that high, sadly.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yup, that too. These agencies make a lot of money, so many of them just decided to pay the penalty and keep it moving because it was cheaper than getting the insurance for their hundreds and thousands of temps.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            The tax hit is lower than the cost of actually paying insurance, which defeats the purpose. Penalties need to HURT to work.

            1. Amy Sly*

              Where I did my last contract bit of contracting, the agency offered health insurance that required me to either go to doctors 800 miles away or pay $800/mon for a single nonsmoking employee.

              Thank God the tax penalties for being uninsured were less than that.

        2. Quill*

          Also, iirc, didn’t that not apply to international companies? (I asked a previous agency, dunno if what they told me – that they didn’t offer insurance because they were international – was true.)

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I’m not sure how it applied to international companies with staffing branches here in the US. I would think they would be required to conform to US law if they’re operating here, but maybe not.

    2. T3k*

      This this this. It’s unfortunate, but it’s better to be prepared and think of it in terms of “this job will end in 6 months” than “I’ve been doing well, they’re bound to extend my contract/hire me permanently, right?” and risk getting burned at the end when they don’t hired you or extend the contract.

    3. pamplemousse*

      This seems like the right advice to me. One other thing to look into is how frequently the company does, in fact, hire their contractors. Past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results here — budgets change, leadership changes, priorities change — but it could be the difference between “contract-to-hire is the way we put off adding to our headcount until the next budgetary year” and “our contractors fulfill a specific need for us and then we send them on their way.”

      I doubt the company is unionized, since it’d probably be tougher for them to get away with contract-to-hire in the first place, but if they are, a union rep would be a great person to give you some real talk about this situation.

  5. juliebulie*

    If the 50% is enough to cover the cost of self-insuring (or if you can negotiated it up a little higher), I think you should go for it. Even if it doesn’t work out in the long term, you will get the change of scenery that you seem to need. You’ll also have a stronger resume to go job-searching with.

    I’ll also add that when I worked as a contractor a few years ago, the insurance I was able to get on my own was actually better and cheaper than what I had been getting with COBRA.

    1. Lance*

      Is there some particular reason for having so many of them? Is it just some sort of industry norm, or was there something else going on? Just out of curiosity (and for something that may further inform the OP).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        In my field, a FT job is not easy to come by anymore. Everyone’s gone the contract-to-hire route.

        Also, not sure if my workplace is still doing it, but they switched from FT to contract-to-hire a couple of years ago, and had a really good new hire leave after his contract period ended and they gave him the runaround: “we like you, but we cannot make you FT just yet, but we promise we will at a later time and can you stay on contract until then” – he was really good, so he quickly found another job and left. Basically what I am saying here is that “six months contract-to-hire” does not apparently mean you’ll be FT after six months if you do well – they can dangle that carrot in front of you forever.

        1. Alternative Person*

          Same in mine, add in fewer 35-40 hour 5 day weeks, short term positions that want a lot of investment, and pay scales that value loyalty over experience and it gets exhausting.

      2. PhillyRedhead*

        Same as “I Wrote This” — direct-hire full-time jobs were hard to come by. I’m pretty certain that more than half of them never intended to make a permanent offer to any candidate, no matter how successful they were at the job. Even the job I’m at now (which I was offered to me as direct-hire from the get-go) has started going to the contract-to-hire route for newer team members.

      3. Quill*

        My industry essentially does not hire in my location unless they’re looking for management, so…

    2. JM in England*

      I agree!

      Roughly half of my career has been contract jobs, some with the “promise” of temp-to-hire. Only one such job made good on this promise, leading to the first of my two long term jobs….

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That advice isn’t really all that helpful without the why you’re saying don’t do it. It’s not always a bad idea – it depends on many factors.

      1. PhillyRedhead*

        1) uncertainty. Especially since OP doesn’t have a spouse or partner. What if after 6 months, there’s no conversion to full hire?
        2) in addition to the uncertainty, when a regular full-time job lays you off, you usually get some form of severance to help you get through until you find a new job, plus you can get unemployment. If OP is an independent contractor (not through a temp agency), it will vary on whether or not they have access to that.
        3) SIX MONTHS of no health insurance, PTO, paid time off for holidays — been there, done that, it’s ROUGH. Both on mental health, physical health (asking yourself, “Can I afford to take off [ie, not get paid] and get this illness taken care of [paying out of pocket with no health insurance]”?) and financial health.

      2. PhillyRedhead*

        And why should OP leave his/her current full-time job with benefits to commit to this temp-to-hire company, when they won’t full commit to OP?

      3. Liz T*

        The “why” is implied by the “ten years” part–you can get strung along indefinitely without actually being hired.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yessssss, I immediately flinched at “ten years”. If it’s 6 month contracts, you’re constantly on edge over if it’ll be renewed or finally frigging turned into a perm position. That’s 20 times that you’ve had to “renew” or find a new contract if it’s you work the 10 years without any unemployment gaps. Nope. Nope. Nope.

          1. Quill*

            Not to mention, even if they renew you they’ll drop it whenever! Every time I’ve been extended at 6 months, they’ve rescinded that within two weeks.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yeah, I had a “seven-month” position where they suddenly decided after three weeks that they wanted someone with financial experience instead, and I got a phone call on Saturday morning telling me not to come in on Monday.

              1. Quill*

                Last time I took a “5 month contract” I discovered that the company was moving in 3 months and then they dropped me at month 2. If it’s not 6 months or a year it automatically reads as sketchy to me.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          When you’re providing advice, implications aren’t helpful. Assumptions are often incorrect with little information to go on.

    4. Tiffany In Houston*

      Agree. I am working a long term contract right now after getting laid off from my perm job this summer. I have alternated between contract and full time work for the last 10 years and only one of those contract to hire roles turned perm. I can’t complain as the money has been good but the lack of paid PTO sucks.

      Stay at your full time gig, you can afford to be picky.

    5. nonymous*

      One person in my acquaintance circle spent about 10 years doing contract potions before she was finally able to build a portfolio that got her into permanent. Now in this particular case, it was a person without a technical background going into a technical field – think Art History doing QA testing.

      However, she never accepted extending a contract. My understanding is that it is essential to plan to move on at the end of the contract period, preferably to something that will be a CV builder. From the contractor’s perspective, she described each contract as a period where she gets to mine a new group of people and build her network (in addition to developing job-specific skills) while she puts in a good-faith effort to turn that contract into FTE. But a lot of times the contract positions just don’t happen, even if the immediate team wants you – projects get canceled or mothballed all the time, and that’s just how it is.

      Other people I’ve known who do contract work successfully treat is as a staffing agency of one. So while one resource is the goodwill and reputation that is built by fulfilling the contract well, part of the “job” is to build a new business pipeline so that contracts are always coming in.

      Just my two cents in light of the other letter today about bad management, I think that the contract route mitigates a lot of that – obviously not for dumpster fire levels of toxicity, but for the run of the mill mediocre un-management or personality clashes. Contracts require spelling out of duties without the fallout of dealing with drift/b and a lot of conflict will die quietly when both parties know it is a short-term situation.

  6. Ms. Chanadalar Bong*

    I’m lucky to have health coverage (Canadian), but the PTO was rough. I had an amazing and flexible boss who worked with me to add a few hours, and count lieu days, so I could afford to take a day off here or there. But it’s harder than you think to work without the prospect of a sick day/personal day/vacation.

    Which isn’t to say it’s not the right choice for you. I was in a super toxic work environment, and needed to get out, and my contract job was a good escape hatch. But by the time we got to the “hire” part (which was much longer than expected, thanks to union grievances and negotiations, and my own negotiations after the permanent offer), it was time to get out anyways.

  7. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    I think it depends a lot on your health situation. If you’re in decent enough health that you can go 6-9 months on shoe-string health insurance purchased from the Marketplace or elsewhere, then yeah go for it. I was a contractor at a major hospitality company for about 18 months before a full-time spot opened up, and let me tell you it was worth the wait! Granted I was 25 at the time and in pretty good health so take that into account.

    1. Artemesia*

      And then I remember the young middle aged healthy colleague who resigned for a new job with a 3 mos summer gap between leaving and starting. He had a major health event which meant he was not able to take the new job and there he was facing no insurance, no job etc. I would only leave a sure thing with benefits for a contractmaybewewillhireyoulaterbutprobablynot job if the workplace was so toxic that I had to get out to preserve my health. Contract to hire are notorious for extending contracts and never hiring. What is this companies track record on this?

      1. Dan*

        I always considered myself healthy, and then two years ago, ended up in the ER twice in a week. I could have sucked up the ER visits out of pocket if I really had to, but the last visit begat some long term health issues that would be painfully expensive without insurance (or a waiver for preexisting conditions.)

  8. Lora*

    Insurance is A Problem. When I was contract-to-hire I set it up through an agency who offered insurance (not great insurance but it was something), and I also live in a state that offers insurance at sliding scale rates so I could have gotten insurance that way.

    CurrentEmployer does a lot of contract-to-hire; I’m told they had a bad experience with a Personality Problem once and don’t ever want to repeat it, so this is how they do things. However, they are very agreeable to set up the agency situation with someone they want to hire, too. I think it is very fair to bring this up in the interview process, that in order to make it work you’d need some kind of help with insurance – would they be willing to deal with a contracting agency that offers insurance to ensure you’d maintain coverage?

    The lack of PTO is problematic but slightly less so – lots of employers have you sort of accumulate PTO by pay period anyway, you don’t get anything more than a few sick days right off the bat.

  9. Kitty Cathleen*

    Personally, I can’t imagine giving up a stable, full-time job that provides insurance for something as uncertain as a contract-to-hire position. I have health considerations that impact my thought process here, but even without those, I’d have a hard time convincing myself it’s worth the hassle of self-insuring and dealing with the self-employment tax hit. I’d wait.

    1. Quill*

      Same, though if you’re contract-to-hire you are almost always going through an agency, and not paying some sort of contracting tax.

      … that said, I did leave a full time job and ended up contracting again, but the place was a hellmouth and in terms of pay and personality it was not exactly ‘stable.’

  10. Jean*

    I don’t know all of your circumstances, but if you have other options, I would advise against taking this. I’ve been in two temp-to-perm situations where the “perm” part never materialized, but they kept dangling it in front of me to keep me on without living up to their end of the bargain. It was awful, and personally, I would never take that chance again.

    1. starsaphire*

      …yep. This is me right now; 3.5 years in to a 2-year “contract to hire.” From which, of course, I have already had to take the mandatory “contract break” which just meant being unemployed for 3 months.

      I love this job and I love the people here, but damn, what I wouldn’t give for a day of paid vacation…

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Start looking for a regular position.

        I have alternated between agency contract and full time roles. Most of the agencies in my field offer health insurance, and I’m usually well paid enough that I can take a day off here and there. But I’ve worked in open plan office full of contractors that couldn’t afford to take time off when sick, so they came to work sick. I got pneumonia that way. It cost me three weeks without pay. In general, I end up being the one who loses money when my coworkers don’t stay home when sick.

  11. Clawfoot*

    If you can, ask them what the full-time salary is. The 50% bump in pay is likely to compensate for the lack of benefits, and when/if the company hires you full-time, the salary will likely be adjusted down. So in the long run, it might not be that much of a pay hike when all is said and done. Get that information before you make your decision.

  12. TooTiredToThink*

    I’ve done this twice in the past and it has been worth it because I didn’t really need the insurance all that much. Now though, the only way I would do it is if I received enough extra month to afford a health insurance premium – whether because my wages supported it or if I was able to get an extra stipend the first 6 months. (The first time was years before the ACA and the second time I signed up for a medi-share plan that I could afford and kept me from getting dinged by the IRS).

    Things that I would keep in mind: When I get hired on in 6 months will I have immediate access to my PTO or do I have to wait another 6 months – 1 year? If I have to wait, can I negotiate a day to use sooner since I’ve already been working? (I didn’t do that and I regret it).

    What are the benefits like after being hired on? Are they better than my current benefits. 6 months isn’t a long period of time in the long run. My personal concern would be my health during that time frame. But that’s me. You might be more concerned about PTO or flex time or something.

    One of the major hurdles I didn’t expect this last time was that I got NO holiday pay. No Thanksgiving, No Christmas, etc… I wasn’t expecting that (since I had done this before and had gotten holiday pay) and lost almost 2 weeks of pay because of all of the holidays. That hurt my budget… a lot.

    Also, of course, is the concern – will you be hired on? That’s when you ask them what percentage of their 6 month contractors/temps actually get hired on. Also, assess yourself. Do you tend to do well in your job with little to no problems? Would you hire you? The last time involved me moving and I was very scared about not being hired on but the hiring manager had proactively given me a stat that had eased some worries before I took the job.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Oh, see, when I was a temp back in 2011-2012, I got paid holidays, just no PTO or sick time – that sucked hard when I developed the first of many non-mental health related chronic illnesses. Luckily, I wasn’t yet 26, so I was able to go back on my mom’s medical insurance (I was kicked off after graduating college since the ACA hadn’t been signed into law yet in ‘09) – that held me over until the law firm where I was working finally hired me on as a permanent, full-time employee.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        Yep, I didn’t get all holidays the first time; but I did get some. I also was eligible for a day off as well. So it wasn’t ideal; but it wasn’t as bad as it was the 2nd time. It never even crossed my mind to even ask if I would be paid for Christmas or Thanksgiving!

  13. Doug Judy*

    I used to work for a large company that did a lot of “contract to hire” positions and basically maybe 1 out of 10 times would they actually hire the person. Not because the people did a bad job, it was just cheaper for the business to keep them as contractors.

    I’d talk to the hiring manager and ask why this job is contract to hire instead of just a direct hire and do some more digging to see if this specific situation is worth the risk.

    1. The Original K.*

      I know someone who works (salaried, full-time) at a place that uses a lot of contractors but there’s a rule in place that they can’t have them on for more than six months if they’re doing full-time work. At the end of six months they have to take a month off, and then the clock resets and they can hire them again for another six months (though I think they have to reapply).

        1. starsaphire*

          Some do, and count it lucky that it’s “only” a month/two months instead of 90 days…

          My state now has draped rather murky language around whether or not companies can keep hiring these contractors back…

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Yes. The Gig economy has become normalized in the US.

          The current tight labor market means that employees have an opportunity to push back on that, but we’re almost certainly heading into a recession. Temps will be the first people laid off, or contract not renewed.

          OP, now is not the time to move into a riskier job. Ask if they will change to ‘full-time hire with probationary period’ instead of temp-to-hire. If temp-to-hire is the only choice, don’t take it. And if you’re in an industry that follows ‘last hired / first fired’, don’t switch now. Look again in a year.

          1. pleaset*

            Don’t worry though – some kind of economic downturn is coming so employers will have even more power soon!

        3. The Original K.*

          Some do, some don’t. The ones that don’t have found other, better opportunities. No one is particularly happy about the system.

        4. techRando*

          I don’t think it’s quite the same amounts of time, but I understand this is how Nintendo’s contractors work, and they pretty universally accept it. I think for them it might be 9 months/ 3 months however, which means they have a bit more time to potentially take up a temporary contract/gig for those 3 months.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah.

        Years ago they had to put it in the CBA for my dad’s place of business that they couldn’t have PERMA-TEMPS. They didn’t even get the chance to take a month off. It was “if they’ve worked 6 months, you hire them or you let them go, they cannot come back as a temp again.”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          NOTE: This is done because it was circumventing the union by keeping them as temps! Since temps aren’t union members and not protected by the CBA. This behavior is awful and used to avoid labor unions by some shady ugly places.

      2. Doug Judy*

        Yes this is kinda how it operated at my OldJob. What the would typically do though is shuffle them to another department for 6 months. The role we had in my department was just a super crappy job and no one ever came back when their 6 months stint in another department was over. It was annoying all around, but the company didn’t care. They were saving money. Alright I’d argue the time I spent training people made any cost savings a wash but whatever. For many reasons I am happy that I am not there anymore.

  14. ThatGirl*

    I would ask a lot of questions, both of the company and of yourself — do you have to handle your own payroll taxes? How much would health insurance be on your own and how likely are you to need it? Is this a field or job you could easily find a full time role in at another company without a contract first? Do they actually convert most contract employees? How much financial difficulty or trouble finding a new job would you have if it weren’t converted?

    There’s not one easy answer here, but I think really being honest with yourself about your options and weighing worst-case scenarios could help.

  15. Jennifer*

    It has worked out for me in the past but you’d be taking a big risk. If you are going to take a chance now sounds like the time in your life to do it since there is no spouse or child (I’m assuming) depending on you for health insurance if you aren’t hired full-time at the end of the six months. I say take it but keep looking the entire time so you have some strong job leads in case they do let you go.

    Also, do the math when it comes to your pay and insurance premiums to make sure the raise is significant enough to help pay down your debts.

  16. Sleepytime Tea*

    The way I look at it, the extra pay is meant to make up for the benefits that you aren’t getting from the company. Retirement plan, health, dental, PTO, etc. So calculate the value of all that to you and see where you stand and see what is left over. Look at your finances and see where things would start to give if you didn’t get a permanent position after 6 months and how long you’d have before you would HAVE to have another job. Then, it all comes down to your comfort level with risk.

    I’m risk averse. I wouldn’t give up a stable full time job for one that I’m not guaranteed to have in 6 months. That’s me. That said I know tons of people who only work contract gigs, because they prefer the freedom and they are not scared by the thought of not having a new job immediately lined up after one contract ends. Think about what YOU’RE comfortable with. My only real caution is to make sure you FULLY understand your finances so that if the contract doesn’t work out, you aren’t going to be in a bad place financially.

  17. Celeste*

    Agree strongly with all who say to keep looking, for all of these reasons.

    It would be tempting to funnel the extra pay into student loan payoff instead of paying for healthcare with it, but that is just so risky with how easy it is to rack up a hospital bill. You can be perfectly healthy but still have an accident that costs a LOT to treat.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Or, you can just get sick out of nowhere, which is especially true if you’re working a high stress temp job with no paid sick leave or vacation time offered (ask me how I know). I developed so many chronic illnesses thanks to my long term temp-to-hire gig back in 2011-2012 that I’m steal dealing with/paying for to this day.

      I would keep looking, OP.

  18. pcake*

    Where I live, self-employment tax is 15%, so your 50% increase here would be 35%. You’d be paying at least $250 per month for insurance, but possibly more – if you chose to go with a bronze plan to save money, and if you needed to use your insurance, it could end up costing you more than the entire 50% – my husband’s first 8 day stay in the hospital for a kidney infection would have cost $126,000 without insurance. Not to mention you’d be missing out on at least a week per year of paid time off.

    I would look for a full-time job that I liked and that interested me, one with all the benefits working this contract wouldn’t include. It seems like that makes more financial sense.

    1. Quill*

      Bronze plan buddy here: the reality is that I shelled out for the $250 plan because the $200 one wouldn’t pay a cent for my meds, which, uninsured, come to about $200 a month anyhow. Then I went to the doctor for the routine checkup to get perscribed said meds, and was told that the visit was “covered” and that since I had insurance it would only be $130.

      Guess how much of that $130 doctor’s appointment the insurance actually paid for? $13. You can’t get a pizza delivered for $13.

      Definitely not getting my money’s worth out of it but they’d charge me double or more for everything if I was uninsured.

  19. RR*

    I was in the same situation (good job, good benefits, good coworkers, just super bored). I was in a personal situation where I was able to go back to school for a couple years (mainly financially supported by my spouse, plus Canadian so don’t have to worry too much about health insurance) so I did that and am now working as a contractor, mainly full time for one big client. I’m making double what I did at my old job, don’t have any benefits but can use my husband’s. I know in these ways our situations are different, however one thing I have realized from working as a contractor is that I am so glad I didn’t actually take a permanent job with this company. I had some issues with the company I used to work for but the grass is definitely not always greener. The old company was very mature with a well defined org chart, HR structure, policies, resources, etc. This new client is an immature startup without any of the defined structures, policies, etc. and it’s a total mess of an organization that I would not be proud to work for. I will take their money gladly as a contractor but am so glad I didn’t lock myself into permanent employment.

    I have no “advice” but this is just my experience moving from a similar situation to you at a large, well-established company where I was kind of bored, to a small, immature company where I’m never bored but would never want to actually be employed. This is not an uncommon realization, at least within the industry where I work, as I’ve had other friends who left our old employer say similar things about joining junior companies after working at a mature organization.

  20. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I wouldn’t take that risk unless I could afford to self insure for at least a year and a half and had enough savings to live on for at least a year. If the perm position doesn’t materialize after six months, I’d want to know I was covered for a full year while I was job hunting again since it’s a stressful thing.

    What it really comes down to though is your personal risk threshold. I’m a “worst case scenario” type of person and this level of uncertainty would leave me a constant state of low level panic. On the flip side, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so are you the type who is always going to wonder what could have been and/or potentially have regrets for not taking the opportunity?

  21. TigerTownTina*

    I took on a contract gig about six months ago, and it was the best thing I could have done. I was in a similar rut, and the change has been refreshing and motivating. COBRA can buy you 60 days (assuming you are in good health/do not have regular appointments, etc.), and you can pick up a marketplace plan to fill in the gap. DO NOT forget to take self-employment taxes into consideration. I’d be willing to bet that 50% raise will be eaten up by taxes and insurance, BUT if it’s a position you’re willing to take a chance on, I’d do it.

    1. rayray*

      Good point bringing up the Cobra insurance. This is a super risky move for OP but it is good to remember she has some safety nets.

  22. The Original K.*

    (I’ve done a fair amount of contract work. One of my top three professional regrets is doing a contract to hire job where they did not treat me well – not intentionally, they just were a mess in general. I was there a year, so at least it was a decent amount of time.)
    Me, upon reading the headline without even reading the rest of the letter: “No.”

    Me upon reading the rest of the letter: “Really, no.”

    If you were unemployed or drastically underemployed, I’d say go ahead and do the contract. It would get you back in the working world, it’s income, you’re networking with people. But if you already have a full-time job with benefits and what you want is a different full-time job with benefits, it’s not worth it. Contract to hire does not usually mean “At the end of this contract, you will have a permanent job here.” They might extend the contract (I knew someone who had been a contractor at a place for two years, 3-6 months at a time; HR finally told his boss to fish or cut bait), but again, if what you want is a full-time salaried job and you already have one, I’d stay where you are and look for what you actually want.

    1. Amy Sly*

      Yeah, I’m thankful for my first temp-to-hire position, because even if it wasn’t in my field or used my education (in fact, I took law school off my resume to get the interview; a three year employment history gap apparently was less of a problem than the scarlet J.D.) it did give me something other than retail experience to put on my resume. Otherwise? Always remember that half of something is still more than all of nothing.

  23. WebDev*

    As someone who once took a contract to perm position only to find out my first day on the job that it was only a 6 week contract – I would not take the risk. I had made very clear to my recruiter that I was looking for a permanent placement. And when I called to confront them they were not even apologetic about it. They claimed they really “thought” it would go permanent. Meanwhile the contractor was adamant that they had no intention of hiring for that position.

  24. DataGirl*

    I’m in IT and it seems like a lot of jobs in that field are contract-to-hire. When I interview for those, I make sure that a) it’s on a W2 and b) there is some kind of insurance through the contracting agency. My husband is a consultant so the responsibility for health insurance for our family falls on me. Usually the insurance offered by the agency is pretty terrible and expensive though. I haven’t been forced to actually take a contract-to-hire job yet, but I’m definitely interested in hearing how others have experienced it.

  25. LB*

    As someone currently going on year 3 of a “6 month to hire” contract (in a very competitive field, but still) waiting for my role to convert…I’d probably caution against it unless you enjoy not having health benefits/PTO and dabble in masochism. It probably varies based on your industry and I hope not all companies take advantage of contractors, but that hasn’t been my experience or that of others I know. Not to mention, my experience working with an agency has been god awful. The whole thing feels a bit like dating someone for years but they refuse to introduce you to their family or something.

  26. OP*

    OP here! Thank you so much to everyone who has commented so far.

    I wrote in about 3 months ago, so an update: after a lot of prayerful consideration and discussing with professional mentors, etc. I decided to take it. I’m 26 and generally in good health, and don’t have to pay any additional payroll taxes (this is handled by the recruiter, as someone above mentioned), so the lack of insurance hasn’t been a huge issue so far.

    The company has a long history with this recruiter, and I was given the opportunity to interview with someone who had been contract to hire, and that was really helpful in my decision. They have a dedicated HR rep who works specifically with this recruiter, so it’s been actually a good experience so far.

    I love my boss (who is very smart and teaching me a lot) and my new coworkers. So far, I’ve learned more in the last 3 months than I did at the last year of my job (went from being a content writer to an analyst/marketing strategist), and I really like the work.

    And, my monthly income has gone way up, which has helped me meet some of my goals (pay off debts, plan to travel, etc). I feel like God was calling me to take a leap of faith on this and so far, I’m liking it.

    Thanks again for your perspective and advice – I really appreciate it!

    1. rayray*

      That sounds great! I hope for the best for your career. I am glad it is working out and that you are happy. You’re young and have a lot of career-years ahead of you, and this job will probably be very beneficial to you in the long run.

    2. Lance*

      Actually, I think this brings up an interesting point: how good the recruiter/agency’s relationship is with the given company, and how long they might’ve been working for them/how many positions they might have filled. Each of those things could be fairly big contributors to the question of whether or not to take it.

      That said, good to hear that everything’s going well!

      1. Silence Will Fall*

        I’m in IT and we fill almost all of our jobs contract-to-hire. I would estimate that we convert 95%+ of them into full time at the end of their contracts. We have a strong relationship with the agency we work with and we’re upfront with the applicant about the contract-to-hire conversion requirements/timeline during the interview process. The transparency and long relationship with the recruiting agency has led to overall positive experiences for everyone.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I will say that a company that can demonstrate they do convert employees (as yours did, by having you interview with someone who had been contract to hire) is definitely a positive sign. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s definitely better than a company that just keeps extending the contracts of all the supposedly contract-to-hire workers.

      (My current company does primarily contract-to-hire. In general, we either hire you by the end of your contract, or cut you before the end. When we had a co-op, we might’ve extended his contract so he could work a second semester with us, but we hired him when he graduated.)

    4. No Longer Working*

      The lack of insurance isn’t a problem at this very moment – because everyone is healthy until they’re not. That could change in an instant! You trip and twist or break a limb. A car accident that’s not your fault. You reach for something and hurt your back. You fall off a ladder. You miss a step running down the stairs. A cold turns into the flu or pneumonia. A little cut gets seriously infected. You travel and pick up something overseas. I’m not trying to be a harbinger of doom, but no one can foresee what the next moment brings.

      Please, please get health insurance thru the ACA!

    5. Agnodike*

      I’m glad this is working out so well!

      I will add one word of caution – you say your lack of insurance isn’t a big deal because you’re young and healthy, so I’ll just say that everyone is healthy until they get sick or hurt. Stuff happens. People get into car accidents, people get pregnant unexpectedly, people get sick. I was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer in my 20s. Please consider insuring yourself against the unexpected, remembering that insurance isn’t there just to cover day-to-day needs, but also to protect your finances against disaster.

      1. Quill*

        I’m young and not healthy, and a couple years back I watched a bunch of former classmates who had recently been married rush to have their first baby while they could still be on their parental insurance, because they couldn’t get it on their own / their spouse couldn’t get one that would actually affordably cover pregnancy (but would cover children.)

        We need an overhaul now.

    6. Diahann Carroll*

      I hope the rest of your contract period goes well and that the conversion happens at the end. It sounds like you really enjoy this, so I would stay in the recruiter’s face about really pushing with the client to hire you on once your contract expires. Good luck!

    7. Natalie*

      I think it’s great that it’s working out well. But I want to cosign the recommendation that you get yourself some health insurance. Assuming you’re in the US, the ACA open enrollment people starts NEXT WEEK (Nov 1) and if you aren’t converted to permanent that might be your only chance to get coverage for a whole year. Never fear, if you are converted and want to take the employer’s health plan you’ll be able to drop your marketplace coverage.

      Since you’re young there’s a really excellent chance that one of the bronze level (high deductible) plans is very affordable for you, especially if you don’t smoke.

        1. Natalie*

          :)

          Please do at least go check it out and price out a plan. You might be really pleasantly surprised – my brother, who is older than you, a smoker, and doesn’t qualify for the tax credit, pays less than $100 a month for a bronze plan.

        2. drpuma*

          IF you’re confident in your ability to put money aside into the HSA, take a look at a high-deductible plan with a Health Savings Account (NOT flexible spending). There are some strong upsides to the HSA (you can use it any time over the course of your life, and most earn interest) as long as it’s compatible with your financial habits and your health will let you get away with less insurance coverage up front.

          1. OP*

            Thank you for that suggestion! I actually do have an HSA left over from my last job that has some available funds, and I should look into putting additional funding into it.

    8. Fabulous*

      Glad to hear it worked out! Risks like this are best taken while you’re still young so I’m glad you were able to do it without any problems!

    9. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m glad to hear this company has a good relationship with the recruiter and could produce people who actually converted to perm after the contract expired. When I first read the letter my immediate response was “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO don’t do that no no no no no!” because my welder husband got stuck for a few years doing temp to “perm” jobs where the perm part never materialized. Turns out a lot of companies want to hire skilled welders for cheap, but few experienced welders will apply for a 6 month gig, so they dangle the promise of full-time employment to get them in with no intention of ever actually fulfilling it. Sounds like this new company is probably not one of those.

  27. Eliza*

    I was in a contract position earlier this year where the company had explicitly said they wanted to hire me when my contract was up and then… surprise! They didn’t have the money to pay me what I was worth when the 3 months were done! This company had been going through a lot of changes, and they weren’t really in a position to make promises when they were making promises to me.

    My industry hires a lot of folks as contractors with no benefits, and I know so many people who have been treated as contractors for years. After my experience, I promised myself I would never take a contract gig like that again.

  28. queen b*

    I’m currently on a contract to hire position. Make sure you know UP FRONT whether you will be paying some of these. My situation is that I get paid for the hours I work – meaning I don’t really “get” vacation but I can take off the time I need and I won’t get paid for it. I didn’t know this during the interview process because it was my first contract to hire role but luckily I was able to ask for a bit more money to cover this.

    I think it really just depends what kind of company you’d be contracting through or if you’d be a 1 person employee of your own company. Mine is nice enough to provide some benefits (health insurance, 401k) that it made it worth for me to try and get into a big company like this.

    They also offer “remarketing” in case the contract didn’t work out which was another plus for me.

  29. aunt bop*

    I had this experience many years ago. I was in a full-time job with benefits where I was unhappy and clashing with a new boss. I jumped ship for a contract position that gave large salary increase, no benefits, no access to 401K, etc. But I was making bank so I saved a lot of money.

    It started out great, the company was doing well, things were looking good and the new boss was happy with me. About 5 months in, they company got bad news so they extended the contract instead of hiring me. About six months later, I was determined to not be a good fit and was let go as they started a search for a full-time hire that wasn’t me.

    I got a few more contract jobs after that, then the recession started and I was let go. Things got worse and I was out of work for over a year and a half before deciding to go back to grad school for another career. All that savings got eaten up. I fell behind on retirement contributions. It was not good.

    That new career has really worked out beautifully though, so there was a (mostly) happy ending, but I am still behind on retirement savings. Then again, I probably wouldn’t have made the career change.

  30. rayray*

    I have never done this, so I can’t weigh in too heavily but I would point out the following:

    1)Check your savings account – just in case you need that rainy day fund if the job doesn’t lead to a full time position.

    2) If you get an offer, make sure you ask for it in writing just in case they try to make it a shorter contract than what was advertised and discussed.

    3) Figure out if you can budget a market-place insurance plan since they won’t be giving you one.

    4) Really consider if this would be helpful to your career, or if you have the energy and will to stick it out at your current job until another full time offer comes your way.

  31. The Cardinal*

    Health insurance suggestion: Check with the employment agency to determine if it offers health insurance to its contract workers.

    From 2011 – 2013, I endured a 2 year period of being unemployed for 18 months and having a 6 month contract job through a well know international employment agency. I was pleasantly surprise that the employment agency offered health insurance plans to its contract workers that with premiums and coverage that were equivalent to other employers I had worked for.

  32. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I would do some research and find out how much it would cost you to pay for your own benefits. I’ve done the contract to hire thing before, but I had been laid off, was out of work for a year and a half, and the pay was almost double what I had been making at my previous job…and it was 16 years ago. Health insurance has changed a lot since then. But it’s not necessarily all bad. If you’re unhappy in your current role, and you only have yourself to support, it may be worth it to take a chance to get some different experience that can help your career in the long run.

  33. Scarlet*

    Temp to hire is a risk for sure, and to be honest it’s not one that I’d normally take, but it can work out. I did the temp to hire thing at my current job, where they made it VERY clear it wasn’t 100% that I’d get hired on – it’s a brand new position to the company, so it was sort of a “test”.

    But it did work out, so if you have a good feeling about the company, I would go for it.

  34. Aeon*

    When I had a temp-to-perm job, I was much younger and still very healthy. My agency did offer (minimal) insurance, so I had that going for me. But my company still felt free to keep me on for a year before making a job offer. It was a good company and good experience, so it was worth the trade-off when I was young and still building my resume. As an adult with rent due every month, other bills to pay and chronic health problems, I wouldn’t put myself in that precarious of a position now.

  35. Nini*

    I did these types of jobs for a few years and never had a single one convert to a permanent position. They always extended the contract and kept me as contractor (a w-2 employee for the contracting firm with no paid holidays, no PTO, no benefits, etc). I have a permanent position now and am much happier! Companies just aren’t invested in you when you’re a contractor. You’re expendable. That’s why they aren’t hiring you full time. Focus on full time roles in your job hunt.

  36. Jamie*

    I would just caution you that it’s super common for the contract to hire deadline to come and go and for companies to keep you on as a contractor but put off bringing you on as an employee.

    I wouldn’t do this unless you were very financially comfortable either being out of work in 6 months, or continuing to contract and picking up all your insurance, sick time, etc on your own.

  37. David P. Caldwell*

    Find out whether the permanent salary after six months has been pre-negotiated in order to get an idea how much of a raise this really is, *after* the first six months.

    I tend to think contract-to-hire is no more risky than anything else (“permanent” positions are … not). It’s really an extended job interview from the point of view of the employer — they can always choose not to bring you on after the six months.

    You do have a few yellow flags in there about the stability of the new situation, and it sounds like your present situation is pretty stable. I’d be thinking about/comparing those factors, not contract-to-hire vs. permanent per se.

    The math in terms of going out and getting your own benefits is definitely something you should do. Depending on your age (i.e., for health insurance purposes), salary, etc., the “50% raise” might work out to be a substantial raise, or it might be a smaller one (and see above about the salary upon hire). As others pointed out, whether you’re a W-2 employee of some agency, or a 1099 contractor, or what, makes a difference in the math.

    Finally, in a contract situation, figure out whether the middleman (if there is one, and you’re not 1099 with the employer) needs to collect in order for you to get paid. You shouldn’t have to take on the risk that the employer doesn’t pay.

    1. Amy Sly*

      I was a contracted doc review attorney for quite a while. The firm wasn’t the best paying in town but prided itself on keeping the good reviewers busy. I was at my “two week” position for 18 months until I left for my current job. I joked with folks my age that “well, it’s not a ‘permanent position,’ but I’m going to have work as long as the company does, which is pretty much the definition of permanent now.”

  38. Contract-to-hire: been there*

    I have been in a contract-to-hire position at my current company. The company that essentially “employed” me to contract me out to the location where I actually work did have insurance, though it was admittedly crappy. Would you be an independent contractor in this position or a contractor sent out to the job site by a third party company? If you’re being “hired” by a third party, check to see if they have any insurance; some is better than none. Otherwise, the experience of going from contract-to-hire was fine. I wouldn’t worry too much about the PTO as long as they allow you to take time off (without pay) if you get sick or have a family obligation, etc. I think it’s worth it as long as you have a way to cover yourself in the event of a medical emergency, and any other medical needs you might have on a regular basis.

  39. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    I’ve had mixed experiences with contract-to-hire jobs. Some things were consistent: they were always through agencies who took care of taxes and benefits, paid time off was available (but minimal, and took a long time for you to be eligible for it), and insurance was available (but expensive and didn’t cover much). I was able to get insurance via my spouse during both experiences, so I have no idea how difficult their insurance was to use. And I wasn’t leaving a job with benefits either time (one layoff, one job at a company so small they didn’t offer insurance).

    In the bad experience, there was no fixed contract length, and my manager never took steps to convert me to a full-time employee. The person I was supposed to be dealing with at the agency changed a couple of times, and I didn’t always get notified when this happened, so I was never comfortable approaching any of them. The agency itself seemed fairly disorganized (I got conflicting information on whether I should go to their office or the company office on my first day, had a mandatory web-based training for a new timekeeping system that the trainer never showed for, sloppy paperwork handling). I wouldn’t work with that agency again, on either side of the relationship.

    In the good experience, the agency recruiter stayed in regular contact with me during my contract (by regular, I mean he checked in via email about once a month), so I felt comfortable approaching him with questions. My contract had a known length (6 months), and (having learned from the bad experience) I set a reminder to discuss my conversion at the 4 month mark. (As it turned out, my boss approached me at 3.5 months and asked if I’d be interested in converting early, so I jumped on that.)

    I’d prefer a direct hire situation whenever possible, but I’d do contract to hire again if I could work with the second recruiter again (or someone he personally recommends, as he’s been promoted a couple times and now works in another city). I wouldn’t work with the first agency at all.

    I also believe you need to get out in front of the discussion about your conversion to a full-time employee. Who kicks off this process? When does that happen? Do you need to do something specific as part of the process? Does your time spent as a contractor count towards your benefits eligibility when you convert to full time?

  40. 2 Cents*

    I went from FTE to contract-to-hire in March 2018. Honestly, it’s been the best thing for me (mentally, emotionally, physically) and for my career.

    My contract has since been extended though the end of 2020 because even though my boss and grandboss love me full time, Great-Grandboss is limiting headcount. So I’m getting a raise as an incentive to stay.

    I was sick of my FT job and wanted something new. I figured that even if it didn’t work out after 6 months, I would have had some space between toxic Old Job to think things through and could continue my search, with bosses who would assume I’d be looking because that’s what contractors do.

    I’m paid through an agency as W-2, so no worries about taxes. I get my health insurance through my spouse’s work, so that wasn’t a factor. The agency has a retirement benefit program and a health insurance program I can enroll in.

    Tl;dr: the benefits for me outweighed the fears. Been here 6 months and love it. If I didn’t love it, I’d have continued my job search, but able to have the headspace and time to do so.

  41. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    This is very timely for me, as I got a call recently about a three-months C2H position with “a very good client, but I cannot tell you who it is yet” and “they typically eventually hire” (notice the person that called me did not say they hire after three months) and “if they like you they will renew”, and my favorite “you’ll get benefits from our consulting company while you’re on contract, but do you have a spouse whose policy you can go on?” (I don’t, and even if I did, that’d tell me everything I want to know about consulting company’s benefits.) I said no. Naturally, I’ve been second-guessing myself and wondering if I hadn’t missed out on a good opportunity. Hoping that this thread will help me get answers to that.

    1. Lance*

      For a situation like that, where they’re being deliberately evasive about anything and everything? Unless I didn’t have options at all, I wouldn’t take it, personally. Far too much risk of anything else they say (even about job duties) not actually coming through.

    2. Quill*

      Worst recruiters. If your position isn’t even pretending to be a six months position, don’t bother!

  42. Leila*

    I’m working as a contractor now and I can’t tell you if it’s worth it (this is my first time doing such a thing) but I WILL tell you that you can get insurance through the healthcare marketplace, which is what I do. I would look into that and see if you can afford it for six months or whatever.

    Personally I’d give the contract job a go. At the least you’d stop being horribly bored at your day job and if you need to move on after that because they won’t hire you properly you’ll at least have some new experience under your belt.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      14 states have not entered into the exchange, so if the LW is in one of those, she is going to have an uphill battle securing health insurance.

  43. Linzava*

    My fiance did the contact gigs for about 10 years. Positives were variety, jumping freely with minimal resume consequences, potential for ludicrous pay at some jobs. Negatives, no benifits, take what you get during dry spells, constant job hunting, companies avoid hiring permenantly when your in that life, you can end up prone to burnout.

    He unfortunately, ended up burning out at a ludicrous pay job and took a “permanent” job where he used to work. His former boss who asked him to come back, told him to put in his notice, and strung him along for a month until he finally admitted there was never any job and showed no remorse. We are still paying back taxes 3 years later because the money he set aside for taxes was used to keep us afloat during his 6 months of unemployment, which coensided with a dry spell. We looked into suing because it was so financially devastating, but it’s legal.

  44. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

    My husband did this for his current job and got on full time after a year. Same deal- got crazy money for the contract. His agency offered bare-bones insurances (he used mine though my employer, but since you don’t have that, check with the agency!) and something like three paid days off, so some things can be agency dependent. The place he works has a good track record for hiring contract people, which is why he risked it. Talk to the company- what percentage of people are offered full time? Does it come with anything? (For example, my husband’s company matches their 401K at 150%, but you have to be there five years to walk away with all the cash. His year as a contract employee counts towards that five years.) They also started his vacation time as if he was a non-contract employee for a year, so it was pretty nice. It *can* work out, but ask tons of questions! I doubt he would have taken this risk if we had not moved for my job and he needed *anything* to stay relevant in his field (he’s an engineer) and if we were not able to get health insurance though my employer.

    1. ACDC*

      Finding out their conversion rate is huge. But definitely make sure you find this out from the company directly or from people who currently work there (or recently worked there). If you ask the agency, they will blow smoke up your rear end to get you to take the job.

  45. CatCat*

    For me it would be no PTO, no way. What if you get sick during those six months?

    I’d price out insurance on the insurance marketplace if you’re in the US to see if that’s feasible money-wise.

    Do you have a good cushion of savings to live off of if this doesn’t pan out?

    I’d be pretty leery of this, personally. Particularly since it sounds like there has been recent instability at the company. You’re a strong enough candidate to land a second interview here. So you’re probably a strong enough candidate to compete for permanent positions with PTO and health benefits elsewhere. I’d keep looking.

  46. ACDC*

    Are you in an area with very low unemployment? This job has no guarantee of becoming full time, so I would continue to keep your current job and tell the agency you are working with that you are only interested in direct-hire positions.

  47. Fabulous*

    I’ve had success with temp-to-hire positions, but it may have just been luck.

    I’m assuming the OP’s position would be through a temp/contractor agency; all my prior jobs like that were set up that way (with a W2, not 1099). The agencies I worked with actually did provide health insurance if you were with them beyond 90 days, so that wasn’t ultimately an issue.

    The times I was hired on afterward were pure luck though. Both entailed covering someone on maternity leave, and upon returning the employer changed their job and kept me in their place. These jobs were not initially intended to be temp-to-hire but ended up as such.

    Going into a contract-to-hire job would likely be different than my experience though. Six months is a long time to be left wondering whether they’re going to keep you or not, whereas I never had the expectation of being hired on so it was a pleasant surprise when it happened. I don’t know that I would leave a full-time position for a contracted one without the guarantee in writing that you 100% will be hired on. It’d be terrible to be kept in limbo for several years without full-time benefits. Even with health insurance through the agency, they still don’t generally offer paid holidays or PTO.

  48. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I only worked as a temp to hire once and it worked out fantastically. However I wouldn’t ever do it again unless it was my only option [basically if I was without a job and it was offered to me instead of being unemployed].

    There’s too much risk that they’ll string you along and never bring you on permanently, there’s a lot of trust involved and you’re working with strangers for the most part. Even if the people who bring you in are trustworthy and have every intention to bring you on as a permanent placement, who says they aren’t going to leave before 6 months? Or there’s a shake up in leadership and they decide to just stay with contract level work. So much could happen in six months!

  49. Talia*

    Everyone I have ever known who has done contract-to-hire was kept on endless contract extensions forever and ever and never hired, sometimes with stretches of six months not at the job in order to avoid the company’s internal rules about not having the same contractors for too much time at a stretch without actually hiring them.

  50. Frankie*

    I’ve had two temp-to-perm positions and they both became perm, and I think generally once you’re in the door you have a good shot because it’s a lot tougher to recruit for a whole other person…but there are some shady companies that won’t follow through and intentionally keep a long term contractor staff they cycle through, and it can be tough to know from the outside whether they are that type. But of course there are companies that fill a lot of their positions through agencies, so oddly there are a lot of jobs that are only available to those who can temp for a bit. It’s weird.

    50% higher isn’t much of a raise if you will be doing your own payroll taxes (as opposed to an agency taking them out)–a lot of that’ll get eaten up in self-employment in a jif even before health care costs.

    The temp positions were also when I had no other options (recession without a substantial corporate work history), and when I didn’t have a significant need for health insurance. If you do this I’d set a time limit and be sure you’re looking for other work toward the end of the six months so you have options. If you still think the experience will help you get something better in six months, it makes more sense.

  51. ITookTheContract*

    TL;DR: I think contract to hire can be worth it under the right circumstances. I took a 6 month contract to hire to get out of a bad workplace and used the time to continue to look for the right job. Do some digging to find out why contract to hire. If you take it go in eyes wide open, trust your gut, and leave your resume up.

    I HATED my current job at the time. My direct manager was a bully and the team was demoralized. When interviewing there were no signs of trouble since he had only been in the position a short time. I was wary of what secrets the new job would hide. I had a certification from previous public sector that was about to expire if not used. I managed to find a company that would sponsor the certification and they offered a 6 month contract to hire. A 6 month contract to hire gave me the chance to try out the company.

    During the interview I asked about why contract to hire and they exclaimed that they had trouble find the right fit (flag 1). They were serious about hiring their temporary contractors but I discovered after I started no one had stayed long enough for that to happen (flag 2). Their turnover was incredibly high, around one person left and was hired each month, someone quit two weeks after I started (flag 3).

    I knew 1 month in that I didn’t want to stay. They had me working on something completely different than promised. They dangled the work that I was hired to do over my head like it would be a reward for when I “proved myself”. I never took my resume down once I got the contract and continued to look for other jobs in earnest. When I left 3 months in my coworkers were not surprised and most told me that they were looking as well but were so overpaid that they couldn’t afford to take the pay cut for a better job. The recruiter was somewhat annoyed not with me but the company! for pulling a bait and switch with the job description.

    I would not have taken the contract if I (1) wasn’t trying to escape a toxic environment (2) didn’t have health insurance offered through the recruitment company, (3) had an expiring certification, and (4) was prepared to keep job searching in that time.

  52. Jimming*

    See what you can negotiate. Some agencies provide health insurance as others have mentioned. I once had a temp job where they paid me for Thanksgiving and Christmas time off because they liked my work and wanted to keep me. So if that’s important, negotiate for PTO during the 6 months.

    Ultimately, what you decide depends how much you want to leave your current position and how good of an opportunity this position is.

  53. Ms. Meow*

    OP, please don’t let your dissatisfaction with your current position convince you to make a risky move just because you feel you need a change.

    I was in the exact same place. I was in my job for 4 years, performing well but really uninterested in the work and unmotivated to do my assigned tasks even though it was exactly in my field and using skills that I enjoyed. I started applying for new jobs and got an interview for a position that I knew would be an awesome move for me. When they came back with salary it was 30% less than I’m making now. I was ready to make that jump just because I was so unhappy with my current position. But I pumped the brakes, talked to those closest to me, and I realized that large of a pay cut would make me unhappy in other ways. Fortunately, when I went back to the company and told them what I’m making now, they were able to get much closer (only 5% less) because they wanted me. The benefits are also better, so it really ends up coming out in the wash.

    I know it’s tempting when you’re sick of your job and you just want something different, but please consider the best and worst case scenarios. I hope you get some beneficial answers/advice from the AAM commentariat. Good luck!

  54. LawBee*

    Things to consider:
    1. Insurance if you’re in the US. If that 50% bump in take-home will be enough to cover ACA premiums then that’s what it should really be used for. You don’t want to be uninsured and break a leg.
    2. Really try and dig in about the temp-to-hire. Are they actually going to hire you and this is just their weird practice, or is it a six month trial basis to work on one project and when you finish that then poof? This is a totally valid interview question for you to ask.
    3. Back to that 50% raise, if you take the job – it should also go towards savings, so that if this doesn’t work out in six months, you’ve got a way to pay your bills while you look. You may not stay at that pay rate when hired, because of Total Compensation, so ask about that.

    I’m not saying don’t do it – it could work out wonderfully and be a great decision. I have a history of taking risks with my career and generally they have worked out in the long run. But the more information you have going in, and the more realistic your expectations are about finances if the six months doesn’t work out, the better. But you seem like a good candidate, so – have you looked for new opportunities internally? Talked to your boss about broadening your skill set etc? Or is it just time to move on, which I totally get.

    1. LawBee*

      oh, also you could take it with all of the caveats and whatnot, use that time to broaden your skill set, and keep looking. There are benefits to this, but it is definitely something you want to think long and hard about.

  55. Howard Bannister*

    At my job we’ve hired 90% of our contract-to-hire candidates that I’ve worked with directly.

    But I know other departments that abuse the system and don’t let people in.

    So for anybody else looking at something like this — it’s all about the people hiring! It can be a way to abuse employees, or just a good way to evaluate them. OP mentioned in comments they got to talk to somebody who had taken the same path — that is absolutely a must. You have to do your homework here because it can absolutely work out, or it can be getting on a treadmill it’s hard to get off of.

  56. sideGig*

    I’ve done full time work and contract work but not contract to hire. One of the contract positions I had was very rewarding and propelled me into a better track for my career. The benefits issue sucks but if the money they pay you can make up what you pay out of pocket yoyay be fine until the benefits come back.

    The big thing with contract work is that you need to continue looking for work full time while on contract. Worst case is the position doesn’t work out and you’ll need a job. Best case is you love the new job and have overtures from other positions while you’re making the transition to full time.

  57. remizidae*

    How good is your safety net? Do you have 6-12 months worth of expenses saved? Because even if all goes well and they want to hire you, you may face several months of waiting before they can make the permanent hire happen. ( A family member of mine had this experience.).

    1. Allison*

      This is a good point, because you may not be eligible for unemployment if they cut you loose before converting you to a full-time hire.

      1. Quill*

        If it’s before your contract is up, or they renew you and then cut you, you’re eligible for unemployment in Illinois.

  58. Skeeder Jones*

    A few years ago, I was trying to get back into a specific field that I hadn’t worked in for 10 years, most of the opportunities that were coming my way were contract positions. I knew some specific companies I wanted to work for so when a contract came up for my top pick, I said yes and turned down interviews as a direct hire at another company. It was absolutely the best decision I have ever made. It was supposed to be a 1 year contract with the possibility of extension. I knew I just needed to get my foot in the door and this company is notorious for being hard to get into. One of the permanent staff members on the team I worked with was let go 2 months in to my contract and they asked me to apply. It took a while for the company to move on the position but I was hired permanently after 8 months in the contract. This was not a contract to hire position, it just worked out that they loved my work and work ethic and a position opened up. Contract positions can be the best way to get started in a new field or a field where you have little experience. I’m glad I followed my gut on this one.

  59. Database Developer Dude*

    Beware of companies using contract-to-hire to save money, underpaying and not keeping you after the contract is up.

  60. the one who got away*

    I think some of this depends on your industry and your location. In my industry these are rare and I would be unlikely to take one, knowing that I have a perfectly good chance of getting a full time permanent job through traditional hiring channels.

    My husband is a software engineer in a metro area with a booming market and this is basically the only way to get in the door at any of the major companies. It has worked out very well for him so far (the most recent company converted him earlier than the 6 month contract – I think it was 4 months). He turned down two other offers that were also contract-to-hire to take this one. He has only ever done this through established recruiting firms that cover the payroll taxes, offer benefits, etc.; we think independent contracting is too risky.

    I’m super risk averse so there are some questions we always want to have answered before taking these offers:

    1. What’s the salary going to be after the 6-month CTH period? (nearly always lower than your contract rate but it’s good to know how much lower)

    2. What are the costs of health insurance/etc. (not just what benefits they offer, but the actual cost) both for the recruiting firm during your 6 month period and for the company if/when you go full-time? I ask for this information with every job I apply for but it’s extra important in these cases where you’re basically looking at two jobs simultaneously.

    3. Realistically, do you expect to need PTO during that six month time frame? This was a little risky but my husband almost never gets sick and we knew we were not planning any travel during that time period. On the rare occasions where he needed to have his car in the shop or something, they allowed him to make up those hours. I think he might have taken two unpaid days but the contract rate was high enough that we could absorb the lost wages.

    4. How often do they really convert and how often do they convert early vs. on time vs. late? It might be hard to get an answer to this one but we always ask. At the current company, many people actually ask to stay on the contract because the pay rate is higher, but stable, affordable benefits are really important to us so we took the conversion as soon as it was available. We also ran budget numbers (using a paycheck simulator) for every option on the table both before and after the contract period before he decided which offer to take. You might get a different answer for this question depending on whether you ask your recruiter or people working there.

    5. How soon before the contract period is up will you know if you’ll get a full time offer? He’s had a full time offer in writing prior to the end of the contract in all cases, though it was never guaranteed at the beginning.

    It can work out just fine (and it certainly has for us so far) but I would do a whoooooole lot of due diligence before making a decision — much more than if you were simply considering a full-time position with benefits. Hope some of that helps!

  61. Not So Little My*

    In my industry and my region, contract-to-hire is pretty common. I’ve gotten about half of my jobs that way over the last 15 years. Do supplement your insurance with COBRA since you don’t have a family member whose insurance you can get on, and make sure that your hourly rate gives you enough overhead to pay your taxes, as people above have detailed. It has been my experience that usually a permanent conversion is offered after 3-6 months, but at my current job, for bureaucratic reasons, it took a year plus, but I am permanent now and very happy with my job and team. I have also refused a permanent conversion at a previous job after the 6 months made me realize that employer was a toxic company.

  62. Jessica Fletcher*

    I haven’t been in this position, but a couple of thoughts:

    – I’d recommend to go to Healthcare.gov/see-plans to get an idea of what your healthcare costs might be on your own. (To see 2020 plans only, omit everything after the slash! Open Enrollment starts Nov 1. There’s usually a plan preview period before that, but CMS is not saying when that’s going to be this year. Insert rant about Trump sabotage of the ACA here.)

    – You can also try Googling “[your state] Consumer Checkbook,” to see if your state has an online tool that lets you compare both On and Off Marketplace insurance plans in your area.

    – I’m no tax expert, but if you’re contract, you might have to pay taxes differently for that period, which might make the pay bump less attractive.

  63. Kiwiii*

    I think if you look into it and 1) it seems reasonably likely that they’d hire you at the end of the contract (say, 75% of people get hired at the end, vs. say, they can keep 2 or 3 of a group of 20, and 2) you’d keep the pay increase more or less if they do hire you (a small drop for benefits makes sense, but you’ll want to crunch the numbers for what makes sense for you).

    I’ve worked places that were contract to hire where everyone who made it to the end of contract period was hired, but only about half the people stayed that long. I’ve also worked places that were “contract to hire” but didn’t actually have that position as hireable anymore. Do your research, but if it seems like it’ll result in a job that’s more interesting/has advancement opportunities/pays more than you make now, I say go for it.

    MOST contracting agencies pay the taxes and some will provide sick pay/insurance so it’s worth looking into that too and factoring it in.

    1. Kiwiii*

      also, FWIW, during my last contract position, I just didn’t have insurance bc I was 24 and reasonably healthy, and they waived the fee on my taxes for not having it bc it wasn’t a whole year and it was fine honestly.

  64. HistoryProfOfIT*

    I’d be wary. I was hired for a similar 6-month contract-to-hire and ended up getting extended as a contractor for a further 4 months before they abruptly said they would not hire me as a permanent employee.

    My advice would be to get a firm understanding that the 6 months is definitely a probationary review period and get a committed go/no go hire date.

  65. Allison*

    Done it twice, and never again. The “to hire” part was a carrot they dangled in front of me before eventually cutting my contract to redirect the money to other resources for the team. The first one, to be fair, only lasted 10 months, the second lasted over two and a half years, and toward the end my manager had been hinting that I my position was, by nature, a “contract” job and if I wanted to be an employee I’d need to shift to a different role on the team. At least the latter job was employment through a 3rd party company, so I did have access to health insurance, an unmatched 401k, and towards the end, paid sick leave courtesy of a new state law, but no benefits through the company I was actually working for – including no paid holidays off or vacation, and that really wears on you.

    I can’t tell you not to do this, but if you do this, I urge to get a very clear idea of what will need to happen (and what you need to achieve) in order for you to get employed full-time with the company. Plan to look for a new job if you’re still a contractor after a year with no actual plan for conversion in sight.

  66. Bostonian*

    It’s hard to tell from your letter how adverse you are to the risk of not being hired permanently. If that’s one of your least concerns, I would say go for it. It sounds like you’re drawn to the idea of being a part of this company while it grows and having the opportunity to be in a solid position to help build from the ground up if you are hired. To help mitigate the risk of being jobless in 6 months, you can keep looking for other permanent positions when your contract is close to ending. And you’re already bored at your current job, so you’re probably going to move on from there soon and do that search anyway. Particularly if there are a lot of opportunities in your field/position, there’s even less risk of long-term unemployment if the contract-to-hire doesn’t work out. I think your answer really depends on your industry and what risks you are comfortable taking.

  67. AndersonDarling*

    I took a contract to hire and actually was hired, but budgets changed and the other contractors were terminated. I was contracted a month earlier and that was the only reason I was hired and not them.
    I ended up leaving the company after 6 months because it was a mess.
    I also know someone who has been a contractor for 5 years and the company keeps promising to hire them, but doesn’t.
    I wouldn’t risk it again. Some companies just don’t want to commit to hiring employees and throw contractors around on a whim. Others really do think that they will hire the contractors, but that is the first expenditure to be cut if budgets change.
    I told myself that I would stick with regular employment from now on. If I’m going to commit to the company, they should commit to me.

  68. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I posted already, but I’m not sure it went through. In case it didn’t, the key point is, OP, this is not your ticket out of your unchallenging (not bad, not toxic, not unpleasant) work situation. You are going to risk financial security because you are bored. Yes, get a new job, but get a real one.
    Also, if you do jump to this and it does prove to be temporary, but you find you love that and create a career out of these positions, write back and let us know. Maybe that will be your thing.

  69. StudentA*

    Giving up stability, insurance, a good team, a boss you like, and a job you know because you’re….bored? You should by now have already been convinced by most of the comments that money-wise it’s not worth it.

    I’m a contractor now and I’m just holding my breath. It’s taking far longer than they promised and I am told ALL the time how wonderful my work is /shrug.

    I’m gonna go as far as to say don’t let boredom be your main reason for leaving to go ANYWHERE. You have more reasons to stay than to leave, frankly. Be careful where you go when you’re that comfortable. Stability is nothing to cough at. Most of us crave it.

  70. Bertha*

    I was very much in a position like you were in, and I had a number of jobs that I interviewed for that weren’t contract to hire, but in one case was straight up contract but with over double the hourly pay, and the others were “visiting” positions at universities. I wasn’t offered any of them, so it didn’t matter, but I will say that in the end, I’m glad that I held out for something that had better pay AND benefits, and wasn’t a contract position. That said.. if I hadn’t gotten this job, I had reached the end of my rope (I started searching after four years in my position and it took two years to find something great, since I could be picky) and may have considered the 2X contract pay. So I suppose the argument I’m making is.. you CAN hold out, and find something even better, that won’t be contract-to-hire. But.. it really depends on the reputation of the company you interviewed for.

  71. StaceyIzMe*

    All things being equal (they offer you the job, the organization’s overall culture and reputation are acceptable), I’d accept the job in your shoes and use it as a springboard. After six months, you are either going to be offered a position or you won’t. Meanwhile, you can network, skill build and interview during the six months as an alternate track. You feel musty, stale and unmotivated where you are. A professional move one way or another sounds like a MUST. You can also look for an internal transfer, if one might be available.

  72. Another worker bee*

    Recruiters are constantly trying to get me to do this (leave a sure thing for a contract, often involving a relocation to boot!) and I always refuse. I think the contract to hire is a terrible trend and I want to do everything I can to push back against it.

  73. Wendy Darling*

    I’ve done this several times. It’s basically a way for the employer to test drive you before hiring you permanently, or to get someone onboard even though they don’t have approval to make a permanent hire — for reasons I don’t understand, temps are easier to get approved at my current employer.

    It worked well for me because I am actually very good at my job and people who hire me want to keep me, but I have a weird resume. I left academia 7 years ago and moved into an industry that’s only semi related, and people STILL think I am going to get bored and quit to finish my PhD (I am NEVER finishing my PhD). I don’t have a degree in the work I do now. People assume my academic background doesn’t transfer, even though it does. I’ve had weird job titles and a very niche set of skills.

    I think it’s totally worth it *if you’re having trouble getting hired*. All the risks people are mentioning are totally true — if you’re a staffing agency temp, which is how these jobs usually work, you will get the least benefits your area requires by law from the agency. My agency offered insurance because they were required to, but it was the worst insurance that’s legal and it was VERY expensive. I got no paid time off and no sick time, so when I got hurt and had to go to the ER I had to pay an ER bill AND lost 3 days of pay because I couldn’t work (luckily I was on my partner’s insurance). There’s no reason they can’t decide to terminate you early, or terminate you at the end of six months, or just string you along on a contract basically forever.

    I’ve done it twice and I got converted to a permanent employee both times. I’d been looking for employment for ~a year both times. I don’t think I’d quit a permanent job to do it unless I was genuinely miserable at that job and was probably going to quit soon anyway, new job or no new job.

  74. Leela*

    This is so hard to say as it varies case by case! I will say that contract-to-hire can be an easy way to get new skills and build your resume, whatever happens after the contract period. Also, if something happens (layoffs etc) during that time period, you can list it as a contract on your resume and the short stay isn’t as eyebrow-raising as it might otherwise be. And getting out of a work situation that’s no longer working for you is definitely a factor you should consider!

    The biggest thing I’d factor in here is what you mention about the loss of benefits without any buffering from a spouse. Ultimately I’d say your finances are what should make the call here, as the impact could be enormous or negligible depending on these factors (how’s your health, do you have access to something like SeaMar or some kind of affordable healthcare if you really needed it, what are your savings like, etc). Whatever you decide, I hope it works out for you!

  75. Mama Bear*

    RE: the contract job – be really clear with them if this is a W-2 gig or a 1099. You’ll lose a lot in taxes if you’re 1099, on top of whatever COBRA costs. Also, contracts are not guaranteed. Is this their contract with you or does it hinge on a client? Is this something where the contract is ending and they need to replace someone but the new contract hasn’t been signed yet? If that’s still under negotiation, be cautious. They may not have a job to give you. At my last job the contract was renegotiated with the client and we lost 2 staff positions. Or a few jobs before that the 5 year extension was a “sure thing” and they got pink slips for Christmas.

    You are in a good place to look until you find the right thing vs anything. If you are in a position where you really need to keep your insurance or really can’t afford to be without a check in 6 months, I’d consider what else is out there.

  76. Abogado Avocado*

    OP, what strikes me about your query are the statements that your current job “involves some of the tasks that I am good at and like doing, and I have a wonderful set of coworkers and a great boss.” If you have a job that you’ve been good at it, can you go to your great boss and determine what it would take to move sideways or up into a position that would challenge you and point you “in the right direction professionally”? My thought — and it may not be helpful to you — is seeking to move up or sideways with this current employer would eliminate the risk present in your alternative, which involves jumping off the permanent employment, paid-benefits track for an uncertain future.

    It may be that your current employer can’t get you any closer to your preferred profession and that the contract job is more likely to get you there. In that case, I second all the comments about ensuring that the raise will cover the benefits you’re not getting and that you have a clear idea about whether this contract will lead to permanent employment, rather than more rounds of impermanent contracting, in your preferred profession.

  77. tacocat*

    Big nope for me, as someone who was strung along for over a year on a “temp to hire” position that “just needed one more approval” at all times to become permanent.

    Unless it’s a really hard field to break into, I’d definitely pass.

  78. Nicki Name*

    Hi, person currently in a contract-to-hire contract here! CTH is very common in my industry, but I’ve avoided it in the past because the conditions didn’t feel right to me. Some things that played into my thinking this time:

    * The CTH philosophy of the company. There’s a large company in my area that does a lot of CTH, but in interviews there I learned that only about half of contractors get converted. In a good job market I didn’t feel like taking those odds. For this contract, the recruiter assured me that the company does CTH with a strong intent to hire (based in part on the recruiter’s past experience with placing contractors there), so it’s more like a probationary period.

    * The raise was more than enough to cover health insurance. If you’re going to be working for the recruiter’s company, ask if they offer a group insurance discount. They probably won’t offer any assistance covering it, but you can find out exactly what your costs would be.

    * I had a bunch of PTO stored up in the job I was leaving, and the payout from that was enough to cover a few days that I’d already planned to take off soon.

    * Between having a decent job history and the job market in my industry being good, I feel like it wouldn’t take too long to find another job if things didn’t work out or the company’s needs changed.

    * Being CTH was the only big thing that gave me pause about the job. It’s a slightly more inconvenient commute, but the big raise balances that out. It’s giving me an opportunity I might not have had otherwise, I had a good impression of the people I’d be working with, and the company has a mission strongly aligned with my interests.

    I’m happy to report that those initial good impressions have been borne out so far– no regrets here yet!

  79. Jady*

    Personally, no I would not accept a contract-to-hire job unless either a) I had no other job prospects or b) there were extreme extenuating circumstances.

    The increase in pay is there because it’s a contract job. You have to pay for your own insurance (USA), your own PTO, you lose any kind of 401k benefits, etc. You have to really sit down and do the math to determine if the pay is enough to compensate for the increased costs and the burden of taking those costs on yourself.

    My husband did a contract job for about a year, and there’s also a mental burden you need to account for.

    a – Contract-to-hire does NOT mean you will be hired. Your contract may be canceled or may be extended (repeatedly – resulting in never getting to the ‘hire’ part). You may be job searching a lot sooner than you expect.

    b – every time you need a sick day or want a vacation, you’re going to be asking yourself ‘do I want to lose $X for this’. Which may not be a big deal to someone used to hourly work, but if you’re accustomed to salary it becomes a bigger deal you might anticipate.

    c – taxes, insurance, and retirement – as big of a PITA it is to deal with that when it’s provided through work, it’s gonna be a lot worse by yourself.

  80. Lara*

    I work in the film industry, where contract-to-hire is the norm. I’ve only recently secured a salaried job with benefits such as PTO and insurance for the first time (for reference, I’m 30 and have been working full time since I was 22). In my industry, benefits and salary positions are few and far between.

    I would just make sure that you’re super clear on the terms of the contract. Are you guaranteed to be hired after the 6 months? Do you need an additional 3 months after that to earn PTO or insurance/retirement eligibility? Is there anything in the terms that LIMITS their ability to hire you after the term is complete? (I once accepted a contract job with the promise that there was “no guarantee but we would do what we can to help you stay on after the term” – but when I received the paperwork, I found in the fine print (READ IT) that I wouldn’t be ELIGIBLE for hire for 6 months AFTER the term ended. I revoked my acceptance there and then – I’m all for “earning” the opportunity to stay, but learning after the fact that I was not eligible made it not worth my time).

    Contract work is definitely not the end of the world, as long as you have a realistic view of the possible outcomes that could evolve from the term ending. You can then weigh the overall options.

  81. Judge Crater*

    Every situation is unique of course, but for what it’s worth my wife just went permanent after a year as a contractor in the corporate office of a large national retailer. It’s a big step, as she was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, then worked part time outside of her field, and then was a contractor in two companies, the second resulting in her new permanent position. So good things can happen!

  82. lnelson in Tysons*

    As someone who has been down that path, it would be wise to start off with what is your tolerance level for uncertainty? Especially since you do have a job.
    If you were unemployed, this could be a different conversation.
    One important thing to remember is that this is a probationary period for both you the employee and the employer. I was once in the contract to hire (potentially) and it was an AWFUL fit. I moved on fairly quickly.
    Also stress that open communication during this process. Why it is contract to perm? Was the company burned by someone in the past? Thus they really want to make sure that it is a good long term fit? It’s a new position and they aren’t sure that need it? They can’t actually have it as a benefited position so they simply keep someone in the contract status?
    One place I tried, was contract to hire, could take up to 9 months before it became benefited. After two months, the board decided to keep it in a contract status. I left. Even trained my replacement. However that move (payroll was involved in this position) the company realized that this was not a position that they wanted a revolving door for and made it a benefited position.
    Having said that, yes no benefits (assuming US here) is a royal PITA. But if you need a vacation/day off, it can be budgeted for. Yes, it can be annoying that for several weeks no two paychecks might be the same amount. For this, if you haven’t temped before know your tolerance level or you will be very miserable.

  83. Crisy*

    I took a 6-month contract-to-hire opportunity ~8 years ago. It took them 9 months to actually hire me. I stayed in that position for nearly 4 years and then moved into another position at the same organization where I have been for the past 4 years. All that to say, if you can afford to take the risk and really want to get in at this organization, it could be worth it to do the contract-to-hire stint.

  84. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I think contract-to-hire is the economic version of “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

    See also: adjunct to tenure-track faculty, shady “I can make you famous!” casting directors, and “Working with as a delivery driver with a degree in software engineering is a foot in the door to the software dev team!”

  85. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    It can be…

    I had a contract to permanent position eons ago. No benefits until I was hired. And then I had to still wait the probation period to get the benefits and my vacation accumulation started from when I was hired and not from when I was still contract. I lasted three years there.

    See if you can negotiate and get it in writing that benefits will start from date of official hire (or even backdated to start date with the agency).

    I was contract to perm in a different job. I wanted a higher salary when the offer came in. They promised it to me after the hire (to avoid paying the agency more) and after I had completed a project. I completed the project but they said it wasn’t good enough and denied the raise in pay. I quit the next day with no notice. I justified myself enough to the unemployment people to still collect unemployment, something that was not a given if you quit (back then).

    Was it my best work? In retrospect, no, but doing a project while also doing reception was a challenge in itself. They were terrible employers and my feeling is, nearly 30 years later, they never planned to give me the higher salary.

  86. T3k*

    Speaking from my limited experience, I took a contract position that was 6 months (no promises to hire, only possibility to extend it) but 1) only because I was unemployed at the time and 2) it was in an industry I wanted to get into. Now I’m in a different job in the same industry, and far from ideal of what I want to do BUT I’m permanent, have wonderful health benefits, and can sort of pay for everything (it is still a tight budget, but I have managed to build up a small emergency fund).

    If the contractor company were to come back around to offer me another 6 month contract, I’d be ambivalent about it. The money was definitely better in that it easily offset the higher insurance costs each month but you’re still living with that uncertainty over your head that if it doesn’t work, you’ll be unemployed, so the biggest thing OP should consider is how much risk are you willing to take, do you have enough money set aside to scrape through if they’re unemployed afterwards, how quickly would you be able to find a job afterwards, and can you live with the idea of the contract always being extended but never hired on permanently? I never realized how much that hung over me everyday at my contract position until I was hired permanently elsewhere and it was such a relief feel I had a guaranteed paycheck for the foreseeable future.

  87. Aerin*

    My current job was contract to hire. I think it was primarily because the agencies they were using to help fill the positions liked doing it that way. These days I think they’ve discontinued the practice and just hire directly. When I got to the end of my six months they thought my performance was close but not quite there, so they extended out my contract for another three. I got hired on after that. Asking if they anticipate there being any barriers to getting hired on at the end of the contract is a good idea. You can also ask how much warning you’ll get if your contract won’t be renewed, so you can start the job hunt again.

    I got benefits through my agency, like health insurance and some PTO. My husband just got a new job that’s contract to hire with a similar setup. It’s probably worth following up with the recruiter to see if they have anything like that available.

    Ultimately you’ve gotta decide how comfortable you are with the worst case scenario (not getting hired at the end of the contract, or not being able to have health insurance and then have something happen).

  88. theelephantintheroom*

    I’ve done both contract-to-hire through an agency, as well as freelancing for a company and then getting hired on. Here are the things I would consider before jumping on this:

    1. If it’s through an agency, do you have to take any tests to even be considered for an interview? I’ve worked through 3 different agencies and I had to take a few hours out of my day to apply with each one, interview with them, and then take a few standardized tests (mostly testing my computer skills).

    2. If you’re freelancing, the higher salary is to make up for the fact that you have to buy your own insurance and pay higher taxes. I always set aside 40% of my paychecks to keep for tax purposes. You also need to make sure you and the company are filing the same way. I once got hit by the IRS because I filed correctly and the person who hired me did not (the fine for me was $10,000, but I was fortunately able to get in touch with that person and have them fix it).

    3. Dig into the company’s follow-through with contract-to-hires. One of the agencies I worked through promised me a contract-to-hire position that the company’s HR person later told me was just a contract position and they had no intention of hiring someone full-time.

    4. As others have mentioned, some companies take longer than they’ll anticipate to get the ball rolling on turning a contracted position into a full-time hire. Living with the uncertainty can be incredibly frustrating.

    Altogether, I find that contract-to-hire is only worth it if 1) you’re switching industries and need a leg up, 2) you’re unemployed or you’ve been on a job hiatus (for instance, SAHM for a few years) and need to get reacquainted with your industry, or 3) you’re already a freelancer and want to move into a full-time position.

  89. YarnOwl*

    I’m a writer with a degree in technical writing, and I get a LOT of job offers for “contract-to-hire” positions. I asked around with some more experienced tech writers I know, and every single one of them said that 90% of the time, this means they want to bring someone on, have them deal with a project, and then let them go, and they basically dangle a possible full-time job in front of us to make it look more appealing.
    I will say that a lot of these companies have other red flags (no or very short interviews, people you’re communicating with can’t or won’t answer questions about how often people actually get hired on full time, etc.), so if this company seems legitimate in every other way, this might be different. And if they can tell you why they are doing contract-to-hire, how it’s worked out in the past, and give you actual things you can do to work towards a full-time job, it might be worth it. But I would personally be very wary of leaving a solid full-time job for this set up.

  90. Mike B.*

    My experience certainly wasn’t the norm, but I wouldn’t be in my position today had I not left a permanent job for a temporary one. I knew the type of role I wanted, but was consistently turned away for lack of experience. One hiring manager finally told me “Go freelance somewhere in this environment for a few months and you’ll be a much more attractive candidate.” Which is more or less what I did, and my next three interviews resulted in jobs—the so-so temp-to-perm situation I left for, the job I was targeting in the first place, and the even better job that snapped me up once I had some staff experience under my belt.

    I will point put that I was in an unusual position; my job wasn’t in jeopardy, but my most interesting and marketable duties were scheduled to be phased out for reasons unrelated to my performance. I also was single, childless, and renting my home, so the stakes were lower. This risk might not be tolerable for people with additional responsibilities or people whose existing jobs aren’t unpleasant, it just happened to pay off handsomely for me.

    1. Mike B.*

      I will add that we sometimes offer temp-to-perm at my current place—generally when we have significant reservations about a candidate but need immediate support and still think she could be a good fit. It’s not something we ever offer in bad faith, and we’re wary of promising too much lest it turn out to be a bad fit or the business needs change. And I don’t think we’d make any kind of offer to someone currently employed without making clear that they would need to earn our confidence in short order; the last thing we want to do is have someone leave their job when there’s a decent chance we’ll have to pull the rug out from under them.

  91. SarcasticFringehead*

    Last January I left my full-time job of almost 10 years for a 1-year contract with probably about a 50% chance of getting hired full-time at the end. My reasoning was:
    – I was frustrated in my previous job and planning to quit anyway
    – it was about a 40% salary increase
    – the staffing company pays payroll taxes
    – I was able to get adequate, if not great, health insurance from my state exchange (I’m in Washington). My health, dental, and vision insurance together cost me about $425 a month.
    – the contract position offered the opportunity to build a lot of specific skills that I hadn’t been able to in my previous position
    – I was confident I’ll be able to find something else in a reasonable time after the contract ends
    – it’s a 12-month contract – I wouldn’t have taken anything shorter without a much higher likelihood of being hired full-time.
    – it’s literally across the street from my old job, and I’m working the same hours, so my commute didn’t change

    So far, I would say it’s been worth it. Leaving my old job was a huge relief. I’ve learned a ton, and feel qualified for a much wider range of jobs. Even paying my own insurance costs, my take-home is so much higher now that I’ve been able to save a lot of money (enough to be unemployed for a while if I can’t find something else).

    I have realized, though, that I underestimated how much not having paid vacation would be a problem for me. I get paid enough that I can take unpaid time, and my manager is totally fine with it, but especially at the beginning, I didn’t want to lose out on money by taking time off. That got pretty rough, and if I were to do this again, I would emphasize it more in my financial calculations.

    So overall, I don’t regret it, but I also don’t think I’ll take another contract job for a while if I don’t have to.

  92. JoAnna*

    It was for my husband, but he was working through an agency so he was able to get (not great, but better than nothing) benefits through them, and they dealt with the payroll taxes and whatnot.

  93. Jeff*

    I literally just made this jump and it has been fine. If it’s a contract where you’re employed as a W2 by an agency, you should check with that agency to see if they offer benefits. Mine does. It’s also open enrollment on the marketplace right now, and depending on your situation, you might be able to find something really affordable through the healthcare marketplace (that’s what I ended up doing). If you’re a 1099 through the company, then yeah, it’s a bit different. Depending on the state though (especially CA), it’s much harder to be hired as a freelancer because the rules are much more strict about how companies can hire freelancers and contractors. Yeah, it’s a bit scary taking the jump, but if the pay is better and you think the culture is going to be healthier, it’s a jump worth taking. In my situation, I was going to be paid almost double what I was making at my previous job, which is significant, but a 50% increase is pretty significant too. Do good work, make a good impression, and you’ll have a good chance at staying, moreso if at the outset they want this to become a permanent position. Some companies hire positions that way, especially large ones when they can just end the contract and find another person through an agency.

    I’d also say: ask questions of the recruiter! Ask about benefits, the likelihood of becoming permanent, and whatever else you might be worried about. If it’s a good company/agency, they’ll give you honest answers and insight. You might be surprised by what you find out.

  94. Gazebo Slayer*

    Oh GOD no. Do NOT leave a perm job for contract-to-hire, unless the perm job is awful.

    For one thing, “contract-to-hire” is often an empty promise; they are likely just using that as a way to get people to take the job. They might just extend your unbenefited contract, or you might just end up with no job after 6 months.

    For another, a contract job might make future employers wonder what’s “wrong” with you, and less likely to hire you for anything other than other contract, temporary, or limited-term roles – especially if you left a long-term, perm role for it. Which is stupid of them, and absolutely should not be a thing, but way too many of them do think that way.

    Take it from someone who temped for 8 years and is now doing gig-economy work.

  95. Not a Temp*

    Don’t do it.

    I left my last full-time position about a year ago to help take care of my grandmother for a few months. Around the start of the year, I began looking for a job again. One of the first places to reach out sounded really promising, but it turned out to be a recruiter who wanted me to be contract to hire.

    I didn’t know much about that type of work, and the recruiter really pushed me to make a decision quickly. It did offer insurance through the temp agency, doing the type of work I like, and they said I would know within three months if the company would keep me on or not, so I figured why not?

    It was an experience that will stay with me the rest of my life even though I was only there for just over two months. I was assigned low-level tasks like stuffing envelopes and assisting in the mailroom, rather than the work I actually do. I have over five years worth of experience in my field, and have always had excellent reviews, with a lot of recognition for my achievements. But suddenly, I was handed things to scan and sort, and it really threw me off. I tried to see it as paying my dues there, but the truth is that my five years of experience should have been sufficient for that.

    Management was a tangle I never figured out; because I was a temp, they all seemed to feel responsible for giving me tasks, even though those were often conflicting. If corrected on something, another manager would tell me yet another, differing way to get it done.

    I was pulled into “remedial training” on my second day because I had scanned a single page upside down. I also had our director come up to me, visibly frustrated, because an email had gone to Bryan M. in IT rather than Bryan D. in IT, and warned never to do it again. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so shocking.

    The company was experiencing a lot of growth and things were chaotic as departments merged and then re-split. My paychecks were always late, sometimes with the first arriving two days before the second one because it was so behind.

    The clincher was when I got sick. I came down with an emergency situation and was not able to drive into work. I had to call out sick for two days. I had a doctor’s note as well as photographic documentation of my condition, all of which I sent to them. I was clear and open about my status over the two days.

    They fired me. Or, they “decided not to extend (my) contract, effective immediately.” Over two sick days. That was when I learned that you cannot be sick as a temp – which, of course, doesn’t make sense. People get sick.

    I know that this won’t be everyone’s experience, but it was mine. I lost a lot of confidence in my abilities, and the fight to get my checks was really draining. I was always treated like I was stupid and not worth trusting with the actual work that I shine at. I know that they didn’t know me well yet, but it was a true medical emergency and I felt dehumanized by their complete lack of empathy and the way they acted like I was lying for some weird purpose.

    I ended up finding a new permanent spot the next week, that didn’t make me jump through contract to hire hoops, and I would never do that again.

    1. Not a Temp*

      Basically this was just a really long way of saying that I believe they treat you worse because you’re “just” a temp.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        That is par for the course. I was treated poorly at the majority of companies where I temped, despite earning supposedly good reviews and always getting my work done a. on time, b. usually before the deadline, and c. accurately.

        1. Not a Temp*

          Yeah, I figured out eventually after it was over that they do this so that they can justify letting you go and not keeping you on. They had to have some reason, so they were always very critical of me in order to keep up the narrative that it wasn’t working out. I think it’s because temps cost companies much less than permanent position employees; you don’t have to pay them benefits (mine, like my checks, came through the temp agency). I should have realized something was weird on my first day when I met the team, and just over half of them were all temps. Lesson learned!

  96. GrilledCheeseforlunch*

    I took a contract position only because I was out of a job. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life (single mom 3 kids) even though they kept extending the contract and promising to hire me full time eventually. And they did, after about a year. But I would never, ever leave a permanent role for a contract one. For one, they’re usually the first to get cut when business isn’t booming. There are people here who have been “contractors” for over 2 years, I think it’s shameful, but that’s another story.

  97. JH*

    Setting aside the issue of compensation (let’s assume that you break even with increased costs of health care and taxes), now (when you don’t have a partner or dependents to support) might be an ideal time to take a risk on a career building job. Six months is a relatively short time to have to bridge for benefits, and maybe its even short enough that you could negotiate a leave with your current employer to suss out whether this new position is for you. Hedge your bets and all.

    My experience with contract-to-hire was very positive. The employer routinely used contract and intern positions to determine whether the fit was good and they even told me on day 1, “We hope you’re really happy here and choose to stay”. A full-time permanent position quickly materialized, but you’ll probably need a lot more information (either from the recruiter or from being in the position) to figure out whether that’s the case for this employer.

    Overall though, I’d say that stability is more important later in your career and later in life when you have more commitments. But without that, now may be a good time to take a risk to get more satisfaction out of your job.

  98. the sun is shining*

    A previous workplace did this. One of my coworkers was a temp for 4 years before she gave the boss the ultimatum, at which point, he pulled a permanent position out for her. Amazing how that happened, once she made it HIS problem.

    But it wasn’t entirely only on him for it. The whole place loved temp people. The temp people did not share the sentiment.

    I would not take this job.

  99. SW*

    When I took a contract job, I asked if the agency would pay for my Marketplace insurance. They wouldn’t directly but they did give me a bonus equivalent to what I was paying for insurance. I ended up leaving that job not long after getting a permanent job offer so I can’t speak to how well that works, but it is possible to ask.

  100. Hannah Banana*

    I’ve only been a temp once but have hired temps and think it could be a good way to get a full time position at the right company.

    When I was a temp, I was hired under the guise that after 3-4 months, if all goes well, I’d be offered a full time position. 4 months go by and things are great but my manager at the time said there was not an open position or one could not be created at that moment because he didn’t have the headcount so I would have to wait. Another 2 months goes by and there was still no headcount but by that time I had gotten scooped up by another manager who had an open position. My temp job didn’t have a headcount for another year.

    Alternatively, I’ve hired temp workers and all have gotten hired full time after 2-3 months.

  101. Fellow Unengaged Worker*

    I don’t think that has been addressed in other comments – have you considered therapy/mental health treatment?

    It sounds like you may be in your late 20s early 30s like me…. I’m also very unengaged with my job despite it being nearly perfect on paper. At first I thought it was because I was in a slow workload period. Then it wasn’t as slow but I still felt unengaged and thought it was delayed burnout (my last job, which I left in Feb ’18 really overworked me and set my personal boundaries aflame and maybe I hadn’t “recovered” from that as quickly as I thought I had). Now I’m thinking it’s actually some depression or mental health issues that affect my whole life, not just my work, and I’m looking for a therapist to address this with. If you take a job with no benefits your access to affordable mental health services will be diminished and if you’ve never seen a therapist you may want to give it a try before giving up at current job.

  102. Wintermute*

    I was just hired this month after six months on the rent-to-own plan.

    Pros: I got a job in my field, it’s so easy to BS credentials in IT that they want to see you can do the actual work before they commit to bringing you on the payroll, I got a raise, and a decent job

    Cons: I went six months without earning a day of vacation, paying a lot more for my insurance too and having no other benefits but health insurance (no 401k, no benefit time except what’s legally mandated in Cook county, etc.)

    1. whatchamacallit*

      same I was 9-month temp in Cook County. I did alright but my grandfather died right after I started so of course I got no bereavement or sick leave. Didn’t receive any pay for the days I took off for the funeral and the wake.

  103. TrainerGirl*

    I may be biased about contract positions, because I found one when I was about to be laid off. I had 3.5 weeks notice, and got an offer the week before I left my job. I’ve found that the interview process for contract positions tends to move faster, and I was lucky that the agency that hired me offered some benefits (medical insurance. 401(k), etc.). I ended up being hired full-time at my company after 9 months, so it worked for me. But would I have left my full-time job for that position? It depends on the situation.

  104. Amethystmoon*

    As someone who temped for 10 years before finally getting a permanent job, I will say no. Most of the time, they are actually being dishonest and won’t hire you. It’s more expensive to pay benefits and your wage, as opposed to just paying your wage. It took me impressing the right people at one company I was temping at to finally get hired on there, and I have been at that company (though not in the same job) for 9 years since.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. At my previous company we had a permanent contract hire and it was like they kept stringing her along. I felt so bad for her.

  105. whatchamacallit*

    So, I’ve done the temp-to-hire thing. My situation was a bit different – I was just out of college and it was the first full time offer I got and I took it (and did not negotiate.) I was a 9 month temp-to-hire contract. The agency withheld all my taxes, they also had the option to enroll in insurance, although since I was 22-23 while I was on my contract so I was using my parents.’ They had to supply insurance options to be ACA compliant, so if there’s an agency involved I would definitely inquire if that’s something they have. All-in-all, the job was terrible, but not for contract reasons. My employer liked me and actually made me permanent early (it sounded like it was an uncommon thing, because they did most of their hiring temp-to hire, and I don’t think any of my coworkers got the same benefit.) so that was nice. My advice would be see how much you can push back on – I would never sign on to 9-month contract-to-hire again, because that’s just too long, and I would also never do it for as little money as I was getting, but if it was a job I was really interested in I would see if I could cut them down to something shorter. I guess it likely varies from place to place, but everyone I knew who made it through their temp period got hired at the end. If there were performance issues you were likely getting fired before you got to the end of your contract.

  106. Anon Librarian*

    It’s the lack of benefits that’s unusual about this. As things progress, I would raise questions about it.

    “This sounds great. My only cause for hesitation is the lack of company-provided benefits during the contract phase. Can you recommend ways to obtain healthcare during this time? What do contractors typically do?”

    And if you need to push back further, mention the fact that health care is essential to productivity and avoiding sick days. “I want to be as productive as I am currently. I wouldn’t want a lack of access to health care to potentially affect this. What would you suggest? Is there any room to convert to full-time sooner or receive benefits during the contract?”

  107. MissDisplaced*

    Taking a 6 month contract job can be fine if you’re out of work, looking to change careers, planning a move yourself, or starting your own business and need extra bucks until you get off the ground.

    But I’d advise against leaving your steady job for this unless you really are in a toxic or untenable situation.

  108. Chatterby*

    In my experience, contract to hire rarely to never turns into a permanent position, and if it does, it’s only after significantly more time that whatever upfront timeframe they say.
    I’ve know people who sign up for a 6 month contract to hire, but then take 2 years to get a job offer, and that’s only with stellar reviews and constant badgering.
    Ask to see the contracting company’s benefits package. They will have one if they’re legit. They’ll probably have super-basic insurance, and a way to earn time off. If it seems doable, take it for the 50% raise.
    Understand that if you do get hired, your salary will be significantly cut when they sign you on.

  109. Geneva*

    From my experience, don’t do it! Contract-to-hire protects the employer at YOUR expense, and who’s to say at the end of 6 months that they wouldn’t extend your contract even further? That’s what happened to me. After a 30 day contract, I was begrudgingly hired, then put on probation indefinitely until I quit at six months.

    I know this set up can and has worked for some people, but to me, it signals that the employer lacks confidence in you and that’s a terrible way to start a working relationship.

  110. Rebecca*

    I have done this and would not do it again. I will say that the agency that placed me offered (admittedly crummy) health insurance as well as a 401k option. I was a W2 employee so that was at least nice. I asked for an hourly rate that I thought would make up for the lack of benefits/PTO, but I didn’t ask for nearly enough. So as others have said, price yourself accordingly.
    The company where I was placed didn’t have its act together at all and I ended up leaving after about two months. This is where I ran into another issue: placement companies like these are first and foremost sales organizations; if you quit your job, they’re not getting paid either. I had to have several fairly unpleasant conversations with the staffing agency, during which I was subjected to the type of tactics that wouldn’t be out of place at a timeshare sales seminar or as-seen-on-TV snake oil subscription.
    I realize some aspects of my experience were unfortunate outliers. Some people really love contract work; I was not one of them. Proceed with caution.

  111. boop the first*

    Holy crap… reading these comments and seeing just how far it is from:

    Single-income household with a lifelong commitment and retirement pension requiring no extra education (or even high school education)

    to

    Simple jobs requiring a BA+ and a full resume, that can’t support a family, that can drop you like a hat at any time, won’t help pay your debt (which THEY demanded) and won’t promise to reward your commitment after you become to old or sick to do it anymore.

    And NOW? Companies won’t even commit to hiring employees to begin? What? And job creators don’t understand why people would rather start their own businesses than work for them anymore? I can’t wait for this stage of capitalism to collapse upon itself. This is such a terrifyingly huge change from even 30 years ago, there’s no way this can continue much longer.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      I first joined the workforce in my early 20’s (unless you count babysitting jobs I had as a teenager). I’m in my early 40’s now. This isn’t anything new. Companies didn’t want to commit to hiring people in the 2000’s.

  112. AD*

    I did something similar and it worked for me. I had been trying to leave my previous job, and I knew that this company often hired people off of short term contracts like the one I accepted. I don’t interview super well, but I knew that bosses usually liked me once they saw my work ethic. It was still a risk, and I was prepared to go back to job searching if it didn’t stick. I also live in a state with a pretty functional healthcare exchange. I think it helps if you’re young without any dependents. You’re not letting anyone but yourself down if the job falls through.

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