You might not think of contingent workers when you’re filling executive roles — but others certainly are.

Believe it or not, 63 percent of executives say they’d switch to contract work if they could, and 47 percent of them would consider filling senior-level roles with contractors. So if your company is looking to fill top-tier positions, your best bet could be tapping into the contingent workforce.

Today’s companies need specialized skill sets at a moment’s notice, especially in areas like information technology and security. But at the executive level, such positions can take months or even years to fill — often at a premium price.

Don’t let business norms keep you from filling critical roles. According to a survey conducted by Upwork Global, 48 percent of companies are already using flexible workers when there’s a workforce gap or expertise is needed for a particular project. These firms are finding that contingent workers are a crucial part of a modern, flexible workforce.


Could a Contingent Executive Work for Your Company?

When you need an executive in a niche space, such as cybersecurity or customer success, “renting” talent might make more sense than “buying” it.

In the U.S. alone, 200,000 cybersecurity positions go unfilled every year. As seniority increases, particularly in such technical roles, so do recruiting challenges and salary expectations. CTOsCIOs, and CSOs all command six-figure salaries, according to Glassdoor. Don’t forget about taxes and benefits, either, which can cost 1.3 to 1.6 times the role’s base salary. It’s not surprising that companies are trying to get the expertise they need without the hefty price tag.

Even if you’ve never considered filling a high-level role with a contractor, don’t be intimidated. Finding, vetting, and onboarding an executive works much like hiring a contract worker for any other position, but it does come with some unique challenges.


Recruiting Freelance Executives

When recruiting an executive, you’re looking for someone with deep domain expertise, industry experience, and leadership skills. Even without accounting for executive search fees you might pay to external recruiters, finding high-level talent is tough. But attracting a contingent executive doesn’t have to be so difficult.

Employ technology to help you find talent. Use human cloud platforms like Toptal or Maven to engage the person you need, regardless of where he or she is located. Without geographic constraints, you’re much more likely to find an executive with the perfect background and skill set.


Vetting Freelance Executives

In-person interviews might seem especially important when adding a top player to your team, but this expectation can limit your prospects. Face-to-face interviews work just as well through videoconferencing platforms that allow you to “meet” candidates wherever they are.

Remember, too, that past work can help you predict a potential hire’s future performance. Ask to see every prospect’s portfolio, and get references from prior clients. And because you’ll be sharing the contractor with others, be sure you discuss upfront what happens if you have an unexpected surge in need for his or her time. Can you monopolize him or her when needed?

Lastly, with any non-employee talent you engage, make sure you do so legally. The contractor should be appropriately set up to perform work as an individual or small freelance company. You don’t want to get scorched by regulators for misclassifying employees as independent contractors.


Onboarding and Integrating Freelance Executives

Especially at the executive level, onboarding is a two-way street. Not only does your new hire need an introduction to your company and his or her role, but your current team also needs a primer on how to to interact with a remote contractor in an executive role.

When onboarding, think beyond the work that needs to be done. Talk your new executive through your company’s culture and what business goals he or she will help meet. Be as clear and straightforward as possible. Innovative Employee Solutions orients every one of our gig workers with the objective that “we make the complex simple,” no matter their seniority.

On the flip side, incorporating freelance executives into your team takes work, too. What communication channels does the executive prefer to use? When can team members expect the executive to be available, and will that person have an assistant? Everyone needs to know what to expect and how to engage the executive.


Finally, don’t forget to incorporate this executive into your culture, even if he or she is remote and temporary. Keep the executive on your email chain about company events. Use technology to bring him or her to everything from team meetings to barbecues. So much of an executive’s role is about shaping culture that they can’t afford to miss team events.

If you’re still hesitant to try out a contract worker in a senior role, know that you have everything to gain. Contingent workers provide flexibility and cost-effective results without a long-term commitment. At worst, you’re back to looking for another executive. At best, you’ve got the leader you need at the right time and at a great price.


Trevor Foster, VP of Finance and Innovation – Trevor is responsible for looking to the future for IES in order to maximize financial success. This is done through collecting and analyzing financial and market data, determining internal strengths and capabilities, and maximizing the return of assets deployed by the company.

Trevor has been with IES for more than 5 years in various capacities in the company’s finance department contributing to the overall strategic direction of its financial development. In 2015, Trevor joined the IES leadership team as vice president of finance, taking on increased responsibility for financial efficiency, effectiveness and scalability across all company departments. Prior to joining IES, Trevor worked in finance for the technology and realty sectors, holding various accounting positions at Games Workshop and Crye-Leike Realtors.


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