Some victims of the ongoing high-tech downturn are being offered cold consolation: their old jobs with less pay, zero benefits and a fixed contract end date.
As beleaguered tech companies shed full-time staff in order to cut costs, some have turned to outside contractors to maintain operations, The Seattle Times reported.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the companies often prefer ex-employees for these roles because they can get up to speed quickly. But the reaction from recently canned workers has been mixed.
“We all just got the shock of our life, the last thing I need is for you to continue to ask me to go to a company that just let me go,” a former worker at Microsoft, based in suburban Seattle, told the paper.
A worker laid off from Seattle-based Amazon in January said they’d heard from several recruiters looking specifically for people with Amazon experience.
The worker passed this message to a recruiter interviewed for the story: “Tell Amazon if they want an engineer, they can just not fire me later this month.”
Tech companies often use third-party recruiters to help fill contract positions, and they continue to do so despite ongoing cuts of full-time tech employees. Amazon has cut 27,000 jobs since November while Microsoft announced plans in January to shed 10,000 roles this year.
One tech worker reported getting several messages from recruiters shortly after being canned at Microsoft. One recruiter kept saying, “You’d be perfect for Microsoft.” The worker said they told the recruiter three times they weren’t interested.
“I loved what I did. I loved the company,” the worker said. “I don’t have anything negative to say. If something internally came up, I would have been open to it — but I do have a sense of pride. There’s no way I want to go back … making half the amount.”
But recruiters note that some laid-off workers are grateful for the opportunity.
Lawrence Dearth, the president of staffing company Insight Global, said the average recruiter just wants to find talented individuals. After the initial contact, they’ll send the worker’s resume out to 10 to 15 different companies.
“Maybe one of them was the company you just got laid off from, but there could be 14 others,” Dearth said.
On top of that, tech companies often specifically request candidates with previous inside experience, said Nabeel Chowdhury, SVP at recruiting firm 24 Seven Talent.
That’s what happened with the former Amazon worker. One recruiter sent a message that began, “Reaching out to see if you might be open to returning to Amazon on a contract position?”
A spokesperson for Amazon told the Seattle Times it may engage contract workers to support short-term or project-specific work, or when specialty skills are required. Contract workers are not meant to replace full-time employees, the spokesperson added.
Microsoft declined to comment for the story. The company has long relied on contractors to help supplement the work of its employees. At one point several years ago, Microsoft had more than 70,000 vendors.
Companies think of full-time and contract roles as two different buckets of the budget, said Albert Squiers, MD at Fuel Talent and a recruiter who works mostly with software engineers. Companies might turn to contractors amid layoffs because “at the end of the day, the teams and the products still need the work done,” he said.
“Employees are, in most cases, the most expensive resource,” Squiers said. The top objective is to get costs and spending under control.