Monday, 5 January 2009

How not to behave as a test contractor

Sometime back, Linda Wilkinson had a good post on Test Contractor behaviour I shall add a few more 'things not to do' to the list based on some recent (and slightly less recent) experiences with contract testing staff.

A few things to bear in mind before we start. When you contract as a tester you represent a company - typically your company. The company has contractually engaged to provide testing services to another company. No matter what happens, you have set out a legal agreement within which you work. Contracts have end dates - you do not get made redundant as a contractor - your contract either does not get renewed or, under exceptional circumstances, gets terminated early (if the contract allows for this). If you don't like working on this basis then get a full time job.
I contracted my services for well over 10 years. Since all my work came through referrals from people I have worked with, I know it does not pay to create a bad impression or conduct yourself unprofessionally.
Over the past 3 years I have seen increasingly poor behaviour from contractors and I can't fathom the thought processes behind it - if anyone can shed light on this behaviour then please leave a comment.
So some "don'ts" based on things I have seen other people do:
  • Do not mess with the defect system before you leave:
    • Do not raise fake defects
    • Do not put offensive images in defects
    • Do not amend defects to have fake comments in them
  • Do not just 'leave'
    • On the last day - "Oh, I've nothing to do - I'll just leave and not tell anyone but charge for the entire day"
    • Do not claim to have had a car accident and then not turn up, feeding excuses for a couple of weeks hoping that they'll sack you because you accepted another contract.
    • Do not follow the example of people who claim to have had a car accident by claiming to have had a car accident yourself and then not turn up. How did you know you should clean your desk out the day before you had your accident?
  • Do not let your work ethic drop towards the end of the contract
    • keep your work ethic going
      • make them want to have you back
      • if your contract did not get renewed then make them wish they had renewed it
  • Do not fall asleep in meetings (certainly not more than once)
  • Do not take excessively frequent and excessively long breaks.
Obviously the people who engage in this behaviour do not think it unprofessional. I once had a contractor self-terminate their contract 3 days prior to its end date (excuse: in a car accident - desk strangely tidy the day before). Then 4 months later an agent called asking if I wanted to re-employ that person - easy answer - no. Never again. No.
Do not copy the real life examples above.
Behave well. Behave honestly. Behave professionally. Behave.
Have some respect for yourself and others.


  1. here's one i dont recomend:
    I've had contractors resist learning new stuff eg. agile (not really that new now) leave and add it to their cv as a competency while working for me. Then send me their CV a year later wanting a job.

    Thanks Paul. :) Maybe the people who behave this way just have selective memories as a survival trait?

  2. This is a classic piece, something contractors dont understand is that the IT community is a very small one, usually it will come back and haunt you in the not too distant future. Always leave a job with your integrity intact.Just my two cents worth!!!

    Thanks Ola, in the UK it seems we have a tiny community :)

  3. Excellent post. I also have contracted on and off (and employed contractors). It is truly incredible what some of them do. One thing I would certainly add is:

    "Don't be elitist"

    I have seen this on more than one occasion. Permanent staff are knowledgeable too and teamwork is the name of the game in IT.

    Thanks for the addition Julian.

  4. [...] Wilkinson’s article on How to get yourself rolled off assignment, and Evil Tester’s How not to behave as a test contractor, I have decided to add a few somewhat less aggravating crimes to the list, which are nevertheless [...]

  5. hey there - good post for good times. then I read this :

    BP is terminating the contracts of its entire IT freelance workforce and placing those who wish to stay on new ones stipulating they will work for significantly less.

    The UK-based oil and gas group is requiring IT contractors to take a 10% cut in their daily rate with effect from March 1st, or risk losing their jobs to “replacements.”

    You read the whole story here -->

    Every contract has early termination clauses, which you can use to leave before its end date. And it works both ways. The thing is to be professional about it. We contractors (yes, I am one if you hadn't guessed) do get more offers than permies, but we are duty bound to adhere to the terms of the deal.

    So, I would amend your advice to say, if you have to leave a place, do it the right way, bu explaining to your agent/ company, that you have this really great opportunity, that you don't want to miss out on and that you're happy to adhere to the early termination clauses.

    To be clear, I am not saying BP have done anything illegal, but everyone (including the biggest most profitable companies) will do what's best for themsleves. You have to respect that!

    Most contracts have early termination dates for both parties. As a contractor I foolishly signed up for one that had no early termination ability on my side, but a no-notice early termination on the client side. And the client got rid of all us testing contractors one morning with no notice.

    I agree - if you want to leave early, abide by the terms of the contract, give the required notice, be professional about it.

    Thanks, Sam