I'm currently employed by an automotive company, full time, direct hire, full benefits. I've been here for almost a year. Previous to that I was employed by another automotive company, also as a direct hire, for almost 5 years.
I'm comfortable at my current company but one day while randomly investigating the market, I found a senior level position related to my experience at a company I've always admired. I applied directly on their website and the next day received an interview request.
When I went to my first interview, I first met with HR to get an explanation of the interview structure and was handed over some documents with the company's benefits and application forms. Then I headed to the interview and did my thing.
The interview went well and was called for a second one almost immediately. This time the group manager was there instead of HR. Apparently, the second interview went well too.
A week and a half later I received an e-mail from HR telling me that the staff was interested in hiring me, but initially through a vendor (as a contractor). At that point I was very confused because nowhere in the job description or during the interviews was there any mention of the position being under such terms. I was even asked if I would still be interested, probably being aware that this was not my expectation. Besides, all communication had been directly between me and the company and not through an intermediate. So I expressed my concerns, asked for a comparison of the vendor and company's benefits, and asked them to reconsider hiring me directly. I even said that I was willing to negotiate my salary expectations in exchange for a direct hire.
One week later HR responded to my inquiries and said that the hiring manager had decided to stick to the contract-to-hire scheme, and that depending on my performance, I could have the chance to become directly hired after a year or so. I had thought a lot about this scenario since it was first mentioned, and found it very unfair, so I ended up rejecting the offer.
My main reasons being that I consider myself with enough and proven experience in the field that they need me for and don't consider a contract-to-hire (or in other words, to be "tested") a necessary step. After all, this is for a senior level role, not entry level. I also feel that I would be going a step backwards from having a stable job to the "let's see what you've got". Of course I exposed my reasons in a more humble and polite way than here.
So, I'm trying to understand the way of thinking of the hiring manager in this case. What could be a possible factor to suddenly determine it is better to hire someone as a contractor instead of directly? If the "test the candidate" step is necessary at a senior level role, it kind of means they're not entirely convinced about my qualifications. If that's the case, why even extend an offer? I know it doesn't matter now, but do you think it's fair that the position had been first advertised to me as a direct hire, only to come up with a contractor offer in the end? Is this a common thing? And lastly, when a valuable candidate rejects this type of offer, is there even a chance that the company could counteroffer under a direct hire scheme?
Sorry for the long post, and thank you in advance for any insight you can share.