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Jun 14, 2013 by Patrick Icasas in Project Management 101 & Tools

Don’t Get Taken: How to Hire a Contractor with Real Skills

How to Hire a Skilled Contractor

When you hire a contractor, you need to make sure you’re recruiting an asset to your team, not a liability who costs an arm and a leg. But it can be tricky if you’re looking for skills outside your area of expertise. How can you be sure that your contractor is genuinely talented, and is not some guy who’s applying because he needs a job?

Don’t Mistake Price for Value

How to Hire a Skilled Contractor
Cheaping out on contractors doesn’t usually end well—project managers who lowball jobs might hire a contractor that is too unskilled or inexperienced. But more expensive contractors may not be worth the money either. Overpriced contractors might do just as little for your project as the cheap ones—while using up your budget faster.

Don’t shop based on price—rather, shop by value. What experience do they bring to table relative to yours? Are they the right kind of specialist the task needs? What is their work process, and will it make your job easier or harder? All these factors will help determine if you’re getting a great deal.

Double-check Samples

So the contractor sent over samples of his work, right? Great! But don’t take them at face value. It’s rare, but I know project managers who’ve been burned by contractors with fraudulent samples. In those cases, the contractor was part of the team that created it, but did not do a significant enough portion of the work to deserve credit. In another case I encountered, a designer/contractor actually lifted his portfolio from someone else’s site!

You shouldn’t assume that every contractor is a fraudster, but neither should you accept things without question. Get one of your team members’ opinions on the sample works. He may be able to notice something you don’t.

Ask for Referrals—and Research Them

The best judges of a contractor’s performance are people who’ve actually used him. Ask to speak to some of his former clients-either through email or over the phone. Asking them the right questions can get you some very interesting insights that the contractor may not even be aware of.

Like always, don’t take things at face value. Research the referral and his company. Is this person legit, or is it actually one of the contractor’s buddies? If they are, make sure that their experience is relevant to your own—that they work in a similar industry to yours or executed a similar project. If it’s not, then the testimonial isn’t any good at all, and you’re still left in the dark about your own requirements.

Ask for his Work Process

If you’re going to be managing a contractor remotely, you need to find out how he structures his work day. You need to find out the time that he’s most productive, the best time to call him, and how long it takes him to do tasks. Ideally, you want someone self-disciplined, who knows his own quirks and structures his day around them so to maximize his productivity. If he flakes out on his own commitments, then he’s probably going to flake out on yours.

Image Credit: Flickr, Speshul Ted

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Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.

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