What to Ask When Hiring Contractors

So you’re looking for software design, engineering or both. Should you hire an external team or keep it in-house? That’s a good question. The most common follow-up question, however, is a tricky one. That is,

“How much will an external team cost?”

Let’s consider the first thought. Whether a consulting company suits your project’s needs is subjective. It takes having a complete understanding of your needs—and talking those needs over with a potential partner—to establish if it’s right for you. But once you do settle on the decision to collaborate with contractors, it’s crucial to ask the right questions.

And allowing the pricetag to be a defining factor in choosing who to work with is a slippery slope.

What are the right questions? The ones that don’t answer how much money this service will cost but, rather, whether it will end up being cost-effective and delivering immediate value.

Here’s how to pinpoint strong, cost-effective options when it comes to companies offering services in the tech and design sphere.

Hint: You should look for a team that you can imagine working with on a daily basis, for as long as necessary. A reliable partner that fits your project needs, your culture and your level of ambition.

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THE VERY BASICS THAT A CONSULTING COMPANY SHOULD OFFER

In-depth, cross-domain skills

This must be more than a marketing claim. It needs to be backed by a track record in the form of multiple successful projects, within multiple industries, for companies of a variety of sizes.

A history of strategic thinking

Finding a partner who will fully grasp your company’s mission is essential. From your culture to your most ambitious goals, it all ties together—therefore it’s imperative that both sides are on the same page. This requires the ability to look at things from all angles, and to construct a sensible plan before writing a single line of code. In other words: expertly applying a strategic approach.

Up-to-date across the board

Whether it’s a new tool or an exciting trend, a consulting company must be well-equipped for any challenge. How? By having a team that constantly attends conferences, talks, training programs and other events; a team that is encouraged to ask questions. The care, mentorship and other resources provided for self-improvement of all experts at this company should far exceed what you could do for a small team of your own.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF CONSULTING COMPANIES WORTHY OF A LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP

This is where you’ll find the top-reviewed companies. The teams that don’t just come in, do the work and get out; they become an integral part of the project and, at times, of the company they collaborate with.

Flexibility

How set is the company in its ways? Structure and process are essential, but it is important to meet halfway. Will the team be there in an emergency? Will they have the time and willingness to be there for you at whatever scope you need? And will they be able to bring in extra support at a moment’s notice if required?

Compatibility

When placing a product or task into someone’s hands, you want them to have a genuine interest in the job. The team should see it as an opportunity to utilize their passion. People for the job should really be the perfect fit for the job: suited for the project, fit for your company’s culture and invested in the work. These qualities lead to them effortlessly becoming a part of your own team.

The luxury of being selective

Selective means having options. And in the world of consulting companies within the tech industry, selective signifies quality—because selective is rare. The most talented designers and engineers know their worth, and they don’t go work for just anyone. If a company attracts top talent, and it gets to have a strict, extensive hiring process, it means it’s doing well. Really well.

AND FINALLY—THE REASONS WHY COMPARING COSTS REALLY DOESN'T MAKE SENSE

As mentioned, whether or not you should hire contractors does not have a straight answer. But the decision should be based on your needs, and not on cost comparison. Why?

The price of external help might seem high on paper—until you start doing the math.

Building a full-time in-house team requires a lot of time and upfront resources. Hiring costs often reach shocking numbers; The Center for American Progress estimates that for very highly-paid jobs—and for those at the senior or executive level—the costs of hiring a new employee can be 213% of the annual salary. Meaning that the cost to hire a developer earning $135,000 could actually be $287,550.

Factor in taxes, benefits, office space, equipment and the long-term costs of full-time employees, along with all of the personal and medical issues that are inevitable. Plus the slower days, weeks, even months when their skills simply aren’t that necessary, or they aren’t as driven as they once were; it’s estimated that employers spend $759 billion each year on work that’s not actually done.

And don’t forget the price of a different kind of wasted time. The months spent on hiring full-time employees, onboarding them, training them—this is time during which an external team could have already been working. Additionally, terminating your own employees tends to be a much more complex process than choosing to no longer cooperate with an outside partner.

A consulting company gives you a couple of numbers. In the case of premium-level services, those numbers are often higher and require proper investment. But consider the true costs of an in-house team. Go over the consulting company’s portfolio and look for proof of the qualities outlined above. Take time to talk, to get to know each other. Chances are, you’ll find a long-term partner you can trust, and who is well worth the investment.

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STRV is a software design and development team that delivers. Building digital products and plugging first-class talent into companies big and small since 2004.

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