5 Tips for Hiring the Right Remote Tech Contractor

When searching for tech contractors who can work remotely, it’s key to run a fast, efficient, and focused hiring process. 

Unfortunately, many hiring managers miss the mark by ranking prospective contractors against job descriptions designed for regular staff and qualifications that are “nice to have.” But contractors often have different skill-sets, and are intended to accomplish different kinds of tasks and deliverables; you can’t use the same hiring metrics.  

If your team could use a quick infusion of technical expertise, here are some ways to adapt your contractor vetting and selection process for remote hiring.

Move Quickly and Decisively

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for highly skilled contractors. In fact, an analysis by Gartner shows that 32 percent of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.

Under the circumstances, hiring the best of the best requires preparation, responsiveness and quick action, noted John Boone, founder and president of ProFocus Technology: “Have your ducks in a row, so you can request an interview the minute a contractor becomes available.”

For starters, consolidate your hiring process. Ideally, you should have no more than two interviews (including preliminary screens and assessments) per contractor candidate. If multiple people need to meet a prospect, schedule back-to-back sessions. 

If scheduling across different time zones is an issue, ask the contractor to record their answers to questions during a one-way video interview (or have the agency do it for you, if you’re going that route). Your team can review the video when it’s convenient. When evaluating these recordings, keep in mind that it’s not just about their technical answers; make sure they can communicate clearly via video (which is essential when working remotely). 

Once you’ve reviewed the video calls and/or recordings, build consensus and make an immediate offer by having the team agree on the criteria ahead of time. Use a scorecard or rating sheet to assess each contractor’s fit and abilities.

Don’t let fear of making a mistake hold you back. Remember, contractors are not permanent employees.

Develop a SOW-Focused Hiring Process

Invariably, an ineffective search for a contract professional starts with the wrong job description, noted Matt Byrne, managing director of IT recruiting firm Blues Point Ltd. 

Creating a well-defined scope of work lets you tie your technical assessments and interview questions to subject matter expertise and specific tools, methodologies and processes that support the deliverables.

Remote work has opened up the global contract talent pool. Setting unreasonable technical requirements undermines the benefits of this new paradigm, however. For instance, don’t ask for years of experience with a fairly new tool or platform. If a contractor meets most of the requirements, ask more questions to see if they’re a fast learner who can pick up the new skill quickly, Byrne added.

Look for Remote Work Ability

If a remote contractor has established a track record with a staffing agency, that probably means they possess important qualities such as reliability, self-motivation, initiative, discipline, time management, and strong written and verbal communication skills.

Regardless of experience, ask behavioral questions to ensure you hire someone who can deliver results without being micromanaged. 

Checking references is another way to get more insight into a contractor’s ability to work as part of a remote team. Having a history of contract extensions and repeat assignments is a good sign, and usually means that a contractor has met or exceeded client expectations, Byrne noted. Conversely, being late to interviews, slow to respond to emails, or earning few recommendations and endorsements from past clients could all be red flags. 

Ensure Compatibility 

Don’t leave compatibility with your distributed team to chance. Thoroughly review your team’s communication, workflow procedures and processes with a prospective contractor. Try to understand how they work best.

For instance, asynchronous vs. real-time communication has become a hot topic as newly remote teams try to find the most effective ways to work together. Contractors who need “focus blocks and” “heads-down” time to stay productive may struggle in a synchronous communication environment that requires immediate responses to messages and documenting everything in Slack and Teams, from preliminary brainstorming sessions to finalized roadmaps. 

On the flip side of that coin, some technologists require a collaborative problem-solving environment where communication and meetings happen several times a day. Multiple studies have shown that workplace environment, especially communication, is a key determinant of work quality and productivity.

Offer the Going Market Rate

It might be tempting to offer a lower hourly rate, especially when you have two to three qualified contractors to choose from. But trying to save money can backfire, even with the economic uncertainty unleashed by COVID-19. 

Staffing firms who shortchange their contractors by taking a high percentage of the bill rate may encourage contractors to defect or demand more money before the completion of a project, Byrne warned. Treating people fairly plays a vital role in attracting hard-working reliable technical talent, even for remote jobs.