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6 Criteria for Selecting an IT Staffing Company

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Leveraging outsourced labor is an important tool in today’s turbulent economy and can result in very successful project execution, but care must be exercised in partnering with an IT staffing company since they will become your partner and must have a shared sense of project ownership and overall success. Below are 6 tips for choosing a staffing company:


1. What experience do they have in staffing your industry?

Is a software developer a software developer regardless of the industry? Well, it may be true they share the same skills, but in order to make your project a success you need a contractor who understands the subtleties of your industry. The contractor should have at least a basic understanding of the customers, partners and business models used in your company so that they can advise your project team on the best approach for developing and deploying the technology required in your project.

Ask your IT staffing company if they have provided contractors in your industry, in your specific niche of the industry.  Don’t be afraid to ask for specific examples. If you operate in the insurance industry writing health insurance policies for small companies a contractor with experience in accounting systems for Fortune 500 insurance companies might not deliver the skills you expect or need. Make sure the contractor you hire has experience that matches your business.

2. How do they pre-qualify candidates before you interview them?

First, understand how most IT staffing companies operate. They receive a request for a specific type of contractor – usually with a few (vague) requirements such as .Net skills, Java, C+, etc. Secondly, the IT staffing company will typically search proprietary and public databases of candidates using the search terms you provided them. Third, once a set of candidates is returned the recruiter will skim the resumes, usually looking for keywords, and will pare the list down to a small pile. So far, this process is pretty standard across the industry, but what happens next can very widely. Respectable firms will review the resume in detail to ensure the candidate encompasses the skills and experience you require (industry or otherwise). Next, they will speak with the candidate via telephone and ask pointed questions about their skills/experience (known as a technical interview). Candidates that appear to match the requirements and have personalities matching the customer’s work environment are then interviewed in person. Only a few candidates make the final selection and are delivered to customers for interview.

Less respectable staffing companies will conduct their online search for candidates matching the keywords you provided and will forward the resumes to the customer, requiring the customer to spend time culling the pile. Worse, the staffing company doesn’t conduct a technical interview to ensure the candidate actually has the skills and experience stated on the resume. Unfortunately, many candidates exaggerate or lie about their skills. Make sure you understand how your IT staffing company finds and qualifies candidates.

3. How do they recruit and retain qualified consultants?

The best IT staffing companies go beyond a database of qualified candidates and keep a rolodex of contractors they’ve employed in the past. This allows them to keep track of the good (and bad) contractors. Further, successful IT staffing companies will proactively seek candidates with skills in demand such as the enterprise resource planning software from SAP. Ask your IT staffing company how they recruit and retain contractors. Ask how they build and maintain relationships with their contractors to ensure long term success. Lesser-experienced companies will be short on answers.

4. How quickly do they provide candidates?

There’s no magic answer to how fast an IT staffing company should provide you with candidates but it should be a) long enough to perform a thorough search and vetting of candidates, and b) should be based on the difficulty of the skill set/experience profile you are requesting. If you ask for a contractor with .Net skills and experience working in law firms and your IT staffing company produces a list of candidates within hours – be wary. If you ask for contractors with SAP HR skills with experience in the oil and gas industry willing to work internationally… expect a few days to weeks for good candidates.

5. Do they care about your business model?

You want your IT staffing company to find qualified candidates with the skills and experience you require, but how do they know what will make a successful candidate in your company? Only time spent discussing your company, customers, business model and environment will provide a recruiter with the information needed to make a successful placement. Make sure your staffing company is interested in your company and takes the time to ask the important questions like: “what personality traits make for a successful employee in your company?”

6. Do they provide client and contractor references?

For an IT staffing company to be successful over time they must either have many clients (each with a few contractors) or few clients (with many contractors). Find out which model they pursue and request references from clients. Ask to speak with the person who directly managed the contractor on a daily basis to determine the quality of the match. Also – ask for a reference list of their contractors. Happy contractors will perform quality work for you but unhappy contractors are guaranteed to be looking for their next engagement and can leave you in a lurch. Most contractors are not obligated to give two weeks notice and will often quit an engagement without so much as a telephone call.

Copyright 2009

Kelly Short is an expert in the technology, business process automation and marketing disciplines. He shares over 15 years worth of experience everyday at http://www.kellyrshort.com helping small and medium companies with actionable advice on increasing sales with powerful marketing, lowering operating costs using business process management, and leveraging unified technology to crush competition.

Tags: it staffing company, contractor, software developer, outsourcing


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