Hiring Short Termers

Hiring Short Termers

Tailor the talk

Contractors are good at interviews. They interview more often than their permanent, full-time counterparts and they learn to market and sell themselves very effectively. If you're interviewing contractors or freelancers for a project, you need to be equally savvy. In particular, you should tailor certain questions for the contract nature of work and, indeed, the contract personality.

Saying this, there are lots of questions that will be the same whether you're interviewing freelancers or candidates hoping to fill permanent roles. The key with freelancers is to adopt a combination of both conventional and contractor-specific interview techniques.

Have a plan

As with any interview, you must plan well. Have your questions formally prepared and word them to be open ended so that candidates are forced to elaborate without being coached. You have a short amount of time to get to know a complete stranger who could be critical to a very big project, so you want to hear what they have to say – and lots of it. Let them speak for the vast majority of the interview. You, meanwhile, should be poised for some serious note taking.

Project history

Think project experience rather than work experience. The companies for which contractors have worked are relevant, but the specific project experience they bring to the table is more important.

What form did their previous briefs take and what were the timeframes?

Freelancers, by nature, should be adaptable workers, but it doesn't hurt to make sure. Can they work to incomplete creative briefs or do they need more direction? Can they pick things up quickly and work to tight deadlines? Or do they need time to absorb information and settle in?

What did they enjoy about particular projects?

Get to know their tastes. Their likes and dislikes may reveal their suitability and potential enthusiasm (or apathy) for your project.

What was their specific role on each project?

How many people did they supervise? Can they explain the position they filled and its context within the project as a whole? Are they team players and do they play their parts responsibly? Or are they loners best left to their own devices?

How did each project impact the company for which they were working?

A huge giveaway if this renders them speechless. And a significant insight into candidates' interest in, motivation for and appreciation of the impact that a project has on a company. Do these consultants actually care about the overall effect of their work? Or do they just show up each day without thinking about the bigger picture?

What did they do when there was a hitch on a project?

How do these candidates respond to problems? Do they rise to a challenge or are they easily defeated? Perhaps they are bluffers who sweep discrepancies under the carpet in the hope that no one will notice before they are gone. After all, they could be walking away from the job with no repercussions to face but a nice fat cheque.

Personal training

The best consultants never stop learning. Experienced contractors should be used to arranging and financing their own professional development, skills training and work experience, as these lead to better projects and higher fees.

What training have these candidates undertaken?

Are they truly committed to increasing their skills and knowledge? If applicable, ask for certificates to verify claims to training courses.

Do they belong to any professional associations?

A way of separating the professionals from the newcomers to contracting is to determine how effectively they network in their industries. Experienced CreateWork members usually take advantage of the benefits, leads and resources offered by many professional associations.

Money matters

Arguably the most unpleasant part of any interview is the issue of money. Contractors' pay schedules are unique. Non-payroll employees have different expectations altogether, so you should establish what these are so that you are both clear.

What are their rates and how do they invoice? Do they charge on an hourly, daily or per project basis? Are you billed weekly, biweekly or monthly?

Contractors' rates and billing terms may or may not be negotiable, so remember to cover this important ground.


Candidates' project experience is critical to your decision so, if you're serious, start checking their references. If contractors have worked on a number of briefs for the same company, ask for the names of a few project managers.

While managers offer an important perspective, coworkers can provide equally valuable insights into candidates' work ethics and skills. Try to track down some of these insights.

At the end of the day, hiring contractors is often a case of trial and error. But, with a thoughtfully planned and thorough interview, you can at least minimise the trials and, more importantly, the errors on short term projects that you can't afford to get wrong.