A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.

11/21/2005

Company Leadership: Who to Hire – Consultant, Contractor, Employee

I realized that in telling you how I think you should interview an employee differently than a consultant, I failed to tell you under what circumstances I would hire each.

I consider a consultant to be the white knight who is hired to save your ass. They are experts in something and if you need that something...you need it bad. A good consultant will ride in, fix your mess, and get out quick. They have the skills to quickly identify root problems, implement the required changes, and leave you ready to tackle the next big thing. All for a large and well deserved fee.

A contractor isn’t hired to be a hero, although she may be. She is hired to act as a temporary worker who you should interview as if she was being considered for full-time employment but with the understanding that you don’t have to keep her. Most consultants are actually contractors. I use contractors to flush out my teams when I need more people and I can’t afford or don’t want the long-term investment that comes with an employee. Contracting is also a way that many companies hire, this gives the company a relatively risk free way to evaluate candidates before establishing a more permanent relationship.

An employee is someone you want to keep. It actually surprises me that this is the employment preference for most workers and companies. I firmly believe that employee candidates should work as contractors for 3 months at which time both parties should sit down and reassess the situation. An employee is expensive. Between the taxes, health care, and extra perks, a company should make sure that the investment is sound. And from the contractor’s perspective it’s better to say that the contract ended than to say that the manager was incompetent. (This isn’t something you would want to share in an interview.)

Business is about money. If there is no money there is no business. But successful businesses are also about people. Both customers and workers. It is the manager and business owner who must make sure to balance those two forces to maximize the value of both.

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