Proposals, Resumes, and Interviews: Best Practices for Hiring Independent Contractors

By MBO Partners | January 26, 2023

consultant interview

Key Points

Once you have received project proposals from independent professionals, reviewing and assessing candidates is the next step toward engaging the best fit for your needs.

This 5-step process is a hybrid that combines actions usually associated with procuring vendors and those usually part of hiring employees.

It can be done efficiently and will help identify the best choice for your needs, both now and for future work.

When you have received proposals from independent professionals in response to your project post, reviewing and assessing candidates is the next step toward engaging the best fit for your needs. Do this as a five-step process:

  1. Review the proposals
  2. Create the first shortlist
  3. Review the shortlisted candidates’ resumes
  4. Create the final shortlist
  5. Interview shortlisted candidates

At this point, you should have sufficient insight and information to make the best selection.

This hybrid hiring process combines actions usually associated with procuring vendors and those usually part of hiring employees. Contractors are business owners offering certain services to their clients. As such, you need to assess their responses to your project post as “companies” responding to your request for proposal (i.e., your project post), then consider them as potential members of your workforce.

These best practices and suggestions can help you quickly and effectively navigate the selection process.

Proposal Review

Use your project post as a reference to assess proposals. Use these questions to guide your evaluation:

  • Does the proposal align with the project post?
  • Does the contractor demonstrate clear understanding of the project scope?
  • Do they offer examples of experience related to the project?
  • Have they included a portfolio (if applicable) and client references?
  • Is the rate or fixed price in line with your specifications?
  • Has the contractor offered additional information that is useful?

Use this assessment to create the initial shortlist of candidates—no more than ten—to research further.

Resume Review

Using the initial shortlist, turn to the resumes. Your resume review needs to stay in the context of the talent as independent business owners, so it will be different from a review for an employee hire. Focus more on experience and skills than on job titles or tenure.

Follow up by reviewing their LinkedIn profiles. While there may be duplication of information, you might gain additional insight. Check out their timeline posts, written blog pieces, and groups they belong to. Also, review the recommendations they’ve given and received.

Don’t assume candidates with many years of experience won’t be willing to do your project work. Many independent professionals prefer to work with clients at various levels. If the rate or price matches your project post, don’t worry if they are overqualified. Often, they are eager to do projects that call on skills they enjoy using, which may be a subset of the skills they’ve acquired in their careers.

From the resume review, create a final shortlist and arrange to interview each candidate.


If all your remaining candidates “look good on paper” in relation to achieving project goals, your interview can help identify the best choice based on the quality of your interaction. Paying attention to how they answer and ask questions, not just the content of their answers, can give you insight into the quality of their soft skills—verbal communication and problem-solving, for example. This can give you a feel for the candidate’s fit for your team and company as well as for the project.

Keep these logistical points in mind:

  • Use video rather than just audio. You can gain a lot of insight from nonverbal communication.
  • Make the interview time efficient, no more than 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Be on time. If you will be late or must reschedule, let the interviewee know immediately.
  • If you have rescheduled the interview, make it a priority. Don’t reschedule a second time.
  • Engage in active listening.
  • Think long term, not just this project. Is this someone you might want to re-engage for future work?

It’s good to prepare a list of questions beforehand, but don’t miss the chance to go off script and ask other questions if the conversation warrants it.  Here are examples to consider including on your list:

  • What prompted you to become an independent contractor?
  • Do you have business goals that this project can support?
  • What are the top three success factors in working with clients?
  • What would you do if something occurred that negatively affected the project?
  • Do you have enough bandwidth to do the project?
  • Tell me about a recent project that best represents your work.
  • What three benefits will you bring to the project that set you apart?
  • Tell me about your experience on project teams.
  • Do you have any questions about the project? The team? The company?

This review and assessment process can be done efficiently and will help identify the best choice for your needs, both now and for future work.


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