You need to find a savvy, quality-minded professional who respects a strict budget and grasps the technical nuances of complex databases. Work needs to get done, and there's no time to waste. Where's the best place to start looking, and how do you effectively screen and monitor the talent to protect your company's best interests?
A good place to start is in the procurement phase, with a request for proposal (RFP). Independent contractors submitting responses should meet all stipulated requirements for style, format, and timeliness. Their answers and supporting details should be thorough, devoid of overly self-promotional language and claims, and establish their qualifications and capabilities in a manner that is clear and concise.
Setting the Stage for the Right Talent
The RFP solicitation may be offered to a pool of potential suppliers who have an interest in fulfilling the requirements you outline. RFPs should be organized in a manner that identifies the risks and rewards of a particular project by defining the specifications and requirements necessary to successfully complete a contracted assignment. It should be noted that your RFP does not have to be lengthy or overly complex. In fact, while you want to be clear about the project scope and requirements, you do not want to be so restrictive that it hinders independent contractors from proposing creative solutions to the problem you are trying to solve.
Independent contractors may receive RFPs as a result of their membership in a trade or professional association, business listing, referral, or other means. Upon receiving an RFP, an independent contractor may evaluate his or her readiness to fulfill the requirements described in the RFP, as well as conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the value of the opportunity. As the sponsoring business, it is in your best interest to carefully craft the RFP after conducting an internal needs assessment with all relevant stakeholders.
Evaluating the Candidates
If the project opportunity is deemed profitable, an interested independent contractor will prepare a proposal document in response to the solicitation. The proposal may be the independent contractor's only opportunity to demonstrate his/her worthiness, so while proposals can be labor intensive, the effort required to collect the necessary information and prepare a suitable response may be a good measure of interest.
As you evaluate the proposals, you should determine:
Independent contractors culled from the initial evaluation may advance to a secondary vetting phase including in-person interviews, background screening, key informant/reference interviews, and presentation of samples. You are not only seeking to determine fit for the proposed project, but you will want to validate that candidates qualify as an independent worker. Criteria to consider include:
More subjective determinations, such as personality, approachability, and flexibility may further narrow down your pool of suitable prospective candidates.
When a match is determined and an offer is extended, you and the independent contractor may enter into a binding service contract. Service contracts establish specifications such as the start and end date of an assignment, as well as procedural or operational requirements. When committing these elements to define a business relationship, both you and the independent contractor must define resources, restrictions, and terms of engagement. This process can help the independent contractor assess his or her readiness to serve the contract, and it may help you in considering the manner in which your affected teams or departments intersect with the independent contractor or work product.
Scope of Work
A clause within a service contract, the scope of work defines what the independent contractor will or won't be responsible for, detailed timelines and milestone deliverables, and set expectations the business holds necessary in order to label a work product "finished." It should also include provisions for revisions and changes.
An effective scope of work is critical - often only appreciated when pressures rise or a miscommunication is claimed. A well-defined SOW protects both independent contractor and business. Detailed parameters, free from ambiguity, can establish rights and responsibilities of both parties and limit liability.
In addition to reflecting the tactical and functional requirements of the project (and the means by which the independent contractor will commit to them), a scope of work details responsibilities incumbent upon the business. These include timely submission of background resource material, access to systems and data sources, timely response to questions from the independent contractor, and reasonable review periods. While the independent contractor may be the party charged with executing a project, there are shared and reciprocal responsibilities between contractor and business necessary to facilitate project completion.
The scope of work sets the foundation for good communication between you and the contractor so approach it as a collaborative project. You want to ensure that you discuss the details and define a scope of work that clearly articulates what will be done, how it will be done, in what time frame and for how much. Don't assume that something will be done as part of the project; discuss it with the independent contractor and spell it out in the scope of work.
If possible, evaluate independent contractors on small projects before committing to larger ones. This will allow you to assess their work style, communication and fit with your company. Finding the right independent contractor is not unlike identifying and engaging traditional talent. You want to seek out candidates that have the skills you need but also fit with the way your company operates.
Need to know information for any individuals or companies hoping to engage independent professionals in the 21st Century.
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