Select Contractors – How I chose contractors – Development Manager

Select Contractors
Select Contractors

Select Contractors for Interview

How did I select contractors to see at interview?

I have been both poacher and gamekeeper in this respect.

Working as a contract Software Development Manager, I required people for both our London & Mumbai offices. I hired contract and permanent developers, infrastructure support and test engineers.

At the time, we were not in the business of taking on people and training them. A major project was failing.

In a matter of months, I read hundreds and hundreds of CVs from Indian and English agencies.

Appalling CVS

The bulk of CVs for the Mumbai jobs were, frankly, appalling.

They had a habit of scarfing information from a company’s Web site (Inter- or Intra-net). They pasted this all over the CV claiming this was the project on which they had worked. Many CVs were identical, except for the name and address.

A lot of CVs claimed long years of all sorts of technical stuff (when combined, [but not simply added]) whereas the applicant had only been two years out of college.

Many claimed expertise in something (eg: Perl, J2ME) when subsequent interviews proved they had none.

I also read many CVs from English agencies and, generally, these usually tended to be reasonably put together. I have seen plenty of good and bad CVs.

Grading CVs by Requirement

I draw a grid on each CV. I give marks (based on years of using the technology and the complexity of the project) for each requirement I deemed important.

For example: “Degree, Java, J2ME, VB, LDAP, Solaris, XML, UML, Eclipse, DRM, Billing” etc. etc.

If anything is not entirely relevant but useful (e.g. Linux/BSD or C# / C++) was obvious, this too was of note.

CV Requirements Fit

I would expect most of my requirements would fit from the two or three most recent jobs/projects. If it wasn’t happening, I would put the CV to one side (not ditch it).

I graded CVs: Good, Ok, Poor.

I would check my grades. This meant I had to read CVs multiple times. The second/third read of the ‘Good’ CV tells me if there are gaps, omissions or well-hidden bullshit.

Kept CVs for Six Months

I kept all CVs for at least six months or more as I would often see a CV re-submitted (perhaps a couple of months later via a different agency) and I did not want to go through all the grading work again.

If anybody else follows this regime, this is why you get no response when you apply for the same job via a different agency a couple of weeks later.

I always explained why I was turning down candidates. Agencies should give that feedback to the candidate IMHO, but they almost never do.

Select Contractors by Telephone Interview

I would end up with a small pile for telephone interviews.

This would usually consist of a few technical questions which would swiftly determine if the applicant had practical experience in the field. There are plenty of people who know the theory but if you want say, a contractor to hit the ground running, you need someone who has been bloodied at the front line.

If I want database expertise, I don’t care if they have Oracle 8 or 9i or whatever. But can they tell me if it is possible to write a recursive UDF for Oracle (Yes) or where a Java class physically resides (somewhere on the CLASSPATH)?

Select Contractors by Onsite Interview

Passing the phone interview would lead to an onsite interview. Incidentally, one agency I know records the phone interview they give (the candidate is made aware of this), sends the WAV to me and from this I can often tell if the candidate is winging it (to be polite).

It’s amazing how many people argue with the interviewer when they don’t know the answer (and the questions should always have one simple unambiguous answer).

IMHO, this whole CV/telephone interview process is very important. If you want good, highly productive people, you cannot skimp on the initial screening processes.

One company for which I worked, also used to supply people to clients who had peculiar resourcing criteria (i.e. only support contract budgets could be used to employ staff!).

Not one of my supplied consultants was rejected.

Experience Wanted

Those managers who want only 3 page CVs cannot possibly be getting mature, fast and accurate people who have the experience to do the job with a minimum of hand-holding.

I found it difficult, for example, getting anyone with more than 3 years development experience in India. This is because they often tried to get up the career ladder as swiftly as possible.

But who can possibly get to know all the peculiarities of C++ libraries and learn the debugging/fixing process for large projects in less than three years?

Perhaps it’s a status thing.

Development Experience

On the other hand, I could easily find people with six or more years development experience in the UK. And I want these knowledgeable guys to teach my other people all the tricks that they have learnt over the years.

Consequently, I want to see a CV that shows this.

BTW, if you end up working in a place with a lackadaisical manager, who “just doesn’t have the time to read all those CVs”, you’ll probably end up in a lousy environment anyway.

That’s how I select contractors for interview. I hope this has been useful.

For more useful advice on looking for contracts click on Job Hunting.

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