Hiring an IT consultant can be a long, tenuous process. IT consultants get access to sensitive data and software, so they need to be well vetted. Plus, every business is different, so every business has different IT requirements. Before hiring the first IT consultant you meet on the street, ask him or her these ten questions.
Question: What is your network/technology philosophy?
Answer: This is an important question because it will tell you how they view the network, and it should integrate with your business and day to day. If their philosophy doesn’t line up with yours, then it’s time to end the conversation. Everyone wants maximum uptime for the least amount of expense, but the devil is in the details. Does your consultant want to build hardware, when you would rather purchase from reputable vendors? Does your consultant work on a break-fix model when you would prefer a managed and monitored network? Do you measure user satisfaction as part of your overall network health? Is uptime the primary goal for your network? These are all questions that fall under your Network/Technology philosophy. So, does your consultant’s philosophy line up with yours? If not, are you willing to change your viewpoint or your consultant change his? If not, then this relationship will never work. Go ahead and end the relationship early, they will cause you nothing but heartache and your mom would never approve of them anyways.
Question: Do you have experience in my size and type of business?
Answer: The answer should be yes. An IT consultant who has worked only with Fortune 500 companies does not have the right background to serve your small business. The same goes for industry. If a consultant has focused on banking his whole career, he may not have the experience for your services company.
Make sure to check references so that you know he has also been successful with businesses similar to yours. You can find references on LinkedIn in addition to the references the candidate gives you.
Question: Can I see samples of your work?
Answer: References are important, but sometimes they don’t tell the full story. Before hiring an IT consultant, check them out on sites like GitHub, Coderbits or CloudSpokes. These sites will allow you to see the projects they have worked on and should give you a better idea of the actual work they could do for you. It should also show you the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, which are good to know in any hiring situation.
Question: Are you familiar with the hardware and software my company uses?
Answer: It’s true that IT consultants can learn various hardware and software products quickly, but if you can find a consultant that has experience with your particular products, that’s a great bonus. You’ll have a shorter learning curve and fewer errors while onboarding your new IT consultant.
Question: Do you have any certifications or accreditations?
Answer: Many IT software vendors require you to pass ongoing exams to remain certified in their tools. Make sure your potential consultants have these important certifications for any software that you are currently using or expecting to use – or at least products similar to it.
You can also check to see if the consultants are members of any professional development organizations to determine if they are active in the IT industry. The more involved they are, the more they should know.
Question: Are you willing to do a background check?
Answer: Your IT consultant will have access to your most sensitive software and data, so it’s important for you to trust him fully. Ask any final candidates to go through a background check. Look for any criminal activity or suspicious credit scores. If he isn’t willing to do the background check, keep looking.
Question: How large is your operation?
Answer: IT consultants come in many sizes. You can hire a freelancer or an IT company. Either way, make sure you know if the consultant is part of a company or independent – and then ask the subsequent follow-up questions.
If it is an independent, does he have the staff to cover him while he is on vacation or in the case of emergencies?
If it’s a company, who will you be working with? Make sure it’s not the summer intern or an outsourced help desk that you can’t reach during U.S. business hours.
Question: How do you like to work?
Answer: Make sure the consultant will meet often enough and see how available he will be to take calls for questions. More importantly, check to see how he will complete the work. Can he remotely monitor your network, hardware, and software or will he have to be on-site? Will he train your employees to use new technology? Also, he should be able to explain issues to you in a non-technical way. Most of us don’t have the IT experience of an IT consultant, so you need someone who will be patient and help you understand the issues your company faces.
Question: What is your relationship with your vendors?
Answer: Some IT consultants represent specific vendors and receive a commission or referral fee for getting clients to use their products. Your IT consultant should have your best interests at heart – not his paycheck. Make sure he doesn’t have any relationships with vendors that require him to sell you products you don’t need and bias his opinion.
Question: What do your contracts look like?
Answer: The contract should be comprehensive and cover everything the consultant will work on. Check to ensure the vendor has professional liability insurance. Your business needs protection in case your new IT specialist makes a mistake that harms your company. The contract should also outline how budgeting and invoicing works. Look for a consultant that provides detailed invoices so you can see all of their completed work. The contract may even provide guarantees to complete projects on time and within budget or fixed bids for projects.
We know that choosing an IT consultant can be tough, especially when your technical expertise starts with Facebook and ends with Microsoft Office. Contact us today to get the support you need.