What to Look For When Hiring an IT Consultant

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Online visibility is crucial to a 21st-century business. However, most owners of enterprises, be they online or brick-and-mortar, are not tech experts. So, how do they maintain a viable company in today’s climate?

We’ll tell you one thing – they don’t waste their time trying to learn HTML or network maintenance on-the-fly. Rather than wing it, they hire others to do it for them. Occasionally, though, there are tasks that even an IT generalist can’t handle on their own.

In these instances, it makes sense to bring in an IT consultant. But, it’s an investment that comes with a cost. As such, it’s vital to do things right the first time. What should you be looking for when hiring an IT consultant? We’ll run you through our checklist below.

Hire Someone Local To Your Area

For some, it’s tempting to bring in a pricey “expert” IT consultant from the opposite side of the country. We advise against this – for an IT consultant to fully understand your business, they need to understand your local market. 

In Washington, D.C., and other metro areas, scores of qualified IT consultants are available for hire. These contractors have an intimate, local knowledge that out-of-towners don’t possess. If something goes wrong, you also have the ability to call them in on the short notice. Lastly, you can build a rapport with local consultants that is much harder to achieve with an outsider.

Seek Experience In Your Market Segment

IT consultants are not interchangeable. If you run an SME and bring in a contractor accustomed to dealing with large corporations, they may propose irrelevant, ineffective solutions. The same goes if there’s a mismatch between the industries they usually serve and yours. If they’re used to concocting IT solutions for bankers, their approach may be out-of-step with an outdoor apparel company.

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When interviewing potential contractors, present them with scenarios that regularly occur within your business. Their replies will go a long way in preventing “fit” conflicts later on.        

They Should Have Effective Communication Skills

Most are familiar with the trope of the socially awkward geek. While it’s just that – a stereotype – people in every industry struggle to get their ideas across – IT included. Businesses hire IT consultants not only to implement systems but also to train less technically-adept employees on how to maintain them.

For this reason, it is highly problematic for IT consultants to have poor communication skills. During the interview process, have potential hires walk you through an issue you don’t fully understand. The best communicators meet you where you’re at, and use analogies to explain complex issues. Those who speak in vague generalities and liberally use jargon/buzzwords might not be the best fit for your company.

They Should Have Relevant Certifications

Like any major profession, IT has scores of professional certifications.  Programmers have C/C++, Java, and Python certifications. Cloud architects value the AWS Certified Developer certification. And, CompTIA certifications are bread-and-butter certificates for network administrators.

Before you bring on an IT consultant, consider where you need help the most. Once you’ve identified your deficiencies, do your best to hire a candidate that has certifications in those areas.

Now, it can be hard, perhaps impossible, to find a candidate that covers all your bases. But, know that just because they lack a specific certification doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t knowledgeable in that area. If they supply substantive, intelligent answers to questions on those topics, they may work out just fine.

Do A Thorough Background Check

Not every contractor operates in an ethical manner. Some, when given privileged access to sensitive information, take advantage of the situation. If an unsavory IT consultant leaks your prototype to the competition, that’s years of hard work down the drain. If they use customer payment data to help themselves, you may end up with a lawsuit on your hands.

Fortunately, you can often avoid these nightmare scenarios by doing your due diligence. Start by asking for a criminal record check – many misdemeanors/felonies are an instant red flag. Then, check their credit. If they have a poor FICO score, access to sensitive data may tempt them to abuse their access.

Finally, check their references. If their contacts say anything that gives you a bad gut feeling, take note of it.     

Avoid Bad IT Hires By Doing Your Homework

Hiring a top-tier IT consultant should be an involved process. By putting in the effort upfront, you’ll end up with someone who will add long-term value to your business.

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