Tips & Tricks on Hiring Contractors – By Eric Nagel

by Jenae Reid on January 9, 2018


At some point in your career, you’ll realize you can’t, or shouldn’t, do everything. Maybe you have a job in front of you, but are lacking the skills to complete it. Or maybe you can do the job, but your time is better spent elsewhere.

This is where contractors are useful. But hiring your first (or 20th) contractor can be scary: get it wrong and you’ve wasted time and money. Here are some tips for hiring the right person:

Fish Where There are Fish

While the phrase, “Fish where there are fish” comes from the marketing world, it applies to hiring as well. Know where the people who you want to hire are currently working online, then approach them there.

When in doubt, a general marketplace like will do.

No Brown M&Ms

Van Halen’s rider called for the removal of all brown M&Ms from bowls of candy placed backstage; “When (David Lee Roth) would walk backstage, if (he) saw a brown M&M in that bowl… (it’s) guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error.”

In my RFPs (request for proposals), I include a line asking the applicant to tell me the sum of four plus two, or something similar. If their application does not include the answer to my masked question, I immediately reject it. If they cannot follow directions in my RFP, what kind of work will they do on the actual project?

Read (and Leave) Feedback

Listening to past employers is important, so read through the feedback on the candidate’s profile. If there’s negative feedback, ask the candidate about it. And when the job is done, remember to leave feedback, too: it will help the next person who’s looking to hire this contractor.

Hire Three, Keep One

Do not hire one person to do the entire task (unless it’s a small task). Hire your top three, and have them all do the same portion of the larger task. You’ll pay three times for that one bit of work, but you can compare your top candidates work against each other, then end the contracts of two of them and keep the best on to complete the job.

Distributed Workforces

If you have a lot of work to get done, and it has to be done manually, consider using a distributed workforce via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. You first create a template for your question, such as “what is the phone number for ______?” Next, you upload the list of data points, and start the batch. Your questions will go out to an army of workers who can simultaneously answer your questions providing you with real, human answers in record time, and for just pennies per answer.

Even after years of hiring contractors, I still hire the wrong people. The key is hiring fewer wrong people, recognizing the wrong hires quickly, and replacing them with the right people.




Eric is partner at, where he helps turn amazing ideas into profitable, scalable businesses.

This article appeared in issue 41 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in January 2018.

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