Ashish Goel, a Phoenix-based project leader from India, said his first interview at a U.S. firm was a confusing experience.

“I went in there expecting to be bombarded with technical questions,” Goel said. “Instead, the interviewing panel devoted the first 20 minutes to touting the company’s strengths and telling me what a great place it was to work in. My immediate thought was—they are desperate; there must be something wrong; that’s why they are pushing so hard.”

Goel explained that in India, he would have to “sell” himself and his skills to the potential employer, because companies have plenty of talent to choose from.

Goel nearly rejected the U.S. company that wanted to hire him because of a subtle cultural misunderstanding. But dealing with foreign workers often involves even greater challenges—everything from language to housing issues. It logically follows that some U.S. companies may benefit from contracting with an outside firm for assistance in hiring foreign workers. In this article, we’ll provide basic guidelines to consider when selecting a contracting agency if you need help with hiring IT workers from overseas.

The benefits of outsourcing
Beyond the assistance that a staffing agency can provide with such issues as foreign language barriers and relocation problems, these agencies also offer companies a chance to tap into a pool of extremely gifted workers. “We find foreign consultants to be hardworking, talented, brilliant professionals,” said Natalie Wharton, regional recruiting manager for Chicago-based Technium, Inc.

Wharton has found that outsourcing with a staffing agency is especially helpful if she’s faced with filling positions quickly.

“If we have a staffing need that is out of our core hiring focus, or with little lead time available…we turn to a contracting company. The advantage to their representation of foreign talent is that often they will have a large, [technically trained] pool of consultants readily available,” Wharton said.

Wharton has also used a staffing agency in order to hire foreign consultants who will work on a temporary basis.

“The actual process of bringing them to a project is different than our permanent hires because of temporary housing and relocation issues,” Wharton said.

Fundamental questions to ask when selecting a staffing firm
Selecting a contracting agency that is best-suited to your needs can help ensure that the workers they recruit will be the right fit for your IT department. Wharton suggested asking the following questions:

  • Will the agency handle all of the workers’ travel and relocation needs?
  • If a project changes, will the agency be able to provide workers or consultants with flexible schedules?
  • Does the agency have detailed and up-to-date information on the skills of each worker or consultant?
  • Does the agency guarantee that workers’ resumes accurately represent their skill levels?
  • Will the agency demonstrate that it offers fair market, competitive rates?
  • Will the agency pay their consultants or workers on time so that their performance is not negatively affected?
  • Will the firm provide a knowledgeable point of contact who will respond quickly to your needs and questions?

Background questions
You should consider the background of the agency as well. Ask about the methods that the firm uses to recruit and screen potential workers. Vidya Sharma, manager of human resources at the Maryland-based IT consulting firm Crescent Systems LLC, recommended that you don’t overlook obvious background questions:

  • How long has the agency been in business?
  • How many consultants and workers does the agency have in its roster?
  • What is the company’s annual turnover?
  • Who is the agency’s other existing clientele?

Once you have found a good contracting firm, your challenge shifts to managing the relationship effectively with both the agency and the workers the firm has provided. Your chances of success are greater if you have taken great care in selecting the right contracting firm.