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How to interview an outsourcing partner

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Making a decision on which outsourcing provider you choose is the beginning of a committed business relationship. The success of this relationship can't be guaranteed, but you can eliminate certain risks during the selection process. It's worth doing sufficient groundwork before interviewing potential partners to test and narrow down your choices.

Before the interview

Check the company's portfolio to understand how outsourcing your project can help your organisation grow.

It's a good idea to start your background check by googling your potential partner. Reading reviews, you might discover setbacks that other businesses had which may apply to you.

Delve into the business's LinkedIn profile, where you can see a synopsis of their experience and also how their contacts regard them. Check for recommendations and what skills they have been endorsed for. If you have any common contacts, reach out to them and ask for a reference.

Prepare your questions and rehearse the interview ahead of time to estimate an approximate meeting length. It will be valuable information for your interviewee and will help you schedule other meetings efficiently.

If you are hiring a web designer, a writer or a marketing agency, ask for their online portfolio or samples of previous marketing campaigns. It gives you an opportunity to assess the quality of their work, style or originality of their ideas.

For more technical jobs like IT project management you may not get samples due to confidentiality, but you can ask them to do a simple task instead.

Interview

During the interview, avoid disruptions and ask open questions that will help you assess how they meet your needs. Ask for specific examples of how they have handled particular problems, illustrating issues that your own company is experiencing.

Take notes. They will be invaluable in refreshing your memory after you've met a few providers. Note verbal, as well as non-verbal, communication.

Some of the questions you should ask your interviewing partners are:

- Can they fill your talent gap? Do they have the right skill set and industry experience?

- Can they operate within your budget?

- Are they compatible with your corporate culture and business needs?

- What sales productivity reporting, transparency and oversight do they offer?

- What sales force automation technology is used? How do they share the information with clients?

- What processes do they use to ensure quality and business continuity?

- Do they offer an option to run a small pilot project before you make a decision? Providers that happily go this extra mile usually understand the importance of excellent customer service and are likely to continue to provide it long after the contract is signed.

- How they handle the work pressure? How do they tackle the problems caused by its employees? Do they compensate for the lost revenue? This question will enable you to assess how they deal with problems.

After the interview

Summarise your impressions and findings by writing them down straight after the interview, while they are still fresh in your mind. To be able to compare providers and eventually pick one, it's critical to have an accurate point of reference.

Ask the vendor for the references and check them. Ask how satisfied they were with the service received. You can assume that you'll be talking to happy customers, so it's worth looking online for different clients, and contacting them via LinkedIn for example, to get a more objective reference.