Municipal agencies’ staffing challenge is well known – retiring boomers; a next generation workforce that is smaller and less experienced in critical technical areas; an unstable economy; tighter budgets.
When agencies talk to us about extension of staff they view it as a cost-effective way to match the right technical expertise with fluctuating and diverse workloads. Agencies can need for extension of staff support for a number of reasons: short funding windows for a project; a specific permit or short-term expertise is needed to kick-off a project; technical and management support is needed for a finite period.
Dudek has dozens of project managers active in extension of staff roles. From their experiences, they identified the following interviewing traits shared by agencies that successfully hire and manage extension of staff:
- Block out two hours for the interview, but don’t reveal the time schedule; this provides flexibility to cut short interviews where a candidate isn’t a good fit and allow more in-depth interviews with other candidates.
- Draft questions about three or four critical issues your program faces to generate responses showing problem-solving skills and approaches.
- Ask how their staff will integrate with the agency. Responses should indicate ability to quickly and methodically integrate into existing operations, and that the agency’s agenda is the only agenda. Responses that discuss how processes should be changed are a yellow-flag for the agency.
- Spend sufficient time interviewing the individual(s) who will actually perform the work; a personality fit is equally important to a qualifications fit. If the firm’s principals dominate the interview, make sure you spend sufficient one-on-one time with the proposed staffer(s).
- Establish how the firm will handle diverse service requests. Even the most astute manager cannot always anticipate the complex nature of today’s projects. Public agencies have the most success when extension of staff personnel know how to find the right solution – whether from within their own firm or from others with appropriate expertise.