How to Hire a Contracts and Compliance Manager
By Anna Talerico
Sep 17 2019
Last week I shared the reasons why your SaaS probably needs a contracts & compliance manager. Hopefully, I made the case and at least inspired you to consider this important role. Here’s more info on how to hire a contracts & compliance manager—what to look for, how to interview and get them up to speed.
The characteristics of a great contracts manager:
Based on my experience, you don’t need a lawyer or a paralegal tfor this role. You need someone with these characteristics:
- Keen eye for detail.
- Aptitude for breaking complex things down into simple, digestible steps (required for reviewing 60-page contracts and 600 question security assessments).
- Business acumen to understand the risks, rewards, and tradeoffs inherent in making decisions regarding customer contracts.
- Understanding of your type of product, how you go to market, and key requirements to protect your company.
- Skilled negotiator and communicator.
- Stamina to handle many complex documents at once and see them through to completion with a high degree of accuracy.
- Experience—don’t break in a contracts & compliance manager if you are hiring your first one! You need experience.
How to interview for a contract manager
This is how I interview contract manager candidates.
- Phone screen 1: This step is just about weeding out the crazies. Have your HR person or recruiter conduct a basic 20-minute phone screen to understand their background, communication style, experience, potential culture fit, etc.
- Phone screen 2: This is the core of the interview. My standard interview questions are below.
- In-person interview(s): Bring your candidate in for an in-person interview. Include other team members (leadership from sales & customer success, operations, etc) in the interview to gauge social skills, chemistry, and culture fit and to ensure everyone is aligned. Use this interview to probe further on experience, business acumen and understanding of key legal concepts. Make sure the candidate asks you great questions too. During this interview, I recommend showing them a few short sample contract clauses (indemnification, limitation of liability and IP would be the most important to me) and ask them to read those clauses and describe in non-legal terms what those clauses mean. This shows the candidate’s real understanding of legal concepts, on the fly.
- Sample contract review: If the in-person interview goes well, I have one final step to verify what I learned about the candidate during the interview process. I will provide a final candidate with one real contract from a customer (before it was redlined and final) and ask them to review, comment and redline it. Of course, I am not looking for it to be perfect, but I am looking for their understanding of what would be important to the business, what sticking points there may be in a contract and their general approach to doing redlines. If they miss something very critical (again indemnification, limitation of liability and IP would be the most important to me), I would not proceed with the candidate.
- Legal screen (optional): Assuming your legal firm is on board with hiring for this role, you may also consider having them conduct one phone interview with your final candidate as well. Having their blessing will be reassuring for you, and will help set them up to have a great working relationship as well.
Sample contract manager interview questions
Here are my go to contract manager interview questions. I may mix in others, depending on the candidate and their background, but I always make sure these questions get asked.
- Describe in your own words what a contracts and compliance manager should responsible for.
- Based on your experience, describe in detail the day-to-day of a contracts and compliance manager—what’s a typical day look like?
- What do you think the characteristics of a great contracts and compliance manager are? What makes a great contracts and compliance manager?
- What is the most difficult procurement process you have had to navigate through?
- Describe a time when the customer had a ‘non-negotiable’ term and you were able to overcome that in your favor through negotiation and discussions.
- Based on what you currently know of our company, product, or service what would you anticipate would be the business terms that are most critical to review? What might be sticking points in contracts?
- What do you do when working on a redline and negotiation and your customer states a business requirement that your product/company can’t fulfill?
- What is your personal approach to juggling lots of balls and competing demand when you have many contracts and/or security assessments in flight?
- How do you set expectations around the process and timelines for contract reviews?
- What kind of environment do you thrive in?
- Describe a situation where you missed a detail and it ended up causing a problem? What was the outcome? What did you learn?
- Describe your ideal role and your ideal company culture.
- What do you do if you need to know something/get an answer, and you don’t know who/where to go to?
- In your opinion, how should a contracts and compliance manager be measured?
- What types of personalities do you work well with? Which type of personalities are challenging for you?
How does a contracts & compliance manager get up to speed?
You’ve hired your contracts & compliance manager! Now what? How do they get up to speed on your business, model, risks, customer requirements, etc?
The best contract managers get themselves up to speed. If you point them in the right direction, introduce them to the right people in your company, and give them a few resources, they will go absorb everything they need to do their job. They will review prior contracts & security assessments to understand acceptable terms, set up calls with legal and insurance if needed, and start to build a knowledge base of information for them to draw on.
The first handful of contracts and/or security assessments that your contract manager reviews & redlines will need your involvement, and perhaps even a lawyer’s review, depending on how comfortable you are with reviewing legal documents. But once you have done a few contract reviews together and are confident that they are catching everything that needs to be caught and are doing redlines well, you can start to review their work in a different manner. They will surface issues to you to decide on, they will make recommendations proactively on how to navigate through certain terms or negotiations. They will get themselves into the driver’s seat pretty quickly.
And I should point out, since this is a person who reviews legal documents, please get an opinion and input from your legal counsel! I am not a lawyer and don’t give legal advice.