10 Tips for Hiring a Consultant

calander 18 April, 2012

What you should ask yourself when hiring a consultant

Consultants, if used wisely, can bring on a great impact to your business. Their outside perspective and years of experience can initiate new ideas. I usually hire consultants/agencies for two reasons:

  • Teach me (those things for which they were hired). Ideally, I will learn how to do something and then hire them to teach me something else. The good consultants will get hired repeatedly. Don’t be afraid to ask for tutorials and reference documents.
  • Hire them to do something I don’t want to learn or have the time to learn. This can be categorized as “Please save me I’m drowning”. They are a great resource for this type of work.

Below is my top 10 tips for hiring a consultant:

  • Look in-house first. In-house talent does not get the respect they deserve. They know more about your company then any consultant. Utilize your resources and let your in-house talent be a part of the process.
  • Know what you want your consultant to do. Be clear what you want. Do you want a pair of hands? Are you hiring an expert, someone who will tell you what to do? Or looking for someone to solve a problem?
  • Be honest with yourself and be willing to change. If you’re hiring a consultant you must be willing to change your ways. There is a reason you went looking for help. Let them help you.
  • Find someone focused on your needs and not theirs. Be aware of large agencies with pre-made (model) solutions. I have experienced this first hand and it is extremely frustrating. They have their agenda and are looking into ways for you to spend more than you want to. A consultant should demonstrate that they share your organization’s values, understand your style, and can demonstrate that they have the skills for the job.
  • Checking references is always a good idea. You may know someone from his or her LinkedIn network.
  • Conduct a personal interview just as you would if you were hiring for a full-time position. If they have a team I would want to meet the team as well.
  • Look for people rooted in strategy. Look at his or her portfolio and ask a candidate to solve an open-ended problem. It puts technical skills, critical thinking and aptitude for communication on display. When you’re hiring for creativity, ideas are great, but scan for the initiative. How do ideas impact the business? Does he or she show a track record of execution? That should be the No. 1 barometer.
  • Bring the consultant in-house before the start of a project. It helps to become acquainted before working together and establishes a solid foundation on which virtual work collaboration can be conducted.
  • Have a budget and ensure your consultant works from within that budget. It is good to give a range or a maximum. This guides your consultant to variables and gives you the opportunity to review what is most important. Sometimes you do not know what is more important until you have heard all of your options.
  • Consider asking for a brief pre-proposal outline. It will provide an excellent way for you to evaluate your candidates and help your decision.

Consultants do not have to be expensive and you should be able to find someone willing to work within your budget. They should be willing to do as little or as much as you want. If the two parties are fair and understanding with each other, a friendship can blossom. The benefits can be extremely valuable to your business as well as theirs.

If you are happy with your consultant, do not forget to provide them with positive references. References are so important and it is vital to the growth of their business. Be kind and like their Facebook page, acknowledge their work on LinkedIn and provide a formal reference.

One last tip before I go. Do not hire a know-it-all. A little humility is a sign of honesty and honesty is what we all want and deserve. I love when someone tells me a particular topic is not their expertise but they will get back to me or they have a referral.

Great movie quote for the know-it-alls:
“What you have just said, is the most insanely idiotic thing I have ever heard. At no point, in your rambling incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it”.

Do you know what movie this is from?

Feel free to add to my list. What recommendations do you have? Please share your experiences.

Full Disclosure:
Part of my business is consulting so I apologize in advance if this article comes across as self-serving. Additionally, I am not a model for a stock agency. I only look like one.

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