Rules to Hiring Your Next Consultant (Part 2)

by Nicholas George on April 29, 2011

Finding for the right consultant to achieve your goals becomes a lot easier when you have a structured plan to following.  In Part 1, we talked about defining the problem and establishing a supportive contact.

Rule #3 – Unearth Potential Candidates

Don’t get too hung up on particular credentials or levels of experience when you begin your search for a consultant. There are many good people out there. You are not looking for people with certain certificates on their walls. You’re looking for people who can help solve your problem.

Use key phrases from your problem definition (Rule 1, above) to search the web. Check the yellow pages. Talk to customers and suppliers. Talk to competitors, if you can.

When you have a reasonable number of candidates, it’s time to make a short list. Talk to references, and of course talk to your candidate consultants.

Include these questions when you interview potential consultants:

  • How did they learn the basics of this industry?
  • What approach sets them apart from other consultants?
  • What approach sets them apart from others with more experience?
  • What kind of challenges did they overcome to get results for their clients? How did they measure those results?
  • When have they failed, and how did they handle that failure?

The last question may be very telling. We all make mistakes and handle them in different ways. Can you work with someone who cannot or will not admit mistakes? Good consultants will acknowledge the possibility of errors in planning or execution – and you should feel confident that they would handle them with integrity and competence.

Overall, when you talk to the consultant, do you get the feeling that you’re both getting more confused? Or that everything is falling into place and a sound approach will be developed?

Rule #4 – Sift the Gems from the Dirt

You’ve made your short list and are looking into the candidates with more detail.

Is the consultant more interested in talking you into an easy sale of what they have (a particular software, methodology or widget, for example), or in working with you to uncover the truly relevant variables, and to develop an effective solution?

You don’t have to winnow the list down to a single best candidate.  In fact, there may be many that are qualified to help you solve your problem.

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