Need to Hire a Consultant? Its not Complicated


By John Riley

As one who had hired consultants and practiced the consulting trade, it does not seem all that complicated to hire a consultant. Yet, many employers seem to struggle with a plethora of techniques to find the right person/firm.

 A commonly used approach is to find a trusted business associate who has hired a consultant and obtain a referral from him, assuming he had a successful experience. While that can offer a degree of confidence, the fact a consultant has been a success with one company does not mean he will be successful at your company.

 I suggest an interview that probes chemistry, culture and credentials in detail will be the most revealing of the personality you are dealing with and at the same time give you the insight necessary to make a sound judgment. Other issues may also be covered, but they are unlikely to provide as much insight into the consultant as the three C’s.

  1.  You want to determine if there is chemistry between you and the consultant. That’s important because it helps to build trust which is critical to a good client-consultant relationship. It is a matter of being able to communicate easily and freely with both parties exhibiting a common understanding of the subject being discussed.
  2. You want to determine if the consultant will be able to fit into your company culture and values. This isn’t easy and is illustrated by a number of cases where a consultant has failed because of an inability to integrate himself into a company culture and work harmoniously with the employees. However, since a company culture and its values are primarily influenced and shaped by the CEO or President, the consultant may have a good chance to succeed with the culture if he has succeeded with the CEO or President
  3. Credentials are important, but more important is the need to know if the consultant has worked on, and solved, any problems similar to the problems you want solved. And you want to know how innovative he has been dealing with those problems. Otherwise, credentials or not, doubts may remain. But, further probing of his experience may overcome any doubts and justify giving him a chance.

 With this emphasis on chemistry, culture and credentials, the interview process can be simplified and the CEO or President can feel more confident of his eventual choice.

Companies would be better served if consultants were not discouraged from making contact and presenting their credentials. Usually, the company already has a consultant or two and doesn’t want to be bothered by others. Nevertheless, the current consultants will not always be on the job. As new problems emerge, the company will probably need to talk to consultants with different skills and experience.

To prepare for that day, management should interview a few consultants to gain an understanding of the talent available in their market even though it is not hiring at that moment. Develop a list of the three or four that have the skills you might one day need. Management, always under time pressure, is reluctant to spend the time, but considering the cost of picking the wrong consultant, it’s a good investment.

When the time comes, you will be well prepared and the process of selection will be much more manageable as well as rewarding.

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2 Comments on “Need to Hire a Consultant? Its not Complicated”

  1. John III Says:

    What additional steps would you recommend when hiring a consultant for a global corporation versus a small to medium size business? Or do you see the processes as fairly similar?

  2. azjogger Says:

    Good question. He or she would need three things:
    1. work experience with a multinational corporation
    2. at least one job assignment that required regular biz trips internationally or relocation to a foreign country.
    3. knowledge of transfer pricing and general knowledge of import-export regs.
    If the consultant was to focus on a specific industry, then detailed knowledge of that industry would be required.


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