Hiring an independent consultant can be a game changer for your business. A qualified outsider can provide insight and expertise that puts a young company on the track to success. But to get results that will radically improve your business, you need to choose the right person.
You should apply the same vigorous vetting process to consultants as you do for full-time hires. If your consultant doesn’t have the industry experience or a proven track record to deliver what you need, you could actually be draining vital resources and impeding your company’s growth.
Choosing the right consultant starts with matching her experience level with the needs of your company. You and your consultant should be on the same page about what the project entails and the skills needed so you can work toward a shared goal.
Your consultant needs sufficient experience. But steer away from an overqualified expert who isn’t aligned with the needs of your company. Before scheduling interviews, write out the “job to be done” so you can articulate this clearly and make sure the candidate would be a good fit for the task.
Once you’re ready to start interviewing, vet the candidate's skill in these six areas to be sure you're bringing the right person on board:
If a potential consultant has not worked on similar projects in the past, this should be a deal breaker in the hiring decision.
Assess the candidates credentials, how long she’s been working in the field and her particular skills. If you hire someone without adequate experience, you’re gambling your company’s future.
2. Work samples.
Although a candidate might have previous experience in a similar role, you need to do due diligence and ask for proof.
Have a potential hire provide concrete examples of successful projects and campaigns so you can judge the caliber of her work. Hard evidence is the best way to gauge someone’s ability to produce great work for your company.
A consultant’s reputation can say a lot about her ability to execute tasks and level of professionalism. Talk with her past clients about their experiences and judge how willing they’d be willing serve as a professional reference.
The positive or negative feedback you receive will answer some of the questions you might have about a consultant before she starts working for you. Try hard to find off-list references. No one on a provided list is likely to say a bad word.
4. Work habits.
There’s a good chance your consultant will work remotely. So you need to understand her work habits and set expectations in order for the relationship to succeed. Find out how much management the consultant expects or needs and be prepared to step back or become more involved as required.
Your original mandate will probably change throughout the course of a project, so hire someone who can adapt and pivot with ease.
While you can’t know for sure how a candidate will handle a particular change, try to gain an appreciation of her personality and willingness to deviate from an initial plan. But if you require your consultant to be flexible, you must be, too.
Resist the urge to go for the cheapest hire, especially if you’re trying to get your business off the ground. Funds may be tight, but you want this project executed correctly. Odds are that you don’t have the money to hire a second consultant to clean up the first one’s mess, so don’t skimp on a crucial hire. Your money and reputation are on the line, after all.
Your team has the biggest influence on your company’s success, and consultants are part of it, even if only for the length of a brief contract. You want the best talent working for you. Make sure your consultants fit the bill.