How to Choose the Right Consultant for You
Updated: Mar 4
Last month we looked at the benefits of an external consultant and why their specialised help and expertise could be exactly what your project needs. However, choosing the right consultant for you is crucial.
We’ve outlined the 7 key steps you should take, and the questions to ask yourself, to help you make the best choice.
Research Potential Candidates
Whether you find your candidates via word-of-mouth or your own research, it’s vital that you have at least an idea of what you need.
Firstly, you should consider the size of the organisation and what suits your specific project. You don’t want to overstretch a company with your task, but you also want value for money. Opting for a a huge company to carry out a small project will likely come at a larger cost that might be unnecessary.
It’s also important to factor in their history and expertise. Do they have experience on similar projects? Do they have a successful track record? Inevitably, some projects will fail, but a strong performance history with the appropriate experience is a good indication you’re on the right track.
Top Tip: If you think a company might be a candidate, don’t forget to check their finances are sound. It is better to ensure this by getting an accounts report before proceeding. These reports are quickly and easily accessible online from specialist providers for a reasonable cost.
Shortlist the Candidates
Once your initial research is complete, you can start to shortlist the candidates. We recommend a shortlist of no more than six firms per discipline. Not only do you want to avoid putting too many companies through the costly process of seeking an appointment for a project, you risk creating a bigger burden on those involved in the selection process. Narrowing your choices down to six companies also ensures you’re picking the best candidates for your needs.
Provide a Clear and Succinct Invitation Pack
Having confirmed your shortlisted candidates, you should provide them with a clear and succinct information pack about the project. What is it trying to achieve? Why is this project important? List the main areas of concern for your project so that the candidates can assess the priorities. Whether it is timely completion, budget restrictions or quality, it’s crucial that the candidates know the main consideration for your project.
After you’ve provided the relevant details, you should request clear information from the candidates. What are their working methods? How much is their fee? Ensure you have a good knowledge of their staffing proposals and relevant experience so you can begin to gauge how well you could work together.
Prepare and Hold Interviews
Next, hold well-organised interviews for your shortlisted candidates. You should provide reasonable notice for the companies to allow them sufficient preparation and minimal disruption. This time also provides a perfect opportunity to ensure you are well-prepared. Assemble a good interview panel. It does not need to be large, but should contain the key people to ask the right questions and represent other departments within your organisation.
Prepare your questions in advance, as well as a weighted score evaluation sheet for each member of the panel to use throughout the interview.
Evaluate and Make Your Decision
Preparing an evaluation sheet prior to the interview can help minimise confusion in the decision process. All members of the panel are considering the same criteria to aid clear comparison afterwards. By comparing their notes and individual assessment, the panel can come to a consensus as to who was the best candidate.
Make sure you take into account the culture and ‘chemistry’ of the company as well as technical answers. Many companies works in different ways and with different values so it’s always important to consider whether yours align.
Make Your Announcements
Once you’ve reached a decision, announce the successful candidates quickly and diplomatically. Don’t forget to advise all other candidates of the decision. They will have spent a lot of time and money in the application process so it’s a matter of courtesy and good practice to thank them for their participation and provide useful feedback.
Choosing the right consultant might not be easy, but following these steps can make the process as simple and painless as possible. It can be tempting to make a quick decision based on reputation or cost, but whilst a consultant can be perfect for one company, they might not fit your needs. It’s critical that you take the time to factor in other details and consider candidates holistically so your final decision is the right one for you.