The choice of a consultant involves two factors. The first is technical: Does this person have the knowledge and skill you need? Equally important, however, are the non-technical aspects including personality, philosophy and fit. This complicates choosing a consultant because these aspects are harder to judge than technical competence.
Most people start with technical ability, especially experience. Has your candidate done this sort of work before? Is he or she familiar with your system? This is important, if not critical, but it is only half the picture. The other half is how well the consultant’s viewpoint matches you and how well he or she can work with your people.
This sort of information is hard to pick out of a resume and it is an important reason for doing a careful background check of references on any candidate.
One of the things you are looking for here is fit: How well will this candidate integrate with your people? How well do the candidate’s philosophy and outlook match with your corporate culture?
Size of the company is also important. Someone who is used to working for large enterprises may not be ideal for a small or medium-sized business.
When you check references and you should always check the references try to get the people on the other end of the line to talk candidly about what it was like working with this person.
Face to face interviews is ideal times to judge the candidate’s fit. Here it is not just the questions you ask, but the way the candidate answers them. You’re looking for attitude and to get a sense of the candidate’s style.
Does the candidate seem to understand your problem? Is he or she putting the emphasis in the same place you are? Does the candidate’s time scale match your needs? These are some of the intangibles you need to consider when evaluating a candidate.
Does the candidate answer your questions honestly and completely with the minimum of jargon and no double talk? Communication is essential to a successful project and your consultant should be willing and able to keep you well-informed in a language you can understand.
How open is the candidate? Does he or she freely share information or do they play it close to the vest? Again this style is important to communication.
Above all, it’s a good idea to trust your instincts. If the candidate doesn’t feel right, there is probably a problem.
By the time it comes to make a choice you should have a fairly good feel for the candidates if you’ve been paying attention.
Carefully consider all that you have learned in deciding who to choose for a consultant.