Essentials of Consulting Hiring

The 7 spectacular traits to look for when hiring a consultant

Published on September 30th, 2022


Problem solvers, specialized expertise holders, recommendation listers, and the name tags for these miracle workers can continuously be rolled out. When things get heated up and situations get out of hand someone may have suggested or even yelled, “hire a consultant!”. In most situations, especially if no planning has been done in advance, haste makes waste. So, a hastily hired consultant may have added to the problems instead of solving them. If you are a victim of such a situation, then this article is meant for you.

According to this article by 499,861 consultants are currently employed in the United States. That’s a lot! So, there would be some point where you would have been in a scenario where your company or someone you know is hiring a consultant for their business.

If the question, “what is a consultant?” is still hovering in your mind, no worries! Here's a simple explanation: a consultant is a person or an agency that is called to provide solutions to quagmires a company is facing or might face in the future. They provide solutions to the stakeholders and who later implement the same.

There may not be a single industry where consultants are not required. Although most industries will have a highly qualified in-house workforce, the advantage of having a specialist is mainly because they get an overview of the problem as an outsider. The advantage also lies in how they are not tied down by politics or other pressures that may be evident when you are a permanent member of a working environment. Therefore, they can look at the issue with fresh eyes and focus purely on the predicament at hand and provide unpopular opinions that may have otherwise been swept under the rug.

Hiring a consultant for your business: A deeper dive into the nitty-gritty

Let’s say that there is a supply chain consulting business that analyses and offers recommendations. I run a company that has a poor supply chain and it is incapable of scaling the company's sales in the next three years. My employees are knowledgeable about our technologies, but they might not be at the forefront of supply chain management techniques, and none of them have ever completely redesigned a global supply chain. This kind of experience would require the expert opinion and services of a consultant. Now, you may be thinking, “why not hire a well-qualified person as a full-time employee?” Although I could hire that person full-time, what would I do with this person after the job was completed? That's where consultants act as the perfect solutions.

Okay, if that example was overwhelming, let’s work on a simpler example. For instance, I don’t need a consultant to fix a leak or replace a pipe, a plumber can do that easily. If I engage a professional to assess my household's water demands and provide cost-effective recommendations for upgrading my home's plumbing architecture, the water quality in my home would improve with substantial waste management, and it would be possible to scale up if my water needs to be increased. Now, that’s the job of a consultant!

How to hire a consultant?

Now that you have an idea of what consultants are and what they do, the next obvious question is how to hire a consultant. In other words, is there a checklist of sorts that can help handpick the right consultant? Well, it purely depends on the field of work, however, there is a general list that you could tick away.

QuoteYou can have the best strategy and the best building in the world, but if you don’t have the hearts and minds of the people who work with you, none of it comes to life. Renne West

Checklist for hiring a consultant:

As mentioned before, the Consultant hiring process depends on the predicament and the field that you are focussing on. But, this general list of traits is common to every field and it will give you a starting point when making your own individualized checklist. So. here’s a checklist for hiring a consultant.

1. The thought process to look out for while hiring a consultant: Out-of-the-box thinking ability.

The first essential prerequisite when hiring a consultant is that they are creative. Although creativity may seem like words confined purely to the streams of fields like art, writing, graphic design, and food, the application of the concept of creativity is far broader. The advantage of having a creative resource person is that they can push beyond the norms and the tested formulas and venture deeper into roads less traveled. The creative mindset of people also ensures that different ideas and ways to approach the business are also explored.

2. The skill to look out for while hiring a consultant: Practicality and conceptuality.

Is the consultant you wish to hire a practical and conceptual thinker? Plotting the right points when it comes to identifying the problems, or setting the benchmarks for tasks are traits that set good consultants aside from the rest. Is your consultant capable of being a funnel that directs the ideas of the different people in your group? Articulation of ideas into precise bits of information is also a skill that is usually overlooked in the corporate world. As a conceptual thinker, a consultant will prompt the correct line of questioning to squeeze out the essence of brilliant minds across teams. As a leader, A consultant can also formulate inspirational touchstones for the company to believe in.

3. The mentality you need to verify while hiring a consultant: Are they solutionists or problemists?

Well, we need both types of people as solutions cannot exist without problems, but when hiring consultants, definitely a problem solver is what is needed! Well, in a way, the previous few characteristics add to this one. Active problem-solving is a mentality that needs to be fuelled by creativity as well as practical and conceptual thinking. A consultant must be able enough to take care of conflicts that may arise without any anticipatory warnings or additional information. Permanent employees need additional guidance or expertise. The areas you may have looked into could be conflict resolution among co-workers, assisting in business plan creation for a self-employed person or even analyzing bookkeeping practices of a company, or providing training in a variety of fields.

4. The mindset you need to verify while hiring a consultant: Being like water.

M&As to rightsizing and restructuring, for companies to survive, change is an eventuality and a requirement. As a consultant, change management is a very important skill. A consultant may be hired by a company’s board, senior management, or a single department. They must cultivate a sense of poise, politeness, excellent listening skills, public speaking skills, and friendliness which will keep them in the good books of their hirers. So, in Bruce Lee’s words, being like water is a mindset that a consultant needs to have. The changes come without prior warning and the capability of consultants to adapt to these changes is a good determinant, especially if you are at the end of the line and you are desperately seeking help.

5. The other skill that should be checked when hiring a consultant: One eye on the watch and the other on the task.

The capability to organize and manage time is a rare skill. Although the phrase “time is money” is synonymous with breathing in the world of business, very few people can truly execute and deliver at a functional level. When hired by any company that values time, ensure that the consultant reciprocates by respecting this invaluable resource. Does your consultancy keep meetings beyond a formality and stress their functionality? Do they prepare an agenda in advance and keep a firm but gentle hand to ensure the meeting is on task? Do they only call in the required set of employees as a part of each meeting? Check if they are prepared with electronic presentations and documents. Observe if they prepare for meetings well in advance. These small metrics act as subtle determinants of how reliable the consultant is.

6. The third skill to check upon when hiring a consultant: How good a dealer is he?

Nope, this is not one of those scenarios where you fan out a deck of cards. Examine the conduct and the style of dealing. Is the offer the consultant provides making sense for the solution required? Are the timelines coherent with the objectives? Under what scenarios can the contact with the consultant be canceled? A few deeper questions sprinkled across the conversation with the consultant could act as the litmus test you need. At a more basic level, also see if your consultant s dependable. Do they have the “client comes first” mentality? Do they deliver what’s required on time?

7. The most obvious yet the most important quality to check while hiring a consultant: The trust factor

The highlight is always pushed as the last one on the list. Credibility and reputation are the two keystones or highlights which is a very good determinant when picking a consultant. If the resources are available, a background check could give you an in-depth insight into the consultant you wish to hire. If the numbers clocked by experience are not according to your liking, then the qualifications and an assessment could help you determine the right pick. How good is the building? Check the blocks. To understand how good your consulting team is, have a comprehensive look at the team. What are the skills and qualifications of the people involved? Check if there is someone supervising the project from start to finish. It may seem like nitpicking, which is not required, but be aware of the red flags. It is better to pull the plug sooner than later.

Although the points given here are general, as a leader, contextualizing these points according to your field is your homework. All the best! And we wish you get the great problem solver that you deserve!

Or if you are looking for a quick solution, why not check out the solution we have? Our management consulting [skill assessments ] quite the hit! Just book a quick 15-minute call with us and let us know the type of consultant you wish to hire. Don’t get us wrong, we are not a hiring consulting agency. We focus on skill-based assessments which will help you hire the right fit for any job role, even consultants! We’ll provide a customized solution that provides you with a set of handpicked consultants to help you out. Oh, and by the way, if you need a problem solver for your hiring needs, feel free to reach out to us as well!


Never Miss The Updates

We cover all recruitment, talent analytics, L&D, DEI, pre-employment, candidate screening, and hiring tools. Join our force & subscribe now!

Like/ dislike something or want to co-author an article? Drop us a note!

Stay In Top Of Everything In HR

Our Global Community Of HR
Professionals Is Getting Mighty Big