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Hiring a Consultant? Ask Them These 10 Questions

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Published:
October 16, 2020
Reading Time:
9 minutes
Leo Saini
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

So, you want to find the right consultant for your business?

Well, that’s a great decision. However, the term ‘right consultant’ needs to be understood clearly.

A consultant who’s right for your friend’s business might not necessarily be right for you. Sometimes, you might need a consultant with a different skill set. And sometimes, a consultant’s fee structure proposal might not be viable for your business.

Gosh! Can this get even more complicated?

Well, it can be very simple if you ask a consultant the right questions before hiring them.

Let’s find out what these questions are.

1. What are your areas of expertise?

To find the right consultants for a job, you need to define your problems accurately and understand what type of expertise you need. For example, if you’re merging with a bigger company, you don't necessarily need to hire a generalist. There are consultants who specialize in mergers, and they are easily available on freelance consulting platforms. So, before you sign any contract, make sure that the consultant you’re about to hire is an expert in solving a problem that your business is facing right now.

2. What are the latest updates in your industry?

When you ask this question, you don’t necessarily need to hear what the consultant is saying, but you should rather observe their body language when they’re answering the question. If you’re able to find the best consultants, you’ll realize that they can answer this question with ease and confidence. And if a consultant says that they’re not really sure about the latest trends in their line of work, then that’s a huge red flag.

3. What results have you achieved for your previous clients and how did you do it?

When you’re scouring the online consulting marketplace to find the right consultants, you should ideally try to find someone who has been there done that. Someone who has already helped another client solve the same problem as yours. However, make sure to not get too personal. Remember the NDA? Well, they must have signed it for their previous clients as well. Don’t make them uncomfortable by asking for too much detail, such as the exact dollar amount of revenue or a previous client’s Google advertisement budget.

“Questions open a space in your mind that allow better answers to breathe.” ― Richie Norton

4. How many other projects are you working on right now?

This is a really important question. If the consultant that you’re about to hire is working with a lot of other clients already, then you might need to take this into consideration. Sometimes, consultants from big consulting firms juggle multiple projects at the same time. However, freelance consultants generally focus on one (or a limited number) of clients at a time, which is a factor that might make them more efficient—as multitasking isn’t always good. That’s why, it’s okay to confirm a consultant’s work capacity before bringing them on board. But rest assured, a top freelance consultant platform will find the right consultants for you—someone who has ample time and will dedicate their full attention to your project.

5. Are you a good team player?

When you onboard a consultant, it’s likely that they will need to interact and work with your team at some point. All the experience and expertise might prove to be inefficient if the consultant doesn’t have empathy for your team. However, when you find the best consultants, you’ll realize how well they can fit with everyone during the first meeting itself. Also, make sure your team is excited about the consultant’s arrival as well and is ready to welcome them. After all, being a good team player is a two-way street.

6. Could you briefly describe how you handled a difficult work-related situation in the past?

Sometimes, being a consultant can be similar to helping a crew navigate stormy seas. Things will not always go as planned and a consultant should be able to think on their feet. For example, your Facebook advertisement might pause due to large text size, or your SEO strategy might fail because of changes in the algorithm. So, ask a consultant how they have handled a tough situation for their previous clients and carefully listen to their answer.

find the right consultants, Hiring a Consultant? Ask Them These 10 Questions

7. Could you please briefly explain your strategy for achieving our business objectives?

If you find top consultants and interview them, they’ll probably answer this question before you even ask it. For example, a project management consultant might say, “I had a look at your team structure and daily operations, and I think the scrum model can increase your team’s efficiency.” It’s important that you have a preliminary idea of what the consulting engagement is going to look like. So, in this case, if you have already tested the scrum model and didn’t find the results to be satisfactory, you can raise it with the consultant before signing any document and ask them if they have any other alternative. Imagine doing all the paperwork first and then find out that the strategy your consultant is proposing can’t be implemented. That’s why you should ask this question beforehand and save yourself from awkward situations later.

8. What fee structure do you prefer?

Before you even try to find the best consultants for your business, analyze how much money your business can spend on a consultant, and what fee structure suits best for your situation. A consultant may charge an hourly rate, a project-based fee, or any other model they prefer. But you could negotiate a deal that’s a win-win for both of you. So, put your sales hat on and get the best price.

9. What’s the estimated duration of the project?

Although the project scope might change a little somewhere in the middle of the engagement, your consultant should be able to give a rough estimate regarding the completion time of the project. Please note that this doesn’t apply if you sign a retainer deal, but still, knowing the length of the engagement will help you plan things accordingly. If you find top consultants who have worked on similar projects before, they can give you a very accurate estimate of the project timeline because they have already done that before with other clients, and they know how long a particular task usually takes.

10. Do you have any case studies of previous clients?

Consultants who have helped their clients succeed in the past usually have lots of testimonials and case studies. Asking your consultant if they have any printed or video case studies is the easiest way to find out how exactly they assisted a previous client. And the best part is: You don’t have to worry about NDAs here because the consultant will only share what they’re allowed to share about their previous engagements with other clients.

Conclusion

A lot of small and medium-sized business owners want to find the right consultants for their business. But a consultant who is ‘right’ for some other business might not be right for you. That’s why you need to ask them the aforementioned questions to ensure that a consultant is best suited for your current business situation. Rest assured, the right consultants are out there. You just need to ask the right questions before you hire them.