Evaluating Consultant Fit

Evaluating consultant fit, similar to hiring staff, is an art with some science mixed in. It is advisable to interview a minimum of three consultants and ask for workplans from the ones you may potentially like to work with.

In the interview process, you’d want to gauge whether a potential consultant:

  • “Gets” your organization – what you’re about, your context, and some basic understanding of your field of work
  • Demonstrates a grasp of what your organization needs are in this specific proposed project
  • Is able to listen deeply to understand, holding healthy dosages of compassion and circumspection
  • Will be able to connect with your staff, board, and external stakeholders because s/he will be representing your organization to an extent
  • Has demonstrated expertise and success with others that may be similar to what you’re asking her/him to do with your organization

Next, for each potential consultant, assess them a score (1 to 5) based on your most important criteria.  Here’s a sample scoring sheet:

Areas of Fit
Consultant Experience in/with the Social Sector Culture, Values, Chemistry Overall Impressions References Total Score
Consultant #1
Consultant #2
Consultant #3

Finally, look at the quality of their proposal as an indication of their deliverables, as well as their rationale and thinking:

  • Compare consultant workplans; do they talk more about themselves, look like a cookie cutter proposal, or does the workplan actually paraphrase what they understand to be the particular needs of your organization?
  • How well do they write? Is the proposal succinct, without jargon, and clear?
  • Are the estimated number of days proposed reasonable? Are activities outlined in a sequential flow that makes sense?
  • Do the deliverables/products/expected outcomes align with what you outlined in the discussion?

After asking these questions and going through this assessment, you should have a better sense of which candidate would be the best fit for your organization and project needs.