For most companies, when you need a consultant, you need them yesterday.
In searching for a permanent hire, you usually have a little more leeway. You can take your time, conduct several rounds of interviews and really consider each candidate.
But you need a consultant fast, and you know the right person can be elusive.
When you’re about to embark on the search for a consultant, it’s helpful to take stock of your hiring process. Making sure you have a consultant-specific process in mind will help guide you to the right candidate — in good time, and without making avoidable missteps.
While a consultant search isn’t about rushing, you do need to keep pace with the market — which is faster than in a permanent search. If you don’t keep a tight schedule, you risk losing your first choice to a competitive market.
“Making sure you have a consultant -specific process in mind will help guide you to the right candidate.”
1. Block Time To Interview
In general, a consultant search timeline should last five days, or three in an ideal scenario.
One of my favorite suggestions for keeping the timeline this short is to proactively block out small windows of time on your calendar for interviews. If you start your search on a Monday, for example, set aside a few half hours Wednesday through Friday. This way, you won’t have to wait until after the weekend to pursue a solid profile you receive on Wednesday.
This goes for anyone involved in screening candidates. All internal stakeholders should be brought into the process and timeline to hire, and should set aside the time needed to bring a candidate through the process in a timely manner.
2. Keep All Candidates Engaged in the Process
It’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. Remember that your top choice might not be available by the time you’re ready to hire them. If you haven’t pursued any other candidates, then you’re back to square one.
The concept of “keeping candidates warm” while you interview your top pick doesn’t work in today’s hot market. Instead, plan to keep all potential hires engaged in the process, actively moving through the interview stages. This will prevent you from losing your second or third choice if your first choice isn’t available.
3. Limit Your Rounds of Interviews
In a permanent search, you likely include a variety of stakeholders in a process that consists of multiple interviews. In a consultant search, that same level of diligence and consensus-building may not be necessary. While you want to find someone who isn’t disruptive to your company culture, you may not need to find the “perfect fit.”
Remember, you’ll lose the candidate if the process takes too long.
I recommend keeping your interviews to two rounds. The initial round includes the candidate and the hiring managers. The second round can include necessary stakeholders, peers, or business partners in a bigger interview. It’s much easier to do a panel-style interview with everyone at once than trying to coordinate multiple schedules in such a short search window.
This structure will give your hiring team enough information to put your heads together, give feedback and move forward within the time constraints.
4. Refine Your Assessments To Match the Commitment
If your hiring process normally includes technical assessments or case studies, restructure those elements to fit your consultant job search.
First, consider whether you actually need an assessment. Is this just part of your standard process, or will it be truly useful to you in hiring a consultant? Could you get the same information from a conversation during the interview process?
If you determine an assessment makes sense, then tailor it for the abbreviated consultant hiring timeline.
For a permanent hire, you might send a candidate five hours worth of case studies to complete over the course of a week. That’s reasonable — it fits the longer timeframe of the search and is comparable to the scope of the role you’re filling. And the candidate has a permanent position with all its attendant benefits as incentive.
A week-long assessment only bogs down a consultant search.
I suggest that an assessment for a consultant candidate take no longer than one hour to complete.
Think about this from a consultant’s perspective. They don’t have the incentive of a permanent position, and they probably have multiple opportunities on the table. If they’re doing ten different multi-hour assessments, that’s more work than makes sense for a job that’s finite.
Another consideration is the timing of the assessment. A consultant candidate is more likely to take an assessment if it comes later in the process. If you ask for an assessment before you’ve had any interaction with them, the candidate knows it’s just a box to check in the hiring process. They don’t feel valued, and they don’t think you’re serious about them.
And they’re going to move on.
When you match the assessment to the commitment you’re requiring from a candidate, you won’t scare qualified candidates off by asking too much of them too early.
5. Communicate With Your Recruiter
During a consultant search, engagement with recruiters pays dividends.
It’s to your benefit to provide your recruiter with timely feedback — not only what your profile preferences are, but also the why behind them. Doing so enables recruiters to quickly recalibrate and capture the candidates you want. A good rule is to send feedback to your recruiter within 24 hours of receiving profiles and to schedule the first interview as soon as possible thereafter.
If something unexpected comes up and you need to delay the process for a few days, be proactive and let your recruiter know what’s going on. Keep in mind that recruiting isn’t often a one-person show. Your recruiter is likely working with a team of colleagues who are sourcing candidates on your behalf — and who will remain committed and motivated if you’re responsive, proactive and engaged.
Communicating unexpected bottlenecks or delays allows for a mutual pause and fosters a good working relationship. Your recruiter can keep the team engaged in the search by relaying your updates and managing all parties’ expectations on timeline.
You won’t have to regain momentum or warm a candidate back up once you’re ready to begin again, as everyone is already on the same page and in the holding pattern that allows for a quick resume.
6. Do the Advance Legwork To Expedite the Process
Because these searches move fast, there is some advance legwork I recommend you do before you even connect with a recruiter. The last thing you want is to decide on a candidate and then discover you don’t have the budget to pay them or the equipment they need to get started.
If you line up certain logistics in advance, you can ensure you’re ready to onboard a new consultant without unnecessary and frustrating delays. These include:
- Budget: A qualified consultant won’t come at a low rate. Make sure everyone who needs to know has a reasonable understanding of the investment and that the funds have been approved.
- IT: Make sure IT is ready for onboarding. Have any necessary equipment set aside and ready to ship if the position is remote.
- Statement of work: Start the draft work for the SOW. Get necessary paperwork in place with your legal team, and have it reviewed or signed in advance. When you complete the search, simply drop in the relevant information to complete the document (name, bill rate, term).
- Job description: A job description with duties and required qualifications is a tremendous help to your recruiter. If you send a job description in advance, even if it’s just a draft, your recruiter can start a pipeline immediately. In a job market where hours and minutes matter, this can move your search along.
“While you want to find someone who isn’t disruptive to your company culture, you may not need to find the “perfect fit.”
To hire a consultant is to move quickly. Keeping your hiring process in step with the fast pace necessary in a hot market is essential to success.
Streamlining your processes, communicating with your recruiter and doing the advance legwork all help lead you to the best consultant for your company in the timeliest manner possible.
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