What to Look for When Hiring an IT Consultant

How do you find the right IT consultant for your business and specific technology needs? IT executives share their tips and advice. We also suggest five questions you should ask all prospective candidates.

Just because someone has the words "IT consultant" printed on a business card doesn't mean he can solve your particular technology challenge or will work well with your IT or management team. So how do you find the right IT consultant, someone who understands your business and can address your specific IT need(s)?

tips, questions, vendor screening

So before you even think about giving a third party access to your critical or sensitive information systems or software, check out what some of the top IT executives and consultants say. The experts outline their top eight tips for vetting an IT consultant -- as well as the five questions you should ask all prospective third-party IT hires.

8 Tips From IT Execs and Consultants for Vetting an IT Consultant

1. Make sure the consultant has experience in your size and type of business. "An IT consultant who typically works with Fortune 500 companies will have a difficult time serving the needs of an SMB -- and a consultant who has been in the finance industry his entire career may not have the experience needed for, say, a manufacturing shop," explains IT consultant Morris Tabush, who runs Tabush, an IT support and consulting company. So when considering hiring an IT consultant, make sure the consultant has had experience -- and success -- working with companies not only in your industry but your size, he advises.

2. Find out what the consultant's relationship to relevant vendors is. Are you looking for a consultant who is affiliated with a specific vendor (e.g., a certified partner) or someone who is independent?

"We have run into situations where clients received advice from an IT consultant, but didn't realize the consultant had a [monetary] interest in the outcome," notes Laura Pettit Rusick, the founder and president of OPT Solutions, Inc., an IT management services and technology optimization company. "That interest may be a commission, referral fee or the ability to staff additional employees from the consultant's organization at the client." In other words, the consultant may not have your best interest at heart.

That's why she recommends that you ask consultants what their relationship is to any vendors before you sign a contract. "Do they resell a vendor's products but want to provide software selection services? Do they receive commission when a particular vendor is selected? Is the consultant truly unbiased?"

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