Five Tips for Selecting an HR Consultant

by White, Mary G. Tuesday, July 05, 2011
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Are you thinking about enlisting the services of an HR consultant? Whether you need professional assistance creating an employee manual, if you are seeking guidance regarding how to handle the difficult employee issues that arise from time to time or if you are in need of some other type of employee relations assistance, it’s important to choose a skilled professional with the expertise and knowledge necessary to provide you with the help that you need. While there is not a licensure requirement for human resource consultants, there are steps you can take to ensure that any individual or company you are considering hiring has the expertise required to provide you with the guidance you are seeking.

5 Tips for Selecting an HR Consultant

1. Look for Senior-Level Certification

If you are bringing in an outside consultant to provide issues or guidance on matters of significance, look for someone who holds a Senior Professional in Human Resource Management (SPHR) certification. When you select a consultant with this credential, you can be sure that the person you are hiring has knowledge on all key aspects of HR at an executive decision-making level, and that the individual stays current with what is going on in the field by keeping up with continuing education requirements. You can verify that an individual holds a valid certification at HRCI.org, the official website of the HR Certification Institute.

2. Verify Significant Work Experience

To have the skills necessary to provide high-quality human resource consulting services, an individual should have significant work experience with increasing levels of responsibility demonstrated over time. There’s no way to get the knowledge required to provide HR consulting services without having been in the position of having to make – and deal with the consequences of – high-level decisions about policy, procedure and law in a business environment, as well as having been “in the trenches”, working with employees and supervisory team members, on a daily basis.

3. Select a Widely Published Consultant

Established consultants with a high level of expertise tend to be widely published online and in other publications. Consultants who are experts in their field are frequently sought after to provide bylined articles for reputable websites and magazines and are often quoted in news stories and background pieces. Many consultants have written books on the field of HR and/or their areas of specialty, and are frequently scheduled for speaking engagements at professional associations. Conducting a simple online search can help you determine how widely published a particular consultant you are considering hiring is.

4. Identify Consultants with Specific Expertise

Human resource management is a broad area. When you bring in a consultant, chances are that you need help with one or more specific projects. If you need help developing an employee handbook, you need to work with someone who has an extensive knowledge of employment law, policy development and management. The perfect person for this type of project might (or might not) also have the skills and expertise required to help you improve your employee benefits system, audit your I-9 files or identify the best human resource information system (HRIS) for your company. Look for someone who has expertise and experience specific to your needs.

5. Check Client References

When evaluating HR consultants that you are considering working with, ask for contact information for current and past clients who have used the individual’s services for a project that is similar in scope to the one that you need help with. Personally contact the references provided and ask questions that can help you determine whether or not the consultant you are considering is someone you can work with effectively. Ask questions that relate to the consultant’s approachability, responsiveness, attention to detail, expertise, ability to produce deliverables, timeliness and more. Find out if the references were satisfied with the consultant’s services and whether or not they would use the individual again for similar projects.