The following guidelines for hiring consultants have been adapted from the guidelines given by the National Park Service in National Register Bulletin 24. Although the Bulletin guidelines were designed to cover large and complex projects and every point may not be relevant to your project, they provide helpful suggestions for those contemplating projects on a smaller scale.

  • Define the work you want done! Whether your project is large or small, it helps if both you and the consultant you hire have a clear idea of what you need done.

  • Establish financial parameters and explain budgetary restrictions, if any, at the outset.

  • Send the "scope of work" you've defined to a number of qualified individuals, firms, institutions, or organizations with the requests that they submit written proposals.

  • Consider qualifications. Recipients of Historic Preservation Fund grants and federal agencies involved in Section 106 review are required to hire consultants whose qualifications meet federal guidelines. Even if you aren't required to follow federal guidelines regarding Professional Qualification Standards, you may find it useful to review those qualifications before interviewing and hiring consultants.

    To assist individuals, local governments, agencies, and businesses seeking the professional experience of historians, archaeologists or architectural historians to conduct survey work for Section 106 Review or National Register preparation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has developed Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify individuals who meet the Secretary's Professional Qualification Standards in Archaeology, History or Architectural History. Neither the department nor the State Historic Preservation Office requires that federal agencies, recipients of federal grants or others hiring consultants select them from the lists based on responses to the RFQs. Nor do they assume responsibility for the accuracy of these lists or attest to the personal or corporate qualifications of persons or firms appearing on the lists.

  • Require references and check them carefully.

  • Look for a consultant who seems to understand what he or she is doing and has a good idea of how to do it. Evaluate the written proposals you receive. How well did each consultant understand the nature of the work you described? Evaluate the methods and approach that each consultant proposes to use in undertaking your project.

  • Interview one or more of the consultants who appear to be the best qualified individually, explaining the work that has to be done and the selection procedures you're using. The following are particularly important criteria to consider:

    • Experience and reputation.

    • Workload. Try to determine whether the consultant will be able to accomplish the project within the time frame that you have established. Check with references about the consultant's reputation for meeting deadlines.

  • Rank the consultants you interviewed in order of apparent ability to accomplish your project. Selection of a consultant simply on the basis of a bid is not recommended. For consultants who can provide the necessary services within the established budget range, competition should be on the basis of professional competence, experience, and quality of proposal.

  • Contact the first choice and agree on a precise outline of responsibilities and a fee. If you cannot agree on responsibilities, fee, or contract details, notify the consultant in writing that negotiations are being discontinued. Then begin negotiations with the next consultant.

  • Avoid non-written agreements. For the protection of both client and consultant, the client should always execute a written contract with the consultant. The contract should define the specific expectations to be met by the project. Although special demands of the consultant may arise during the course of the project, the consultant cannot be expected to do work outside of the contract, unless the contract and fee are amended accordingly.

  • Avoid possible conflict of interest situations. Consultants may offer to provide services at low rates in anticipation of securing future contracts for other types of professional services. The prime task of the consultant should be the completion of the project contracted. If a long-term cooperative relationship between the consultant and the client is in the best interests of both, it should be explicitly negotiated as such.

  • Guidance in drawing up contracts for grant-funded projects may be obtained from the State Historic Preservation Office.