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I am trying to fill in this sentence:

“My company is looking to ___ a consultant”.

Is the correct term “hire” or is there a different word that is more fitting when talking about a consultant?

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"Hire" is fine. That's what people do when they ask me to edit a paper. They send me the paper, give me a deadline, and pay me for the work. Even temporary work warrants using "hire". Another word is "engage" (= "hire for job" [thesaurus.com]), but that's not particularly American English. "Employ" is a third, but "hire" is probably the most common. – user21497 Oct 22 '12 at 15:29
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Hire is appropriate for a consultant, or more generally for any kind of temporary worker. I’ve also heard “bring in/on a consultant” more than once, which sounds good to me—it conveys more of the “stop in for a few and help out” nature of consulting, I think.

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"bring on"? I'm familiar with "bring in" but not bring on... – Andrew Oct 22 '12 at 16:41
@Andrew: Bring in also works, and seems to be more common, actually. With on might be a thing pecular to the US, or my area of it. – Jon Purdy Oct 22 '12 at 16:58
I agree with Andrew; for me "bring on" is akin to "bring aboard", implying longer-term employment than "bring in". – ruakh Oct 23 '12 at 1:34

Retain is a good word for this, often used in official contexts. Historically, it has been used to refer to the hiring of legal services. That historical context helps emphasise that a specific service has been paid for (rather than a person employed permanently) and that the term of service may be temporary, with a specific goal in mind.

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This isn't quite as good, because in some contexts retain somebody means pay him a (comparatively small) fee not to do the work but to be available if he is needed. – TimLymington Oct 22 '12 at 21:57
@TimLymington That's a valid point. I'd look to make it clear in the surrounding context, or avoid using it if I couldn't. – itsbruce Oct 23 '12 at 10:44

I'm a consultant, and I tend to be engaged as one by my clients.

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In the UK, we might be more inclined to appoint a consultant.

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