What is a Request for Qualifications and How Do I Use One?

Drafting and releasing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is one of the first stages of the procurement process. This is a document that you will use to “pre-qualify. proponents for your project. Read below to learn more about when to use an RFQ, and the step-by-step RFQ process.

Key Takeaways

  • Purpose of RFQ: The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is a vital tool in the procurement process for pre-qualifying candidates, ensuring only those meeting specific criteria are considered for the subsequent Request for Proposals (RFP).
  • When to Use: Utilize an RFQ for significant contract opportunities to efficiently narrow down qualified candidates, for creating a pre-qualified list for future opportunities, or as a sole selection process for straightforward, specialized tasks.
  • RFQ Process Steps: Include defining clear objectives, drafting a detailed RFQ document with evaluation criteria, issuing the RFQ through appropriate channels, and rigorously evaluating the responses based on set criteria.
  • Benefits of RFQ: Streamlines the solicitation process, saving time and resources by focusing only on qualified candidates and helps gather valuable information for future procurement activities.
  • Post-RFQ Actions: After selection, maintain records of qualified candidates for future opportunities and keep the selected candidates informed about their shortlisting for upcoming projects.

What is an RFQ?

A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) usually refers to the pre-qualification stage of the procurement process. Only those proponents who successfully respond to the RFQ and meet the qualification criteria will be included in the subsequent Request for Proposals (RFP) solicitation process. Artscape finds that this two-staged approach helps to both streamline the solicitation process and to gather information about candidates for future use.

In parallel, exploring the initial stages of project interest through a Request for Expressions of Interest can provide a broader understanding of potential project engagement and refinement.

In some cases, when the requirements for a project are uncomplicated, an RFQ may be all that is required to determine the appropriate candidate.

When to Use an RFQ

When to Use an RFQ - tips and guide

A Known Opportunity

When there is the potential for significant interest in a specific contract opportunity, the RFQ process can be used to pre-qualify proponents who will then compete on the opportunity at the RFP stage. This can make the solicitation process more efficient as there will be fewer responses and all of them will be qualified. It is far easier, less time-consuming and fairer to proponents to evaluate several proposals from qualified proponents rather than dozens or hundreds of proposals from both qualified and unqualified proponents.

An Unknown Opportunity

An RFQ process can also be used to create a pre-qualified list for a future opportunity. This pre-qualification list can add value when similar services will be required for multiple contracting opportunities and the organization wants to quickly select a qualified proponent when the next opportunity arises.

As a Selection Process for an Uncomplicated Task

An RFQ can be used as the sole selection process for a specialist contractor where the task is very specific, uncomplicated and requires a very specific skill set. If you use RFQs in this way, you may want to set a limit on the size (cost) of contracts which your organization is prepared to approve based on this method.

The Step-by-Step RFQ Process

A.    Define the Objective

Preparation is the key to a successful procurement process. It is important to prepare the RFQ document so that it solicits the precise information you need to make a decision. In order to do so, first define exactly what you are asking for. Providing detailed information in the RFQ document will not only solicit better and more accurate responses from the proponents, but it will make it easier for the selection committee to make an informed decision regarding which respondents should be short-listed.

B.    Draft the RFQ Document

Once the requirements are fully defined, the RFQ document may be drafted and the evaluation criteria may be determined. Please refer to the RFQ Template for details on what to include in an RFQ document. Be sure that the RFQ provides enough information to allow proponents to understand the nature of the opportunity, as well as the information and qualifications that your organization is looking for.

The RFQ should also explain the pre-qualification process, including key terms and conditions, the anticipated schedule for the pre-qualification process, as well as the evaluation criteria.

C.    Issue the RFQ Document

You may choose to issue the RFQ through your own distribution and contact lists. However for specialist services (engineers, building contractors, architects, business consultants, etc.) you may want to work with “gateway organizations”? with the ability to circulate the RFQ document to a broad range of potential proponents.

Some examples are Merx and Biddingo, which are e-procurement portals for public and private opportunities. These portals connect suppliers providing various goods and services to buyers from a complete range of public and private sectors. If you are distributing the RFQ through a variety of outlets, you will need to coordinate with them to ensure that the RFQ is released by all distributing organizations on the same date.

D.    Evaluate and Select

Once the organization receives the proposals on the specified due date, they are passed to the evaluation committee for assessment. Make sure that the criteria are relevant to your needs. For example, if certain skills are critical to the success of the project, be sure to rate those required skills as a strong priority. Also, be sure to clearly define the evaluation criteria in the RFQ and to stick to the specified criteria when evaluating the responses.

If you are using the RFQ for selection purposes, candidates will be invited to interview. In many cases you will find it appropriate and helpful to strike a small selection committee with representatives from your project’s management team, Advisory Committee and/or Community Steering Committee.

If the RFQ is being used for pre-qualification purposes, once the successful candidates have been selected, keep a record of their information for future use and inform those proponents that they have been added to your shortlist.


How long should an RFQ typically remain open for responses?

The duration an RFQ remains open varies depending on the complexity of the project and the industry. Typically, it ranges from a few weeks to a couple of months.

Can changes be made to an RFQ after it has been issued?

Yes, amendments can be made to an RFQ after issuance, but these changes should be communicated promptly to all potential respondents.

Is there a standard format for submitting responses to an RFQ?

While there’s no universal format, responses should align with the format and requirements specified in the RFQ document.

What happens if no suitable candidates respond to an RFQ?

If no suitable responses are received, the organization may choose to reissue the RFQ with revised criteria or seek alternative procurement methods.

Are there any legal considerations to keep in mind when issuing an RFQ?

Legal considerations include ensuring non-discrimination, adhering to industry regulations, and maintaining confidentiality where necessary.

Can an RFQ be canceled after it has been issued?

Yes, an organization can cancel an RFQ for various reasons, including changes in project scope or budget constraints.

How does an RFQ differ from an RFI (Request for Information)?

An RFI is used to gather general information from potential suppliers, while an RFQ is a step towards selecting a supplier based on specific qualifications.

Final Words

The RFQ process is a critical component of procurement, enabling organizations to identify qualified candidates efficiently and effectively. By adhering to a structured process and clear communication, organizations can ensure a fair and comprehensive evaluation of potential suppliers. Remember, the goal is not only to find a qualified candidate but also to establish a foundation for a successful partnership.