With all of the home shows coming up this is a very helpful article to read. You want your next contractor to have what it takes to do the job right the first time. Word of mouth referrals are always a great starting point. Finding someone to call in your neighborhood is key. Once you have a list of possible contractors ask:
How long have you been in business? New to the industry is not necessarily a red flag with on the job experience.
Are you licensed and insured? Just make sure they have liability insurance to cover them if something does go wrong.
How many other projects are you currently working on? If a contractor is overbooked and you have a project that can take time then hire them. They are in high demand so quality would more than likely be good. But if you have a set deadline get to the bottom line of how many clients are booked out with them. In the contract make sure it states the date when the project will be completed including any permitting that may be necessary.
May I get references or talk with some recent clients who are also doing the same type of project? Talking with past clients will be very helpful in your decision making. It may also give you some ideas for the project you are about to embark on.