Finding work as a contractor is all about experience. Whether you’re lucky enough to land a contract via recommendation or word of mouth, or go through a full recruitment process, you will need to be able to prove your experience.
While not all contract jobs involve an interview process, it is an important skill to master – you never know when you will be called to interview. Though industry contacts and a good CV will get your foot in the door, it’s often the interview process that will truly open up your contractor job prospects. To the recruiter, the interview is a real opportunity to assess how qualified and experienced you are to undertake the contract, personable and professional you are, and how well you cope under pressure.
Being ready to shine is the key for successful contractor interviews. So, what should you be prepared for? Read these tips from ContractingWISE to find out more.
Contractor interviews: getting started
Before any interview it’s always important to research the role. If you know who the client is then you have an even better opportunity to prepare. If you can, you should try to find out as much about your client as possible, particularly recent information that may not be as well-known. This could include:
- Positive media appearances
- The content of their latest press coverage
- Any recent mergers or acquisitions
- Any important new clients, products or services
If you are interviewed directly by the client and it has been arranged by an agency, make sure that in addition to your own research, you speak with your contact at the agency for any additional advice, guidance, and support they can provide.
The more you know about a company and why they have a particular need for a contractor, the more you will be able to prove yourself for the role, and the more suitable you will seem.
In the interview
Contractor interviews are your chance to prove your skills, experience and suitability for the role. Make sure you impress your interviewer on the following:
- Your understanding of what is required and the course of action you’ll take to get there
- Your ability to lead a team and train others on a team if required
- Your trustworthiness and professionalism with end users
- Your successful past work experiences working for other clients
An interviewer will also be seeking reassurance on certain factors such as:
- The job will be finished on time and within budget
- You won’t need them to hold your hand constantly throughout the job
- You can be trusted with commercially-sensitive information, particularly in the age of GDPR (which still offers real opportunities for contractors, according to ContractorUK)
- Flexibility – if the specs of the job change, you’re able to adapt your approach and stay positive
In time, your interviewer will want recognition for hiring the right contractor. Therefore be sure to understand the interviewer’s motivations and fears and indirectly reference those motivations and fears in your conversation – this will help to establish a real personal and professional connection.
Contractor interviews: first impressions count
As with any interview, not only for contract roles, much of the interviewer’s overall opinion of you will be based on their first impressions – in those first few minutes.
We have a few tips for how you can maximise the impact of your first impression. Firstly, make sure you’re on time, preferably ten minutes early so you have time to compose yourself. Do everything you can before the interview to reduce or eliminate stress – know where you’re going to park or which bus/train you have to catch, have something to eat so you don’t feel hungry, and so on. If you might be late, make sure the client or recruiter’s number is programmed into your phone and that you advise them that you are delayed as soon as you know.
Look the part – dress like you mean business, carrying any documentation you have in a smart work focused bag or folder. When you walk into the room, be sure of the names and positions of the people who are interviewing you, introduce yourself and shake hands.
Contractor interview questions
Once your interview has begun and you’re past the breaking-the-ice stage, you should expect probing questions from your interviewers, and they will want answers from you which are clear and direct. Be careful not to veer off from the subject – in a high-pressure situation, it’s all too easy to be diverted and then find yourself struggling to return to the main focus of the conversation because you’ve forgotten what it was.
By listening to the questions your interviewer asks you, you can start to read between the lines – use their questions to fact-find about the organisation and the nature of the issue they’re trying to resolve or improve with the contractor they select. What you find out from your interviewer’s questions should impact on the topics of the questions you ask later on.
At a certain point during your interview, it’ll be your turn to ask questions. And, as the sales expression goes, “(s)he who asks the questions controls the conversation”. An interview is an opportunity to present your own sales pitch and you can further demonstrate your suitability for the contract by the questions you ask.
You should aim to discover:
- How you’ll be interacting with employees and other contractors on the job
- Have there been any obstacles in the project so far which have held up progress, or do you foresee any in the future?
- How you will fit into the project as a whole?
- Which company resources will you have access to when working on the project?
When your interviewer answers, if appropriate, you can inform them of similar scenarios you may have encountered on previous contracts for other clients and how you overcame them.
At the end of the interview, there is nothing wrong with asking your interviewer what the next stages are and if there is anything more that they need from you in order to help them make their decision.
Standing out from the crowd at contractor interviews
By showing that you understand what the project is (specifically with relation to the outcome, the timeframe, and the costs involved) together with demonstrating that you’re a safe and experienced pair of hands, you will provide the interviewer with the comfort they need to make a positive decision in your favour.
Contracting is very competitive and it’s important that you know the value that you will bring to a client’s project, as well as being able to describe it clearly and concisely to your interviewer. For example, if the contract requires Agile project management, demonstrate how you used Agile on previous assignments and how you can adapt it to any situation you’re asked to work on.
You should also give yourself as many opportunities as possible to be interviewed for the types of contract at which you could excel. For help on doing just that, read our article on researching the market for contract opportunities.