Got an interview coming up with a client? It should be a piece of cake, especially if you are a professional contractor. Most contractors go on 5-6 interviews a year, so it should be a breeze and just a little prep should be needed, right? Think again!!! Preparing for a contract interview should be taken with as much care as preparing for a full-time interview. Although the client will often ask similar questions, the contract interview tends to happen at a much quicker pace and as such, it is important for a contractor to relay their skills and value proposition to the prospective client in the first interview (often…the only interview). A complaint I am hearing from clients recently is that contractors are showing up to interviews unprepared and sometimes even uninterested.
If a contractor is working with an agency to secure their next contract, the agency should be able to provide you with details about the role, why it is open and who the interviewers are.
Preparing for an interview for a contract role goes beyond knowing about the project and the client. It is being able to clearly demonstrate your value proposition to the client and why you would be the best person for the role. In order to do this, candidates must really know what they have put down on their resume and what value past experience will have to the potential client and the project.
Clients tend to focus on the following when interviewing contract candidates:
Provide examples of where your past project experience is similar to the upcoming project – What value can you bring to the project? Any lessons learned?
Describe the project in detail. A common complaint from clients is that contractors often skim project details. This gives the client the impression that the contractor does not know the work they had done and also gives the impression that some the details found on the resume were fabricated (i.e. you did not actually do the work and added in key words into your resume in order to be selected for an interview). Project details that clients are most interested in are: role in the project, size of the project team, stakeholders who were involved, technologies used, value of the project, what stage you entered the project and was the project implemented on time/budget.
What type of style do you have in relaying the information. It is critical that when recapping projects to a client that you know all the details and can relay them with ease (and not struggling to remember). Not being able to recall past projects is a potential sign that the project was not important or again, the project was embellished on the resume.
Be professional when speaking about past projects. We have all worked on a project that has not gone well. When speaking about the project, focus on your role and the skills you brought to the project. Clients will select a candidate who is more positive about past experience, rather than dwelling on the negative sides of a project.
Ask questions about the current project. Go prepared with a copy of the role description and show interest in the role. Clients have sometimes chosen a less qualified candidate as they showed more interest in the project than someone who came across as less “excited” – ie. “been there, done that”.
Just like past employment/projects follow a candidate, especially in a small market, so do bad interviews. Clients will pass along information to other potential hiring managers within their organization about contractors who have come in for an interview along with their biases. It is really important to keep in mind that when interviewing with any organization, especially large ones that hire many contractors such as the Banks and Telcos, to always be prepared and to leave a positive experience with the interviews.