There’s more to making it through an interview as a contractor or consultant in one piece than a crisply ironed shirt and a smart tie – although such details are often a good place to start…
Look the Part
For most professional contractors, ‘traditional’ dress is usually what one would expect to wear for an interview – although don’t be afraid to make a judgment call if you’re in a different industry where ‘office wear’ isn’t worn as standard.
The key isn’t to look as smart as possible – instead, you want to look like you’re well suited to the role. That might mean a suit, or fairly casual clothes, or even a uniform of some kind. It’s your call.
Do the Prep
Make sure you know what you’re interviewing for. That might sound obvious, but it’s often tempting to apply for a job when you’re not 100% sure of some of the requirements.
If there are any bits of technical jargon or acronyms in the job posting that you’re not certain about, look them up beforehand – they’re bound to come up in the questions.
Even if you haven’t handled those terms directly before, find a way to relate them to your experience, and focus on the parts of your career up until now that directly demonstrate your suitability for the job.
You should also research the company that’s going to be hiring you if you’re successful – it always helps to be able to show some prior knowledge about who they are, what they do, and how they work. You may think it’s not necessary to research information about your client for a non-permanent role, but this is not the case – especially with dozens of potential candidates for each role.
If you’ve done your homework and ironed your shirt, there’s every reason to be confident – so show the interviewer that you’re feeling positive about your chances.
A firm handshake and a smile are a good starting point, but try to maintain a clear, steady speaking voice too. Take a glass of water if it’s offered to you, and sip it throughout the interview. Keep to a measured pace, and don’t hurry so that you stumble over your words.
Don’t be afraid to take a moment to think about the question before you answer – you’ll come up with much better responses as a result.
It would surely be an exaggeration to say that some companies wait for you to call before making you a job offer, but it can’t hurt to follow up if you don’t get a response when you expect one. The majority of contracting roles are arranged via recruitment agencies, so contact your agent (if they haven’t already been in touch with you).
You definitely won’t hurt your chances of getting a ‘yes’ just because you chased them up on it – and in many cases, a bit of enthusiasm can turn a negative into a positive (although you may never know it).
The Holistic Candidate
The tips above are just a selection of the different aspects of an interview; the truth is, you need to keep on top of the whole process from the day you write your CV, until the day you start your new job.
Apply for a few roles, and attend a few interviews – you’re unlikely to get lucky at your very first attempt, but you’ll soon gain a bit of interview experience, which can help you tweak your body language and responses for later attempts.
It’s not a process you can easily cheat – at least not if you want to get a job without lying about your qualifications – so get out there and see what you can find. You might surprise yourself with how well you do.