Interview don’ts for contractors

While many of the normal rules apply to contractor interviews, there are also some fundamental differences. Interviews for contracting positions may be more directly focused on professional ability rather than personality or potential. This is because the client is looking for a solution to a specific problem rather than a long-term investment and few organsiations have the time to go through a multistage interview process. A recruitment agency will often carry out the interviews on the client’s behalf, and may have a lot of candidates to consider.  It’s important for contractors to understand the aim of the interview in order to maximise their chances of success.  In this article, ContractingWise looks at six common interview mistakes that contractors should avoid making.

  1. ‘Wingin it’: While there may be times you’re required to improvise and think on your feet, contractors should avoid going into an interview unprepared. Anticipating the questions you might be asked as well as likely answers will help you to feel in control. Preparation will also reduce the likelihood of you veering off course and forgetting to include important information. It’s also considered a basic courtesy to do some basic research about the client. This will also help you to answer interview questions about why you want to work on a project. The company website is a good place to start, as it will give you up-to-date information about an organisation and a good idea of how to align their values with your own.
  2. Delivering a monologue: When the interviewer asks you a question, take a few seconds to think about what information they’re asking for. If you need clarification, then ask the interviewer. Launching straight into an answer risks you giving a long-winded pitch that misses the point. Even when a question requires a longer answer, you should allow pauses for the interviewer to ask you to elaborate or explain something. Within the formal interview structure, the interview should feel like a responsive two-way conversation.
  3. Speaking over the interviewer: Some advice will tell you that in order to appear confident and assertive, you should finish the point that you’re making, even if you’re interrupted. This rarely applies in interviews, as it’s the interviewers prerogative to get the information that they want. Therefore you should assume that if they interrupt you, it’s for a legitimate reason. Although in conversation you might naturally overlap with the other person, speaking over the interviewer to finish a point is more likely to be interpreted as arrogance rather confidence.
  4. Being too personal: While many people advocate ‘being yourself’ for interviews, there’s also a professional line to observe. It’s important to remember that with a contracting role, the client primarily wants assurances that you can do the job. This means that you should avoid going into too much personal detail or telling personal anecdotes, instead focusing on your professional experience and ability to do the work.
  5. Being controversial: While contractors can show their personality through their answers and their general manner, making strong statements about your personal beliefs and opinions can risk alienating the interviewer, who may think differently to you. The more personal detail you give, the more likely it is that you’ll find a point of controversy. If you make strong statements regarding professional matters, make sure these are based on objective facts rather than personal bias.
  6. Speaking negatively about former clients: Even if a past project didn’t turn out well, it’s best to avoid referring to it in negative terms. Although organistaions value the solution that contractors represent, they also value their reputations. Most companies are guarded about their internal processes, while also wanting to create a positive public image. Although they’re not bound by the same loyalty as an employee, contractors often come into a company at a high level and with access to important information. If you speak about former clients in a negative way, clients may be wary that you would do the same to them.
  7. Using gimmicks: Humour, style and confidence are all good assets when used with a light touch. The trouble starts when people use them to get noticed. Contracting is a relatively conservative business based on completing an important task with minimal risk. With this in mind, the client wants to know that they’ve put the project into a safe and experienced set of hands. A flamboyant outfit or overuse of humour can come across as ‘empty’ gimmicks and detract from your professional ability. As contractors grow in experience, they will become more adept at judging the tone of an interview and adapting themselves accordingly.

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