Not all contracts require interviews with end clients, especially if you’re working through an agency, but the nature of fixed-term work means that you should prepare to be interviewed on a regular basis. Developing your interview technique will help you to feel prepared and confident when pitching for a contract.
- Know your CV: It might sound obvious, but having a solid recall of your CV is essential when attending an interview. The interviewer will use your CV as the basis for further questions, often asking you to elaborate in more detail. When working on a succession of contracts, it might become difficult to recall the details of each one. Keeping the first page of your CV focused and concise allows you to direct the interviewer’s attention to the content that you’re most familiar with. You can also take a copy of your CV as a reference, although you should try to avoid ‘studying’ it in the interview.
- Do your research: Researching your client will help you to formulate relevant questions at interview about the likely requirements of a project. Knowing up-to-date information about your client and how they operate will also let them know you are prepared and ‘project ready’.
- Stand out for the right reasons: This isn’t the time to try out those purple snakeskin boots or to regale the interviewer with anecdotes about your holiday in India. Contracting is essentially a conservative business where clients want assurances that you can do the job; they want to minimise risk by putting the contract into a safe and experienced pair of hands.
- Pitch perfect: Being clear, concise and direct will give the client a good indication of your working style and show that you’re focused. Your pitch should demonstrate why you’re the right person for the job, based on specific examples of your previous experience. This will indicate your unique ‘fit’ for a project, while demonstrating that you’ve worked effectively on similar projects will reassure the client that you can hit the ground running.
- Be confident, but don’t oversell: While it’s important for a contractor to impress the client with their strengths, overselling yourself can have the adverse effect. People who are genuinely confident in their ability tend to demonstrate this through their actions and knowledge rather than through meaningless rhetoric. For example, instead of saying “I adapt well to challenges,” you could specify an instance where you used this ability to your advantage, translating rhetoric into meaningful real-life experience.
- Listen before speaking: Being positive and enthusiastic about a project is desirable, but the contractor shouldn’t let their enthusiasm take them off course. It’s important to stay focused on what the client is asking or telling you, so listen carefully when they speak and don’t interrupt. Paraphrasing and summarising what the client has said when you answer them is an extremely effective interview technique. It not only demonstrates that you have listened carefully and understood what’s required; the fact that you are indirectly affirming what the client has said has the psychological effect of suggesting client-contractor compatibility.