If you’ve been in your current contracting role for some time, you might out of touch with current interviewing techniques and a bit rusty sitting in front of an interviewer. Find below a comprehensive candidate check-list which tells you how to prepare, what questions to expect and how to conduct yourself during the interview.
How to prepare for a contractor interview
There’s a lot to think about before an interview, so here’s how to get up to speed:
Find out about the company
Before your interview, you should find out the following about the company:
- What are its products or services
- How big is the company?
- Who are its competitors?
Aside from the information your agency can provide, you should do your own research from company literature, online searches and word of mouth, if possible.
Looking to find a contracting role?
Our free guide to finding a contract will help you secure your next role.
What’s in the guide?
- Finding the right contract – Agencies or job boards? We’ve got you covered.
- Seven secrets to optimising your income – From experience to presentation skills.
- CV’s, e-CV’s and CV databases – How to make sure your CV is picked up.
- Five tips when writing your CV – why it is important to keep it up-to-date.
Find out what structure the interview will follow
Pick out your skills or achievements that are directly relevant and rehearse these ahead of the interview. Find opportunities to sell yourself, relating your skills to the role you are applying for.
Most interviews follow a similar format:
Questions based on your CV to explain your career path and ambitions
- Rehearse skills and achievements that are directly relevant;
- Be prepared to explain any unusual parts of your CV, such as any long periods of time taken out for education or travelling etc
General questions about you
Some examples include:
- How much do you know about this position?
- What interests you about the job?
- What experience or skills do you have that makes you right for this job?
- Tell me about/why did you leave your last contract?
- What interests you about this company?
- When have you had the opportunity to show initiative?
- Who and what were you responsible for at your last job?
- Give an example of when you coped well under pressure?
- Do you prefer to work as an individual or as part of a team?
- What are your three biggest achievements so far in your career?
- What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your long term goals? How are you going to succeed in achieving them?
- Are you considering any other roles?
What information will you be given during the interview?
Informing you about the position and company
- Which department the vacancy is in and how that fits within the company
- Who you would be working for and with
Giving you an opportunity to ask questions
- Asking relevant questions shows you are interested, organised and able to plan ahead.
- Rate and benefits are important, but a client will be more impressed if you ask questions about the company, the department and the role first.
- Good questions to ask are about any training opportunities, who you will report to and who you will be working with.
Informing you of the next stage of the process and when you will hear if you have been successful
- Whether there is a second or third round of interviews.
Are there any other steps I can take to prepare before an interview?
Find out the details of the interview
- What is the date, time and location?
- Allow plenty of time for travel, aim to arrive at least 10 minutes early.
- If you are held up, phone ahead and let them know.
- If possible, do a trial run (check timetables or parking availability).
- Ensure your personal welfare ( If the interview is not held either at the employer’s office or your agent’s office, ensure it is in a public place, eg, a hotel foyer – and liaise with your consultant in any situation in which you are not comfortable.)
Who will be interviewing you?
- Be prepared for the possibility of a panel interview. In a panel interview, answer questions looking from one interviewer to another.
How should you dress?
- First impressions are important! Dress suitably, be well-groomed and wear something you are comfortable in. Your consultant can advise if you are unsure.
What should I expect during an interview?
- Switch off your mobile.
- Shake the interviewer’s hand firmly when he/she offers.
- Take the lead from the interviewer.
- Don’t sit down until you are asked.
- Look alert and sit upright, eye contact is important.
- Be yourself/honest.
- Listen carefully, concentrate and don’t interrupt.
- Show interest.
- Talk slowly and clearly.
- Keep your answers clear and to the point
- Take time if necessary before answering a question or ask for clarification if you are unsure of the meaning.
- Don’t be afraid to admit if you can’t answer the question.
- Don’t criticise your current employer, or reveal confidential/controlled information/documentation.
- Find opportunities to sell yourself, relating your skills to the job.
- Make questions relevant.
- Show that you have researched the company by the questions you ask.
- Ask about training, team involvement, technology, etc.
- Leave questions about rate and benefits until a later stage of interviewing.
- Ask when you will be given a decision.
- Save a pertinent question until the end.
- Before the interview ends, do say if you haven’t had the opportunity to put a point across or to ask a question. Finally, say if you are interested in the contract and thank the interviewer for seeing you.
After the interview
- Please call your consultant as soon as possible with your feedback.
How to handle nerves before an interview
Most people have a conditioned response to interviews known as “nerves”. Here are some tips to make the best use of nerves:
What resists persists
There is little point wishing you didn’t feel nervous or thinking of all the “bad” things that might happen as a consequence. What we resist tends to persist. If we try to push nerves away, they will stubbornly hang around. So, acknowledge and accept them.
Use nerves to stay alert
Ask most actors and they will tell you that nerves are vital to a good performance. They keep you alert and on the ball. Without nerves, actors can feel over-confident and complacent. So value your nerves, and place the focus on how they are keeping you alert.
Treat them as nothing special
Treat the nerves as nothing special. Give them equal value to the colour of your shirt and the state of the weather. Acknowledge them and do what you need to do anyway. By taking the attention off, in this way, nerves soon lose their momentum.
Breathe gently and deeply
Just before the interview, you can easily calm yourself down using a simple breathing technique. Breathe into the count of 4, hold for a count of 2, then breathe out to a count of 4, hold this for a count 2. Do this 5 or 6 times, but no more. Then sit for a minute, before setting off.
Developing an interview routine
I would encourage you to develop an interview routine. A simple method for getting you into the best state of mind and being for the interview. Golfers do it. Actors do it. Rather than leave their state of being to chance, they have developed simple mechanisms that work for them. Everyone is different, but here are some suggestions to develop your own interview routine.
Do all your technical preparation before the interview. You don’t want to be swotting in your car about the various techniques for bouncing a database. If you have done your preparation well, then you will feel good that you know what you know, and what you don’t know, you can learn.
Example: At one interview I attended, the two clients concluded the first part of the interview, and then brought out a list of 100 technical questions. Some I knew, some I didn’t. What was interesting was that, for those things I didn’t know, I treated this as an opportunity to learn and asked them what the answer was. They seemed to appreciate that although I hadn’t known the answer, I had shown that I was open to learning. In this way, you can turn not knowing to your advantage.
Get there in good time
Getting to the interview in good time is a mark of respect to the client, which might get you some brownie points, particularly if other candidates don’t turn up, or stroll in late.
It also gives you time to collect yourself and in a great state of mind for the interview.
Get in the mood
Let’s say you arrived in the car, you get to the location and park up. You’ve 10 minutes before walking into reception to let them know you’re here. How do you feel? Are you in the mood to meet some new people and be interested in what they’re doing and keen to share your own experience? If you are not, then this is where the routine comes in.
I have known some people to play certain music to get them in a good mood. For some it’s good to move the body in some way, like an athlete preparing to run, you’ll notice they shake themselves, make gestures, anything to focus and shift their state of being to a more positive one.
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