The contractor market is highly competitive. In order to be successful, you must become adept at marketing oneself in order to find your next contract opportunity. Interviews are a vital part of the hiring process for contractors, so it’s important to hone your technique in order to get the most value from any potential opportunities.
In reality, it’s not always the best qualified contractors who secure the most lucrative contracts; it’s the ones who are best at marketing themselves to prospective employers – and the interview is a key touchpoint in this process.
Here are our top tips for contractors looking to improve their interview techniques.
A service-orientated business must market itself carefully in order to secure new clients. If you are a contractor, you are effectively operating as a mini-business, and should market yourself accordingly. More than just selling yourself to potential employers, you need to consider what each employer wants for each opportunity and to understand the specific need they’re looking to fill. Whether it’s experience with a particular piece of software, proof of agile working, or just an understanding of what their mission statement is, winning work is all about tailoring your product (your services) for the individual opportunity. Don’t just send out your CV in bulk – adapt each covering letter for the role. Do the same when it comes to the interview – make sure that you are selling yourself to the client based on your understanding of their needs and business goals. If there’s a recruiter filling the position, ask them which part of your experience resonates most with the role and find out more about what the client is looking for in order to better prepare yourself for the next stage.
Research the opportunity
Research is essential when it comes to converting potential opportunities to a secured contract. Set aside time prior to the interview to do research on the company’s website and get to know more about their business. Many companies have their staff listed on the site, and where they don’t, LinkedIn can be a valuable resource for understanding who works at the company, what they do and what their skillsets are. If, for example, they have permanent staff in your sector already on board, you may be able to ascertain the exact project and skills that they need more of, or a skill gap they need to fill in their team. Scour the relevant trade publications for any recent announcements that might give you an overview of what’s happening on the commercial side of the business, too, and find a subtle way to refer back to them in your interview. Researching the company’s social media profiles and staff profiles will also give you a good idea of company culture. This gives you an opportunity to adapt your style to ensure you present yourself as the best possible fit.
Prioritise first impressions
First impressions count, as psychologist Sian Beilock, who specializes in human performance, explains: “Set the stage early on for what your interviewers remember about you, by giving them a positive schema by which to encode your job potential. Even if you show nerves after the fact, this initial impression may help ensure your success." Eye contact, confident handshakes and the way you dress all play a part here.
Although interviews can be very different, there is often a common list of relatively straightforward questions which might crop up. Make a list of things that you think you might be asked and prepare some answers in advance, so that you know how you will respond. With contractor roles, the questions can focus on areas such as: why you left your old contract, how this contract will fit into your career and how your experience matches the role.
It’s key to remember that the ability to ‘hit the ground running’ is often one of the most essential requirements for a contractor role. It’s important that you effectively get across your previous experience and how this matches the position. The employer will take what you say at face value, so make sure you give an impression that counts – and fits the job description!
Always be prepared
In essence, all of this advice can be summarised by one simple message: always be prepared. This includes reacting quickly when a new opportunity comes onto the market, making sure you’re ready for an interview at a moment’s notice and keeping an open mind about the types of opportunities you’re looking for.
If you feel that you have the skills, but keep getting passed over for opportunities, it could be worth taking some time to consider any weaker aspects that might need addressing. If it’s the interview that’s the issue, then practice could be the answer. A specialist recruitment agency can give you a helping hand when it comes to preparation, helping you to thoroughly understand the client’s needs and the skills required for the role. Make sure you get feedback from any opportunities that you don’t secure and go to as many interviews as you can in the meantime, until the process becomes second nature.
Here at Phaidon International, we have a number of contracting opportunities across niche sectors. If you’re ready to take your next step, or perhaps make the move to contracting from a permanent position, get in touch with our Contracts Recruitment Team today.
 Beilock, Sian. Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have to. New York: Free Press, 2010.