Interview Strategies for Eworkers
Kristin Kane writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.
No matter how strong your qualifications are, it is ultimately the interview that determines whether a company will hire you for a particular contract. And because of the nature of contract work, an independent professional will go through some form of the interview process up to 20 times as often as most professionals. Because an independent professional’s livelihood depends on his or her ability to retain a steady flow of contracts, a command of the interview process, as well as a flexible approach adapted to the variety of interview models, are essential elements of the independent’s skill set.
The Essentials of a Successful Interview
Because outside talent has an increasingly significant presence in many companies, Human Resources specialists usually recommend that hiring managers use the same standards and interview procedures in hiring independents as they do for full-time employees. This means that although you are an independent professional, the core of your interview technique should be built around the demands of the traditional interview. The following tips can serve as a guide.
Research. Researching the company is the first step in preparing for a successful interview. Start by visiting the company’s Web site. Get an idea of what the company wants the public to know about it. Then see how the company has been covered in the press, if at all. An understanding of the company’s aspirations, as well as a familiarity with its accomplishments, is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your interest in the contract. In addition, determine as much as you can about the particular position you are applying for. Finally, be sure to find out the name and job title of the person or people who will be interviewing you.
Rehearse. The next step in preparing for an interview is rehearsal. Compile a list of questions you think the interviewer might ask, and practice answering the questions aloud. With each question, try to respond in a way that relates your skills and past experiences to the particular demands of the project you are applying for. In compiling your list of questions, try to imagine what specific concerns the interviewer might have. For instance, if the project involves collaboration, the interviewer might want to determine whether you are comfortable working remotely as part of a team. In planning your response, you could make reference to a past success on a team project.
Another factor to keep in mind as you compile a list of potential questions is the increasingly popular behavioral interview. In this model, the interviewer seeks to learn about the applicant by asking questions about how the applicant responded to specific situations in the past. An example of a question of this kind might be, “Describe a situation in which you were required to deliver a project under a particularly tight deadline. How did you handle the situation and what were the results?”
During the interview. A generous display of good humor and professionalism are the backbone of a solid interview presence. And if you have prepared well, everything should go smoothly. If the interviewer throws you a curve ball, take a moment to formulate a response. Staying cool and collected will save you from most unexpected turns.
After the interview. After the interview, immediately (within 24 hours) send a ‘Thank you’. This is an opportunity for you to reaffirm your interest in the project, and to remind the client of the particular skills and experience that make you an ideal candidate. A stamped letter is preferable if the client is local. If the client is not in your immediate area, e-mail will save time and solidify the contact while the interview is still fresh in the client’s mind.
The Remote Interview Process
If a potential client is not in your geographic area, the interview process will probably happen through some combination of telephone calls, written correspondence, and e-mail. In this case, keep in mind the following special considerations.
The art of the telephone interview. In a traditional interview, personal persuasiveness and charm play a key role in winning a contract. In a telephone interview, you must convey this through aural communication alone. Speak clearly and fluently, and avoid unnecessary fillers, like ‘uh’ and ‘like’. Keep in mind that a cheerful, professional telephone manner is crucial in securing a contract through this type of interview.
Make the most of your correspondence. Even if you don’t meet the client face-to-face, you can still make a personal impression through your correspondence. Cultivating charm and professionalism in your written tone can play the same role as a smile and professional demeanor would in a personal interview.
Your materials should speak for themselves. In some cases, your contact with the potential client may be limited to a brief exchange of e-mail. In this case, you may have little opportunity to describe your expertise directly to the client. Make sure that all of the information you wish to convey is available in your resume and work samples. In a remote interview scenario, you should be prepared to win the contract based on these factors alone.
Your skills and confidence will develop steadily as you gain experience with the various forms of the interview process. Keeping an interview journal can be a great way of learning from past experiences. Sharing stories with other independents can also help. Whatever your technique, you should invest some time in mastering this process; your efforts will be amply rewarded.