CDI Corporation

3 Ways to Ace the Interview as a Contractor

Good news: You’ve been scheduled for an interview for a contractor position with an exciting IT or engineering company. Now what?

Interviews are much more than opportunities for hiring managers to ask rote questions like, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” They are an important way for them to find out what kind of worker you are and what value you will bring to the company. For you, the interview is your biggest chance to prove your worth and set yourself apart from all the other highly-skilled IT or engineering contractors vying for the same position.

Make sure you do these three things to ace the interview as a contractor and get the job:

1. Emphasize that you are up-to-date and in the know
Staying up-to-date with trends and new technologies is important in any industry, but especially in IT and engineering, where the go-to coding languages, systems and programs are constantly in flux. Hiring managers are much more likely to go with a contractor who is knowledgeable about the current issues facing their field over those who have skills in areas that are quickly falling out of fashion or becoming obsolete. You should be reading trade journals and websites, attending workshops and training programs and receiving certifications – and re-certifications – in areas relevant to your IT or engineering field. Also, don’t forget that you have 24/7 access to a wealth of courses, books and learning resources at CDI University. Your knowledge-seeking should be happening year-round, but it’s important to put in extra effort to make sure you are up on the latest advancements before the interview.

IT and engineering organizations not only want to hire contractors who stay up-to-date, but also those than can look ahead and take their companies into the future. An interviewer may ask for your thoughts on a new trend sweeping the industry, or a new approach to doing things. If you can confidently and thoughtfully answer without missing a beat, he or she will trust that you can keep the company on the cutting-edge.

2. Define and demonstrate your niche
In permanent positions, it can be beneficial for candidates to emphasize during the interview that they have a broad and flexible range of skills. For contractors, however, spreading yourself too thin can be a disadvantage. Employers are looking to hire a contractor who has the strongest knowledge in a particular field or skillset, so be sure to highlight this during the interview.

Similar to good writing, however, you need to show, not tell. Assemble a portfolio that you can bring to the interview – in physical or digital form – that showcases your skills in the specific area that the contractor position is required to be proficient. Frame everything you discuss in the interview, from your past work experiences to your strengths and weaknesses, from the angle of this niche. A candidate that is not only an expert in their specialty, but is able to prove this expertise through a cohesive narrative of their past experiences has a much greater chance of landing the assignment.

3. Value your soft skills
As a contractor, even though you are hired primarily for your skills and are not a permanent employee, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect demonstrating your soft skills during the interview process. Hiring managers at IT and engineering companies will prioritize bringing on contractors that will be able to seamlessly meld with their existing team. People skills, an easygoing attitude and effective communication are all the more important for contractors precisely because of the transient nature of the position – a contractor that is highly-skilled but is rude, demanding or unable to effectively express themselves will have trouble quickly transitioning into the role, and will instead slow down the project as a whole.

During the interview, be conscious of your body language and how you express yourself. Be formal but friendly and positive. Don’t criticize past employers or talk poorly of former colleagues. Instead, share experiences that spotlight not only your skills, but how you productively handled stressful situations or difficult clients.

Ultimately, the interview is your opportunity to demonstrate that not only do you have the technical skills that are desired, but also that your soft skills will be a great fit with the company’s culture. By following the steps we’ve outlined above, you’ll be that much closer to landing your next assignment.