To The Consultant
An interview is the best opportunity you have to gather facts about a position and identify how your skills fit. In most cases, the decision on whether or not you are assigned will be made based on your interview. Other factors, such as your resume and recommendations, also play an important role. The element of personal contact, the interview, provides the most critical information to the client. Will you fit in? Are you confident, as well as competent? Does the client feel at ease with you both personally and professionally? The impression you make will influence the client’s decision and will remain with the client after the details in your resume have been forgotten.
Remember, Tech-Pro’s goal is to place consultants in positions that are challenging and that help to achieve personal career goals. Due to the nature of the contracting business, we will not always be able to achieve this goal. Rather, there will be more of a balance to support not only the needs of the consultant, but also those of the client and Tech-Pro.
Before the Interview
Do your homework before going on an interview. A little preparation can make a difference when you face a potential client.
Review the details you have been provided about the position for which you will be interviewing. Prepare yourself to be able to talk about experiences you have or are similar to everything in the requirement. If you are missing a requested skill research the skill so you can highlight what it is and relate it to something you have done that is similar. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Emphasize your strong points and capabilities whenever possible. Be prepared to answer questions about your weaknesses. Make your weaknesses work for you by preparing a response to include the nature of the weakness and plans you have made to overcome it. The client will be impressed at your ability to understand and deal with shortcomings.
Know your background and work history. The client will ask questions about items on your resume. Be sure you remember positions you have held and the nature of your responsibilities. It will be to your advantage if you can relate your past experiences to the client’s requirements.
Review your resume. Before the interview ask for a copy of the Tech-Pro formatted resume that has been presented to the client. This way if there are any changes they can either still be made or called to the attention of the client, if necessary. Remember, it is your responsibility to help us in making sure you are accurately represented on your resume, especially in regards to your present and recent job responsibilities and major accomplishments.
Anticipate the interview questions. Ask yourself: “What is the one question I hope the interviewer won’t ask?” Prepare an answer, especially if you have a questionable area in your background, such as a recent layoff or employment gaps. As a first impression, how you answer a question may be as important as your technical competence. Companies today are looking for well‑rounded, business-oriented professionals. Give some thought to how you might respond to these typical interview questions. Include answers to the client’s situation whenever possible:
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Tell me about your last job? (How does it relate to this one?)
- Hints: Give broad parameters of the job.
- Tell them how what you did related to the company’s business.
- Mention any specific contributions you made.
- How much do you know about our company?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Where do you hope to be five years from now?
- What is it about our company that appeals to you?
- What do you thinks you can bring to this company?
- Knowing what you know about this job and our company, would you make changes if you were offered this position?
- Describe a typical day in your last job?
- Why should I hire you?
- Tell me about your previous bosses.
- Do you consider yourself a team player? Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?
- What was the biggest problem you faced in your last job and how did you solve it?
- I’m going to give you a hypothetical situation, and I’d like to know how you would handle it.
- If I were to call your former boss, what would he or she be likely to say about your strengths and weaknesses?
- What did you like most about your previous job?
- What did you like least about your previous job?
- What are you looking for salary wise?
- If we were to hire you, when could you start?
Practice Interview. If time permits, you may want to have a practice interview first using someone else who is familiar with the client and/or type of assignment to ask you typical questions.
Prepare three examples of experience you have that best illustrates your ability to be successful in this position. Once your answers are prepared, practice them out loud to another person or even to the mirror. The key is for you to hear yourself speaking your answers. Most people naturally are somewhat nervous in an interview. Chances are you will have the opportunity to use one of your answers early in the interview and it will give you a sense of confidence and positivity that will allow you to get into the groove of the interview.
Make sure you have the directions to the interview site. The Tech-Pro account executive for the client (or possibly someone else from the Tech-Pro staff) may accompany you to the interview. Make sure you have coordinated exactly where and when to meet (exchange cell phone numbers). Always be early for the interview. Allow yourself extra time for unforeseen circumstances. If you are going to an unfamiliar area, you might want to make a dry run. Remember to allot extra time for parking. Plan on being in the parking lot at least 20 minutes prior to the interview.
Don’t chew gum, mints, or candy.
It is extremely important to make a positive first impression when you go to an interview.
Dress appropriately. Avoid outlandish or loud clothes. Your clothing should be conservative and professional.
In our business, it is appropriate for men to a wear a suit with a dress shirt and tie. Women should wear a suit or a skirt and blouse. Conservative styles and colors are recommended for face to face interviews.
If you have any doubts about how you should look for interviews, please seek assistance from your recruiter.
Dress, attitude, tone of voice, and mannerisms all create a strong impression. A client uses this impression to judge such features as reliability, confidence, and ability to adjust to new situations. Attitude and visual impressions are as important as the things you say.
The following may seem silly but all have happened before.
- Be sure your teeth are brushed and you have used breath freshener or mouthwash
- Be sure your shoes are shined
- Make sure your hair is well groomed
- Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed
- Remove excessive facial body piercings prior to the interview
- If you smoke, do not smoke in the clothes you are going to interview in or in your car on the way to the interview
THE FIRST IMPRESSION
When you arrive at the interview office, smile and shake hands with the interviewer as you say “Hello.” A firm handshake that lasts one or two seconds is best. Holding the interviewer’s hand too long or having a grip that is too soft or too hard can make a bad first impression.
Introduce yourself in a clear voice. If you use a nickname that is not on your resume you may want to point that out when you introduce yourself.
Interviewers like candidates who are punctual, so be on time (you should be in the lobby ten to fifteen minutes early). If you are late and rushed, neither of you will be at your best. If you are unavoidably late for the appointment, offer a sincere apology just once, and then drop it.
Be polite and calm. Many clients are as uneasy during an interview as you may be. Put the client at ease by indicating your genuine interest in the discussion through your attitude. If you appear calm and courteous, the client’s task will be made easier—a plus for you!
It is not necessary to address the interviewer formally with “Sir” or “Madam.” It is okay to be informal and use the interviewer’s first name during the entire interview. Learn the interviewer’s name and use it during the interview. You do not need to use the interviewer’s name in answering every question or making all remarks, overuse sounds insincere. Everyone’s favorite word is his or her name.
As the interview starts, focus on self-confidence, positive attitudes, politeness, and alertness.
Make sure you have a notebook and pen with you (bring your Tech-Pro padfolio if you have one. Do not use another company’s padfolio or folder). This is one more way to look prepared for the interview. Taking notes of important points shows your interviewer that you are listening and interested.
Turn off your cell phone, do not use it—even during the time you are waiting for your interview to begin. Don’t even leave it on mute or vibrate—this is distracting to you and definitely rude to the interviewer.
BODY LANGUAGE AND VERBAL SKILLS
Body Language and Verbal Skills
Body language creates an impression about your attitude, enthusiasm, and self‑confidence. Bad body language can be a big detriment and can even be annoying. You should have good body language during the entire interview—from start to finish.
- Sit up straight.
- Try to maintain natural eye contact with the interviewer for at least half the time. Do not look outside the window or look down when you are answering questions.
- Have a positive attitude and confidence. Smile!
- Be alert and give the interviewer the impression that you are interested in what he or she has to say.
- Avoid negative body language such as chewing fingernails, excessive blinking, finger‑fiddling, fidgeting, etc. Do not chew gum and do not smoke, even if the interviewer does.
- Avoid holding something in your hand to play with including pens, coffee cups, etc. Do not tap your fingers on the table.
- If the interviewer leans forward during the discussion, lean toward him or her. If interviewer’s body becomes relaxed, you can also relax your stance.
- Show an interest in what is being said by nodding or smiling at the appropriate time.
The successful candidate reads the interviewer’s tone and gestures and responds accordingly. This means paying attention and knowing when to continue, change direction, or stop talking.
When you see the interviewer looking away from you or leaning back in the chair while you are talking, that is because his or her attention is lagging. Finish your point and stop talking. Don’t get carried away with the sound of your own voice. If the interviewer does not respond with another question, ask a question.
When you go to the interview, bring a notebook with key reminders about your three strongest points (documented prior to the interview). This should not be a list, but rather examples that illustrate your strengths. During the interview check off each point as you get a chance to use it. If you have not had an opportunity to illustrate one of your points, ensure you do so when it is your turn to ask questions.
The reason the position is open is that the client has a pain point that needs to be solved. If you can make the interviewer feel comfortable you can remove the pain and you stand a good chance to get the position.
- Be pleasant.
- Pay attention to the interviewer’s questions and line of conversation. Bear in mind that what he or she wants to hear from you is more important than what you may want to say.
- As early as possible in the interview ask a question to find out what the client is really looking for, i.e., “Chris and Lonnie have filled me in with what they could about the position, but I was looking to find out what you see the job functions and responsibilities being.”
- Be kind and courteous to EVERYONE you meet at the client site. You never know who will be giving feedback to the hiring manager.
- Answer questions truthfully and directly. Avoid yes or no answers. If you aren’t familiar with a specific skill, mention comparables that you have worked with.
If you have a foreign accent, speak slowly, as clearly as possible, and enunciate your words. If the interviewer has a puzzled look after you make a comment, it is possible he or she did not understand something that you said. If the interviewer says “What?” or “Please repeat that,” a few times it means that it is time for you to SLOW DOWN and make sure your speech is understandable.
Speak positively about former experiences. Do not say anything negative about places or people you have worked with/at in the past. One mistake made by candidates is to complain about a previous assignment or employer. Find something positive in every experience and emphasize that.
Speak positively about your abilities. The client will be looking for someone with self‑confidence. Make a good impression by speaking about your proven capabilities and your ability to acquire new skills. Don’t “sell yourself short” if there is not an exact match between your technical skills and the client’s requirements.
Avoid the use of negative terms. Don’t say “I can’t…,” “I don’t know…,” “I can’t remember….” Never use phrases such as “rusty” or “It has been awhile.” Tell them something along the line that your most recent project assignments have not called for that specific technology, but you do not see it being a problem coming up to speed with it again.
Don’t exaggerate your skills or accomplishments. Stretching the truth is usually detected by the interviewer. Try to relate your specific accomplishments to problems you would be addressing if you were chosen for the contract.
Don’t be opinionated. They might be using or have strong convictions toward a product/tool and you might think the opposite. The best thing is to be open to ideas.
Make sure you understand the question before you answer. Be a good listener, this is one of the easiest ways to impress someone. Feel free to ask the interviewer for a clarification to the question before you answer. It is far better to do this than to give an answer that is “off the mark.”
Be aware of the extent of the requirement. The client may have made decisions regarding certain phases of the project. Be respectful of the decisions the client has made. After you are on the contract, you can make suggestions for different or better ways to accomplish the client’s goal.
Respond concisely ‑ don’t ramble. Speak clearly and to the point, only giving sufficient detail to evidence your expertise. Stick to topics related to your experience, education, or ability.
As a rule answers should be kept to 45-60 seconds in length. If your response requires more, wrap up to a decent point and ask the interviewer if that answers the question or if he or she would like you to go into more details.
Avoid beginning an answer with either “yes” or “no.” Answer questions, wherever possible, with specific examples (avoid generalities).
Example: “Do you have experience with SQL Server?”
Correct: “I have done design and development administration on all the versions of SQL Server since SQL Server 2005. The largest database I built consisted of about 70 tables and a GUI front end for ABC Company.”
“SQL Server is a relational database. I have 4 years of working with multiple relational databases such as Access, Sybase, and Oracle. The syntax is different among them, but the basic structure is the same. I have found it to be very easy to move between different databases in the past.”
At all times project enthusiasm, confidence, and ambition.
In addition to those qualities related to your occupational field, you would be wise to convey these four important personal qualities:
- team player attitude
- dedication to achievement
- high energy level
Most clients will question you in one of two ways. Either they will follow a series of questions to get information, or they will ask you to talk about yourself in a less structured manner. Once you have prepared yourself, you should have no difficulty with either approach.
You can expect the standard questions about your past experience and the technical skills.
- Some clients will want you to summarize your abilities and show why you are right for the position. If you have prepared properly, this response will be at your fingertips. Draw parallels between your skills, interests, and the requirements.
- The client may ask you to describe the Software Development Life-Cycle (SDLC). There are different SDLC methods, manuals, practices, and procedures at different companies, but they all are related to an organized, orderly system development process. The process includes analysis, design, coding, testing, and implementation. Companies can create their own process or use others already published. Specific methodology you have used is not always as important as the fact that you know about them, have used, and follow one, and are flexible about learning a new one.
Answering and asking questions in a manner that demonstrates careful thought and confidence is an effective interviewing technique.
What questions should you ask the client? It is very important that you have good questions to ask the client. Many people misunderstand the reason to ask questions. Rule of thumb: Do not ask a question if you do not know what the answer will be. The purpose of asking questions is to further sell your skills that will benefit the client and may not have been addressed in the interview. For example:
The requirement calls for Siperian and you do not have it and you ask, “How important is Siperian?” and the response is, “It is very important—I forgot to ask—what is your Siperian experience?” If you don’t have any, all of a sudden you eliminate yourself from the position. If you have experience with Siperian it is a great question because any possible answer works.
“I was wondering, because when I worked with Siperian I found it similar to other database management tools I have worked with such as Trilliums and XML.”
“I really enjoyed working with Siperian at UHG as I found I could get things done in 2 hours that used to take 2 days to complete.”
(same as Somewhat)
Ask questions that allow you to cover any of the three main answers you had prepared previous to the interview.
Often a client may schedule a telephone interview instead of (or prior to) a face-to-face interview. Your preparation steps are generally the same. You should also remember:
- If you use notes, make sure you do not sound to the interviewer as if you are reading the answers to the questions.
- Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard, especially if you or the interviewer are using a speaker phone for the interview.
- If you take the telephone interview at your home make sure you are in a quiet place where you will not be distracted by children or other family members. Do not have the television, radio, or music on in the background.
OTHER GENERAL TIPS
The best way to approach an interview is with enthusiasm and an open mind. Treat everyone you meet with courtesy. If you decide during the interview that you don’t want the job, or that you may not be sufficiently experienced or qualified to receive the offer, chalk it up to experience.
Continue to present yourself in an upbeat and professional manner. If they are giving you the courtesy of their time and consideration, the least you can do is to respond in kind to the remaining questions. Practice manifesting a positive attitude—it is good habit to develop and maintain.
Professional interviewers are quick to notice inconsistencies, hesitations, and uncertainties. They may challenge something you say just to see how you respond. If you back off, change, justify, qualify, over-explain, or retract what you said earlier, they may suspect that you’ve been exaggerating or lying to them, and they’re likely to probe deeper. When someone responds to your statement with a skeptical look, a pause, or a comment such as “Really?” you’ve got to hold the fort. Just smile politely, nod, and wait for the interviewer to continue. If you become uncomfortable, you can always ask, “Have I answered the question to your satisfaction?”, or “Was there anything else you wanted me to talk about?”
If you are being interviewed for a high-level or high-pressure position, you may be subjected to a pressure interview. This can take the form of making you wait, having the interview interrupted (once or several times), inappropriate conversation or questions, and even rudeness or hostility. Most likely, you will never be subjected to such tactics, although some unpleasant situations (especially being kept waiting) can arise without intent.
The trick is to know yourself, your tolerance, and what you’re willing to put up with. If you react, do so with control and resolve, so that you won’t regret your behavior afterward. It’s a matter of personal temperament and values…and perhaps how badly you want the job.
Even though the interviewer may not ask all the right questions, you can express yourself in a positive, credible, and confident manner with detailed information related to the information available. Our clients generally look at three major factors in selecting contractors. If you focus on these, your chances of success are greatly improved. These are:
- Your knowledge, skills, and abilities technically.
- Your motivation, interest, and enthusiasm for the client’s work.
Your attitude and personality. A positive, agreeable, “can do” attitude goes a long way here. Clients will always choose someone pleasant to work with, given all other factors are equal among candidates.
ENDING THE INTERVIEW
At the conclusion of the interview, always remember to thank the client and express enthusiasm for the position and for your role, should you get the assignment. Enthusiasm is contagious! If you are sincere in your enthusiasm about working conditions and your ability to be successful, the client will be enthusiastic about you.
Let the client know you are interested in the position and feel you can do a good job. Ask for the job!
One possible question for the end of the interview is, “Have you seen or heard anything today that leaves you with any questions about my ability to do this position successfully?” If they do you will have the ability to answer the questions. If not, follow up with something such as, “Great—I am excited about this opportunity, when can I start?” or “What is the next step?”
Your final words may leave the most significant impression. However you choose to make your departure, do it on a positive note.
Thank the interviewer for his or her time. An expression of gratitude for being given the chance to meet with a potential client is always appreciated. Express your interest in the assignment.
Even saying “good bye” makes an impression. Your comments and attitude should be well-controlled and consistent during the entire meeting right through to the end.
Offer another firm hand shake to the interviewer as you say good-bye.
Even if you believe you may not want the position, do not express it to the interviewer. Talk to the account executive or your recruiter after the interview to express your concerns.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Most often the account executive will accompany you to the interview; however, in the event that that is not possible, telephone the account executive as soon as possible following the interview to give him or her the details. Your feedback assists us in helping you make the most of available opportunities. Based on what you tell us, we can give you valuable suggestions for future strategies.
Take advantage of your accounts executive’s opinion. Your account executive is a professional who can analyze the impression you made in an interview. After your interview, be sure to discuss your interview style with the account executive and give careful consideration to his or her advice so you can improve your communications with each interview.
Be open and honest with your account executive. It is important that you discuss any concerns about location, hours, or responsibilities before they become issues. Your account executive may also be able to answer your questions that were not asked in the interview.