So after a couple years of life as a salaried employee, you’ve decided that you are a good fit for contracting and want to give it a try.  Even better, you’ve worked with your agency and landed your first interview with a client for a lucrative contract position.

So, how best to prepare for the interview?

Chances are in this economy, unless you are in a field with a chronic skills shortage, there will be at least 3 and potentially many more short listed candidates in line for that one position.  So how do you best target your efforts to stand out from the crowd?  Here are a few key actions which will supplement your core interview preparation.

Do your homework.

Take some time the day before the interview to review the company’s website and recent articles in the media.  As the interview opens, this will give you a chance to show you have done your homework and also provide a basis to ask more detailed questions about the company’s business, new projects, the position, etc.

If you are working with an agency, ask your Account Manager what the format of the interview will be.  This should include: who will be conducting the meeting, their position, any special activities, etc.  This knowledge will aid greatly in your preparation and alleviate stress.

Write down your strengths and weaknesses.

Write down your 5 top strengths and 3 weaknesses as they pertain to the position the day before the interview.  Interview stress can often cause people to forget so having these clear in your mind is important.  For the weaknesses, be clear on what you have done to address them.  One strategy is to pair a weakness with an offsetting strength which more than compensates.   

Be enthusiastic.

The interviewer(s) want to see interest in their job.  Someone who conveys a strong desire and energy for the position will, all other things equal, be memorable enough to remain at top of mind and win the contract.

Leave salary discussions as flexible as possible.

If you are working with an agency you can defer contract rate discussions to your Account Manager.  Otherwise the best approach I have found is to adopt a guideline of fairness and avoid providing an exact figure.  If further pressed you could provide a range however you want to have an idea of what the company expects to pay.

Practice closing the interview

You want to be remembered by the interviewer(s).  Thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in the position.  Ask if the interviewer(s) feels your skills as discussed are what they are looking for.  Then ask about next steps.

What else can you do to improve your chances?

Dress professionally

Arrive 15 minutes early

Compliment, not complain about past employers

Appropriate handshake and eye contact (match interviewer)

Answer questions directly and don’t go off on tangents

Ask perceptive questions about the company or position

Calm & assertive but not aggressive

Articulate your career path and goals

Short direct responses to unfavourable situations

Be friendly

Be well rested

Remember, your job at the interview is to make it to the next stage or generate an offer

Now, go get ‘em!  Thanks for reading.