By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
While managers often explore career goals and employment gaps when interviewing candidates for full-time jobs, they focus on different issues when selecting contractors to fulfill a specific engineering mission. In a nutshell, they want to know if you have the skills and experience to hit the ground running. Here’s how to convince them to hire you.
No. 1: Anticipate the manager’s needs
The most qualified contractor may not prevail. Managers often select an engineer who anticipates their needs and offers the best solutions to their problems during the interview, even if they don’t have the most experience.
Before the interview, research the company and manager, if you can. But don’t stop there. Scrutinize the job description and the scope of work until you have a thorough understanding of the role they wish to fill, the technical requirements and the current state of the project. Flesh out your knowledge by networking with colleagues and reviewing comments and sample interview questions posted by fellow contractors on discussion boards and sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn.
Finally, talk to your recruiter. He or she should be familiar with the manager’s main desires and concerns, and heeding their advice can help you tailor your approach to the interview and help win the contract.
No. 2: Brush up on your technical knowledge
At some point, your technical competencies may be tested. Review study guides, take practice tests, peruse answers to certification exams and make sure you are up-to-speed on new codes and regulations to put your best foot forward. You don’t have to know all the answers, but you want to be able to explain how you’d go about finding the answers to any questions you miss.
No. 3: Prepare examples, vignettes and solutions
Nothing sells like a great story. Go beyond the information in your resume by describing your success with similar engineering projects and mentioning any additional skills that may benefit the manager and the project team. Describe your ability to adjust to new environments and bond with teammates, since managers may pass on a gifted but outspoken contractor who displays a tendency to ruffle feathers.
Present a portfolio of non-proprietary designs, coding samples or project overviews as examples of your work, creativity and problem-solving acumen. Don’t cover your entire career; focus on skills and solutions that specifically pertain to the project.
No. 4: Be ready to meet the team
Don’t underestimate the need to impress your prospective peers. Treat them with respect, ask astute questions and remember that anything you discuss will be shared with the engineering manager. Above all, be a flexible, team player who seems willing to go the extra mile to ensure the project’s success.
No. 5: Craft insightful questions
Asking insightful questions about the requirements and your responsibilities can help you seal the deal with the engineering manager. For example: What specific problems are you hoping to solve and how quickly? What types of resources and support are available to contractors? Will I be working with a dedicated team? How much leeway will I have in proposing solutions?
Above all, demonstrate your ability to hit the ground running, and you stand a great chance of landing a great contract engineering gig.