Consultants are constantly looking ahead to the next assignment. Since the nature of consulting is temporary, we can’t afford to shut down our networking efforts and let them fade while we work on our current project. Logically, if we wait until we’ve rolled off from the existing client, it will take a lot more effort to ramp up again, reconnect with our network, and then start looking for a new opportunity.
So while we are focused on our current client, project, and team, we are also working on relationships, looking ahead to trends in the market and industry, and leveling up our skills so we can transition smoothly and quickly from one job to another.
When the next great opportunity comes along, all that long-term preparation helps us be ready for the next step: the interview.
The most fundamental advice I can offer is this: you will never be an exact match for a job posting. There will always be some software, product, or project nuance that you don’t know. But if the company has requested an interview, chances are you have at least the minimum skillset they require. So don’t let the fear of “I’m not a perfect fit” hold you back.
Showing positivity and confidence in your abilities are the obvious ways to combat that fear, but it’s easier said than done. Let’s talk a bit about what’s behind that confidence and what brings that genuine positivity to the conversation.
Keys to demonstrating your fit
- Focus on the client. Are you there to help the company and the project? Do you really believe you can make a difference…or are you just hoping to get someone to hire you? No company hires a consultant for his or her benefit and growth. They have a need, and they’re doing their best to bring on the right person for the job. And since you’re, by definition, not a permanent employee, you have even more reason to focus on the benefits they will receive when you come on board.
- Understand your experience. Have you been in situations before where you had to learn something new and succeeded? Have you done something similar in the past that is close enough that you could ramp up quickly with this new tool/methodology/product? A little research can help here. If you understand something about the company’s product or industry, you can use that to draw parallels to your own experience.
- Bring the energy. This doesn’t mean all you introverts should suddenly love the spotlight. If your energy is calm confidence, you need to show it. Don’t sit back and make the interviewer pull information out of you. Lean into what the interviewer is saying. Ask basic but thoughtful questions and listen actively to the answers. This isn’t a tennis match. Working together for a good interview helps you both picture working together on the project.
- Enjoy discovery. This is one of the keys to my own success. Every new contract brings with it a ton of opportunity for discovery. Not just the bits on the job posting, but a whole new group of people, a different corporate culture, and new challenges and methodologies on the project itself. You will likely learn a new set of tools, too. All this brings the need for you to stretch and grow.
Don’t just “look” interested
When you’re truly interested in this opportunity for discovery, it shows. Of course, this doesn’t imply you should bounce up and down in your seat like a toddler. But if you have energy behind your words, you’re genuinely looking forward to all you’ll be involved with, it will come through loud and clear.
Interviewing for a permanent position takes a similar attitude to consulting. But the overall mindset when going for a temporary position is just that: a knowledge and understanding that your job is to get in, hit the ground running, and take as much project management burden from the permanent employees as possible. If you decide the company is not the right fit during the project, you can always leave when your contract is up.
When you have the right focus during the interview, they will get a much better sense of who you are, what you can do, and how you will fit in.
And that will naturally give you more confidence in return.