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Category Archives: Job Interview Tips

Helpful advice for IT contractors as they prepare for job interviews with clients and recruiters.

Taking Notes is Important, Especially in Job Interviews

Taking Notes is Important, Especially in Job Interviews

Are you an avid note-taker? Taking notes comes in handy in countless situations. Training, webinars, conference calls, planning sessions, progress meetings, job interviews, sales calls… the list goes on. Essentially, if you’re having a conversation and there’s any chance you’re going to need to prepare beforehand or recall what’s being said afterwards, it’s wise to take organized notes.

Writing notes is more than being able to recall a conversation. Ask anybody who takes a lot of notes, including Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee. He’s blogged about the benefits of note-taking on multiple occasions, including this post which highlights the top 10 reasons he takes notes regularly.

Keeping records of your meetings doesn’t mean you need to be a courtroom stenographer, jotting down every single word that each individual says. You’d miss the entire meeting and won’t get to contribute! This post on Meister’s Creativity & Productivity Blog prioritizes the types of points you should write down:

  • Facts (names, titles, roles)
  • Issues (problems that need to be solved)
  • Decisions (what has everyone agreed will happen)
  • Action Plans (who’s responsible for doing specific tasks)
  • Questions and Answers (what was asked and what responses were given throughout the meeting)

This framework is valuable because it catches all of the points you may need to reference, without missing out on discussions and debates that bring the team to these final points.

Taking Notes in a Job Interview

Some of the more important meetings you have as an IT contractor are job interviews, both with recruiters and clients. These are what will secure your work for the next period of time and you need to come across as prepared and professional.

Job interviews are one-on-one and the main goal is to have a discussion. That means that as important as it is, your note-taking cannot take priority. Continuous writing or, worse, having your head behind a laptop (please don’t bring a laptop to take notes), would destroy the personal connection you depend on for a successful interview. Instead, experts in this field recommend you jot down quick notes during the interview, but then schedule a few minutes immediately after your interview to go to a coffee shop and write everything down in more detail.

The notes you do take can follow Meister’s recommendations that are listed above.

  • Facts – The people you’re meeting with, their titles, specific details about the job would all be helpful later on.
  • Issues – This could be the client’s issues that you’re being interviewed to solve, but might also be issues for you to solve later such as errors or additions required in your resume or lack of qualifications that were identified.
  • Decisions – Not many decisions happen within the interview, but if you discuss next steps, which jobs the recruiter will submit you to, or who you should be dealing with moving forward, these are important notes to remember.
  • Action Plans – Possibly the most important note to take because you must do what you say you will. Whether it’s follow-up on a certain date, send an updated resume, or refer a colleague — if you said you’ll do it, then do it. You should also write down any actions the interviewer committed to doing.
  • Questions and Answers – Of course, you want to record the answers to the questions you asked the interviewer. You can also use this section to record the challenging questions you were asked so you can be better prepared next time.

Speaking of questions, prepare some notes ahead of time and write down questions you’ll want to ask the interviewer. You might go one step further and write down speaking points and quick notes to ensure you hit everything properly during the conversation; however, some experts warn against that type of preparation. They argue that answering questions from notes makes you appear less confident with the subject matter for which you’re interviewing and, therefore, less qualified for the role.

The majority of us write notes in some sort of way, but the detail and style of notes we write differentiate person-to-person. What kind of note-taking practices work best for you?

Simple Tips to Lighten the Mood in a Job Interview

Simple Tips to Lighten the Mood in a Job Interview

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Director of Delivery, Strategy and Development at Eagle

Job interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience and a struggle for most people. Wouldn’t it be nice to head into an interview knowing that you can control the mood of the interview? Here are some tips and suggestions to not only make a great impression but to also help you lighten the mood of the interview.

First and foremost, smiling is the one thing that can make the most difference in an interview. Even if you aren’t feeling happy, simply smiling can brighten your mood and your tone. Walk into the office and into the interview room with a smile on your face. It will start your interview off on the right foot. You will come across as confident and positive.

You should always focus on demonstrating a positive, friendly attitude when speaking to a potential employer, client or recruiter. Employers want to hire people that appear positive and someone who would likely get along with their team members and clients.

Find ways to incorporate humour into your interview, but use it sparingly. Don’t head into an interview telling jokes but rather use real life examples. Balance your humor with statements and examples that paint the picture that you’re a smart, dynamic, results-driven team player. Humour is part of your professional image so don’t lay it on too strong and don’t neglect your other professional attributes. Read your audience and follow your interviewer’s lead. Pay attention to cues. How does the interviewer react to your humor? You don’t want it to ever feel awkward or unprofessional. Practice your humor before the interview. Decide which stories you want to tell and practice it on your family or your friends, or even the neighbour. If they don’t laugh then try a different approach. Remember, if it isn’t natural, don’t try to force it. There are plenty of other great ways to connect.

This video is a great 2-minute discussion on how to lighten the mood in a job interview. Darryle Brown gives some great simple tips to follow:

  1. Relax — if you’re tense in an interview setting it can make the entire atmosphere tense as well. Be on time or early so you can concentrate on your thoughts and the things you want to say before the interview begins
  2. Tell a personal story — preferably something humorous. Something to help lighten the mood that the people within the interview setting will consider appropriate for that particular setting.
  3. Have a sense of humor — if you’re tense it makes it impossible for you to really be able to deliver, relate or connect with the interviewers in the midst of the interview setting.

So remember, it’s important to relax, tell a personal story that can connect with the interviewers and have a sense of humor so that you’re able to win them over and lighten the mood in an interview setting.

Video Interview Tips That Will Get You the Job

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Video Interview Tips That Will Get You the Job

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down and it has resulted in some significant changes to our professional lives. Working from home with spouses, kids, pets and other distractions has been a big adjustment, as has limited social contact outside of our “bubbles”.

Many of our clients offer “essential services” ranging from banking to telecommunication to energy and all things in between. For these companies, the show must go on and many projects are continuing on as planned. This has resulted in some very quick changes to standard hiring procedures.

Over the past 2 months at Eagle, virtually all of our clients have switched to video interviewing. While this capability has been in existence for years, most of our clients have preferred traditional in-person interviews. COVID-19 has forced this shift and many of our clients are adjusting to this new normal, as are the candidates that we work with.

While the interview questions are likely to remain the same, there are some differences between an in-person and a virtual interview. Whether you are facing uncertainty in your current role or are trying to make some progress in your job search during this time, we are here to help.

Prepare Your Technology

As great as technology is, Murphy’s Law says your video interview is exactly when it will misbehave.

  • Test everything before-hand. How is your Wi-Fi connection? Do you need to download software?
  • Avoid surprises from popping up during the interview. Close unnecessary apps, disable notifications, plug in or be sure your battery is fully charged, etc.
  • Log in a few minutes early to be sure you have time to address any unexpected problems.
  • Always have a back-up plan. Make sure you have the interviewers phone number just in case you have problems connecting.

Your Interview Space

The right space will set the right impression with the interviewer and help you focus properly to put your best foot forward.

  • Is it professional?
  • Is it quiet and distraction free?
  • Does everyone in your home know that you cannot be interrupted?

Be Well Prepared

Preparation is just as crucial for a video interview as it is for an in-person interview.

  • Research the company and go beyond the website. What are they sharing on social media? What is important to the organization? Who are you talking to?
  • Make sure you understand the role. Give the job description an extra read-through and mark any uncertainties.
  • Practice speaking in front of your camera and don’t be afraid to record yourself so you can hear how others hear you.
  • Be ready to talk about your experience and what you can contribute. How does this role fit into the bigger picture of your career?

Cheat – Just a Little

One of the benefits of a virtual interview is that the interviewer can’t see what is behind the camera, so take advantage of that! Have some talking points that you want to be sure to work into your conversation posted behind your screen. Keep them simple, don’t go overboard and be sure not to read them.

Dress to Impress

First impressions count and this is an interview. It is important to dress for the job you want and make a good first impression. It is equally important for the top to match the bottom – just in case you need to get up.

Be Patient. 

Although the word “unprecedented” has been overused over the past 2 months, there really isn’t any better way to describe our current situation. Most companies are now working in a new and completely remote set-up. While many of our clients have worked out the ability to onboard workers in the midst of the pandemic, none of the processes have been perfected. Hiring decisions typically require approval from a number of different people. With everyone working remotely, approvals are taking longer.

Dating Advice for your Job Search: 8 things you should NEVER do after a first date (or job interview)

Dating Advice for your Job Search: 8 things you should NEVER do after a first date (or job interview)

You gotta love that feeling after a successful job interview for a gig that you really want. Leaving the meeting knowing that there was a genuine connection, they know that what you’re offering is exactly what they need and you know that their project is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Unfortunately, you’re not the only fish in the sea, so as much as you’d like them to pick you right away, the reality is, they need to look at all their options before making their final decision.

The scenario is like that of a first date, so what better place to get your next steps than a dating professional? The dating website eHarmony published a post outlining what you should never do after a first date and it perfectly aligns with what you should never do after a job interview.

1. Go text crazy

Text, email or phone. A follow-up afterwards to thank them for their time is great, but then leave it alone and wait for your recruiter to get in touch with you. If a week or two goes by without hearing anything, it’s definitely alright to follow-up. Just like dating, ghosting is rude and no ethical recruiter will intentionally do it to you.

2. Over analyze

The past is over and you can’t control it. Rehashing every response you gave and wishing you’d said something else won’t change anything. Some interview advice does recommend that you can clarify in your follow-up email, but aside from that, stressing about it is futile. The only way to know If they liked you is by waiting for the recruiter or client’s response.

3. Add them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, pin to their Pinterest board…

Add them to LinkedIn with a brief thank you message, and you should already be following the company’s social media pages, but it stops there. Most hiring managers and recruiters save their Facebook and Instagram accounts for personal relationships. Stocking them through those networks is slightly creepy and over-stepping a boundary.

4. Tell yourself you’ll be single [or unemployed] forever

A terrible interview is disappointing, especially if it’s one that you really wanted to work out. That said, self-doubt and negative talk about your future is not going to help you move forward. It’s important to keep a positive frame of mind so you can continue with a successful job search.

5. Act like you’re in a relationship

A great interview with a recruiter is fantastic and it is safe start building a business relationship. You will get to know each other better and the recruiter will send you job opportunities as they arise. But, the eHarmony article states that you need to know the difference between ‘dating’ and ‘in a relationship’. If we compare this to your recruitment agency relationship, it’s important to understand that just because they like you and you’re on their radar, it doesn’t guarantee they will have a job for you. That stage of the relationship might take some time to get to.

6. Cut off all contact with other matches

We always encourage IT contractors to build relationships with multiple staffing agencies. As per the previous point, no single recruiter will be able to help you 100% of the time. Even if there’s one you really like, continue to keep in contact with others. When you’re on contract, continue to meet with recruiters to ensure you’re set-up for the next gig. Polygamous relationships are not only socially acceptable in IT contracting, but strongly encouraged.

7. Tell your friends & family you’ve met The One

Recruiters need to present their clients with top candidates who they can guarantee will be available if chosen. After you complete a successful interview, refrain from jumping the gun and telling other recruiters that you’ve got a contract confirmed because that will diminish any chance of them submitting you to other roles. If that job you think you had falls through, you’ll suddenly find yourself with no leads at all.

8. Play games

Recruiters and clients have work to get done and don’t have time for your games. Be upfront in telling them about other opportunities you’re considering if they give you a job offer, be fair and open during rate negotiations, and stick to your commitments. Similarly, lying about other opportunities to try and speed up the process or adjust your rate is also an unethical game that, when discovered, will stop any future opportunities from that recruiter.

The Difference Between a Recruiter and Client Interview

The Difference Between a Recruiter and Client Interview

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Director of Delivery, Strategy and Development at Eagle

I often get questions from consultants asking me, “What’s the difference between my interview with a recruiter and the interview with the client (hiring manager)” or “Why do I need to meet with you if I’m also meeting with the hiring manager?” There is a real difference between the recruiter interview and the hiring manager interview, and they each have their importance. Remember, the recruiter is a third-party individual who is working with the client company to go out into the market and find the best candidates possible for that client company’s position. The hiring manager is someone who actually works directly at the client company seeking to fill the position.

A recruiter is requested to use their searching expertise to go out into the industry and find and qualify the best candidate possible who specifically fit a set of requirements provided by the hiring manager. They’re really focusing in on skills and requirements and the job fit. It’s the hiring manager who will take this candidate from the recruiter and then determine if the candidate’s qualifications are suitable for the open position, the team fit, the company’s culture, the company’s core values, etc.

An interview with the recruiter is important. In this interview they will ask you questions to help them determine if you have the specific skills required for the open position. The recruiter wants to set you up for success in your future role so they are going to look deep into your work experience and try to understand both your strengths and weaknesses. Interviewing with the recruiter is also good practice. As per this SparkHire post, during this interview, the recruiter will also coach you and help you prepare for your interview with the hiring manager. They will provide you with useful tips throughout the hiring process, such as appropriate dress, resume format, and handling gaps in employment. They can also provide advice on when it’s appropriate to ask questions about things such as salary and benefits. Your best bet is to look at your interview and conversations with the recruiter as more of a training advantage and a way to learn inside information on the job and hiring manager beforehand.

During the interview with a hiring manager, the hiring manager will ask you questions to determine if your experience would be beneficial not only to the position but to the company as well. The hiring manager is the person who defined the scope of work, including the tasks and responsibilities, and the requirements of the role. They also have the bigger picture and understand the goals and milestones that go along with this role. The hiring manager has the insight into the company and is more likely to assess your skills to see if your skill set would align to other projects or departments in the company, along with this position. They are also asking the candidate questions to determine the team and culture fit. It is the hiring manager who makes the decision over whether or not to hire the candidate.

Remember, it’s important to create a good relationship with your recruiter. A good recruiter is an added benefit to your job searching. If this particular opportunity didn’t work out and if you’ve made a good impression, the recruiter will work with you on future positions, increasing your options.

Dating Advice for your Job Search: 7 signs your first date (or job interview) is going great

Dating Advice for your Job Search: 7 signs your first date (or job interview) is going great

Job search advice has been researched and hashed out by experts around the world, and if there’s any topic more popular on the internet, it’s dating. The two have plenty of parallels so to give you a different perspective on your job search, we’ve found expert dating tips and applied them to make your career thrive.

In this post, we’re looking at a first date article from the dating website Plenty of Fish. It gives the sure-fire signs that a date is going well. These can easily be applied to your job interview. Knowing an interview is going well gives you momentum. You’re encouraged to keep putting effort into your responses, it makes you more positive, and the connection with your interviewer grows. In contrast, when you spot an interview is tanking, you know not get your hopes up and you’re driven to keep searching for your next gig as soon as you get home.

If you’re ever doubting yourself during an interview (which we all do), here’s some tangible evidence that everything’s going a-ok… based on advice from a first date:

Genuine Face Time

Eye contact, nodding and smiling are all good signs that the recruiter or hiring manager are interested in what you’re saying and engaged in conversation. Vice-versa, you want to be doing the same and let your body language display that you care about the IT contract. If the person you meet with is distracted by their phone or checking their watch, it might be time to kiss this job opportunity goodbye.

The Conversation Flows, Easily

Conversation happens naturally when there’s a real connection. You and your interviewer will have a great back-and-forth discussion about your experience and their project, plus you might even crack a few jokes. Unlike dating, lack of connection doesn’t represent a lack of future. Being liked by your recruiter, however, does give you a leg-up on your competition.

They Make You Laugh

As already mentioned, joking together is a sign of a good connection. For this point, though, let’s look at laughing from a broader perspective and consider that the interview makes you feel happy and excited about what’s going on. Similar to when you hear a good joke, if what you’re hearing in this interview gives you a positive feeling, makes you smile, and you genuinely want to hear more, then it’s safe to say you’re on the right track.

You Have Things in Common

Not necessarily with the interviewer (although it’s a nice-to-have) but as the interview moves along, you’ll know things are going well if your goals and skills align with the projects and opportunities available with the client. Perhaps you’ll even find that your unique skillset matches exactly what they need for their newest innovation.

You Get the Feeling They’re a Good Person

After meeting with the recruiter and hiring manager, and getting to know them and their company, you can confirm that you’re in the right place. You know from the conversation that both the individuals and the companies they represent (the client and/or staffing agency) are they types of people you want to do business with.

No One Pulls the “Something-Suddenly-Came-Up” Move

A bit of a harsh move for a first date, but practical and understandable in business. Time is valuable so if a hiring manager realizes early in the interview that things won’t work out, they might end it and send you on your way. Make no mistake, this is no subtle sign. The interview did not go great and it’s time to keep looking.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

We can’t speak for all recruitment agencies, but at Eagle, there will not be a kiss… regardless of how great your interview was. If the interview went great, though, you might get a long conversation at the door, a request to see them again sometime soon, and even a follow-up text the next day!

Dating Advice for Your Job Search: How to Have a Great First Date (or Job Interview)

Dating Advice for Your Job Search: How to Have a Great First Date (or Job Interview)

A few years ago, we shared a post with general dating advice and compared it to your job search. As we noted then, “Finding a recruiter, building your relationship and working to get a job through them can be a long, complicated, some-what awkward and sometimes painful experience… not too different from dating.” The advice followed the entire job search/dating process. Let’s look at a more specific stage and dive into how to make your first meeting successful, using this Readers Digest “First Date” article as a guideline. They summarized 9 secrets for a perfect first date that can all be applied to that first interview with either a recruiter or a client.

1. Reassess Your Expectations

Be sure you’re realistic going in and understand what can or cannot come out of this interview. Is the recruiter just meeting you to understand your experience, or is there a specific job already available? Are you one of the only contractors the client interviewing and the job’s a sure-thing, or is this just the start of a long competition?

2. Dress to Impress

While many workplaces and clients’ sites are leaning towards a more casual culture, dressing to impress your job interviewer never goes out of style. That’s not to say you must wear a suit and tie. Jeans and a nice shirt can look professional and appropriate, but they can also make you look like a slob. Choose a new, clean pair of jeans and a collared shirt with a neutral design and no words or logos.

3. Pick a Safe and Comfortable Environment

If there’s a chance your interview environment isn’t going to be safe, you might want to reconsider this job opportunity all together. But, there is still some job interview validity to this piece of dating advice. Often times, the first meeting with a recruiter will be over a casual coffee and they will let you choose a location. Select a venue that is comfortable, close and not loud to ensure a great conversation.

4. Be Courteous

We can take Reader’s Digest’s dating advice on this point almost word-for-word for job interviews: Manners say a lot about a person. Punctuality is essential, so if you are running late, give your [Interviewer] a call to let him [or her} know. During the [interview], keep your cellphone on silent mode and answer only urgent calls. Most importantly, say “please” and “thank you.”

5. Keep the Conversation Light

Your first interview is rarely the time to get into nitty gritty details and bargain for rate. Focus on understanding each other, giving the interviewer the best impression of who you are and what you can do. Don’t forget, a conversation goes two ways. Listen actively and ask follow-up questions to guarantee you fully understand the opportunity, the client and hiring process.

6. Split the Costs on a First Date…But Offer to Pay if You Made the Invitation

There shouldn’t be any costs to your first date except for maybe coffee, in which case sure, split it or offer to pay. You might also incur costs like parking or transportation. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances or a previous agreement, you will eat these costs. Handing your interviewer a receipt to reimburse half of your Uber is unlikely to create the ideal first impression.

7. Make Your Intentions Clear from The Start

IT contractors enjoy flexibility in where they work, when they work and for whom they work, but they also need to respect their client. When you plan to work from your home office, take a specific vacation, or juggle multiple contracts, be up-front about your intentions. If it is a major issue (which it rarely is), you can end the interview and both move-on. Otherwise, it prevents surprises and tricky conversations down the road.

8. Smile and Have a Good Time

In this section, Reader’s Digest says, “A date is supposed to be more fun than a job interview.” Ouch! Job interviews should be human and real. While we don’t recommend cracking jokes and telling stories about your college days, you can smile, laugh a little, and leave your mark as a positive person.

9. Remember, There Are Plenty of Fish In The Sea

You might realize part way through the job interview that it simply isn’t for you. Maybe it’s in the wrong part of town, your skillset doesn’t match the requirements, or you’ve had a bad experience with the client. No problem! End the interview early to avoid wasting anyone’s time and keep on moving.

Preparing for an Interview? Use this Worksheet.

Prepping for an Interview? Use this Worksheet.

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

Have you ever walked out of an interview knowing you nailed it? Has the reverse also happened where you agonized over your responses hours, or even days later, wishing you had answered a question differently?

How you prepare for your interview can make or break your important meeting.

I created the worksheet below to accomplish two things: To cement your personal brand, and to help you pull out as much detail as possible on recent roles to answer any interview question with textured, specific, and fulsome answers. The detail you provide in your responses can move your interview from ‘good’ to ‘great’ in the eyes of a hiring manager, and can really help with your poise and confidence during the meeting.

You owe it to yourself to make your next interview as painless as possible. Try this framework out; I’m confident it will make a difference. You are about to really impress a hiring manager!

Step One: Fill out the worksheet 2-3 days prior to your interview. You will prepare detail for your most recent 3 contracts, or last 5 years of work experience – whichever you deem to be the best overview of your experience.

Step Two: Use all the detail you organized to answer sample interview questions using the STAR interview technique (more details below). Remember, most candidates struggle to provide specific examples of their experience during an interview. After taking the time to layout your recent experience in the worksheet, your answers will flow.

Interview Prep Worksheet

PART I: Your Personal Brand/”Tell Me About Yourself”

Here you will perfect your 30-second ‘elevator pitch’ and your brand/value proposition for a client. Every interview, (and every dinner party!) starts with some form of this question. Determine what yours is and you can add it to your header on Linkedin.

  • What I am:
  • What I’m great at:
  • Who I help:
  • What I want:

“I am a career Business Analyst with a passion for helping business teams re-imagine their legacy applications into the cloud. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your project and sharing how I can help.”

PART II: Detailed Experience Worksheet

Complete this for your most recent 3 contracts, or last 5 years of work experience – whichever you deem to be the best overview of your experience.

  • What is the nature of the project that you were working on? (Why was it needed by the business?)
  • Describe your responsibilities/breakdown your day. How much time do you spend on what activities each week(%)?
  • What size team are you working with? (your internal team, vendors, roles, size of user-base)
  • Who were you liaising with (business units? other developers? vendors?)
  • What major challenges did you encounter on the project? What was your role in handling the challenge?
  • What successes (small/large) did you achieve?
  • What tools/technology did you use in your role or were present in the technology environment? (versions?)
  • What was the Result? (specifics around how you made money, saved money, or changed a business process that did both)
  • Lessons learned?

PART III: STAR Interview Technique

Reference your worksheet to provide detailed answers to interview questions using the STAR interview format:

  • Situation:The interviewer wants you to present a recent challenge and situation in which you found yourself.
  • Task:The interviewer will be looking to see what you were trying to achieve from the situation.
  • Action:What did you do? The interviewer will be looking for information on what you did, why you did it and what were the alternatives.
  • Results:What was the outcome of your actions? What did you achieve through your actions and did you meet your objectives. What did you learn from this experience and have you used this learning since?

PART IV: Sample Interview Questions

These are the top 5 most common interview questions for you to practice against.

  1. What is your greatest accomplishment to date and can you relate that to the job you are applying to?
  2. What drives you, personally and professionally? What are you passionate about?
  3. How would you deal with an underperforming team member that you are responsible for?
  4. Tell me of a time when things did not go as planned that you had to deal with a very upset person. What happened? Why? What did you do?
  5. What are you looking for? Describe the ideal job description for you.

Outside-the-Box Job Interview Tips

Getting called in for a job interview is a good sign. It means your qualifications on paper are strong enough that a recruiter or client believes you’re worth meeting in-person. You’ve already beaten out dozens, possibly hundreds, of other applicants and now your job is to prove to your interviewer that you’re also better than the other applicants they’re meeting.

Strong answers and good technical knowledge about the project are going to help you succeed in the job interview, but let’s face it, any good IT job candidate will do the same. You need some unique strategies to set yourself apart, and this infographic we found from Forbes might be your ticket. They recommend ideas that few job seekers follow-through on:

  1. Go Beyond the Homepage
  2. Use Google Alerts
  3. Aim for 10:30am Tuesday
  4. Craft your Story Statement
  5. Wear a Fashion Statement

All of the details are below and, while doing all of them still won’t guarantee your job interview success, they will definitely help you stand out in the crowd.

Good luck!

Outside-the-Box Job Interview Tips

When an Interviewer Asks a Ridiculously Tough (or just ridiculous) Question

When an Interview Asks a Ridiculously Tough (or just ridiculous) Question

Clients and recruiters alike have an ability to completely derail a perfectly good job interview by asking a question that totally stumps you. Sometimes it’s a valid question that you hadn’t expected and other times they throw a curveball by asking about a topic completely irrelevant and senseless to the job interview. Even if you are judging them and questioning their intelligence at this point, the situation remains the same — this person is the gatekeeper to your next gig and you need to provide a smart, professional answer.

Natala Pratini wrote an article for Hired a few months ago that provides a helpful roadmap for getting through difficult interview questions. Next time you prepare for an interview with a recruiter or client, rather than try to imagine all possible questions an interviewer might ask, consider these 5 points from Pratini to create a broad strategy:

  1. Take Your Time and Ask Questions: If you already think this response is going to be the death of your interview, spewing out the first thing that comes to mind is not going to make things any better. Think about the question asked to truly understand what the interviewer wants to learn about and start crafting the right response in your head. If the question still is not clear (or makes no sense at all), ask questions for clarification. This will also buy time and demonstrate that you care about providing the best answer.
  2. Walk Your Interviewer Through Your Thinking: Especially if you’re uncertain that your response is answering the question being asked, giving the interviewer insight into how you came to your response will buy you credit. It also provides insight to your problem-solving approach which might be exactly what they want to see.
  3. Practice Humility (judiciously): Know when you’re in over your head. If your answer is going to be nothing more than jargon-filled non-sense that provides no value, then stop yourself right there and admit that you do not have a great answer. Take that opportunity to create a larger discussion about the question, how it relates to the project at-hand, and how you can still provide the best solution or improve your skills.
  4. Remember, It’s Called an Interview ‘Process’ for a Reason: Unless the question was about the core skills required to take on the contract for which you’re interviewing, one poorly answered question will not be your demise. Accept that one portion did not go well and move forward with the interview. Stewing on one terrible response is certain to mess up all other answers.
  5. Use It as a Learning Experience: Everything in life is an opportunity to learn. When you reflect on the interview afterwards, ask yourself if you were truly as prepared as you could have been for this interview and how you could have approached it differently. You should also write down the tricky question so you’re better prepared next time.

Independent contractors go through so many interviews throughout their career, it’s only normal to have acquired a handful of nightmare stories along the way. How have you come out on the other end of a tough question? We’d love to read your experiences in the comments below.