4 common mistakes to avoid in the client interview
Yay, your CV is on point, and you find yourself in the next phase: the interview with the client! Here are some of the common consultant mistakes we have seen during the interview and some good advice on how to avoid them.
In general, much of what was good advice for the interview situation prior to Covid-19 remains solid these days. The only difference now compared to before is that preparation has become even more critical since interviews are conducted remotely more often.
Lack of preparation
The first typical mistake we see is a basic lack of preparation. This is with regard to the specific assignment and project description, but also in relation to doing one’s homework on the client. Both are very important!
Therefore, a good piece of advice is always to read the project description thoroughly and spend some time researching the client. Think about how you would go about the project and prepare a few informed questions specific to the project.
If the assignment is through ProData Consult, then make sure to use your Account Manager, especially if you still have questions, or there are things you’re unsure of after the joint preparation process.
"Hellooo... can you hear me?... what about now?"
In these Covid-19 times, and in continuation of the previous point, a new mistake has emerged. With interviews shifting to a remote format, it’s an excellent idea to ensure that both microphone and webcam are working before the interview. It’s a bit of a silly mistake not to have your equipment in order, and it’s probably one you shouldn't make when you work with IT for a living as an IT-professional…
So, test your equipment before engaging in a remote-interview with a client. Also, be aware that it's even more critical now to be well prepared. Unlike the physical meeting, the client now has the opportunity to be hands-on with the project through screen-sharing. As a result, it's possible to go into the specifics of the project and, thus, easier to "test" the consultant's abilities during the interview.
Avoiding the subject
It's fairly common that the client might ask questions that fall a bit outside of the consultant's capabilities and comfort zone. Maybe you don't have that much experience in a particular competence area or system, and thus, in the situation, it may seem like a good idea to talk around the subject or answer what you think the client would like to hear. The problem here is you risk coming off wishy-washy, and the client can see right through it.
Instead, try to put yourself in the client's shoes. The goal for the client is to uncover how you fit in and can help with the assignment. Therefore, always give clear answers and avoid beating around the bush, by getting into explanations that aren't going anywhere, only to increase the risk that the client becomes sceptical of your abilities. It's best to be honest, and explain what you can and cannot do, in order to find out how your unique skills can be applied most effectively. If there are parts where you're less experienced, then be open about it. And if you have other experience, which falls under the same topic, bring it up if it's relevant.
Also, be present in the conversation. It’s natural when you’re nervous and want to make a good impression to be too focused on expressing your views, instead of actively listening and engaging in a dialogue with the opposite party. Being mentally prepared and well-organized can alleviate any nervousness that can hamper your performance.
Remember, you know your stuff, so take comfort in that and help the client by responding as directly as possible.
Not dressing for the occasion
Displaying dirty nails, looking untidy, and wearing buffalo shoes. The list goes on, and none of it’s good practice. And yes, style is highly subjective, but if you want to be on the safe side and not shoot yourself in the foot, then it's always good advice to dress for the particular role!
For a Project Manager position, try to look structured and look like someone who possesses the qualities and competences of a Project Manager. Also, if it's a remote interview, remember that the client will "enter your living room", making it a good to also think about how you want to present yourself in your own home.
When in doubt, opt for "business casual" attire. Try to match the culture of the company you'll be working for. Create harmony between your physical appearance and the skills you bring to the table to ensure a consistent message in your communication. We know that it's not how one dresses or looks that determines whether you can solve the task. But do acknowledge that we all instinctively evaluate and judge each other based on our physical appearance. So, make it easy for yourself.
Lastly, a bonus tip that will always remain relevant, also during Covid-19, is to show interest in the project and client. We all appreciate when someone inquires about what we do. And not only does it make a good impression, but it also helps to establish a better starting point for a good collaboration.
Therefore, ask questions that go beyond the project description. If you're curious by nature, it will come naturally and will bring about a better dialogue between consultant and client. If, on the other hand, it does not come naturally, or if you are nervous, then it's a good idea to prepare some informed questions in advance. An example could be inquiring about the future implementation of specific technologies, which would be considered a natural progression of the project.
Not everyone is an expert on the interview, which is why ProData Consult Account Managers take it upon themselves to prepare our consultants for the interview as best as they can. But if you're already aware of the above mistakes, or you keep them in check next time, then you've come along way. Last but not least, remember that you landed the interview because you were a good match to begin with!