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Contract vs. Permanent Job Interviews: The Differences You Need to Know

There are common practices when preparing for any job interview – researching the company, creating questions, dressing for the part and following up with a thank you note are all standard acts. But if you are interviewing for a contract position versus a permanent role, the conversations can look very different, and how you present yourself and answer questions will differ, too. If you are interviewing for both contract and permanent roles, here are four ways they are different and what to keep in mind as you go through the process.

1. Selling Yourself

Contract and permanent positions require different approaches when convincing the hiring manager you’re the right person for the job. 

For a contract role, make sure you know the job specifics and sell yourself as ready to roll! If the company is looking for experience with a particular software or technology, highlight your related expertise. Know the specific programming language, applications or platforms they use. Relate your previous experience to exactly what they’re doing and be prepared to explain where and how you’ve already performed the required skills. Remember, they’re looking for someone who can dive in and get right to work.

For a permanent position, your skill set is still important, but hiring managers will be equally as concerned with long-term fit and growth potential. They’ll focus on your specific experience, of course, but will also be interested in your long-term contributions. Highlight your background and talk about your willingness to learn new things, quickly. Overall, the interview may be more focused on developmental opportunities versus stepping in immediately to do a specific job.

2. Using Your Time Wisely

For a contract opening it’s likely you’ll have just one interview, so make the most of it! Sell yourself and gather all the information you need. Efficiency is key as it may be your one opportunity to fully understand the job and let the hiring manger know you are an ideal fit.

For a permanent position, it’s more common to have several interviews. You can digest the discussion and think about what more you need to know, and what they need to know about you. You also have the time to consider the best ways to position yourself and what to highlight in subsequent interviews. 

3. Discussing Goals

During an interview for a contract role, it’s not always in your best interest to focus on long-term goals. For example, if you are applying for a three-month gig but know you would ideally like to go perm, sell yourself to fill the company’s immediate need and avoid talking (unless asked) about your long-term goals. Once you’re in, you’ll be in a better position to vie for a permanent job. Similarly, if the role doesn’t fit into your long-term plans, avoid discussing your big picture aspirations. You can touch on them lightly, but always bring it back to the immediate need and how you can help. If you don’t, the hiring manager may have concerns that you’ll jump quickly if you come across a role that aligns with your long-term goals. This can easily eliminate you from consideration.

In an interview for a permanent job, speak to the growth and opportunities the company may be able to offer. The hiring manager is looking to add someone to the team who will be a long-term asset. Discuss where you want to be in several months or years, how you can get there and most importantly, how you’ll ultimately benefit the company along the way.

4. Closing the Deal

For either type of role, you likely won’t get an immediate decision in person. As the interview ends for either a contract or permanent position, it’s appropriate to close by saying, “I’m very interested in the job and I’m looking forward to hearing from you. What are the next steps?” The difference will be in the follow-up. On your behalf, recruiters for contract roles will typically push to get a response from the hiring manager within one or two days.  With a permanent role, it’s not unusual to receive feedback one or two weeks after the interview. Contract roles, by nature, move faster so you need to be spry and ready to commit. Permanent jobs may requires a bit more patience and perseverance as you move through the process.

In today’s gig economy, many professionals are open to both contract and permanent job opportunities. Knowing how best to interview for each will give you a competitive advantage.

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