All of your planning and groundwork so far has led you to this point: landing the interview for this consulting role, and winning the contract during your interview.
Making sure you’re 100% prepared is the absolute key to conducting a successful interview, so it’s important to find and use all of your available resources to gather information and develop a winning interview strategy. If you’ve prepared yourself fully you should have no problem presenting your experience and assets clearly, and ultimately securing that consultancy role.
Preparing for the interview
Your best resource when preparing for the interview is your recruitment agent—don’t hesitate to ask your agent for the detailed information, as it’s in his or her financial interest to help you get the job.
Your agent may have previously had candidates for interview with this person, and will have feedback on other consultants. Your agent should let you know how formal or informal the interview will be, who specifically will conduct the interview, and how the interview will be structured in terms of functional versus technical segments and so on.
You can also ask for your agent’s opinion about what kind of person the interviewer is, how best to impress the interviewer, or what kinds of technical and functional questions might be asked.
The next step is to research your potential employer on the Internet. Review the company website and prepare a few interview questions based on the content. For instance, you could ask which business functions are implemented with Oracle or how business units are using Oracle.
Finally, revise your functional and technical Oracle skills, considering what questions might be asked at an interview.
Your final preparation step is to reflect on the information you’ve gathered and review your resume and profile from the interviewer’s point of view. Thinking about each of your key roles and skills, consider the following questions:
- What does your interviewer need to know about you?
- What do you particularly want to emphasize?
- From your interviewer’s perspective, how exactly will you fit into this project team?
Use these questions to build your profile and CV into an interview script. Just as you did in your conversations with agents, remember during your interview to communicate what you know in common language the interviewer will understand. Be sure to emphasize both your hard and soft skills as well as all functional and technical areas the interviewer might find important.
Finally, imagine how your interviewer might compare your CV to what he or she is looking for—be prepared to describe some specific examples in detail that support what’s on your CV. Prepare some descriptions of your work that highlight your skills as they might benefit the project team from your interviewer’s point of view.
During the interview
Now that you have your preparation done, and you’ve gathered key information about your prospective employer, and the interview format, you’re ready to conduct a winning interview.
Interviews can vary quite a bit in style depending upon the corporate culture and the interviewer’s personality. Keep in mind that the interview may not be conducted exactly the way your agent described or any general guidelines you might expect—this is completely normal.
Many interviews for consultants are conducted over the phone—if you do get a phone interview, you can keep a list of key points in front of you. This will help you make sure to emphasize key points in your resume that might particularly interest your interviewer, based on your research and conversations with your recruitment agent.
Most interviews begin with a summary describing the company, the project, and the proposed role within the project. Listen carefully here for clues about what kind of person the interviewer is and what in particular he or she is looking for in a consultant.
Typically this will be followed by a combination of functional and technical questions asking you to describe your experience. Remember, of course, to be confident about your experience—you’re a candidate because you possess the right qualities—but be sure to be honest in all of your answers.
No consultant has experience in every aspect of Oracle, and admitting you don’t know or haven’t seen something not only makes you more believable, it also speaks volumes about your confidence in what you do know and your ability to learn on the job. In fact, one of the most valuable traits project managers look for is adaptability. Projects seldom if ever run smoothly, so someone who can adapt to adversity by learning on the fly is indispensable on project teams. If you can demonstrate that you learned something outside your established skill-set to complete a task successfully, be sure to bring that up in the interview.
For interviews, I use a structured approach to preparation, consisting of the following phases:
- Preparing for the interview
Everyone prepares for interviews in their own way, but I recommend following a plan for each interview. After each interview experience, record how it went, so you can refine your interview preparation plan for the next time.
Additional from the frontline:
Interviews are a necessary evil in consulting. The interview is the only opportunity a manager has to decide if you are a suitable fit for the role. Hiring the right resource is not easy, so you can expect some tough questions so that a manager can be sure he has the right resource.
Frequently the interview will have two parts:
- Skills verification/clarification
- Personal consulting style
The skills verification phase allows the manager to ask further questions on your CV, to see if the experience or knowledge mentioned is at a sufficient level for the role. He may call on an experienced team member to join the interview, just for this purpose. These questions may be on Oracle features or aspects of the application or tool-set.
The manager will likely trust his instincts in the second phase, where your personal consulting style is assessed. I remember being once asked “What project have you enjoyed the most, and why?” followed by “What project has your client gained most from you, and why?”
These questions mean you need to give a longer answer, and allows the manager to determine your personal consulting style. This segment of the interview will show the manager the type of person you are, and should be welcomed as an opportunity to do that.
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