As a contractor you may think you can breeze into an interview and land a job with little effort -- after all, you're not asking to be a permanent employee. Check that attitude right now. Whatever job you're applying for, you need to put your best foot forward and work on dazzling the company's leaders. Since you've landed the interview, chances are you've already tailored your resume to show the employer that you have the skills he's looking for; now continue to build on that success.
Gather as much information as you can about the employer's needs. If a company is hiring a contract worker, there's a good chance the company is behind on a project, has too much work for its regular staff to handle, or is in some type of pickle and needs a professional to step in and help. Ahead of the interview, talk to the hiring manager and conduct some research on the company online to try to find out what problems the company is facing. Your success as a contractor may depend on being able to hit the ground running -- and that means knowing as much about the company as you can ahead of time.
Develop an outline that details how you might solve the company's problem. If you'd be dealing with a backlog of work, for example, come up with a sample timeline of how you'd manage your time and get the work done. You can also share some examples of how you work, such as computer programs you use or management strategies you employ. Whatever the employer's needs are, try to come up with some concrete examples of how you'll solve that problem.
Rehearse the "standard" questions the employer may ask. Employers hiring contractors may ask about your general availability, your rates, your general work flow, items you may need to complete the job and other companies for which you've done similar projects, as well as questions about your strengths and weaknesses. In other words, prep for the interview as you would any other job interview by practicing your responses to common questions.
Dress professionally. Your research into the company might have revealed information about how employees normally dress, which will come in handy as you prepare for the interview. If the company policy is business casual, go one step up and wear a suit. If company employees wear casual attire, go business casual.
Arrive a few minutes early to the interview, toting your outline, a list of references and a few copies of your resume. Turn off your mobile phone and spend any waiting time getting into your zen zone in preparation for the interview.
Remain relaxed, confident and friendly throughout the interview. Your entire career may not be riding on this one contract job, but you still need to treat this gig as if it's important to you. Try to share how your past experiences have helped you prepare to deal with this particular issue or job; the employer is most concerned with finding someone to solve his problems, after all. At the end of the interview, shake the employer's hand and send him a thank you note after; exactly as you should do for any regular job.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.