If you’re preparing to interview for a contract job, have you considered how you might tailor your answers? Many candidates prepare for standard interview questions, which are typically geared towards permanent roles. However, hiring managers are looking for quite different responses from a contract or temp candidate, due to the very nature and outcomes of the work.

Temporary workers are expected to hit the ground running in their new workplace – they don’t usually get the privilege of ‘settling in’ that a permanent member of staff is afforded. This means you may be asked more direct questions in your interview, as the hiring manager will want to know you can make an immediate impact.

Here are some of the most common questions you might be asked in a contracting job interview, and how to answer them well.

What was it about this role that made you apply?

Take a look at the job description carefully and study it several times. Pick out a few of the key points and tailor your answer around them. For instance, if the role involves lots of tight deadlines make sure you share strong examples of how you handle and thrive under pressure.

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How do you work as part of a team? What types of teams have you worked in before?

As a temp or contractor, employers will want to make sure that you’ll slot into the team nicely, so your contribution can have an immediate impact. Use examples from your past jobs or experiences to show you how function in a main team, as well as across teams since you may have been involved in special projects or ad hoc business requests.

Why do you want to work for this organisation?

This question has two purposes. It will assess how much you’ve researched the company before the interview and what values you possess that align with theirs. Thorough research on the company before your interview is key.

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What direction do you see your career going in the future?

In any interview, employers are encouraged by a candidate who has thought about their future. However, this doesn’t mean you should be dismissive of the value of temping or contracting – even if you happen to be interviewing for a contract role because you need immediate work. If you’re unsure about whether contracting will be a long-term play, focus on highlighting the positive opportunities and experiences that this temp role will add to your CV.

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Why do you think a temporary job is a good career move for you?

If this is your first interview for a temporary or contract role, consider your motivations for applying. It could be detrimental to your case if you don’t have a good answer to this question. Concentrate on the benefits of temping, rather than the disadvantages of a permanent position.

In your answers, you should constantly be demonstrating how you are a good match for a temporary role. For instance, employers will want to know that, as a temp, you’re flexible and adaptable. Try to highlight a time when you were required to use these attributes effectively in a previous role in your answers.

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Like any job interview, preparation is key

Another important aspect of being a contractor worker is the ability to learn quickly and get along with whatever team you’re working in.

To show these are qualities you possess, think carefully about real-life examples you can provide. Being a quick learner should go hand-in-hand with being adaptable, so you can discuss the two together. If you’ve been in a situation before where you were plunged head first into an ongoing project and had a successful result, emphasise the effect you had when you joined and the relevant aspects of the teamwork involved.

You should also be prepared to explain why you’ve chosen to apply for a contract role instead of going for permanent employment. Don’t simply say, “There’s nothing else out there” even if you believe that’s true.

Instead, give a valid reason that encourages the hiring manager to consider you for the contract role. You could say, for example, that you’re trying to build up experience across a range of organisations because you’re interested in working with different teams and on different projects, even in different company structures and industries.

Take a look at our advice on adapting your CV for contracting roles.

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