Preparing for Client Interview: 8 Tips to Succeed

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Client Interviews have recently become an integral part of the hiring process, especially in the IT field. The most frequently asked questions from the interviewees sound like “Isn’t it the same as HR or Behavioral Interviews?”. The answer is yes and no. The main difference is in shifting the focus from general answers, even very well-shaped, to the customer’s needs and requirements as a primary source of prioritizing your skills.

Here are the most common areas of expertise that are covered during client interviews, and some of them are not so obvious as they might seem at first sight.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE 

One of the popular interview questions that you will hear, is some variation of, “Tell me about your job experience.” This question is more loaded than you might think — the interviewer may want to know how this experience has prepared you for the potential job. Thus, the main area of interest for any client lies in getting a better understanding of how your background relates to the position they are looking to fill.

It’s crucial to note that preparation for this question starts with compiling the resume. The primary idea is to point out and focus on that expertise which is of vital importance for both the client and the project instead of including all the skills and abilities that might be useful in general, but minor in terms of the project requirements.

This might seem not so easy; however, with a little preparation, you will be able to succeed.

Prepare your “elevator pitch” beforehand. Use short and simple sentences and active statements to demonstrate confidence and proactivity. Concentrate on the expertise the client is looking for. Quantify your experience. If applicable, use data to add proven value to your accomplishments. Illustrate your potential by showing how your previous work is directly connected to the requirements of the position in question. End with a goal statement. Mention what you want to achieve in this position. Be honest, BUT confident.

PAST FAILURES 

This is a typical behavioral question, and such questions might be difficult. Negative experience is tough to talk about because your focus is on trying to present yourself from the best side. However, here is the main trick – by asking such a question, a client wants to decipher how good you are at failing smart and recovering, but not what your failure is in fact.

Talk about how you’ve used the experience to become better at your job and to avoid similar mistakes, provide examples. You may want to use the STAR method (Situation/Task, Approach and Results). Be short, about 2-3 min, and avoid talking about anything that jeopardizes your or your employer’s credibility. Pick a real failure but not anything too costly. Stay honest. Choose an issue relevant to the client’s area of interest.

CURRENT JOB 

Despite a very clear message, this question is aimed at unveiling several aspects which the client is most interested in. Primarily, the idea of these questions is to investigate what level of problems the person works on – if it is operational/detailed, team level or strategic level.

Another area of interest is a candidate’s motivation for changing jobs – moving towards new opportunities or escaping from the job they dislike. It is a very sensitive issue that should be faced with a positive approach. Use the proper language and shift your mind and message from “I am dissatisfied with my current team collaboration” to “I am looking for a highly collaborative team”. Such a maneuver helps to “sell” yourself as a person who is looking for solutions instead of someone to blame.

client interview checksheet

FAVOURITE PROJECT 

The client investigates how the position that they have fits with what you love and can do best, with what excites you.

You should want to balance what a client wants to hear (so you must read the position requirements in advance) with showing your real self, what drives you and what makes your eyes sparkle. This has to be at least to some extent an emotional conversation. Keep in mind that any hiring process is a “dialogue”, not a “monologue”. You need to show that you are a good fit for the position, but at the same time make sure that you feel it’s your cup of tea, otherwise, there is a threat of potential burnout or dissatisfaction.

ARE YOU A GOOD MATCH? 

Sounds like a question in the competition, doesn’t it? Actually yes, but be careful! The majority of people will start talking about themselves: ‘because I am…” NO! Start with: “Because you said you need someone with expertise in architecture, right? Well, I did …” Give examples. START with a “you” statement.

When answering this type of questions, always talk about clients’ needs first, and only after tell about your unique expertise.

Don’t compare yourself to others. The only comparison option you might want to use is to show how the company will benefit by applying your expertise.

MOTIVATION 

What, in your experience, motivates you best? What is your most successful job performance? Can you give us an example of this motivation in action in the workplace? You should want to show your strong sides as well as tell about the activities which keep you engaged.

Also, the client will want to see how you know to deal with disengaging environments, either tasks or people. It is easy to be productive while you are engaged, but how do you tackle issues if the conditions are reversed? Here your strategy is to show that you are adult and mature, that you know how to get yourself doing the things that you have committed to fulfil.

EXPECTATIONS/QUESTIONS TO THE CLIENT 

Traditionally, any interview finishes with the questions to the client. Surprisingly, the majority of interviewees either neglect or underestimate those questions. This part of the interview seems kind of formal, however, it might be a perfect chance to bridge the company vision with the interviewee’s expectations.

Prepare questions to ask the client in advance. Look up their website to see what values they prescribe to the company and the client. Talk of a bigger purpose, company values that you want to be a part of. Talk about opportunities to contribute to others. Talk about opportunities to learn. In this sequence: being part of a big goal, contributing, learning.

If the questions were already covered, express gratitude and give summarizing feedback. This will show your genuine interest in the position and unveil your active listening skills.

PREPARATION AND BUILDING RAPPORT 

Prior preparation is a key factor for passing the interview successfully. Here are several more general tips on how to succeed in the process of the interview.

Meet with the Client Partners, Recruiters, Service Delivery Managers or other people in the company who have been in contact with the client. Ask about previous interviews, customer specifics and their main focus of interest. Also, check official client accounts on social media, the website and other available resources to look for the inbound information which might help in building a connection. Don’t ignore even minor details, they might matter!

Make sure you are aware of the format of the conversation and prepare all the necessary equipment. Is it a phone call or a video conference? Are there any additional tools you may need to use?

Wear an appropriate outfit: no tracksuits or pajamas with panda bears!

Adjust to the client’s style of communication: formal, semi-formal, a lot/not much of a small talk. Try to mirror non-verbal cues and body language, it will help to connect.

Ask clarifying questions if you are not sure about the message. Ask to paraphrase, to elaborate on the details, to type the message in the chat. Use any possible means until you are 100% aligned.

Client interviews are always both a challenge and a great opportunity to polish your presentation skills! Stay prepared and good luck!

Client interviews are an excellent way to “match” the person to the project. Other steps in the recruiting process can only tell you so much about the candidate. If you are looking for someone to fit a certain role, it’s good to know that they are aligned with the client’s view on the position, scope of responsibilities, even the project itself. The potential candidate may have all the right skills and experience but not for this particular project or client. It’s important to be able to elaborate on all that during the interviewing process, so client interviews have now become a big step in the right direction. 

Roman Shevchenko, Recruitment Lead
Iryna Chaban

Iryna Chaban

Training & Development Lead at Symphony Solutions

Iryna Chaban has more than 10 years at people-oriented positions with focus on consulting, training and coaching in the area of sales, customer relationship, leadership, feedback and communication. Iryna’s main focus within her career in Learning & Development is to help companies achieve excellent results.

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