How to prepare to interview for a temporary position

In many ways interviewing for a contact position follows the same rules as interviewing for a full-time job, but there are several significant differences. Here’s how to prepare for a contract role in the gig economy.

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Temporary jobs are on the rise. According to research from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialist Intl., nearly three million people are employed in a temporary job with a projected 173,478 additional temp jobs expected to open up from 2016 to 2018. The study found that 47 percent of companies plan to hire temporary or contract workers in 2016, and just under 60 percent of that group also plan to consider transitioning temporary workers to permanent employees at some point. Tech jobs are at the forefront of temporary work, with computer service representatives, computer user support specialists, software developers and application developers expected to see the most growth in contract jobs.

In some ways, the interview process for a temp or contract job is similar to that of a full-time job. Come prepared with resumes, arrive 10 or 15 minutes early and dress appropriately in a suit or appropriate outfit. Be sure to research the company ahead of time, ask specific questions that show you are listening to the interviewer and follow up in a timely fashion after the interview. However, although the actual process looks similar on the surface, the context of the interview is dramatically different for a temp job compared to a full-time job.

Hiring for a specific skill

If you're applying for a full-time role, you'll likely find a broader set of relevant skills and expertise on the job listing, but there is typically some flexibility in certain areas. For example, you might see a long list of requirements on a full-time job listing with a number of desired skills for the job. Typically, you don't actually need to have all 15 skills the job requirements list, and employers are often willing to hire someone passionate with most of the right background.

[ Related: How to manage workers in the gig economy ]

However, with part-time gigs, businesses are usually looking to fill a very specific and immediate need, says Jane Davis Long, principal staffing Manager, Accounting, Finance & Administrative at WinterWyman Contract Staffing. She says that with full-time employees, businesses are more likely to hire someone who can "grow into" a role, rather than jump right in. But with temp workers, they often need you to get right into the work they have lined up.

"There is more of a focus on the commitment to the project and duration itself during a temp job than to the company or the team. Hiring managers care more about a candidate's knowledge of specific software and their ability to complete specific tasks than their domain expertise, business acumen or, even in some cases, their culture fit with the rest of the team," says Paul Wallenberg, Team Lead, Technology Services at LaSalle Network, a national staffing and recruiting firm.

Hone your research

When interviewing for a full-time job, you can get away with some general research on the company - as long as you have a solid understanding of what they do and their place in your industry. But for temp-jobs, you will want to hone in on the specific role you're interviewing for, says Davis Long.

The interview process for temp jobs moves quickly, because they're trying to fill a role as soon as possible, whereas interviewing for a full-time job can oftentimes span months. "Learn what you can about the specific challenges of the role you'll be performing, and how your skills and experience can help the organization meet the challenges. Also, be sure to visit the company website to determine if you can articulate what they do," says Davis Long.

[ Related: Tech pros make the most of the 'gig economy' ]

Davis Long suggests giving specific examples of your work, focusing on "similar work you've done in the past," the technology you're familiar with, different processes you've developed and projects you've completed in the past. Go into great detail to show them that you fully understand the role at hand to show how confident you are that you'll be able to dive right into the work.

References at the ready

Since the interviewing process will move faster for a temporary job, Wallenberg says to have everything ready to go the day you arrive for your first meeting. That includes references, examples of your work, your salary negotiations and anything else that you will need to get the ball rolling. With a full-time interview, it's OK to send the references after the fact, and follow up with other relevant information after the initial interview - but not with a temp job.

"Interviewing for a temp position is a quicker process than interviewing for a full-time job, be proactive and be ready to provide references right away. LinkedIn recommendations are not the same thing as references to a hiring manager, so if you want to use your LinkedIn recommendation, be sure they are willing to talk about your work product. Additionally, the best references are people who have directly supervised you in the past, not peers or stakeholders," he says.

[ Related: Hiring trends for 2016: Welcome to the gig economy ]

Wallenberg says that if you don't have a managerial reference, hiring managers might see that as a red flag - especially if you have a long history of temporary work. If you can't get references, even if it's just because of company policies, ask for letters of recommendations instead. You'll not only look prepared, but you'll cut down on the amount of follow-up after the fact, which will only help your chances over other candidates who didn't come prepared.

Keep an eye on full-time

A lot of companies will hire part-time workers and then transition them to full-time once they've proven their merit. It's important to keep that in mind, because if you wind up liking the company you're temping at, it could be a great fit. But if you decide to ask the interviewer if the job will ever transition into full-time, be sure to make it clear that you are OK if it doesn't.

"State that while you are ultimately seeking a full time job, you are comfortable working on an interim/project basis. If you share that you're looking for a permanent position, you may answer your way out of the contract job. Hiring managers want to ensure that you will stay for the length of the contract and that you are invested in the role," says Davis Long.

Without going too much into personal details, express why temporary work fits into your current lifestyle, and why you're actively pursuing this line of work over permanent positions, Wallenberg adds. In fact, if you have your eye on a full-time gig, Wallenberg suggests not mentioning temp-to-hire opportunities unless the hiring manager does, or to wait until you've been on board for a few weeks, and then express your interest.

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