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By Bruce Newman

Suppose you are a knowledgeable and experience consultant, on your way to an interview. In this day and age, is being knowledgeable and experienced sufficient? Unfortunately, no. More times than not, the hiring decision will be made for some other reason.

What are the important criteria a consultant should be aware of at an interview?

Arguably, it’s the initial impression you make. Whether correct or not, that initial impression – usually in the first 30 seconds – invariably dictates the tone of the entire interview. It’s hard to believe that these first moments are so important, but they are. If the interviewer believes there is a connection, however tenuous, the subsequent interview will go much smoother as the consultant works to confirm and enhance this impression instead of working to overcome it.

Substance is almost as important and can be divided into two distinct parts: substance of an individual and the substance of their knowledge. Substance of an individual reflects on the type of person or character of the consultant. Is he (note: “he” is used generically; I could also use “she”) trustworthy, honest, reliable, personable and professional? The interviewer is asking himself, “What type of a person am I dealing with? Can I work with him?”

The answer the interviewer seeks is influenced by his initial impression of the consultant. In fact, if his analysis of the individual conflicts with his initial impression, he will be internally struggling to resolve it. This resolution and confirmation is accomplished by the substance of the consultant’s knowledge. Unfortunately, this is not always a realistic or critical criteria. I garnered a lot of business as a consultant by going in and fixing other people’s messes. I have encountered – and heard about – many situations in which the impression outweighed the technical competence; in short, the company erred by being sold on impressions and promises instead of substance.

Substance comes in two forms: knowing the software or service that you are offering – inside and out, and understanding a company’s requirements. Being able to demonstrate your expertise – without (overtly) bragging is extremely important. Being able to talk about similar consulting projects that you successfully completed (if possible) is also very helpful. By understanding a company’s requirements and being able to relate it to past experience and asking intelligent questions will also greatly impress an interviewer.

Anyone can walk into an interview with a list of canned questions, but those consultants who can ask insightful questions specifically related to that particular project and company almost instantly transform themselves into noteworthy candidates. This is one of the reasons why my company provides prequalified leads to consultants – so they can be prepared.

Remember, the interview is a mutual evaluation process in which the consultant learns about a company and its specific needs and the interviewer is learning about the consultant and whether that consultant can meet those needs. It is therefore extremely important that the consultant provide an impressive first impression, reinforced by the subsequent interview to differentiate himself and provide a positive, lasting impression.

Bruce Newman is the Vice President at the Productivity Institute LLC (PI) – a company specializing in locating and referring outstanding consultants. He is also one of the original ETP Network members and the editor-in-chief of PI’s rapidly growing newsletter (7,000+ subscribers). To receive this free, content-is-king newsletter which is published once every two weeks: subscribe now. If you are interested in writing for the newsletter or contacting Bruce, he is best reached via email at: bnewman@prodinst.com.

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