At Braintrust, we help the world’s top tech freelancers land jobs at enterprises like NASA, Deloitte, Nike, and other Fortune 1,000 companies. But winning those projects takes more than just an impressive portfolio - it requires amazing interview skills.
I recently sat down and conducted practice interviews with dozens of Braintrust Talent to learn what was - and wasn’t - working for them, and provided constructive advice on how to ace their interviews. And now I’d like to share some of those same tips with you!
Whether you’re just starting out your career or you’re a seasoned professional, these 10 fool-proof interview tips will help you know what to say, what not to say, and how to stand out in all the right ways.
1. Show them you are a match as soon as possible.
Your interviewers will be curious to learn more about your work experience. This doesn’t mean that they need a play-by-play of the past ten years, though. Instead, focus on the parts of your work history that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. This will show the interviewer that you understand the project and also that you’re an effective communicator.
Pro Tip: When talking about your work history, don’t tell your interviewer things they can pick up from reading your resume. Tell them about similar companies you’ve worked for and what you accomplished during your time there. You can use this as a chance to highlight your skill sets and the business impact you drove.
2. Research their culture.
Take time to learn about the company you are interviewing with and if possible, the individuals who will be interviewing you. This will show your interviewer that you’re interested and focused on this particular project. A good place to start is by researching the company culture and history. Companies usually have social media accounts and blogs that demonstrate what they care about and their values. The information can give you an idea of the tone and personality of the company.
As a freelancer, there’s a decent chance you could be interviewing for multiple projects at the same time. That’s a lot of research homework to do, but it is vitally important every time.
Pro Tip: Look for ways to show your interviewer that you spent time researching their company or project. A good way to do this might be to reference some of the messaging they use on their website, an award they won, or a recent article that was published about their company or project.
3. Create opportunities to talk more about specific projects.
Your interviewer will likely speak with multiple qualified candidates before they make a final decision. And while they have a clear agenda for the call, they might not know what questions they need to follow up on. If you just finished giving a high-level overview of a project but want to share more information, use a follow-up statement to take the conversation further. To do that, you can say “I’ve kept this fairly high-level, but I’d like to take a minute to expand on my experience with Project 1 and Project 2 since those are most closely related to your project if that helps.”
Pro Tip: When talking about past projects, focus on the ones that are relevant to this project. Remember that it’s your interviewer’s job to find the freelancer who has experience with their “must-haves”. If you spend your time talking about things that aren’t relevant, you’re going to lessen your chances of landing the job.
4. Be ready to show your work.
As a freelancer, your past work is your most important reference. Make sure you have either a digital portfolio or ready-to-go links that you can easily reference during the interview. Don’t just show them the end result. Instead, walk them through the actual process you went through and the specific problems you helped solve. What tools and platforms did you use? What was your workflow like? How many time zones were your teammates in?
Pro Tip: Show them that you understand the big picture by highlighting the high-level business impact your work made. Did you help an enterprise increase its revenue? Did you save them money by helping them be more efficient? If so, tell them.
5. Show them that you’re passionate about the project.
I talk with a lot of disappointed freelancers who went into the interview thinking they had it in the bag, simply because their skill-sets were a perfect match. This is important for enterprises, but they also want to know that you’ll be happy in this role. The best way to show them that is by expressing your passion for the industry or specific project you’re interviewing for. If you can combine your skillset with passion and commitment, you’re going to stand out.
Pro Tip: One easy way to communicate passion is to focus on their needs and outcomes, not your own. Don’t say, “I’m looking for a position where I can really grow.” Instead say, “I’m passionate about this field and I believe I can make a positive impact because of my experience in X, Y, and Z.”
6. Be genuine and specific in your responses.
One question interviewers love to ask is, “what is your professional superpower?” What they’re really asking is, what makes you different from all the other qualified candidates? Don’t be generic in your response. If you say you have excellent communication skills, it’s going to come across as vague and uninspiring. Instead, focus on the things that you genuinely care about and then show them how that will give you an edge in this role.
Pro Tip: A great response to this question might be, “Other people in my profession come to me for advice and product recommendations. I really like being seen as a trusted resource for the team which is why I’m always teaching others new techniques and best practices.”
7. Express your values.
When values are out of alignment, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals, intentions, and eventually outcomes. That’s why interviewers will look for ways to understand more about the things you value to see if you’re a good match for their team. An example of how they might do that would be to ask you about the leaders or influencers you follow. It doesn’t have to be a CEO or even a household name. What’s important is that you express the values you admire and try to model your work after.
Pro Tip: Stay away from politics. It’s okay to have role models who are (or were) politicians but don’t use them as your reference point during the interview.
8. Use both the words “We” and “I”.
It’s highly likely that the role you’re interviewing for is going to be part of a team composed of full-time employees and other freelancers. If so, your interviewer will want to figure out how well you operate in a team environment. Be proactive and be ready to highlight specific roles you’ve filled as a part of a team, how you worked together, and what solutions you brought about.
Pro Tip: When talking about teams, make sure to use both the words “we” and “I”. Using “we” shows how you are a team player, giving team members credit when solving problems. Using “I” shows how you clearly understood your role and had an active part in the project.
9. Tell them how you prioritize when working on multiple projects.
As a freelancer, you may be working on multiple projects at once. Your interviewer will know and probably even expect that. That’s why it’s important for you to show them how you prioritize multiple tasks and projects at the same time. What they’re really wanting to know is whether or not they can depend on you.
Pro Tip: This is an instance where telling the interviewer that their project is a priority to you isn’t enough. Instead, show them your track-record of managing multiple projects at the same time. Walk them through your decision-making process and don’t be afraid to share mistakes you’ve made along the way. Just be sure to show them how you corrected them!
10. Be ready to ask questions.
Most interviewers will leave some time at the end of the interview to see if you have any questions. Instead of being surprised by this, make it a point to have 3-5 questions that cannot be answered by reading their website ready to go ahead of time. This is a simple way to express interest in their work and show them that you’ve put some thought into this project.
Pro Tip: Don’t waste this opportunity by asking something generic. Take notes throughout the interview so that you can reference certain talking points or circle back to something specific the interviewer said during the interview. Don’t forget, this is also your chance to interview them!
Interested in applying to join the Braintrust Talent Network? Learn more here.