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13. What questions are asked to consultants in typical Client interview from Managers? What to respond?

Managers make the final call whether to hire a consultant or not. The goal of a consultant is to impress the manager in the final interview by his communication skills as well as technical skills. Client interviews used to be typically done by a manager or maybe two or three managers, it all depends on the position criticality and organization architecture. This post will focus on the variety of soft skills you have to focus on in final interview with client manager. This post is continuation of the series Everything you need to know about How to get a Job & face interviews in US . Do check out the previous post on how to face technical interview of client and what kind of questions are asked .

Finally, after long process of submission from small consultancy to big consultancies, then various vendors and finally client ! It is a long process. If you get here you have anywhere from 50 – 75% of getting hired. Sometimes the managers just interview two people for one position. So, your chance is 50%. Sometimes they only might interview one, your chances are may be 100%, you just should not SCREW UP!  I will try to focus on what skills a manager look for in a consultant and what they can potentially ask in client interviews.

First and foremost thing, most of the client managers are not technical by nature.  But, there are always few managers who have complete technical knowledge. Either case, the key thing, you do not want to tell false statement or bluff the manager by telling things that are not possible technically or functionally just to impress and get project. Be careful on what you say, always try to answer diplomatically. It should not be a NO and not a Yes either, you can safely say- “I cannot answer this question without full details, need to look through your landscape and judge the feasibility”.

What do Managers look for in a Consultant:

  • If you are going to be a technical developer or analyst, they want you to have sound technical knowledge.
  • If you interviewed for a functional position, they want you to have sound functional knowledge of the application and technology.
  • Very good communication skills.  It matters a lot how you talk on phone.
  • Ability to work as an individual and work with teams either virtually or in office locations.

One of the biggest things client managers look for is your ability to adapt to their landscape in short time and get the ball rolling. They want you to have experience in a business scenario similar to their landscape. Your goal should be to talk or explain your experience focusing on the requirement and talking in terms of the current interviewing client’s landscape. It can be hard at times, but it is what it is…

What kind of questions do client mangers ask consultants?

Managers typically know their landscape very well. They know what technologies are used and how all the systems are interacting on a high level. They know their business model and how their business clients work. With all these knowledge they ask you questions more geared towards functional expertise and soft skills. Sample questions,

  • How was your previous client’s landscape ? What technology did they use ?
  • What is your experience with your technology ?
  • How did you implement this business scenario in other client’s place ?
  • How was your previous team working model ?
  • What was your role in previous project ? Briefly explain your role.
  • What was your support structure at previous client ?
  • What was the change management process you used at previous client?
  • What value did you add your old client ?
  • What were the challenges in implementation ?
  • What are the best practices you used before ?
  • Did you work with off-shore model ? explain your experience
  • How do you keep up with technology as a consultant ?
  • Did you create functional specs before ?
  • How were documentation standards in previous client?

If you look at sample questions, they all are focused on functional work. They are more testing your knowledge of the processes followed in a company.  They look for your communication skills very closely and your technical acumen.  They might ask you a question that is a little technical to see where you stand with technical skills, “How did you implement so and so business scenario in so and so technology ? What technology concepts or framework concepts did you use?”. Your key is here using the technical terms and explaining that you do have good technical background. If there are more than one person in the interview room, there is a high chance one of them is technical, watch what you say !

How to respond to questions :

As  a consultant, the key thing to consider is in answering questions by using technical jargon and lot of “buzz words” ( I don’t know if it is a standard term, but something that sounds professional ) . What are these buzz words ? The entire lingo that makes your talk sound very professional. For instance, these words like, “landscape, business scenario, change management, business processes, support structure, customer interaction , business client, disaster recovery, upgrade strategy, risk mitigation, GAP analysis, blueprinting, development phase, and etc ”. You probably get an idea of what I am trying to say. Your words when you talk should be tied well with business terms and technical terms. They should not be in any layman’s terms. Sound professional and talk SLOW. Do NOT get excited and talk fast. Talk slowly.  Your answers should be very diplomatic. If you do not know an answer, you should politely say, “I have not done this, but I know a similar situation and I am sure if we dig in details, we may do this”. You can also say, “It has been a long time since I have done this, I will need to brush things up and I will be fine”. You confidence matters ! Do not sound arrogant. Be confident. Do not overpromise things like, I can get this done in a day for you, it is simple unless you know it clearly.  If you think, you cannot handle the landscape or scenario, be professional and say, “I cannot do this; it is beyond my current skills. If you would like to give it try, I can give my best shot”.

Difference between a consultant’s interview and a full time employee hiring interview :

There is huge difference between how managers interview consultants and full time employees.  The key thing with consultants is, they expect consultants to have all technical and functional knowledge. You should be ready to go. They think consultant in terms of a finished product, like say going to store and buying a finished product by looking at features. But full time job interviews are much different, they look for skills and individuals capacity to learn and adapt. They can train full time employee by giving them some time.  It is like a custom order when buying a product. They know, it takes time for full time employee to learn, but they are willing to wait for you to pick up and learn, but as a consultant, they want you to perform from day one ! They expect consultants to be Super man! You should be able to do anything they ask for in their technical arena.  That why they pay extra premium of high billing rate.

Interview Conversation Tips :

Keep the conversation polite and professional. You should not call SIR. Call by first name or Mr or Ms followed by last name. Etiquette is important, wish by saying  “Good Morning or Good afternoon, How are you doing ?”. Ask questions like about city or weather break the ice.  It has to be friendly. Most managers like that.  Ask about the company, team, project and how things work in their company. Bottom line, if you get job or not, at least you know the company’s working model and their organization’s hierarchy. It helps you next time.  Do not ask them anything about your interview status right away. You can politely ask, “when can I hear back from you about the position”. Typically, they say when they will respond about the interview. Wait for them to complete. Only ask at the last minute.

Final advice, do not be disappointed with the outcome of any interview. It can be tough at times with the current job market and recession.  Sometimes, you can be denied a position for no reason. Give your best shot. I can tell you, you may need a bit of luck or may be a LOT of luck sometimes to get a position. You might be the smartest guy, but fortune has to favor you!

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  1. Thanks for the information as this is a challenge faced by almost every software company in India. PMs have to silently watch their good candidates fail in client interviews and out of the project, due to soft-skill reasons. Recently I came across a site called clientinterviews.in, that specializes in this niche area.


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