A Recruiter Tells All: How to Rock a Temporary Job Interview

By Robert Half March 13, 2017 at 9:00pm

You’ve discovered the advantages of working with a staffing firm that specializes in recruiting temporary accounting and finance professionals in your search for temporary work. That’s why you signed up with them. But now that it’s time to meet face to face, do you know how to succeed in a temporary job interview?

Candidates should prepare to answer questions about their background, their strengths and weaknesses, and why they’re interested in the role — just as they would if they were interviewing for a full-time position, says Lauren Cassidy, Robert Half senior regional manager.  

What other behind-the-scenes advice does Cassidy have to share about interviewing for a temporary job?

Here are three ways that she says will help you stand out in a temporary job interview — and win the assignment.

1. Research the company and know what it needs

Before the interview, you should research the company and look up the hiring manager on LinkedIn, Cassidy says.

Employers have a variety of reasons for engaging temporary workers, but it’s safe to say they’re looking for someone to fill a specific role or complete an immediate project. You can find out from the job description and also from your staffing agency what a business is looking for in a candidate.  

Is the employer looking for a highly skilled finance professional who can supply specialized expertise? Does the company need to fill an entry-level position for someone on leave? Either way, you’ll want to focus on how you can quickly get up to speed to accomplish the tasks the company needs.

2. Prepare for skill-based interview questions

Say you’re interviewing for a temporary position as a tax accountant. You’ll want to talk about your top-notch research, organization and communication skills, your commitment to ethics and a strong attention to detail. Preparing for a temporary job interview for a part-time bookkeeping position? Discuss your experience in preparing financial statements, managing bank reconciliations and processing payroll.

“What you need to do in the job interview is to outline your specific skills,” Cassidy says. “Articulate your experience, from software and positions to industry experience, and explain how you’d transfer your skill sets to the temporary job you’re applying for.”

Yes, you may be asked common job interview questions, such as: “Can you tell me a little about yourself?” But the questions that will get to the heart of a temporary job interview are those that give you a chance to discuss similar work you’ve done in the past and the processes and technology you’re familiar with.

Practice your answers so you’re able to present information about your relevant skills and experience, your adaptability and flexibility, your ability to complete specific tasks and commit to a project, and how you can benefit the company.

Here are some examples of skills-related questions:

  • For an accounts payable job: “Tell us about a time you discovered a discrepancy in an invoice. How did you solve it?”   
  • For a cost accounting job: “What accounting packages have you worked with, and which one best meet your needs?”
  • For internal auditing: “Have you ever discovered an inefficiency or fraud during an audit?”

For a short-term role, personality fit isn’t always the most critical component of the job interview, but your interpersonal skills still important.

“Hiring managers are going to want someone who fits in with their staff and collaborates with others on the team,” Cassidy says. “And you can be sure that if there are two or three people who are all equally qualified for the position, they will choose the person who they connect with most from a soft skills perspective.”

Curious about the kind of curveball questions you might get in a job interview? Read this Accountemps survey to find questions you can practice answering!

3. Be proactive and ready to work

Hiring managers need to know you’re going to be able to hit the ground running with little or no training for the temporary job. They also want to know you’re interested in the kind of work you’ll be doing.

“Be sure to express your interest in the job and that you’re ready to work right away, assuming you are,” Cassidy says. “Show that you have initiative, and that you care about bettering yourself and adding value to the organization.”

Keep in mind that some companies may be considering a temp-to-hire strategy, where they can evaluate potential hires before offering them a full-time position. This is one kind of temporary job interview where it’s fully acceptable to discuss your long-range goals.

“A lot of people who start out in temporary positions and do really well and make a great impression are going to be the first to be considered for a full-time opportunity, should one present itself,” Cassidy says.

“If you’re asked why you’re pursuing temporary work over full-time positions, talking about how temporary work fits into your current lifestyle would be appropriate.”

One more tidbit: The temporary job interview process often moves quicker than for full-time positions. That means you may need to provide references right away, and you might be called in for a second interview, where you can expect to discuss the next steps. Be prepared to start very soon in a temporary job.

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