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Wait. Was that an Interview?

By Cheryl Scheir

One of the best things about my freelance role is that I never apply for jobs. Thanks to Linkedin and good old word-of-mouth (thank you, colleagues!), freelance medical writing opportunities come to me rather than me seeking them out. Before I go on, yes, I know how lucky I am.

Moreover, once a potential client has found and reached out to me, our initial conversation is less like a traditional “we’re evaluating the candidate” interview and more like, “we already know you’re a good fit for us; we want to tell you about us, and what’s your hourly rate?” It’s a testimony to the quality of people in my business, in all roles and at all levels. We are accomplished professionals who trust the recommendations of other accomplished professionals. Plus, we know that if you have survived in this business, then you’re worth hiring.

It’s a great gig if you can get it. But not everyone gets it.

Then again, even if you’re in the traditional process of applying and interviewing for jobs, you may be able to learn a thing or two from the unconventional process that is typical for me. With that in mind, here are my top interviewing tips:

  • Keep your Linkedin profile up-to-date, and, if you haven’t already, reserve Linkedin for professional connections only

  • Cultivate personal projects that are in line with your professional goals; even if they don’t come up in the interview, they’ll give you confidence that you can do the job

  • Be ready to talk about your professional experiences and how they highlight your specific skills or character traits

  • Learn as much as you can about the company and person you’re interviewing with; find points of commonality and connection that can enhance the quality of interview and “chit chat” content

  • If you are a freelancer, establish an hourly rate that is inline with other people who do the same kind of work; within reason, be flexible on that hourly rate, as “going low” may initially give you more opportunities to work

  • DO NOT REVEAL CONFIDENTIAL/PROPRIETARY INFORMATION about company or person that you’ve worked for; no talking about the specifics of projects and innovative platforms either

  • Achieve the right listening/talking balance (Honestly, I’ve had interviews where I’ve barely talked at all and I STILL GOT THE JOB; you just have to listen carefully to read the interviewer and sense whether they’ve made their mind up and are just crossing the T’s on hiring you)

  • Remember that some interviewers are more skilled than others, so don’t jump to conclusions about what they ask or how they react; also keep in mind that some interviewers will intimidate you, but some will be intimidated by you--make it as easy as you can for them too

  • Convey by what you say and how you act during the interview that you are both professional and easy to work with

  • As part of the interview, evaluate whether the job is a good fit for you and take a moment to adjust the interviewer’s expectations; for example, I am not qualified to work on highly advanced clinical topics, so I tell people that’s not part of my skill set--often, they have projects on other topics that are right in my wheelhouse

As with any list of tips, take what you can use, and leave behind what doesn’t work for you.

And, if you’re currently on the job market, best of luck! It’s tough out there, but YOU CAN DO IT!

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