m-Pact Career Blog

from Marketing Talent Network

Consultant Seeking Job?

An interesting trend over the past five years is the increase in resumes that feature a period of time in which a professional has had their own consulting practice.  This is different than someone working for a consulting group or for a marketing agency or advertising firm.  What we are considering here are situations in which a candidate is using their own self-employment as an independent consultant for part of their employment history.

It is not at all unusual in such situations for a third-party recruiter or an interviewer with a prospective employer to explore this particular period in some detail, especially if it is presented as the most recent employment on your resume or at least fairly recent employment.  And why not?  If it is part of a legitimate job history, you should expect that experience to be explored at least as fully as any other experience.

The secret, as with all areas of the interview, is to be prepared.  However, preparation is especially important in this instance because claims of consulting experience will be suspect to some of the individuals interviewing you.  We know you don’t want to hear this, but it is a fact.

  • Were you obtaining consulting assignments yourself, or were these contract assignments through an agency or marketing temp firm?  You may be asked this just to establish the type of consulting environment in which you were operating.  If these were through a marketing temp firm for example, be prepared to reveal who that firm was.  Also, don’t be surprised if you are asked why none of those assignments converted from temporary to permanent.
  • Who were your clients and what was the nature of the consulting work?  This question will almost certainly come up.  Be prepared to talk about this, but also be aware that there is a right way and a wrong way to present this information.  The most important thing to remember is to try and keep this discussion relevant to the job for which you are interviewing.  For example, if you are interviewing for a brand management job involving a lot of work with new products, try to use examples that illustrate consulting work with new product launch or designing new packaging, or examples that emphasize your creativity and conceptualization.  If you are interviewing for a marketing research job that requires experience with syndicated research or with focus groups, use examples from your consulting work that highlight your skills in those areas.  If you are interviewing for a job involving Search Engine Optimization, focus on SEO related success stories in your consulting.  Keep it relevant to the job.
  • A Resume Addendum?  It is generally a poor idea to busy up a resume with extraordinary levels of detail about every consulting client and assignment.  However, if you have a particularly strong story to tell about your consulting experience, you might consider including an addendum to your resume as a part of the portfolio that you take to job interviews.  As a brief overview, it is recommended that this be organized in bullet format with the client as the header for each bullet.  In addition to the client name, include a very brief description of the nature of the assignment and, much more importantly, any success stories related to each assignment.  In other words, tell what you accomplished for each client, quantifying these accomplishments to the extent possible.  When this period of your work history comes up in the interview, you can then use this to help establish that experience as strength rather than a potential weakness.
  • What were your Earnings as a consultant?  Especially if this is shown as your most recent job experience, you will almost certainly be asked this.  There is a tremendous temptation for some individuals faced with this question to exaggerate, and that is a disaster waiting to happen.  At some point, you will probably be asked to provide this information in writing on an application form.  Plus, don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide a tax reporting record as evidence of the accuracy of these claims.  You may think that exaggeration of this income is safe because it is a little more difficult to confirm through standard reference checking, but being caught may very likely mean losing this job opportunity entirely.
  • Be Prepared with References:  This is an era of more cautious reference checking.  If independent consulting is a part of your work history, you should be prepared with at least one or two solid references from your clients.

If you are one of that increasing number of professionals that include a period of independent consulting in your career track, don’t be ashamed of it.  More and more companies appreciate some element of entrepreneurial experience in prospective employee backgrounds.  However, be prepared to present that background with strength and credibility in order to increase your chances of landing your desired job. 

At the same time, beware of exaggerating.  Again, like it or not, fair or not — many recruiters and companies are already at least a little suspicious when they see this background presented on a resume.  You want it to work for you — not against you.

John

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May 13, 2008 - Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized

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