5 Tips For Navigating Freelance Job Ads and Interviews

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorI can’t speak for all hiring managers, editors, or managing editors, but I will speak from my own set of experiences hiring (and in some cases, firing) freelancers. If you’re looking for a freelance gig and feel intimidated by those job requirements, here’s what I personally think you should know.

1. Nothing Is Set In Stone

When I’ve listed calls for writers and other creatives in the past, I always put a laundry list of things I wanted my applicants to bring to the table. Some of them I included because those were the skills I wanted, others I threw in there just to test an applicant’s ability to read and understand the job ad. Whenever I had an educational requirement, I listed it with the idea that experience outweighs diplomas. A lack of a piece of paper doesn’t equal “no talent”. My insistence on degrees and such? Practically non-existent for the right candidate.

2. Ability To Follow Instructions Is Key

Whenever I put instructions in the job ad such as “Reply to job@jobsmart.com with ‘Freelance Job’ in the subject line”, it was always to weed out people who couldn’t follow simple directions. Hell, if you can’t do it before I even interview you, why bother hiring you? You won’t bother listening to a word I say…and you’ve just told me so by not following the instructions in the job ad. On the positive side, people who were able to do the simple things asked of them in the ad AND had good resumes got shortlisted quickly.

3. Marginal Resumes Require Good Interviewing Skills

If your resume isn’t as strong as you’d like, you can score major points by giving a really good interview. And by that I mean, come prepared. Research the company online, and find ways to let your interviewer know you’ve been doing your homework. I can’t tell you how great it is to have someone in an interview reference a month-old blog post or article. “I really thought that piece on the Photography Camp For Kids in October was a great example of doing your job at the same time you’re supporting the local community.” You can overcome a weaker resume with being a good people person and letting the interviewer know you’re ready to learn on the run.

4. Great Resumes Don’t Equal Automatic Job Preference

I once passed over a really strong candidate for a freelance gig simply because he was a drip on the phone. I had just interviewed someone I was on the fence about–he admitted to me his self-editing skills did NOT match his writing strengths, basically telling me up front I’d probably spend more time on his writing than on others in the office–but I pretty much hired him after talking to Mister Wet Blanket With A Great Resume on the phone. Why?

I liked the personality of the guy with the self-editing skills and felt we’d work really well together. I knew the other guy had talent out the wazoo, but I hated the idea of having to spend a lot of time dealing with his crap personality. The trade-off was worth it to me. A bit of extra work, sure. But you gotta stay sane.

5. Dealing With The Unexpected Can Get You Hired

I once hired someone based partly on their reaction to a very weird situation in the office that occurred just before the interview started. We were all reeling from a bizarre incident across the street that we had witnessed from the office windows when an interviewee turned up. She wound up getting the full story and by the time we had all finished laughing about it, she kind of already felt like one of the team–AND the interview went really well.

The lesson here is identical to a jokey old military saying: Semper Gumby. As in, “Always Flexible”. If you can roll with the punches, handle the unusual or be willing to take on odd requirements…you could be worth your wieght in gold.

–Joe Wallace

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