From self employment to a job in an organization

This can be a difficult situation. Self employed people are naturally independent, and their time out of the workforce can be an obstacle.

Also capable of being a possible obstacle is the fact that a lot of interviewers don't know much about being self employed. For many people in the workforce, it's an exotic sort of idea. You could be seen as an alien.

Moving from self employment to a so called regular job can be a big step.

If you're used to being your own boss, it can be a major cultural shift. You may actually have to remind yourself that somebody else is the boss. It really can be that difficult.

So unless you're actually coming in as a boss, (it does happen) you effectively have to change gears, to do the interview. You now have to think in terms of being an employee.

That can be a lot harder than it sounds. You know your stuff, because you have to know your stuff when you're self employed. However, you're also used to making all the decisions, and working by your own rules.

The new rules mean you have to go back to the conventional models of how things are done. All businesses have their own inner methods, but for the purposes of an interview, you need to know the strictly classroom versions.

For example:

In your business, you may well operate your cashbook quite differently. It's still a cashbook, doing the same things, but you have to know the proper business methods, as taught in business courses.

You may do your inventory quite differently. The result is the same, the reason is the same, and the methods are entirely different.

You also need to realize that the interviewers are going to be asking you questions based on Business Best Practice. Experienced interviewers, particularly in the same industry, will know what you're talking about when you mention other ways of doing things, but some won't.

Before the interview:

Pin down your reason for wanting the job. Self employment is tough, and people know it's tough. Some people want to be self employed and do a day job, it's actually quite common.

You may have any number of good reasons for wanting to do a job instead, or as well as, your self employment.

Make your reason simple and clear, and give a very positive reason.


I picked this job the minute I saw it, because I know it's a good job, and I've checked out your company and heard some very good things about your business.

I wasn't about to let this opportunity slip. I didn't expect to see this job, and I dropped everything and applied for it.

If you're intending to do the self employed business as well, use the same approach, but literally spell out the fact there's no conflict with the new job:

Actually, the business can easily be done outside business hours, so I can put all my time in on the day job with no chance of any difficulties.

Most of the business is done by phone, from home. I can do all of that with no conflict with the day job.

If your new job and your ongoing business are in the same industry, make sure you can show the employer there are no conflicts of interest. They do need to know that you're reliable.

Check out each of the essentials, thoroughly. Make sure when you get to the administration and business practices that you're up to speed. In admin and accountancy, you'll find the interviewers aren't being pedantic or nitpicking. They need to see familiarity with their own systems, for obvious reasons like efficiency and competency assessments.

This can take a while, so allow yourself some time.

You need the time to refresh your memory and do some basic checks on your understanding. It's suggested that you allow at least a couple of weeks before the interview to do a thorough refresher.

You don't have to re learn everything, just make sure you're up to date.

A lot of your self employed stuff is common to other businesses, so it's not like you're starting from Square One.

The reason for this amount of care is that all interviews are competitive.

You may have the skills, and would certainly have a lot of experience from self employment, because that's part of being business for yourself.

But- You're competing with people direct from the current business models.

You have to be able to function at interviews on at least the same levels as the other applicants. To be fair to yourself, the essential skills have to be well researched.

Currency of experience and information

You may not be familiar with their accountancy software database, even if it's just a slightly reworked, different but bigger, glorified version of your own system. You might not know the latest Tax Office rules about claiming VAT or GST. You might not have read the most recent quarantine regulations on importing hamsters from Uruguay.

Current information is also vital. It separates the average applicants from the advanced applicants, and you want to be doing a lot better than average.

It's actually helpful to do these kinds of refresher, in your own business. All self employed people are always busy, all the time, and you may not have had the time to do anything about catching up on these things.

Now the good news: Your own skills and talents

If you're going for a job in the same industry as your own business, you have some assets few other applicants will have.

Anybody in business, particularly employers, knows what's involved in running your own business. Your skills are valuable, particularly if you can show some real performance from the business.

You may be surprised to hear you'll get a lot of respect if you show up with some good sales figures, clients, and other evidence of real industry savvy and know-how. Skills like that are appreciated, and the employer will be able to put a dollar value on your work.

This is business. Talk business. At this stage of the interview, you can make the point you really do know what you're doing and you can prove it.

In anything to do with sales, it's a winning hand. Sales is pure performance. Nobody argues with good sales figures, or with good customer contacts. They really don't need that spelled out, but you can drop a few names and some figures to make your point.

In other areas where you can show your expertise, you can lay it on thick, and you'll find you get quite a bit of mileage out of the fact you did all this work yourself. You can easily make the point that you're very familiar with all the basic functions of the business, and you know your industry, too.

All of which adds up to the fact you're actually a highly experienced person, with a good track record, and you're up to date, too.

(A lot of applicants never go beyond the basics, and they cut their own throats in the process. Always show any extra knowledge, insights and skills, if there's a chance.)

That extra info will be good news for the interviewers, too.

They can make their recommendation with some hard facts to back it up. That's what you're aiming for, so really plug all those angles, hard. You're trying to show yourself as the best possible candidate, with skills the other applicants can't match.

When summing up at the end of the interview:

  • Recap your reason for wanting the job.
  • If you're keeping your own business, recap the fact there's no conflict.
  • Point out your proven record.
  • Make the point that you know the industry well.

There are some DON'TS:

  • Don't give the impression you're after the job because business is bad, and you'll drift away when it picks up. The interviewers need to know the exact opposite is the case.
  • Don't come across as the boss. You're not, remember? (As a matter of fact, if the manager is one of the interviewers, you may find you have some common ground with him/her, so keep an eye out for that angle.) Just remember you're on their territory, not yours.

Above all other things:

Don't get put off, or nervous, because you're on unfamiliar territory.

Self employed people tend to react to new environments like they're colonizing a new planet. It's a great way of turning a job interview into a real ordeal.

Stay focused, stay cool, talk business. It's all you really need to do.