How to ace your project management interview
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First of all, congratulations on reaching the interview stage! Now, the real work begins. If you want to secure a job as a project manager, you need to be well prepared for all of the questions the interviewers are going to throw at you, and show them you have the right attitude. Luckily, we are here to help. We have put together this guide on how to ace your project management interview...
Before we take a look at some of the most common interview questions that you will need to prepare for, let’s take a look at some general tips to follow when it comes to an interview:
· Prepare, prepare and prepare some more – There is no such thing as too much preparation when it comes to a job interview. You need be fully aware of everything that is on your CV, and make sure you know the dates of your past jobs and have valid reasons ready for leaving them. Aside from this, you need to make sure you are fully aware of the job description. Of course, you know what a project manager is, but what is expected of you is something that will differ from role to role, so keep this in mind. You also need to research the organisation extensively, and make sure to use some of this research in the interview. It shows that you have prepared well and that you are interested in the job and the company.
· Practise, practise and practise some more – Not only do you need to prepare, but you should practise interview questions. Say your answers out loud, so you can get a true idea of what they sound like. Something may seem great in your head, but once you say it out loud, you may decide to make some tweaks. We are going to reveal some common interview questions later in the post to help you out.
· Invest in some extra project management training – Now would be a good time to take a project management training course if you can fit one in before the interview. It is always good to have a refresher, and you will learn lots of tricks and techniques that you can use in the interview to show your competence. Of course, if you get the job, it will also make sure that you are well prepared and effective in your new role.
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
The interview is an opportunity to sell yourself, and the only way you are going to do this is if you have prepared for the questions they are likely to ask you. There are generally two types of interview questions for project managers, which are as follows:
Behavioural questions – The purpose of such questions is to attempt to predict how you will behave in the future based on how you have behaved in the past. A common example would be: “Please give me an example of how you managed to get stakeholders to buy in to your recommendations?” Aside from these scenario type questions, you will also be questioned about your CV and the content of it.
Competency-based questions – The purpose of competency-based questions is to analyse how you behaved in the past with specific competencies that are going to be required for the role. For example, “Can you give me an example of a way in which you displayed leadership skills?”
So, here is a list of some of the most common questions used in project management interviews. It is a good idea to prepare answers to these questions, and to keep practising them. Of course, this is not a definitive list, but we think it is a good place to get started.
1. Tell me about a personal legacy that you created on one of your projects.
2. What would your past supervisors and peers tell me about you?
3. Tell me about a project failure that you experienced, and what you have learned from it.
4. How do you deal with moments when your team is suffering from low motivation?
5. How do you hold a team accountable?
6. Tell me about a time when you encountered serious conflict during a project, and how you dealt with it.
7. What kind of performance metrics do you use to make sure a project is on track?
8. Why do you think you are a good fit for our company?
9. Can you give me an example of a way in which you displayed good time management skills?
10. What is your exposure to SDLC, Agile […or whatever methodology used]?
11. Tell me a bit about your career path. How did you move into project management?
12. Can you give me an example of when you made a tough decision and it backfired?
13. Give an example of proactive decision making in one of your previous projects.
14. How do you control big changes to your project?
15. How do you set objectives and goals for your team?
16. Give me an example of how you have delegated responsibility effectively.
17. How do you go about performance management of your team?
18. What are the best practises to develop excellent relationships with all of your customers?
19. How do you handle project conflict?
20. What is your communication style?
21. What were the communication challenges on your last project, and how did you deal with them?
22. Tell me about a time when you had two key stakeholders who did not agree on something. How did you manage that?
ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS…
You now have plenty of questions to get started with. Spend a considerable amount of time putting your answers together and refining them so that they are just right. And, as mentioned, read them out loud, preferably to someone else, so you can make sure they sound impressive. Well thought-out and detailed answers are a must.
You also need to answer all of the interviewer’s questions in a confident manner. Maintaining eye contact and engaging is important. Make sure you do not interrupt the interviewer or talk over them. However, do not be afraid to let your personality shine through. After all, the interviewer wants to envision you as part of the team, and if you hold back and give nothing away, they won’t be able to do this.
Remember; use every question as an opportunity to show why you are the right person for the job. Some questions will be negative, for example, “can you give me an example of a time you made a tough decision and it backfired?” So, you do need to be honest and reveal the incorrect decision you made. However, you also need to show that you rectified the problem and that you reacted in the right way. That is what the interviewer is trying to discover by asking such a question. Showing that you can and have overcome obstacles is one of the most important qualities for any project manager.
You also need to make sure you answer the concerns the interviewer may be having. For example, if you have a lack of experience as a project manager, this is something that is obviously going to put you at a disadvantage when compared with other candidates. In this situation, most people choose to brush over it and simply not mention their inexperience, hoping the interviewer will not notice. But, they will notice! You need to address the problem. “I know my lack of experience may be somewhat of a concern, but…”
It is also important to make sure you are precise with your answers. Do not give a generic response that, quite frankly, anyone could give. You need to use facts and figures. Don’t say, for example, “I discovered some less expensive alternatives, which enabled me to reduce spending on a project.” Instead, say, “I reduced spending on a project by ‘x’ per cent, as I found the following alternatives…” The more detailed your approach, the better it will be.
Keep focus. This is so important. Don’t forget about the position you are applying for, and the skills that they need. For example, if you have applied for the position of project manager, you should not simply focus on your technical ability. Even if this is where you came from, and you evolved into project management from the technical ranks, you still need to show that you have other strengths to your character. It pays to sit and make a list of all of the things the company is going to be looking for, and then write detailed answers about how you fulfil the brief.
Finally, be honest. You may think that it is better to sugar-coat certain things or even lie about your abilities. If you are not competent in certain software, for example, don’t say you are, even if you think you can go home and pick it up within a week. You won’t have real working practise, and it will show. You are only going to put yourself in deep water if you get the job. It does not matter if an interviewer picks up on an area of your weakness. Everyone has a weakness. What matters is showing them that you are aware of this, and how you intend to make up for it, and why it should not matter because of the other qualities you bring.
SOME FINAL, GENERAL PIECES OF ADVICE
Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of how the interview may go, and how to prepare for it. Now, we are going to take you through some general pieces of advice, which apply to any type of interview.
· Firstly, you should never share any information that is confidential about your past employers, nor should you express your dislike for them. This makes you appear disloyal. If you speak about your ex-employer in this way, what is going to stop you from speaking about the new firm in a similar manner in the future?
· If the job isn’t situated near to your home, this is something that may be brought up. You will have to make sure you have an answer ready for this, i.e. why you want a job so far away and how you intend to commute.
· Before you leave, it is a good idea to shake the interviewer’s hand and reaffirm your interest in the job, stating that you feel confident in your ability to exceed in the said role.
· Make sure you have some questions for the interviewer. They will generally ask you if you do, and it is a good idea to have a few prepared. You don’t want your mind to go blank and for you to simply say ‘no’ – this is not what the interviewer wants to hear.
· Take two copies of your CV with you, just in case they are needed.
· Be pleasant with everyone you meet as soon as you arrive at the building. It is not uncommon for the interviewer to ask other members of staff what they thought about the candidates.
· Have a mint before you arrive, and dress smartly. First impressions are so important, and if you start off on the wrong foot, it will be difficult to come back from.
· Get to the interview early. As a project manager, being late certainly will not look good. If you can’t manage your own time, how are you going to manage a project? It is a good idea to do a test run before the interview date, so you know exactly how to get there. Always allow yourself extra time for public transport and traffic problems.
All in all, if you have a project manager interview at any type of company, big or small, preparation is of paramount importance. Not only will it ensure you are ready for anything that the interviewers throw at you, but it will also give you confidence too, and confidence shines in moments like this. So, what are you waiting for? Start preparing and practising some of the likely interview questions today.
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