One question burning on the lips of most interviewers is “what is your weakness” – time and time again I have asked this question and been met with a variety of responses, the worst response to date was “I do not have any”. Clearly that is their biggest weakness, not being able to objectively analyse themselves or generally recognise where their weaknesses lay. It can be difficult to admit that we have imperfections nonetheless we all do, this is not going to stop you getting the job – not recognising them and addressing them however, will!
So once you have identified your weakness you need to tackle it head on with a solution. For example, I am often taking on more than I should do and work in a way which appears to be disorganised – often dipping in and out of various pieces of work and dealing with issues all at the same time. Now for me, this works as I find I take a creative and energised approach to work and avoid getting bogged down in areas I may otherwise be forming a block. So to keep a track of everything I am doing and need to complete; I write lists – yes, just lists. I then work with my outlook calendar to schedule in priorities and only dismiss my reminders once the actions are complete. Ideally at the start of the day I will schedule in my commitments and “to do” list in my calendar and “tick” them off throughout the day. Did you notice that I have actually described more than one weakness?
Taking on more than I should – positive outcome: like to multi-task
Dipping in and out of various pieces of work – positive outcome: able to easy switch brain to different matters
Dealing with issues as they arise – positive outcome: doesn’t “park” items which require immediate attention
Four issues all brought under control by one change in how I work – a simple solution and equally simple but effective method of reassuring your interviewer that you have your weaknesses in check; in fact you can turn your weaknesses into strengths quite easily. All these positive outcomes are fantastic for project management professionals – by carefully thinking out your weaknesses to talk about at interview, you can actually manage to really add that extra little something which may just push your candidacy over the finish line and seize you that job offer over everyone else.
The thing to remember when being questioned about weaknesses is to not dwell on them, keeping the interview positive is very important – the interviewer isn’t asking you to divulge really personal things about yourself, so keep it professional and constructive.
One key area not considered or talked about in a great deal of project management CVs is the project lifecycle – assuming that the reviewer knows you work through a structured approach is a big mistake. As project practitioners we all work differently, some don’t work through any methodology and governance is none existent. Therefore a great starting point for writing out the remit of each role would be to use the lifecycle framework as a core structure to then build on. Let’s have a look at the project lifecycle:
Initiation – The beginning phase where objectives are defined and a business case is drawn up. At this point a decision whether to initiate the project itself based on a review of core areas such as cost, deliverables, scope, purpose, resources, timescales, structure, impact, etc.
Planning – The project is now assessed in terms of time, cost and resource; as a starting point but should be continuously updated, changed and evolved throughout the course of the project.
Execution – The project actually happens, usually overseen by the project manager and supported by the project team. Activities will be monitored and controlled throughout this phase and regular updates will be presented to the senior management team/sponsors/customers etc.
Close – Like all good things, everything must come to a close. It is especially important that projects are closed down effectively and success celebrated or lessons learnt from failure.
Now take a look at your CV and see if any aspects of the above are actually addressed? I bet there’s a list of skills but no real information or examples; am I right? Then you need to go back to the drawing board and produce a CV which employers want to see and recruiters will fall over themselves to sell you to their clients.
I’ve written about this before, albeit a couple of years ago but it is always good to have a reminder. When sending your project management CV for job applications don’t make the mistake of sending a PDF file. Now we are told that sending a PDF file will keep the format of the document and the reviewer will read it as they were meant to but… And here’s the big but…. If you want your CV to go into recruitment agencies systems to be available for recruiters to search for and review for other roles then you may find the file won’t save properly. Unfortunately outdated systems often used by some recruitment agencies cannot process PDF files, therefore large chunks of detail can be missing and basically it renders your CV useless in their system. Now in all fairness I don’t know a great deal of recruitment agencies that bother to revisit CVs in their own systems due to the volume of applications being made regularly making it not necessary. Also the large job board websites have much more robust searching options which means most recruiters would turn to these repositories over their in-house systems. But to always go belt and braces to ensure your best chances by always using a MS Word file format.
As a project practitioner it is highly likely you have gained PRINCE2 qualifications and/or worked with the methodology at some points along your PM career path. Employers will still ask for PRINCE2 qualifications and knowledge as it has long been a buzz word in the PM domain, therefore it is important to do more than merely mention you have the PRINCE2 qualification on your CV. It is good practice to use the terminology within your CV to demonstrate that you utilise the methods, also mentioning in your profile that you have used the method alongside other PM methods married up with the experience talking through the lifecycle for your remits. This also applies to those who have lapsed PRINCE2 or haven’t got the qualifications – if you work within a PRINCE2 environment then talk about it, arguably the experience is far more valuable than the certificate alone.
Make sure you spell PRINCE2 correctly and don’t fall into calling yourself a practioner, it’s practitioner – I’ve lost count of how many CVs I’ve seen this spelling mistake on. As with all detail on your CV, you must be careful to ensure you aren’t making mistakes. Not only is it off-putting to reviewers it can also hinder you when it comes to keyword searches, recruiters still use keyword searching and you won’t come up in shortlists if you are spelling qualifications and keywords incorrectly.