Posts Tagged “preparing for project management interviews”

Project Management Interviews – keeping it on track

Over the years in recruiting project professionals I have found one of the key pieces of feedback from clients is that candidates have been unclear answering questions at interview. Often starting off with an example of when they did XYZ and going off on a tangent so not covering the response effectively. This is easy enough to do when the pressure is on and you are trying to convey a great deal of information.

The key to answering the question rather than missing the point is to think about what you have been asked and think about an example which clearly demonstrates the skill being questioned. Preparation before an interview is required, by taking the job description and looking at the list of requirements you can gauge the types of questions which will be asked and from there you can think about your examples.

  • Set the scene – give enough information for the interviewer to understand what it is you were delivering / supporting or the task in hand
  • Talk about your actions – I know we work in teams on projects but the interviewer wants to know what you did, so avoid talking about what we did and talk about what you did!
  • The outcome – what actually happened, talk about the result so the interviewer can understand how effective your actions were.

Here is an interview question and response to demonstrate how to structure your responses:

Interviewer:“Give me an example of when you have dealt with widely dispersed stakeholders?”

Candidate:

“When I was managing the new IT desktop roll out of Windows 7 at XXXX I was responsible for a number of technical teams based at head office and out at various divisions across the UK. The stakeholders were internal people such as a board member (the sponsor), head of IT (head of programmes), senior project managers and teams based at 4 different locations and external stakeholders such as the software development company project managers and technical teams.

I created a stakeholder map which clearly identified all the stakeholders in order of importance and a plan which covered communications. It became apparent that I would need to meet the key stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure project milestones were clear and everyone involved could gain a clear perspective of where we were in the plan and highlight any bottle necks which couldn’t be addressed at my clearance level.

The result meant that I had bi-weekly meetings with key stakeholders and regular “on the ground” reporting from workstream leads to ensure the work was being completed in a timely fashion whilst checking against the benefits to keep the senior management team on board with operations.”

The above example is rather generic but you get the idea – setting the scene to give the interviewer enough insight into what was being delivered and then talking through who the stakeholders are to demonstrate your understanding of who stakeholders are and how to harness a communications plan followed by the end result is giving the interviewer the right kind of information without going into chapter and verse and detracting away from the question and more importantly the answer.

Adopting this approach to your examples is good practice and also can help you when talking through achievements on your CV.

Interview Questions; what to expect – PM Career Tips

Interview questions will vary from company to company and manager to manager but essentially the interviewer wants to verify some key areas such as: whether your skills and experience are right for the job, if you actually want the job and are you the right fit for the business. Answering questions with strong examples from your professional past will really help you win over the interviewer as theoretical answers really don’t add value.

One of the first questions you are likely to be asked is “what do you know about us?” This is where you need to have done your homework and know what it is the business does/produces, who its main competitors are and any challenges they may currently be facing (publicised or not).

You will also probably be asked to talk about yourself; this is something you can rehearse and you should look to produce a short (3 or 4 minutes long) monologue which focuses on relevant pieces of experience, any areas of progression and achievements. Keep it professional, don’t talk about children and family and avoid any jobs which aren’t going to be of interest to the interviewer.

Shake on it

It is also possible you will be asked to talk through key strengths and weaknesses – think about examples which are more relevant to the job/business and don’t fall into the trap of stating you have no weaknesses, we all do and it is how we identify and address them which makes us better/stronger candidates and more employable.

Why do you want this job? Another great question and often overlooked by candidates when preparing for interview – simply stating you need the money to pay the rent/mortgage isn’t good enough. Again this is where your research comes in, knowing more about what they do as a business and the direction they are taking in the market can be a great area to talk about and also think about the challenge of a new team, different projects, developing your skill set etc.

You will ideally be asked to talk about difficult situations and proud achievements – this can be a great platform to demonstrate your management style and to tell the interviewer about something which isn’t covered on the CV, talking about how you have added value and overcome major blockers can really sell you.

You’ll no doubt be asked about your career goals, be realistic but don’t sell yourself short. Think about your 5-10 year career plan beforehand and tell the interviewer your plans but be pragmatic, you could talk yourself out of a job if you intend to be climbing the career ladder at the rate of knots. Taking on more responsibility and new challenges doesn’t necessarily mean jumping from PM to Programme manager or Coordinator to Manager.

How to Reduce Anxiety During Your Job Interview – Guest Post

Sometimes getting that great job could hit the fan. Hurdles like anxiety occurring during a job interview can make it difficult to land that job that you like. Job interviews are indeed anxiety-inducing but not impossible to overcome. Facing strangers that can make or break your chance to get the job is nerve wracking. Never fear though, there are tips that you can use to reduce anxiety before you get into that interview.

Visualize yourself getting the job done

Visualize yourself able to overcome the anxiety of the job interview. Look for a quiet spot and try to visualize that you have successfully hurdled the interview. Basically this is tapping the power of positive thinking at work. Visualizing is getting your brain to behave accordingly to what you desire to achieve. Athletes are using this technique in order to improve their performance in a game. But, this technique can certainly be used as well in any other aspects of our life. Visualization helps you enhance your determination to reach your goals no matter how hard the going may be.

Keep yourself healthy

Make sure that you keep yourself healthy and ready prior to a job interview. Sleep well, eat well and get enough exercise. If you are well rested, you are able to focus on the task at hand effortlessly. A rested mind can easily thwart increasing levels of stress which can lead to anxiety. Getting enough exercise prior to the interview will give you high levels of adrenaline which boosts energy. More energy may coax the body to produce more dopamine which keeps stress levels at bay. Eating well is another way of keeping stress at a distance. Avoid drinking too much of those alcoholic beverages as well as cigarette smoking.  These vices only expose you to substances that ruin the chemical balance of your body and make you more vulnerable to stress and anxiety.

Relaxation techniques

It is possible that stress levels would rise minutes before the interview. In cases like this, it is important that you know how to calm your nerves. Breathing is great in keeping yourself calm. Breathe in using your nose and breathe out using your mouth. Repeat this processes until you feel more relaxed.  Whenever you feel that your nervousness is creeping into your system, just breathe deeply. Deep breathing clears up your brain from any cobwebs of negative thinking. Thus, you become more relaxed and more capable of thinking logically during the interview.

Think before you answer

You are actually allowed to think before you answer a question before an interview. It is okay for you to pause for a few moments to compose your thoughts. You can even tell the interviewer that the question is quite interesting and ask if you can be given a few seconds to think what to say. If you dread the fact that you could go blank as the interview is in progress, write some notes while the interviewer is talking. Writing something takes the focus off or away from you. You can refer to notes after the question has been delivered.

Letting anxious energy go

Anxious energy can leak out without the interviewer noticing it. Try to do something that can release anxious energy. Wiggling your toes is a good way of releasing tension. Smile and project a happy aura even if you feel that you are too nervous to do it.  Smiling helps drive away that anxious energy away from you while at the same time welcoming those positive vibes into your system.

Do not buckle down

Sometimes interviewers tests how well you respond to pressure. You need to know that every applicant is subjected to same treatment. If they try to ruffle your feathers, do not buckle down instead think and act positively because you might fall into the trap and spiral into a negative thinking situation that you are not the right fit for the job.

A job interview comes with a proviso that what you show is the best reflection of your personality. Anxiety can ruin it but with the right attitude you can easily ace it and get that dream job you want.

About the Author:

Ryan Rivera used to suffer from panic attacks for seven years.  He now dedicates his life helping those who suffer from stress, anxiety, panic attacks and depression through his writings.  You can read more of his articles at Calm Clinic.

 

 

 

 

 

Addressing weaknesses in your Project Management Interview

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?

  1. Taking on more than I should – positive outcome: like to multi-task
  2. Disorganised
  3. Dipping in and out of various pieces of work – positive outcome: able to easy switch brain to different matters
  4. 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.