Interviews can be a trying time for some therefore it is essential you prepare thoroughly before the big day, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager and think about what it is they will want to know about you. As working in project management can be varied from organisation to organisation, departmentally and from project to project it is important to think about how you work, not just what you deliver or support in delivery. Of course the hiring manager will want to know what the deliverables are but they will also be interested in knowing how you get from A to B, not just working through a specific methodology but also how you overcome key challenges. Because there is a lot to get across in the interview you will need to bring some sort of control to how you present the information, it is too easy to get carried away trying to paint a clear picture by going off on a tangent, wasting precious time and not giving the information originally asked for by the interviewer. Here are some tips to help you keep on track:
- Research the role and understand which areas of your experience match up to their requirements, then you will have a list to work through.
- With your list you need to think about some strong examples which really meet with the requirements, these examples may be entire projects or specific areas of a project.
- Each example should talk through enough information to be clear to someone completely new to your area of work, don’t use acronyms and internal business terminology, do be thorough but concise.
- A good structured approach to talking through examples is the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action & Result), apply this framework to each example and keep on track.
Make sure you do all you can to answer questions thoroughly, if you are unclear on what the interviewer is trying to draw out from you, ask them to rephrase the question. Keep your cool at all times – sometimes interviewers may throw in some curve ball questions to throw you off balance or goad you to see how you react under pressure. From the moment you arrive outside the building you are being tested, I know a lot of hiring managers who speak to reception staff after interviews to see how you were with them, so always treat others with respect and good manners.
With the double dip recession the market has certainly come around full swing and interviews are not in abundance – they certainly haven’t disappeared but there are less roles being advertised and for those who are less active at searching for new openings then it does feel like there are less opportunities and as a knock on effect less interviews. Therefore it is important to make sure you are doing all you can to make sure you harvest success in the interviews you are being invited to.
One of the key areas employers check for in interviews is your buy-in to the organisation, interviewers are expecting a good level of enthusiasm and are happy to throw prospective employees back into the vast sea of job seekers as it is perceived as an employer’s market. This isn’t entirely the case – yes there are a great deal of job seekers out there at the moment but there are only a few which closely meet the employers’ expectations in terms of experience and skills. Most of the good candidates have already secured work or have been in work for some time and would rather not risk a move into a company whilst we sit in unknown territory with the global recession.
Here are a few tips to ensuring you grab the interviewers’ attention for the right reasons by demonstrating your buy-in to the business:
- Make an effort – how you present yourself is very important, think first impressions – putting on a suit and clean shoes (boys & girls) is a must, no matter how casual the workplace is.
- Noting down names – seems like a stupid thing to even mention but I have lost count of the amount of people who forget or just don’t take notice of my name when I am interviewing them. Don’t overuse names either – it sounds wrong and almost patronising if you keep repeating someone’s name when you are talking to them.
- Research the business, again it seems ridiculous to even mention this but over and over again I have come across people who really should make more effort to understand what an organisation does / produces etc as a bare minimum. However you could actually shine in the subject of buy-in by learning more about competitors and what’s happening in recent news for the company.
- Presentations – sometimes you will be asked to prepare a presentation to take along to the interview, make sure you put the work in. I would expect you to ask what presentation facilities will be available on the day and make use of the best ones. i.e. a projector and Powerpoint is ideal, it’s what most use in everyday life at work and helps the interviewer imagine you in a regular meeting (how you fit in, can they actually sit through an entire meeting listening to you etc.). I cannot emphasise enough that “just jotting down some notes to talk through and maybe a handout” is not good enough.
- Take examples of work – you may be asked to do this, such as a plan or something similar but you can always take some examples even if you have not been asked to. Try to keep to documentation which is closely aligned to the role you are being interviewed for and don’t force it on them if they are not keen.