Have you come across the phrase: All the gear no idea? In a project management context, it is commonly used to describe people who have training certifications coming out of their ears with little or no actual experience.
As a Project Management practitioner, it is always worth remembering that some people who have only project management training can actually be quite good in an interview situation. They know all the theory and can recite all the different models and concepts straight out of the textbooks. They prepare well, talk well and can leave a good impression on the interviewer. They can be a formidable competitor in a formal interview situation!
So how do you set yourself apart?
If you were asked “what are the constraints on a project?” in an interview how would you answer? Do you launch into a theoretical answer that talks about scope, time, costs etc? If so then there is nothing separating you from the “All the gear” candidate before you!
You are someone who has been in the pressure cooker of project management and come out the other side successfully, so you need to use this experience.
Sure, the interviewer has asked a theoretical question, therefore in your mind, you’re thinking they’re wanting to assess your great project intellect and wisdom; which of course they do. However, if your answers are purely based on the theoretical there is probably nothing much to distinguish between the two of you and let’s face it, that’s a crazy situation to be in!
You want to make it as hard as possible for the interviewer to pick them over you.
How do you answer the question then?
Now this might sound like common sense but sometimes we all need a reminder – ensure your answers actively demonstrate that not only do you understand the best practice approaches to project management (the course content, the books, the exams etc) but also that you are able to apply that theory to your day to day work.
Position your answer in three parts:
(a) The theoretical answer
(b) How you have managed constraints in a project you have managed, that you know the interviewer will be interested to hear about (i.e., a project which closely mirrors their own business)
(c) Add in something else that takes the question to a new level; is there some latest thinking and theories on the topic you’ve picked up on recently that has helped you form a new opinion? Have you used this to good effect on a project?
Share it with the interviewer. By going the extra mile in your answer you are proving to the interviewer that you’re a real-life practitioner – someone who practices what you’re talking about – and someone who is an avid self-developer and takes an interest in the advancement of your profession.
Have you got any interview wisdom to share? Let us know in the comments.