Preparing for a Project Management Interview

So you have perfected your CV and secured yourself an interview.

If you’re feeling slightly nervous, that’s good, after all, if you didn’t feel some nerves you wouldn’t be human!

This post is all about making sure the nerves don’t get the better of you and more importantly how you can prepare to do well in your project management interview.

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Prepare for the Preparation

gathering job application information Before doing any preparation for the interview you need to make sure you have all the correct and up to date information about the job role and prospective employers. After all, you don’t want to spend hours researching and learning about the wrong things.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start preparing for an interview:

  • Do you have the current job description and advertisement for the position you are being interviewed for? If not, make sure you receive this (you really can’t plan at all if this information is not forthcoming!)
  • Do you have the interviewers names and job titles? It’s common sense that you have some idea of who you will be meeting (Linkedin is a good place to find out more about them).
  • Have you been told what kind of interview it will be? Informal, straightforward Q&A, competency based, presentation required?
  • Do you know where you’re going? Not just the location of the office but where on site it might be (especially if you’re meeting at a place like a hospital or campus)
  • Is there any other material available that tells you more about the project or the reasons for the project in the first place? Often with public sector projects there will be whitepapers and websites available that give this detail.

Preparing for the Interview

Thinking of possible questions you may get asked and rehearsing your answers is important (see our list of popular project management questions). But you need to make sure that these answers are relevant to the business, the projects they work on and the interviewers themselves. You need to show that you understand how they operate and that you will make a good fit for the team.

It’s time to hit the web to see what other information you can find that will help in your planning. When looking at the company go onto their website to gather information and familiarise yourself with what they do and how they like to approach their work. Also search for press releases, social media and any other information available to help you build a more rounded picture.

If you are coming into the interview as unemployed whether by your choice or not, this can be a tricky minefield to traverse successfully. The interviewers are likely going to want to know about your situation. Tell the truth and try and put a positive spin on your current status.

Match Your CV to the Job Description

project management interview prep
Click to enlarge

The objective of the job description is obviously for the organisation to lay out exactly what they’re looking for in the person and what the role will entail. You need to understand the job description and link your experience to each of the points. Doing this in advance will help you out as you have already prepared and thought of answers to potential questions.

A good technique to use when doing this prep is to take a blank sheet of paper and draw a line right down the middle. With the job specification take each sentence and bullet point in turn and make a note of each on one side of the paper. With your own thoughts and with your CV to hand, making a note in the opposite side of the column, against each point in turn (See right).

This is a perfect technique to use when trying to collect your thoughts about a role you are being interviewed for, it allows you to not only really understand that job specification inside and out but also allows you to think about perfect examples that really demonstrate you at your best.

When using this preparation technique try to think of as many examples as possible for each point in the job description. Doing this means you will have more prepared answers and you won’t have to keep referring to the same project for every question.

Asking Questions is Important

In an interview it is important to make sure you ask at least a couple of questions. Doing this will show you’re interested, have done research on the company and will give you some answers about whether this is the right job for you.

Questions from the interviewee often come at the end of the interview. However before you start ask the interviewers if they would prefer all questions at the end or as you go along. Trying to make mental notes of everything said and waiting until the end may be difficult so if you can ask questions during the interview this would be helpful.

Here are some things to think about when coming up with interview questions:

  • Think about questions that specifically help you understand how the organisation works and if this is the organisation for you
  • Think about questions that relate to your specific career within that organisation – you don’t need to talk specifically about career progression (think about it from the interviewer’s point of view, you’re already thinking about running before you can walk) but rather about the culture of project management and how project managers work within it.
  • Think about the logistical questions – location, client sites, when are they looking to get people onboard etc
  • Ask if there is an opportunity to come back with any further questions once the interview is over, this is an interesting question and I often wonder if this gives the interviewee any insight into how they fared in the interview i.e., no = not likely to hire, yes = they liked you.

Be Confident

If you’re serious about the job you’re applying for then preparation is key. The more preparation you do, the less is left to chance and when “chance” is taken care of, there is less reason to feel nervous about the interview.

We have been giving out this advice for over 10 years and it’s an excellent way to feel in control of the interview process, and the more you feel in control the more confidence you will have.

Arras People provide free reading materials on acing your project management interview. If you need any more help we also offer 1-2-1 project management career clinics.

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