Project Manager job interview can become a dreaded experience like a, well, performance review. 🙂 While it need not be, if we can focus on certain things beforehand, we often can engineer our job interview to be a pleasurable experience for ourselves.
And for the interviewer.
And thus increase our odds of getting the job.
Interviewing thousands of people for various positions over the decade and a half, and appearing for half a dozen interviews myself, here are 5 areas that I think are essential to focus before the interview.
1. Know what YOU want in the next job
This is really the key.
We often try to refine our expectations based on job positions available at a company we want to work at.
Are you looking for new job because you are not able to grow in your current role?
Are you looking to make a move from, say PM role, to PMO role?
What exactly is that you want in your next job profile?
If you know what you want and are able to find a suitable profile, you will be able to enjoy the work. When you enjoy what you do you have a greater chance of excelling and growing in the company.
What if you don’t know what you want in the next job?
You find out.
One good way is to understand which aspects of your current job you like to do (and build upon) and what you do not (and would like to avoid). Finding your strengths and weaknesses can be a good starting point.
Once you have figured them out make a list of questions on each of your Strengths and Weaknesses that you expect the interviewer to ask, and prepare your answers for them.
For strengths, make a list of achievements you can talk about.
Always include numbers, figures and facts into your answers. They do not leave any option for argument. But do not overdo it. And be ready to explain the numbers.
For Weaknesses, highlight what are you doing about each of them. For instance, if you have never got a chance to work in Agile project (knowing that many companies expect project managers to have worked on it), read up on it and sign up for relevant classes. Tell the interviewer that although you do not have hands-on experience you are educating yourself and are willing to take up such an opportunity.
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2. Learn about the next company
Find out all that you can about the company you are applying for.
What is its market position, who are its customers, what does the company stand for, what is its vision? This will help you figure whether the company helps you reach where you want to go in your career. Then you can align your short term goals with company’s objectives once you take up the position.
Also, understand Project Management policies and practices of the company.
Does it already have standardized project management practices?
More importantly, is it a company that understands and appreciates project management processes, and if so what are the existing processes they follow?
Understanding these will help you decide whether you get to set up/refine proper project management processes in place, and if it is a possibility, then whether your efforts will be appreciated.
3. Learn about the position you are applying for
Never send your resume hoping for the HR people to match a position for you.
Know exactly what position is available, how your skills match that position and what gaps (if any) you already have. Understanding these and then thinking about how you are going to turn the gaps into opportunities for growth – will help you face the interview better.
You need not be 100% well-suited for the position you are applying for.
Do not let any gaps in your skillset hold you back. Even if there are gaps, if you can narrate instances from your career where you successfully managed to learn and fill a skill gap in the past, you will induce confidence in the interviewer about your suitability.
Re-write your resume to highlight qualities and relevant experience that the new job profile is expecting.
4. Learn about the environment you are going to be in
This is very specific to your job profile – is the culture open for personal and professional growth?
Is there a flat hierarchy?
What platforms are available to express your ideas and get recognized?
Is doing work outside the scope of your role appreciated, or frowned upon?
Find answers to questions such as, is there a minimum number of years one has to spend at a position in order to qualify for promotion? Are promotions based on performance alone or there are other parameters (need for relevant certifications, years spent at a position, years spent in the organization and so on).
Many companies are turning a tide and focusing on creating a good, positive working environment for employees. There are a host of privileges – free food, coffee, medical insurance, reward and recognition policies, bandwidth to carry out personal (but related to company business) ideas/projects and so on.
5. Talk to present and former employees and/or consultants
Understanding HR policies is important, but how they are implemented on the ground is crucial. Find this by talking to present and former employees and/or consultants. This tells you a lot about how employees are treated and what pros and cons you can expect.
Bonus tip: If you have two similar positions and salary is a deciding factor, take the one that pays you more. The psychology of this decision is that if you are paid more then management will find ways to give you more responsibility in order to get better Return on Investment on your salary. This is a shorter way to growth in the new place!
These findings will help you weigh the pros and cons about the job and make that final decision.
Project Manager Job Interview need not be stressful – if you follow these tips you can prepare the ground well for a fulfilling discussion with next recruiter and interviewer. As with anything in life, preparing well will help you negotiate the interview better.
Bonus tip 1 –
Update your LinkedIn profile before applying for job!
The first destination for any recruiter is LinkedIn. So make sure that your profile has good highlights of your achievements. Get relevant recommendations from your previous managers and colleagues, update all relevant education and certification related information, and add a brief of objective highlights of your career.
Bonus tip 2 –
If you don’t want your profile changes to be broadcast to people (including those from your current company) turn off the Activity Broadcast notification configuration feature before making changes. As much as other recruiters are watching your LinkedIn profile, your own company recruiters too would be watching.
This, by the way, this is also useful when you want to make slight changes to, say your title, and do not want people to congratulate you ‘on the new job’ 🙂
Over to you
Project manager job interview can be a meaningful conversation between two professionals that gives you insights into your own worth in the market place.
Has there been any incident that made you feel confident walking in or feel content walking out of an interview room? Please share with us in the comments section below.
Image courtesy: billstrain
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