Though the title “project manager” seems like a vague role that many people don’t truly understand, those who do understand know how vital this position is. Project managers cover a wide variety of jobs and skills, and thus, your experience needs to cover a wide variety of skill sets if this is the job you’re pursuing.
Preparing for an interview in project management requires digging deep into the job description and position. Each project management role is unique, so going into an interview with as much knowledge as possible about the specific company and position, as well as general project management duties is a must.
Why Preparing For Your Project Management Interview Is so Important
Few things are worse than going into an interview unprepared. Not only does it make you look bad, but it also ensures you won’t get the job. Even if you feel confident about the job, interview preparation is key to locking in the new gig.
Here are the different things that proper preparation shows to the company and hiring managers.
You care about the company.
Why is showing that you’ve done your homework and read up on the company important? Because you’re trying to be an employee for them. If you come to an interview without knowing anything about the company, the hiring managers will assume that you don’t actually care about working there.
As a hiring manager myself, when someone is in my office, and they don’t understand what the company does, the role’s impact, or can’t explain why they want to work here specifically, I assume they don’t care about me or my business–or even the job itself.
This holds true for every business of any size. Before the interview, study the company.
You care about this specific role with this specific company.
Project management roles vary significantly from one project to the next and from one company to the next. Sure, the general overarching duties are the same, but the specifics are what really count and are often where a business differentiates itself from competitors.
Get to know the role you’re interviewing for and how it is unique from other similar ones.
You see yourself fitting into the company.
As part of a company, you must be a team player. You need to understand the company culture and work well with others.
By taking the time to understand the company, its mission, culture, goals, and more, you can decide whether it aligns with you and whether you can work to support those things for the greater good of the company.
You see how you can help and improve existing practices.
The project management job is listed because the company needs help.
Thus, you need to understand how exactly you can help them (more than just “I will do my job.” Get specific), and if there are any initial ideas you have for improvement.
The latter may be hard to see until you know more insider information about the company, but you may find some weak spots that you think your project management skills could fix in your research of the company and the job description and discussions with the hiring team.
You are confident in your abilities.
Going into an interview prepared also shows a company that you are confident in your skill set and believe you are the best person for this job. This final piece is one that many candidates may not know the importance of but should.
According to a Career Builder survey, 51% of hiring managers can tell in the first five minutes of an interview whether the interviewee is a strong candidate for the position.
That’s not to say that what happens after the first five minutes doesn’t matter (it IS possible to recover after a bad start), but it does show that first impressions mean a lot, and you always want to make the best impression possible.
Confidence in yourself and your abilities are a big part of that first impression.
If you’re visibly nervous, have a weak handshake, can’t talk about yourself, or can’t confidently explain how you are able to the job, you likely won’t get the position.
How to Improve Your Project Management Interview Skills Today
The best way to improve your project management interview skills and land the job is to hire an interview coaching service such as TopInterview. TopInterview works by creating a personalized action plan that is specific to your wants and needs and strengthening the areas you need the most.
Interview coaching can help increase your chances of getting a job because it gives you experience answering a wide range of questions to someone who pretends to be the hiring manager. The feedback provided by interview coaches is gold and are what you will use to improve.
Are you unsure whether you need to hire an interview coach or whether you just need to be better about preparing for your interviews on your own?
Here are the top signs you need an interview coach to start crushing those interviews.
You only get first interviews.
You may find yourself getting calls for interviews often, but once the first round is over, you aren’t getting calls back.
It’s clear that your resume is doing its job and getting you the interview, but the disconnect happens when you show up in person to discuss the job.
Here are a few common things that may unknowingly be happening in your interviews:
- You’re so shy that it comes off as incompetent.
- You’re so confident that it comes off as braggadocious.
- You wore something inappropriate.
- You were too nervous.
- Your answers felt too memorized.
- You didn’t thoroughly read the job description and can’t point to specific ways you fit the job.
- You can’t pinpoint why you want to work for that company specifically.
- You didn’t read the company’s website to get general knowledge of the company.
- You didn’t know how to answer the “tell me about yourself” question.
There are many different reasons that you consistently don’t make it past the first round of interviews, but the bottom line is that you need help with your interview skills.
The best way to get help is by hiring an interview coach that is well-versed in project management. He or she will determine where things are going wrong in the interview process and how to change them.
You never leave an interview feeling good.
Even if you aren’t an optimist, we hope that you’ve had a time in your life where you’ve left a job interview feeling confident and like your chances of getting the job are high.
However, if that is not the case for you, or hasn’t been the case in quite some time, then you need to reassess the situation.
There is no denying that job interviews are stressful, and of course, those nerves will affect how you feel about the interview. Still, you shouldn’t feel as if getting the job would be a miracle when you walk out of the interview.
Feeling better post-interview can be achieved by doing something as simple as boosting your confidence. This kicks some of the nerves and gives you some power in the interview instead of feeling as if you’re merely getting grilled under the lights.
Change how you feel post-interview by changing how you feel going into that interview. A great way to do that is by hiring an interview coach to guide you.
You lack confidence.
Confidence is an issue for many people, so if you’re one of them, you’re not alone.
However, that does not mean you shouldn’t fix it. Confidence is key to getting hired for a job.
The hiring manager needs to feel that you can take on the responsibilities involved in the job and that you can problem-solve when things go wrong.
Confidence is a powerful way of showing your abilities, and if you lack it, you will struggle to get hired.
An interview coach can help you in faking your confidence until you truly believe what you’re saying and you end up actually having the confidence to impress in your interview.
You stumble through your answers rather than have a methodical route.
No interviewer wants to try and decipher what you’re saying. Your responses to their questions should be clear, well-thought-out, and accompanied by strong examples to back your statements up.
If a hiring manager asks how you handle team conflicts, you need an action plan ready to share that you used in a previous position with proven success.
Explain your answer via a specific example from a project in the past. Share the steps you took and the outcome.
If this seems like a challenge for you, maybe one or two coaching sessions could help provide you with cohesive answers to questions.
You have very little to no interview experience.
Whether you’ve just graduated from college or you’re back on the job hunt after years in the same position or company, you are rusty in the art of interviews. Formal interviews may feel like a foreign language you aren’t sure how to master.
A coach will guide you through the interview process from start to finish and provide you with interview experience that rivals people who have many more actual interviews under their belt.
4 Best Practices for Nailing Your Project Management Interview
If you’re ready to put your fear of interviewing behind you and go into the next job opportunity with all the tools you need to be successful, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Here are some tips to shine in your interview and hopefully get the job.
Hire an Interview Coach
The most surefire way for you to succeed in the interview process is to hire a professional to help you train for interviews. At TopInterview, there is a three-step process for working with a coach.
- Share your background, including your resume, the job you’re applying for, and any other relevant information. This will help them pair you with a coach that is best for you, your industry, the job you’re interested in, and your level of experience.
- Do a mock interview with your new coach and get personalized feedback on how to improve.
- Get a lesson plan from your coach with an action plan of where to go from here–what things you need to work on, what areas you excelled in, and more.
Rehearse Standard Questions
Though there are always curve balls thrown in an interview, you can prepare for the questions you know will come your way.
Here are the top questions that project management interviewees should know the answers to:
- What is the most important part of a project manager’s job?
- What was your most successful project, and why?
- What types of projects have you worked on?
- What project management tools do you use to help you get the job done?
- How do you handle conflicts with your team? Give an example of when you had to do this.
- How do you handle team members who aren’t pulling their weight?
- Tell me about your most recent project.
- What is your communication style?
- How do you motivate your team to stay focused and on track?
- Have you ever had a project that didn’t meet the deadline or the budget? Explain.
- What project are you most proud of?
Record Your Mock Interviews
Hearing yourself on playback is much different than what you expect it to be. You may think you sound confident, experienced, and are a shoo-in for the job. However, upon replay, you realize you sound scared, nervous, and like you have no experience at all.
Understanding what you sound like to a hiring manager is vital to your success in interviews. As much as it may pain you to hear your own voice, it is worth it to make progress.
Know the Job Description Inside-Out
Simply reading through the bullet points of the job description once or twice is not enough to get you the job.
Thoroughly understanding the position requires research on the company, past projects they’ve worked on, what systems they use in their projects, and more.
The most important part of the job description is knowing why you are a good fit for the position — why you are the one who can best fit the role.
Know the unique and special skills you bring to the table that other candidates may not have, and capitalize on that. You want to make yourself stand out from others as much as possible (in the right way).