Throughout my career I have chaired and sat on a vast number of interview panels, both for project management roles and for other senior roles. While there are some common points of advice that apply to all job interviews, there are some that are unique to project management ones.
Here are my top eight tips for job interview candidates.
- Research the organisation you are applying to
If there is one super-skill that most project managers have, it’s our ability to plan and organise ourselves, but I have seen a troubling lack of this in many interviews. Be fully prepared by knowing whom you’re meeting and what the nature of the job really entails so you don’t alienate the panel by getting key facts wrong.
- Read the job description in detail
Successful candidates can clearly demonstrate why they want this role and the skills they will bring to the organisation. They will have also taken the time to think about all of this beforehand, so they are able to pass this information on in a coherent and succinct manner. Interview prep is important.
- Research your panel
This is imperative as it will ensure you pitch your answers at the right level. By showing an interest in their background, this will also enable you to think of questions relevant to them and to establish a connection. This is also a good way to ensure you become less ‘forgettable’ among the many candidates they may be interviewing.
- Test all IT and research back-up travel routes
If you are dialling into an interview, ensure that all your systems are set up and ready to go 15 minutes early. Test the interview link beforehand by doing a test call with the HR administrator who sent you the link. If you are interviewing in person, work out your route in advance, along with a back-up route.
- Be holistic in your answers
When answering questions, try to provide a broad perspective. This means factoring in elements to do with equality and diversity, stakeholder engagement and risk in your answers, where appropriate. This demonstrates an ability to see the big picture among the often varying perspectives provided by subject-matter experts. It might also endear you to the panel as they will see you as being multi-faceted, not one-dimensional.
- Be authentic
Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — it’s okay to show that you are an individual with personal tastes and preferences. For example, I am an avid listener of heavy metal music — I make no apologies for this whatsoever. Part of embracing diversity is being proud of who you are and your individual story and being brave enough to share this. It is a good way to let the panel see who you really are. Their responses when such details are shared will also give you an indication of the culture and values they hold in the organisation.
- Limit the questions you ask at the end and don’t be too pushy
Do ask questions at the end — but be selective and make sure they’re meaningful. Nothing is more exhausting than when candidates ask too many questions. I would suggest keeping your questions pertinent. Try to limit yourself to your two most burning ones. Panels often see many candidates in a day and having an endless stream of questions will likely just make them lose interest.
- Request feedback whatever the outcome
If you got the job, then hurrah! Celebrate the start of a brand-new adventure. You might have a notice period to serve. If so, it is always a good idea to ask your new employer if there is any background reading you could do before you start or an upcoming work event you could attend. This shows your excitement about joining the company and your desire to start embedding into your new role.
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