Updated: Feb 25
Preparing for an interview is commonly the most stressful aspect of your job search. You don’t know what questions will be asked and are likely not sure that you are prepared enough for the different types of project management interviews. To add to this, you have a short timeframe to prepare. In my experience, I’ve been called for an interview with a 1 or 2-day notice. Since many companies move extremely fast to fill a project management role, this has become the norm.
In this article, I wanted to discuss 5 areas where you need to focus if you’re unsure what to focus on for your interview.
Understand the Previous Projects Your Worked On
Structure the discussion from your previous projects around the job role you’re applying for. State the problem statement of the project and then the team structure. Finally, state the result of the project and how it helped the organization. For example, “The Finance team was leveraging an antiquated menu-driven system to do the quarterly financial reporting. I managed a project to leverage a SaaS vendor as well as a team of 14 internal resources to upgrade the Financial Reporting system. The result was that processing time to close the quarterly company results was reduced by 1 week and the organization will realize a financial benefit of $6 million after 5 years.”
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Think about what people have commonly told you about your strengths (communication, organization, holding people accountable, mentoring, etc.) Provide examples. For example, “One of my strengths is how I can hold people accountable to ensure they complete tasks on time.”
Do not mention any weakness that is related to the job that you’re interviewing for. Also, make the weakness work-related and not personal (drinking, gambling issues). When talking about your weakness mention that you’re taking steps to mitigate the weakness. For example, if a specific domain knowledge is a good to have for your next role and you are not too familiar with it, mention this as a weakness. Make sure to add that you can learn the subject matter quickly and provide examples in the past where you got up to speed quickly with subject matter expertise. If this subject matter is required for your next role, do not mention this as a weakness.
Think about how you handled problems on previous projects
Every project comes with a challenge and the interviewer will be curious as to how you handle challenges. They want to do this because they want to see what type of problem solver you are. Think of a time when you had a challenge on a previous project and formulate an answer based on the STAR method.
An example can be when the business attempted scope creep on your project by really pushing new features to the current scope without going through a formal change control process. Describe how you made the business aware of the risks of doing this and how you met with the project stakeholders to discuss how this could impact the schedule and budget. Always mention the resolution of your situation.
Have you Managed a Project that failed? How did it fail?
Be very careful here not to mention a project where you were specifically at fault for the project not succeeding. If it was a situation where the project failed due to you not being proactive and someone else had to step in to finish the project, do not mention this.
Maybe it was a situation where you worked with a vendor and they did not deliver what was expected and the full scope of the project was not delivered. Mention this and the role you had in trying to salvage the project. Use specific examples but do not mention specific names of the vendor or your colleagues. You can say “the vendor” or “our business analyst.”
Be prepared for the “Tell me about yourself” question
The hardest part of this question is keeping the scope of your response limited but long enough to give a full profile of your work experience. If you’re applying for an IT Project Management role, mention how you started your career as a technical resource (software developer or infrastructure) and then progressed to project management. Briefly mention technologies that you worked on.
For example, “I graduated from University with a Master’s Degree in Information Technology. My first job was at a Company as a Software Developer where we leveraged Java to develop Financial Reporting systems. From there, I moved into Business Analysis at Company where I was the SME for Insurance systems. In my last role (or current role if still employed) I moved into project management managing the Finance program for strategic projects related to budget and cost management.”
You can basically go through the experience on your resume and summarize that into a concise answer to this question. As you answer, mention experience that is related to the job role you’re interviewing for.
One more aspect of the Project Manager Interview is knowing what questions to ask during the interview. Now it's your turn to evaluate the employer and see if this is a place that you want to work at.