Five Tips for Winning Your Project Manager Job Interview
By Jennifer Whitt
When you enter a job interview, it’s important to bring your passion and energy, and not come in with the weight of the world on your shoulders. We all have a lot going on in our lives, things related to economic turbulence or other projects we are dealing with, but it’s important during an interview to answer with energy and excitement about the job or your past accomplishments, and not answer in a monotone frequency or worse yet, put your interviewer to sleep.
Secondly, bring samples of your work. Specificity drives credibility, and a portfolio shows your relevance to that job. Include your past experience, maybe tools or techniques that you know or have learned, plans that you have completed in the past, or templates, or even an online demo. I often use my iPad to show my interviewer things I’ve done. If you are responsible for training and have developed training materials it may be important for the interviewer to see the quality of your work. If you’ve been published you may want to bring articles you’ve written for a trade journal, such as PM Network, which is published by PMI. A project notebook showcases template samples and how you keep information organized. Share some of the things you’ve spoken on. I love when my artist friends bring portfolios and show sketches, drawings or their graphic designs; I not only appreciate their skill but take away good ideas. In addition to your portfolio, leave behind a nice folder with copies of what you’ve shown them. The folder should be something colorful that matches your own personal branding, so that they can go back and look at more details when you are gone. It’s important to show what you can bring to the table.
Third, show mobilization and socialization. That’s very important today. Most teams are mobile, or at least need to be able to communicate effectively with remote or mobile members. If you have to be out between projects, show that you have some kind of mobile device whether it’s an iPhone, Blackberry, iPad or any other technology.
Next is dress. There is something to be said for dressing for success. It’s important for both men and women to know the environment they are entering. Ask your interviewer or recruiter what the environment is like so you’ll know how to dress appropriately. If you are more client or customer-facing it may be more important for you to dress one way than if you are working with, for example, technical resources. And of course, if you are meeting with the executive team it’s important to be dressed appropriately.
Lastly, participate. Ask your interviewer questions and show interest. One of the assumptions an interviewer makes is that you’ve prepared prior to the interview, and will know about the company, the job and role, and maybe even about some of your potential team members. Use Google to learn as much as you can, and come to the conversation with questions. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. By asking good questions, you may discover that it’s not an environment or manager that you want to work for. Be genuine. Really know your strengths and know what you are passionate about. For example, there are things I really don’t enjoy anymore, even though I enjoyed them in the past; been there, done that. I enjoy and have more passion for other things today. It’s important that you know exactly what the expectations are for you in that role, and to know if your strengths equip you for the job. Ask, “Is that really my strength? Is this something I am well-equipped to do? Is this something I even want to do anymore?” Out of fairness to yourself and to the interviewer or company, it’s important to not engage in or agree to a role that maybe you are not excited about.
I want to throw in three bonus tips. These are things that have happened during interviews I’ve sat in, and I just want to bring them up. Number one, turn your electronic devices off. I’ve actually had an interviewee take a call during an interview, and it doesn’t make a very good impression. It makes it look like you have someone more important to talk to than your interviewer. Number two, be mindful of the time. If the interview is twenty or thirty minutes act as a project manager and manage that time. Let the interviewer know if it goes past the time; check in and be mindful of their time as well as yours. Number three, leave knowing what next steps are and follow up on them. When will they get back to you? Are they looking to fill this role soon, immediately, or in the future?
Jennifer Whitt, PMP is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of PDUs2Go.com. She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit http://www.pdus2go.com