How to smash that Project Management interview

Catherine English

Catherine English

Have you recently been invited to a first stage interview for a permanent digital project manager role? Are you unsure of how to prepare or what to expect? Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind!

When preparing for an interview, you’d do well to know the style of interview that will be conducted. There are different types - CV-led, competency based, presentations and more. The two most common are CV-led and competency based interviews.

Both type of interviews could be led by one person or a panel. Panel interviews help employers judge a job seeker’s communication style and group engagement. It also helps them share their thoughts after the interview to form a better opinion of your capability.

CV-led interview

This type of interview is straight forward, the interviewer will ask direct questions about your project management experience. They will want to hear you talk through your current and previous roles, and as you talk through each position ensure to provide as much detail as possible.

Interviewers will want to hear about the range of digital projects you’ve overseen, the range of clients that you’ve worked with and the budgets/timelines you had to deliver to. Don’t forget to add key additional information about the size of your team, how it was structured, what type of project methodology you followed and what processes you implemented etc.

What the interviewer is ultimately doing is checking to see if you match the requirements of the job. For example, if you know that the particular role will involve a lot of complex website builds make sure that you can demonstrate the breadth of your web build project experience.

Competency interview

These are also known as scenario or behavioural interviews. The aim of the questions in this type of job interview is to help the interviewer understand how an individual’s certain behaviours and skills could play out in the workplace. More importantly, they are testing your soft skills as a project manager. It’s great if you have the required experience for the role, however if you are not able to demonstrate strong communication, problem-solving or leadership skills then you may not be the best fit for their company.

Some questions from actual interviews:

  • Tell me about a time when your stakeholders didn’t agree on a project. How did you proceed?
  • Have you ever experienced project failure? What happened?
  • What projects do you not want to work on?
  • How do you deal with difficult team members?
  • What projects have you managed and what different styles have you used? (Waterfall, Agile, strong leadership, self-organizing teams - looking for how flexible and adaptable the candidate might be)

Almost all of these questions can be answered using the STAR method. For example, the interviewer could ask a scenario based question along these lines: Describe the steps you would take when handling a particularly difficult client.

  • Situation: Choose a project from either your current or a previous position where you had a challenging client.
  • Task: Talk through key background information about the example you’ve chosen and reasons why the client was being difficult.
  • Action: Your answer should cover specific actions taken by you that helped improve or change the situation.
  • Result: End your answer by explaining the outcome of your actions.

If you would like some more advice on how to prepare for project management interviews I would be more than happy to help! Feel free to drop me a message.