These tips will help you show off your competence and presentation skills during an interview.
BY LINDSAY SCOTT
I have an interviews coming up for a project manager position, and I've been informed that it will be competency-based. How can I prepare?
A: Competency-based interviews are intended to find out your project management skill level. The question are “situational,” rather than directly relating to your career history. They're also specifically chosen so the interviewer can ask the same ones to all the interviewees and compare each response.
To prepare, you need to understand what the key competencies are for the role. If these aren't listed in the job description, refresh your memory by reviewing a competency framework for project management.
When preparing for the interview, think about how you demonstrate your abilities, skills, personality, style and approach in each of the key areas.
Let's take two competencies as examples—one that covers technical project management and one that covers behavioral aspects.
Question 1: Describe the steps you take when starting to plan a project for the first time.
Your Response: Choose a project that had a particularly challenging or complex planning phase. Begin with a brief overview of the project you have chosen, then describe your actions. For example, you might say, “In a previous project, I was responsible for delivering X, and the planning phase started with A, B and C.” The answer should focus on definition, scope, schedule, planning and best practices. You should also clearly convey the favorable outcomes of your actions.
Question 2: Can you describe a time when you had to manage team conflict?
Your Response: State the situation at the beginning of your answer: “I was leading a team of 20 software developers, and there was a personality clash between two members of the team.” Your answer should continue with the specifics of the actions you took to resolve this conflict and then conclude with the positive outcome.
Tell interviewers what you want them to hear: that you have the experience required to deal with the various challenging situations that arise when managing projects.
Q: I'm at the second stage for an interview for a project management post and I've been asked to give a presentation. What hints and tips can you give me?
A: Giving a presentation during the interview process is becoming increasingly common for project management positions. It is an ideal opportunity for the interviewers to test many aspects of interviewees, including their understanding of subject matter, time management skills, presentation style, communication skills and confidence levels.
You will normally receive a brief for the presentation a few days before the interview. Some organizations, however, like to provide the brief upon your arrival, with instructions to create a presentation within a set timeframe—usually a tight one.
Popular presentation briefs for project management tend to fall into two categories:
1. Scenario-based: You are expected to present what your actions would be in a given situation.
2. Document-based: You are expected to analyze and summarize information.
With each brief, there will be specific questions posed that you will need to respond to.
The key to any successful presentation is structure, time and confidence. Set the scene; do not assume the audience understands what the project is. Cover what was actually done and your part in it, and the outcome and benefits.
If you are using PowerPoint or other presentation software, don't use too many slides. About one slide per three minutes is adequate.
Always have an introductory slide that clearly states your name, the title of the presentation and its objectives.
The next slide should be a bulleted list of contents that you should briefly summarize.
The remaining slides should not be too busy with detail. Instead, keep them bulleted and to the point. Use the slides as a prompt.
Handouts can be a good way to leave your mark with the audience; distribute them at the end of the presentation. Don't just provide a printout of the presentation, though. Because time constraints likely mean you'll only get to discuss the topic at a high level, include more detail on these sheets.
Poor time management is to blame for many unsuccessful presentations. Practice to make sure you're timing things carefully.
Practicing can also boost your confidence level. Once you feel comfortable with the presentation, brainstorm potential follow-up questions you may be asked.
Remember, there is often no right or wrong answer to how you choose to interpret the presentation brief—within reason, of course. Instead, it is all about your delivery. PM
Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London, England. Send career questions to email@example.com.
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FEBRUARY 2012 PM NETWORK