Three Mistakes Project Managers Make on Interviews

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Mistakes Project ManagersProject Management is a very hot profession to be in right now. The influx of financial and regulatory projects coupled with the need for management of outsourced development projects has skyrocketed demand for project management. Concurrent with the demand development, the profession of project management itself has blossomed into a very distinct craft and career path.

Project management is a craft which encompasses two disparate disciplines: time/budget/technology management and people/culture management. It is small wonder that project management methodology has a lexicon and literature that rivals theoretical physics.

Along with the complexity and required multi-functional duties of project managers comes added difficulty in the interviewing process. Although project management jobs are in demand and hot, all too often project managers shoot themselves in the foot. Besides the normal interviewing problems, project managers have to contend with some very particular problems.

If you’re interviewing for a project management position, watch out for these three common interview mistakes:

  1. Methodology is subjective: Project managers often have very distinct ideas about project management methodology – the ways to properly execute development, solicit input from business users, test, and deploy. The problem is that if you are being interviewed by another project manager, Director of PMO, or the CIO/COO, they may also have distinct ideas about the right and wrong ways to do things. They may advocate PMI, or Agile development, or only hire project managers that are agnostic and practical. The point is, methodology is highly subjective and the point of contention on a lot of hiring. If you need a job, you may consider reading into the thoughts of the interviewer and adjusting the way you present your methodology.
  2. People management is contentious: Besides having to deal with the hard side of business (technology, budgets, and deadlines), project managers have to learn how to solicit feedback, manage political situations, cross/cultural issues, and other personnel related concerns. Project management is often more about people management. Managing people is a very distinct practice and people tend to be highly subjective and opinionated about the proper ways to do it. When you are interviewing for a project manager job, pay close attention to how you portray the way you interact with and manage teams of people. The individual interviewing you will likely be scrutinizing this area of your work in great detail.
  3. Business knowledge is key: Project management requires a very deep understanding of business issues. Certain advocates of a particular methodology state that the methodology crosses lines of industry effectively. However, there is no real way to eliminate the “business and industry knowledge” part of the interview. Even if your skills are entirely transferable to another industry, know that the person interviewing you probably thinks they aren’t. Be sure that you prepare for interviews with as much industry reading as possible. Go into the interview prepared with a solid understanding of their industry’s key business problems and terminology.

You can see that although project management is decently in demand, the complexity of the profession can cause a lot of difficulties in job interviews. Project managers who watch out for these three common interview mistakes will be more likely to land that next project management job. Good luck out there!

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Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.