Your First Junior Project Manager Interview is a Tough One, But These Tips Will Help You Ace It
Congratulations! If you’re reading this article then you’re probably preparing for your first junior project manager interview and I’m going to help you ace it. Expect to be faced with some tough questions, because project managers have to be able to deal with more than their fair share of challenges.
Interviews can feel really intimidating, but at the end of the day it’s just a conversation you have in smart clothes. Ever heard that one before? Even though it’s true, doing some interview preparation will go a long way.
So to improve your chances of impressing your interviewer, keep reading.
1 – Do Your Research
We have a whole article about interview prep research, so I would first recommend starting there.
But as you’re preparing for a project manager interview, there are some extra things to look out for.
Take a look through the company website and be sure to test out any products or services they offer. Familiarise yourself with the industry and their competitors.
Next, have a think about some projects the company has already worked on. This might be a guessing game, but it can give you a good foundation for your research moving forwards.
Perhaps they have recently launched a podcast, started doing webinars, released a new product or expanded the company to a new location. A good place to look for this secret info is the company blog if they have one. Often, tech companies will release product update articles about their latest completed projects. These are vital for you.
Think through the completed project and try to decide how you would have approached it. Whether it’s a creative or development project, you need to make sure that you have an action plan for tackling a big project in that area.
Plan out what tools you would use (like Asana), what techniques you would work by (are you into Agile?) and deep dive into it.
Project manager interviews tend to have situational questions, and it’s very likely that you could be asked how you would manage a project in their industry.
2 – Prepare to be Honest
There are many things that make a great project manager, but one of the key things is that you have to be honest. You could be managing a team of people, so you need to be able to get the truth across in a productive way to get results. So you could get questions like: how do you manage a tricky stakeholder? What challenges did you face in your last project and how did you overcome them?
Project managers also need to be self aware, so expect tricky interview questions like: what’s your biggest weakness? Tell me about a time you failed?
For questions like these, you have to be honest. As soon as you give a phoney weakness, say you’ve never failed or faced any challenges, you’ve lost the job.
Prepare answers using a storytelling method. This is where you:
- Set the scene by describing a project, situation or problem.
- Define the challenge, how important it was and how you thought to approach it.
- Tell your interviewer how it worked out for you, what you learned and if you would do it differently next time.
Your interviewer isn’t looking to hire someone perfect, they want someone real. If you’ve already made mistakes in your career, you hopefully won’t make them again. So be honest and be compelling with the storytelling method.
3 – Expect a Curveball
When you’re managing a big project, there will always be new challenges popping up out of nowhere. But you’ve got to adapt, stay calm and approach them with a good mixture of creativity and logic.
To test you under even more pressure (as if the interview wasn’t enough already), your interviewer could ask you a bonkers question.
Something silly like ‘how many giraffes are in the UK’s Zoos?’
In your head, you’re panicking. What?! This wasn’t on the job spec!
But you need to be able to breathe through the panic, ask insightful questions and make an informed guess.
Your interviewer is trying to see how you approach sudden challenges, so be sure to stay calm and ask for help! Project managers can’t do everything on their own – so ask your interviewer some questions like: ‘just this year or ever?’ ‘Let’s assume there’s a zoo in every other UK city, do you know how many cities are in the country?’
Be sure to talk through your process. Maybe you went to a zoo when you were 12 and you remember there being a few giraffes.
Anyway, approach the question with curiosity, creativity and logic. Use your notebook and take a crack at it. And hell – don’t be afraid to use Google. Some challenges are too big to take on your own, especially when someone’s already done the work for you.
4 – Prepare a Backup
As much as I hope that these tips help you ace your junior project manager interview, sometimes luck isn’t on your side. So just in case, do you have a backup job opportunity lined up?
The DigitalGrads team specialise in junior tech roles and we see lots of project managers find success on our hiring hub. Sign up today to see our opportunities, create your profile and apply for your dream job.