Getting ready for job interview

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Female Element blog is about experience and current trends in project management, digitalization and agile organizational transformation seen by eyes of a woman. Why to distinguish such view? Female and male brain operates differently and we may have various interpretations for the same situation. Female leadership is a thing and should be recognised. But mostly because more inclusivity for women is good for all aspects of business and we still have way to go.

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Categories: Communication, Leadership


My latest private project is relocation to Europe and part of it is looking for a new job. After attending several job interviews, here are my learnings on how to get ready for jobs that require project management or business analysis competency (or combination of both).

For project-based professions, the obvious focus of showcasing your skills is portfolio of delivered projects. Demonstrating your past experience is natural response to the job interviewer who is looking for a fit to their current challenge. But that may also mean that you are positioning yourself into the range of assignments you have already undertaken, in other words more or less to continue the job you were doing before. That may be perfectly fine if that’s what you want. Frankly speaking, being a project manager or business analyst is challenging enough.

It becomes harder when you have ambition to grow in your career, for instance to manage larger and more complex assignments, to enter new industry or different subject area, such as move from IT project management to broader organizational changes, or to move up from execution focused jobs to more strategic level. But what helps is your preparation and presenting the right experience from your list of accomplishments.

Here are my personal learning points, I would be happy to hear about your experience!

  1. When entering new domain, do your homework

Be prepared. If you intend to enter new industry, learn the basics first. Research the current trends, look at the activities and direction of the main industry players, check articles and any other publicly available information about the company itself. Do your best to understand what challenges are probably on the table and map your past experience to them to show that you have capabilities to solve them.

Entering new industry is hard, but doable. Some industries are very closed and have natural resistance to admit newcomers. To prove that you are the right candidate, go through your past accomplishments and pick up those that demonstrate your ability to learn or, another strategy how to enter new domain, to build networks and teams of experts that help you to deliver the results.

  1. Focus on relevant experience and be specific

After several years of being in project environment, you’ve accomplished a lot. But not all the experience is relevant to your potentially new job, so be careful to select the best examples. For instance, if you like to hire a plumber, would you be excited to listen to stories how that person was also a bus driver, librarian and learned foreign languages by being an au-pair? Guess no. Avoid this trap of presenting unhelpful information by putting your focus on staying relevant to the job description.

What matters is to present that you have the right skillset, even if that would be just 30% of what you ever achieved. Especially when you look for bigger job than you had before, select your particular achievements that put together a puzzle clearly showing that you have all the skills on the list, even if not yet used on one single project.

Being relevant also demonstrates your good understanding of the potential job. To make it even better, be specific when talking about how did you do things, how did you deal with situations, which tools and approaches you put in place. Being specific helps your interviewer to relate your experience to what the company is looking for.

  1. Stay confident

Staying confident and being prepared to answer all questions is your target. Project management profession is very broad and makes you ready for dealing with stress, communicate in difficult situations, handle risks, use soft skills, there’s a lot. Business analysts train their learning skills, complex thinking, attention to detail as well as seeing business context. Staying confident is then well earned and should be fully justified.

 

Good luck with your careers in 2019!!

Posted on: January 11, 2019 02:10 PM | Permalink

Comments (25)

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Lenka, I totally agree with your steps actually I have done specially step 1& 2 it is very important when entering new technical area that we did not deeply worked on it so to do the homework search more about that domain is definitely a key for success in the interview
also gathering more related case study would help to solve few questions or when they ask you to give an example so you can give from case study.

Now since the job is abroad and require travel so to evaluate the risk it is a good idea to have many interviews through Skype first before travel
Once you get that seat of the posting then other info & data will streamed at your desk and you can dive more in the new information with using your previous judgmental power.

And finally the luck play big part in major outcome so GOOD LUCK

Very good advice Lenka.

That is really amazing, Lenka. I would be very interested in some series of posts during, or in reflection of, your journey. Quite an undertaking indeed, and very courageous, too!

The points described above are spot on. All the best!

Lenka,

That is certainly a major change going to Europe. There must be some cultural difference also at play. Did you need to adjust to the culture in some way?

Thanks Riyadh, such a great note from you! Case studies is very good idea.
You’re right, I did couple of Skype interviews before taking the plane for the really important face to face meeting. It’s so useful that we have these technologies which makes communication very flexible.

Thanks Drake!

Thanks Vincent! There are several cultural differences that plays role at a workplace or communication but I’m actually European so it was much harder for me to grasp US culture :)

Thanks Andrew! I’ll think about posting more later:) anything you would be interesting in specifically?

You're welcome Lenka, I'm glad that you have progressed to face to face meeting and I haven't mentioned about cultural gap because I know Czechoslovakia have good intelligent and nice people and even if you are moving to other than your birth country it remains European so there are many similar ethics and shared etiquette. Well good luck with your big move.

Good points Lenka, thanks for sharing this.

Great article, most of the pm Interviews I have gone to don't ask hard questions about project management, sometimes none. I would recommend being ready to talk generically about your work history and success stories. Include details like size of project in time and money, number managed, length, number of projects managed at once, ect.

Thank you, Lenka for sharing this. It came right on point since I'm relocating to Vancouver next March. It is very hard to find a job if you're not physically present in the area, so your article sets some guidelines that I'm actually working on. Tailoring the approach based on the job description and "shapeshifting" the skills accordingly are key to success but isn't that what makes us project managers?

Lenka, the journey is often the most interesting. Stories vary by individuals and their experiences, so hearing about them from their unique perspective can offer valuable lessons. And to be honest, probably a good portion would love to do something similar. Now, we can live vicariously through you :)

Good learning points, thanks for sharing.
Explore and identify the transferable skills that are viable to bring to new domain, highlight what can they bring to the team and organization to achieve goals.

Hi Lenka -
Thank you for your insights.
I think communication plays an important role specially when one is interviewing in another geographic or culturally different environment. Would like to know if you have a some tips how one could do better in new environment.

Do your homework: try to know the organisation you go in an interview with and if possible, go on linkedin and try to get to know the people you willl meet in the interview. Sometimes, you can make more personnal connection with the people and that will make you stand out form other candidates! I worked really well for me in the past
And make sure you come up with a list of question to ask

Hi Srikana! What worked for me was to connect with expats network, such as InterNations. This network connects people who relocated (or wants to relocate) all over the world. They have chapters, it is organized similar like PMI but there’s no professional aspect. They do events, welcome newcomers. And then once you network, you may ask people for advice how to adjust to the new culture and place.

Very timely read Lenka for me personally as I find myself searching for a my next opportunity. So far I am staying confident in my skills and find myself in an inviting job market but your words of advice triggered some action items for me as I work my network and look for the right fit for my skills and ambitions. Thank you for sharing!

Lenka again thanks for providing that network it looks legitimate & quality people willing to help, you have set a very leading example for others and it require courage to relocate, it has merits and demerits but your initiative would be a role model for many, Like Andrew mentioned keep us posted with the latest outcome, so now I would say congratulation when are you going to start?

Lenka,

Thanks for your post and your advice. I would add a suggestion per my recent interview experience. Talk about your failures if given an opportunity, and how you learned from them. It is widely known that (depending upon the industry) that 50 - 70 percent of projects fail. Therefore it is reasonable that some of us have been involved in situations where that is the case. Project failure is not the same as project management failure. Sometimes the risks, issues and decisions of the organization are beyond your control and mitigation. In my last interview experience the interviews shared with me that they liked how I talked about some failures of projects, what I learned from those and here is the most important part--how will that shape my behavior when managing projects for them in the future?

Best wishes on your quest for the next challenge and I'll be reading! :)

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