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PMO Advice from Apex's Top PMO Recruiters on Interviewing

May 2017- Tips from Christy, Holly, Stephanie, Jamie, Steven, and Wendy, Sr PM/BA Recruiters with 45+ years of combined experience supporting PMs/BAs in job search

As a Project Manager or Business Analyst, what truly stands out on a resume? What skills should you learn to position yourself to get a leg up over other applicants during your next job search? What certifications are companies looking for? Where should you invest time preparing for interviews? We polled six of our most tenured Project Management and Business Analysis focused recruiters across the U.S. to get their main pieces of advice for PMO candidates. Over the next few weeks, we’ll post their responses here!

1. What is 1+ piece of advice you have for PMs and BAs around interview preparation?

Review your projects and experiences
“Take the time to write out specific accomplishments you have had on past projects or with past employers. Be ready to give specific examples on how you made your past projects successful. Really balance the line between being too humble and being overly arrogant. Managers ultimately want to understand how you as an individual can impact their Project Management or Business Analysis teams.”

“It’s always a good exercise to refresh yourself with past projects that you worked on and be prepared to speak to the details of those projects during an interview (project requirements, technologies, stakeholders, budget, methodology, timelines, etc.). Be able to speak clearly and concisely to your specific role within the project. You never want to find yourself stumbling over an example you are giving during an interview. Having 1-2 examples that you are prepared to speak in depth to will help out greatly (if you have a project that is similar to the one they are working on that should definitely be one of your examples).”

“Be prepared to give specific answers about your experience as it relates to the job you're interviewing for and the projects/initiatives you'd be leading in that particular role. Avoid giving textbook answers, and instead, engage in story telling to highlight your pertinent experience and successes that align with what they need this role to do!”

Interview the interviewer
“Ask good, well thought out questions that show a genuine interest in the role and being successful in the position. Steer clear of surface level questions that can be found on the website or asked to your recruiter.”

“Listen! Make sure you are listening to the manager and playing off of what they are looking for. Many times a manager will tell a candidate during an interview exactly what the project is and what their requirements are – don’t miss your chance to incorporate those things into your answers! Take notes during the interview and make sure to touch on some of those things throughout so they know you were paying attention!”

“As a Project Manager, develop a line of questioning that helps you get a true gauge of the projects/initiatives you’d be overseeing. Are they new or existing initiatives? What’s the size, scale and scope? Underlying purpose on why the project is happening, and how it will benefit the company or client? Current or anticipated challenges? Methodologies and approaches being utilized for this effort?”

2. What are some common reasons you see PMs and/or BAs “ruled out” after an interview?

Being too general or not concise
“General responses vs. giving specific examples from specific projects.”

“The most common feedback I hear ruling out a PM/BA candidate is that they spoke in generalities and didn’t provide specific examples to questions.”

“Being too long winded and not concise with answers. Often times candidates want to unload all their experience at once and get away from answering the actual question that has been posed and/or will get on a tangent that will lose the attention of the interviewers.”

“I would say the most common reason is that the person rambled too much in the interview without really making a point or answering their question. Another big one is that people aren’t able to draw on SPECIFIC examples from their past experience as it relates to the role they are interviewing for.”

“Recent manager feedback from a candidate that was ruled out: “With regards to XXX’s interview, there was nothing really that stood out with regards to his past performances. No immediate ‘red flags.’ However, he did quite a bit of talking about a lot of activity without providing sufficient specifics with what he did or how he did it. One specific example was around determining critical path for the project; his response was that he uses his experience to determine what the critical path is. This is expected, but I’m also looking for someone that can use the PM tools of their craft to back up and ultimately present this information so that decisions and actions can be taken.”

Lack of research or speaking negatively on past employers
“Not doing research beforehand by clearly understanding the job description and the company.”

“Saying anything negative about past employers or positions. Regardless of how bad a past position or project was, candidates should always try to put a positive spin on it or make it into a learning experience. Talking negatively about a former employer never goes over well.”

Check back next week for more PMO tips! Click here to view all of our job openings and submit your most recent resume today!