Interview Preparation for Digital Project Managers
I’m now in my fifth year as a Digital Project Manager, at my fourth different company. That might sound like a lot of movement; but, Job Hopping can be beneficial for young people just starting out.
Each step propelled me to a more senior position, gave me more responsibility and exposure to more complex and diverse types of projects.
Crucially, I was able to get these roles by successfully negotiating my way through the interview process.
In this post, I will walk you through my experience of the interview process for a Digital Project Manager, provide typical questions you’re likely to be asked and give you a few general pointers as well.
The typical interview process for most roles takes place over 3 steps.
At this stage, it’s really just about being polite and answering some general Project Management questions. You’ll also be asked to give a high-level overview of your experience and be given an introduction to the role and the company.
I’ve found that as you gain more experience, you tend to deal with Agencies more often and they conduct this step on behalf of the employer. So you impress them, they recommend you to the client and you go straight to step 2.
Face to Face
The most crucial step of the interview process. You’ll be asked to go through your CV and discuss your skills and experience in detail.
The employer will tell you about the role, the company and give you an idea of how they manage their projects, what types of projects they work on, what are the size of the teams etc…
Presentation and/or Final F2F
Only in 1 of my 4 jobs was I asked to come back for a third Interview. However, if there are a lot of candidates or the employer has limited resources or this is a new role; you’ll be asked back for a third Interview.
In some cases, eg. An in-house Senior Management role, you’ll be asked to do a presentation as part of your final interview.
Initially, I put this towards the end of the post, but I realised it needs to be near the top. This is all about preparation, specifically preparing tangible evidence of your skills and experience through short stories.
Like many of you, I was taught the P.E.E technique at school. Point. Example. Explanation. It’s such a simple and effective technique. Not just for writing, but for speaking as well. To this day I use it wherever, and whenever I can – Especially during interviews.
Tip: There is usually a ‘What we’re looking for’ section of a Job Spec, so in a way, they are literally giving you the answers. All you need to do is feed these points back to them in the form of short stories.
These are the most common scenarios you’ll likely need to cover. Think about moments from your career that you can relate each point too. I’ve added some possible discussion points beneath each topic.
- End to End Delivery
- Ongoing Support and Maintenance
- In-house, Offshore, Agency
- Dispute Management
- Agile, Waterfall or Combination of both
- Ceremonies, Artefacts, Processes
- Ongoing Reporting
- Incident Management (How you communicate when things go wrong)
- Discovery & Remediation
- Content Management Systems
- Programming Languages
Tip: Load up on stories of successful projects. This should cover the majority of the topics above AND also help you answer ‘What went well/Strengths’ and ‘What didn’t go well/Weaknesses’ types of questions.
You’ll be asked two types of questions. Common questions to help the employer determine the way you are as a person; and specific technical questions that will help the employer determine your skills and experience.
These are often more difficult to answer than technical questions because you have to think and speak abstractly without going on about yourself too much. Sometimes these questions will lead directly into the more Technical questions.
Tip: These won’t always come first or be grouped together. I’ve been asked to describe myself/experience first and then asked the remaining common questions after discussing PM specific questions.
Tell us about yourself?
This is just a polite way of asking you to discuss your skills and experience. Keep it simple, just go through your CV in chronological order, starting with your current position.
Explain your role, responsibilities and provide one unique example of a different skill set per role.
What are your strengths?
Be honest, be humble and be very clear about the relationship between this strength and how it benefited your team/client/project – If you can, use an example you know will also benefit the potential employer.
What are your weaknesses?
Be honest but be aware of what you are telling them. You don’t want to give them an excuse to question your character or ability. Tell them something that can clearly be remedied or tell them something that might be considered a strength.
Why do you want to work here?
This is their way of checking if you have done your research.
- What type of clients do they have?
- What type of work do they do?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- How are they as a company?
Why are you leaving your current position?
Do not bad mouth anyone you currently work with or your current employer. Focus on yourself and your ambitions.
- I want to work on different types of Projects
- I want to focus my different areas of expertise into a specific Product/Project
- I want to work in a different type or size of Company
PM Specific Questions
Now you get to discuss your speciality – Digital Project Management.
At the core, these questions will be about those topics we discussed earlier on, no matter how they are dressed up. However, whilst your stories might have been discussed at a relatively high level up till now, this is when you need to go into detail.
Tip: Listen carefully. Try to extract what underlying skill you think is being discussed – And then deliver the associated story that covers it.
Note: These questions were written by Liane Grimshaw for Orchard
I’ve taken Liane’s excellent questions and simply grouped them up to help you visualise the underlying skill and topic being asked by each.
Q. What do you feel is the most effective way to gather clear requirements of a project from your client?
Q. What is the largest project that you have worked on? What challenges did it present and how did you overcome them?
Q. Can you tell me about a time when you had to manage a difficult client on a project?
Q. What do you do to get the best out of your people when running a project?
Q. What are the pros and cons of Agile and Waterfall methodologies, what have your experiences of both taught you?
Q. What management information do you feel is essential to give to your organisation at the beginning, during and end of a project?
Q. Why do web projects typically overrun? And how can this be mitigated or overcome?
Q. Talk me through a project budget that you have prepared, how did you go about ensuring it’s accuracy?
Q. What project management tools do you use, which do you like the best and why?
Q. How do you keep yourself up to date with design and technology trends?
You’ll no doubt be given an opportunity to ask your own questions towards the end of the interview. Make sure you do! Remember, this isn’t just an interview for them to see your qualities, but for you to also see if it will be the right fit.
Tip: Avoid turning this in to a simple Question & Answer session. Try to have a discussion with the Interviewer as you answer each question.
- What’s the last project you guys completed?
- What types of projects are in the roadmap?
- What development technologies do you use? CMS?
- What Project Management tools or processes do you use?
- What is the average size of projects?
- What is the size of the development team? Are they in-house or off-shore?
- Be confident
- Be prepared
- Know your CV
- Dress appropriately
For more posts on Digital Project Management interview preparation, check out:
- DPM Interview Guide by Ben Aston
- Questions to ask web project managers by Sam Barnes
- 10 Expert Questions For Interviewing A Digital Project Manager by Liane Grimshaw
- Job Hopping Your Way to Unhappiness by ThunderPuff
- How I got my first Digital Project Management Job by Rumman Amin