Project management is a burgeoning industry at the moment, with growth projected at 15 percent through 2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (faster than average); those with five years (or more) of management experience can expect to earn an average of $120,000 a year in a full-time position, while freelance contractors can pull down between $50 and $60 per hour.
What’s the best way to land a rewarding management position? As with so many industries, it’s all in how you tailor your resume, which should establish the following:
- Details of your decision-making process
- Major decisions you facilitated
- The bottom-line impact of those decisions
- The positive effects of your work on timelines, schedules and customer experience
(Your verbal fluency with this same information will be essential during an interview as well.)
“Ask for an overview of the project the company intends to be managed in advance of the interview,” said Trevor Simm, founder and president of OpalStaff and Talos Solutions. “That way answers to the project manager interview questions can be catered to the new role as opposed to being completely retrospective or speculative.”
Management candidates should prepare for both technical and methodology questions. Interviewers will generally start with the technical ones, so be prepared to discuss the kinds of software you’ve used to manage projects.
If you’ve taken Simm’s suggestion about gathering information on the project, you’ll be ahead of the game: Knowing the employer’s preferred software is vital. For example, according to Jordanna Silver, project manager at Softchoice, her company looks for knowledge of Cisco, voice and Microsoft technologies such as Office 365, Lync, and Azure.
Methodology Is Critical
While technical know-how is important, both Simm and Silver agreed that methodology has primacy, since it deals directly with the execution of the project. Someone who can demonstrate skills in risk identification, mediation planning and issue management is a top-tier candidate. “We’re obviously looking to hear both their experience in challenging situations, especially where they’ve overcome challenges,” Silver said.
A candidate using his or her communication and planning skills to turn around an at-risk project is the sort of narrative that would play exceptionally well in a job interview, especially if the end result was a satisfied client. But that doesn’t mean a tech pro should downplay the contributions of the larger team: Good managers “recognize the importance of a team effort in achieving the desired results,” Simm said. Part of your story should focus on your ability to identify team members’ individual strengths and how you delegated accordingly.
When it comes to “hard” skills such as tech knowledge, most companies are willing to train and teach a candidate. “But it’s the intangibles that are the things you can’t always teach,” Silver said. “A person either has it or doesn’t have it.”
Silver (and many others) not only look at a candidate’s ability to communicate clearly, but also pay attention to detail, organize well, and manage time efficiently. Having nerves of steel is another key aptitude: Managers often deal with heavy workloads and cover several projects at a time, juggling opposing priorities while staying on top of the action.
In light of that, candidates should “explain how they were able to remain calm under pressure and discuss how they adjusted their strategy using existing resources to tackle those challenges,” Simm said.
For the Win
So what makes a PM truly successful? “It’s really their ability to anticipate, be proactive and understand why the client is engaging them in the first place,” Silver said.