This article was originally published on Project Management Tips by Elizabeth Harrin.

Congratulations! You’ve got a letter through the post or an email which is inviting you to your first project management job interview. This is the first step in a great new career as a project manager, but the next hurdle now is to prepare for the interview.

Rest assured, the company would not have invited you to attend the interview if you hadn’t shown all the right signs of being a great match for the job and the company culture. So you are already half way there – on paper the interviewer and hiring manager think that you would be capable of doing the job and that you would fit into the team. Next they need to meet you to confirm and to assess your skills.

Interviewing for your first project management job can be scary because it’s a new career and potentially a new way of working that you haven’t had much (if any) experience in. What should you be looking out for and preparing? Here are some tips to get ready for attending that interview.

Respond to the letter

Don’t forget to write back or telephone and say that you will be coming to the interview! This helps the company plan their day and ensure that everyone gets the chance to attend an interview slot of their choice. If you can’t make the date and time that the company have suggested, don’t let that put you off – call up the HR department, hiring manager or the contact on the letter and ask if you can find another slot that works for you both. Then put the date and time in your diary so you don’t forget. If you need to arrange time off work from your current job book annual leave or talk to your manager if appropriate so that you don’t have to worry about slipping out in your lunch break and trying to fit it in during a normal working day.

Research the company

You have probably done some research about the company already, during your application process. But now is the time to do this in depth so that when you arrive at the firm you have some idea about what they do and how they do it. What industry are they in? Are they at the top of their field or a mid-player?

These days, there is so much information available online and through social media sites that it is relatively easy to find things out about a firm. You used to have to call the press office and ask to be sent a copy of the annual report but today you are just as likely to be able to download it from their website.

Research the department

If you can talk to someone else who works in the project management team or even the same department as where you would be based, then do so. It can give you a really useful insight into how the team and department function and some useful tips about how you could be successful in the interview. It can also highlight things you don’t like or things you wouldn’t like to do, and this can also be helpful – after all, you are interviewing the company as well because you need to make sure that it is a good fit for you too. Interviews work both ways!

Prepare in advance

Every interview will give you the chance to ask questions at the end and it is always best to have something to say. Use your research about the company and the project management practices in use in the team to come up with some questions to ask. You could ask about:

  • What methods the team use
  • What job families or promotion prospects there are
  • How projects are prioritised
  • Whether there is a project management office and how this works
  • How projects are allocated to project managers

Or anything else that you have concerns about or want to check. At this point it’s probably best to avoid asking questions about terms and conditions such as flexible working and pay, as there will be an opportunity later in the process to do this.

At this point, all you are doing is writing down your questions so that you have them prepared. Some may be answered during the interview but it isn’t uncommon for candidates’ minds to go blank and for them to forget what they wanted to know, so having them written down is a good idea! It also shows that you are organised.

In the next part of this short series I’ll be talking about preparing for the interview day itself.