4 Skills Project Managers Need to Ace That Phone
Looking to land your next role as a project manager? A phone interview is usually the first major hurdle along the way. While phone interviews are often just a segue into an in-person interview, they establish your credibility and lay the groundwork to move the process forward. They’re also the first—but hopefully not the only – chance to showcase your skills in the areas essential for any successful project manager. The following four skills, in particular, are vital to becoming a well-rounded project manager.
Clear communication is essential to success as a project manager. From a project’s initial planning stages to completion, open lines of communication are crucial to team members, clients, and other project stakeholders. Consistent, straightforward communication reduces the likelihood that something is mishandled or misunderstood along the way. Active listening is also a critical component of effective communication. Make sure you fully understand what’s being said and develop appropriate communication plans for specific personality types and projects.
How to Prepare: The phone interview itself is a test of your communication skills and an excellent chance for you to display them. Come to the conversation prepared. Develop a “cheat sheet” with background info and examples of your applicable skills. Speak confidently and clearly. Actively listen, take notes, and ask appropriate follow-up questions. Don’t let any awkward lulls or accidental interruptions impact your focus. Additionally, make sure to acknowledge your written communication skills, since creating project plans, statements of work, timelines, and status reports are required components of any project management role.
2. Problem-Solving and Negotiation
Project managers must be capable of solving internal conflicts, addressing concerns, mediating differing opinions, and negotiating outcomes. Challenges are inevitable, but the way that you react and resolve them is the key to diffusing situations and mitigating conflicts. Instead of casting blame or procrastinating, good problem solvers tackle obstacles head-on and diplomatically persist until they resolve the matter. In your role as project manager, you’re bound to be confronted with a variety of unique, pertinent issues that require quick decision making and rational response.
How to Prepare: Be equipped to discuss specific instances in your career where your problem solving and negotiating skills were put to the test. Share a challenge that you faced, the specific actions that you took to manage it, and the results of your efforts. These can be examples of how you resolved a conflict between team members or negotiated a “win-win” with fellow managers, senior management, or third-party suppliers. This narrative is also an opportunity to highlight any specific technical or subject matter expertise that was necessary to address and solve the problem.
3. Flexibility & Adaptability
With many employees, responsibilities, and timelines to oversee, project managers must be able to modify their approach to tasks on the fly. This flexibility is extremely valuable in the tech industry due to the niche nature of many roles – and project managers who can easily pivot and adapt to changing circumstances are more attractive to potential employers. You should be well-versed in what each member of your project is doing and at which stage the project stands so you can swiftly implement the necessary changes to meet project timelines and goals, even if it means undertaking tasks outside of your assigned duties.
How to Prepare: Similar to displaying your problem-solving abilities, consider circumstances in which you’ve had to change course or create a workaround in the middle of a project. Explain to the interviewer what caused the sudden modifications, how your team was affected, and how you were able to ultimately navigate them to success.
Project managers have an extremely high level of accountability and at times are operating without measures to keep their work in check. Team members also look to their superiors as an example, mirroring their work ethic and vision for their projects. For these reasons, self-motivation is a necessary skill for all project managers.
How to Prepare: One of the best ways to self-motivate, and to convey this motivation, is by pinpointing the greater purpose of your role. Feeling connected to a larger mission is a driver for many leaders as they’re able to place their contribution into the overall goals of the organization. Identify this purpose and convey it during the phone interview, then inquire about the long-term aspirations of the organization. Use this information to align your position with their greater mission and discuss how you can assist the company in getting there.
Virtually any project manager candidate can develop new technical skills or strengthen existing proficiencies. By demonstrating how you can effectively implement the skills outlined here, and explain how they augment your role as a project manager, you’ll quickly set yourself apart from the competition and ace the phone interview.
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