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Best Practices for Staffing Project Leaders: The Interview

This series will provide in-depth coverage of each of the steps in the staffing process.

This post covers steps four and five, which are preparing and conducting the candidate interview:

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Once you selected candidates for interview, it’s time to prepare for the interview process.

Here, you can use the skills-versus-results matrix that you developed in the last stage to determine focus areas that will be discussed and set the stage before asking questions. Also, you will want to prepare a candidate scoring tool for more quantifiable comparison. Assign roles for all internal parties that will be involved. For example: who will handle the technical questions and who will handle the leadership and soft-skills evaluation? Will it be a panel discussion or individual interview? Will there be multiple rounds, and if so, who will handle follow-up interviews?

When interview day comes, aim for a success-based, results-oriented session. Drill into the candidate’s ability to deliver the results required. Make the exploration into the candidate’s abilities relevant to what will actually be needed within their new role.

It can be tough to know what questions to ask a project manager candidate. You can use the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) areas to validate functional skills, but when it comes to leadership skills, you need a scenario-based approach. Ask questions that elicit real-life experiences the candidate has had to validate their application of the functional skills in a compromising environment, outside the sterile realm of theory.

For example, you can ask the candidate what their specific role was in rescuing a project in distress, drilling into what personal skills from the candidate’s repertoire they brought to bear that defined the single tipping point of getting the project back on the rails. Listen deeply and be respectful.

While first impressions are important, force yourself to postpone biases until after more objective assessments can be made. It can help to do a phone screen prior to a face-to-face.

Your evaluation should center the five predictors for long-term success set out by Brad Remillard in You’re Not the Person I Hired: High Initiative, Flawless Execution, Leadership, Past Success, and Adaptability.

Click here to continue to the final steps: Select the right candidate and Conduct the post-decision process.

Or to go back to an earlier step, click on the appropriate post: Communicate process and define requirements, Initiate Search, Review/compare/select for follow-up.

You can access our full Staffing white paper here.

For more help on navigating the challenges of project management, contact our experts today.