While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to interviews, one strategy that benefits everyone is to make your responses specific and complete.
In interviews, you will be asked for examples of your work:
- Tell me about a typical project at Company X;
- Tell me about a project where you managed people/ presented to senior management/ impacted the bottom line;
- Tell me about an analytical/ research/ strategy project; or
- Tell me about your favorite/ least favorite/ most difficult/ most rewarding project;
To be a prepared candidate, therefore, you need a list of projects that showcase different points you wish to make – different skills, different scopes, different expertise. You also want to be able to describe your projects comprehensively enough so that the interviewer has a clear sense of what you can do and what you have accomplished.
Many candidates make the mistake of getting bogged down in the minutia of the project. They regale the interviewer with a lot of history and background research that usually doesn’t give the interviewer a sense for their active role. Remember, you are not trying to make the interviewer an expert on the project. You are selling your skills and expertise, and therefore you need to make the interviewer become an expert on you. You want the interviewer to understand the scope of the project and your role therein.
Be able to answer these five questions for any project you discuss in an interview and you will have a comprehensive answer:
- Who sponsored the project: CEO, department head, line manager? This gives the interviewer a sense of the project’s importance.
- What was the objective? This is where you showcase your business sense. Give a clear and concise answer as to why this project was undertaken. It boils down to revenue generation or cost savings, so know this and frame your answer accordingly.
- What was the deliverable: Powerpoint presentation, white paper, presentation to senior management, Excel model? Give the interviewer a tangible sense of the result of the project.
- What actually happened? Let the interviewer know that you know your impact on your company’s business. If the company benefited, quantify this. If the company didn’t move forward, explain why not.
- What did you do and what did everyone else on the team do? Be specific about your role so you don’t come across as overreaching and so that the interviewer doesn’t assume you did more or less than you did. At the same time, being clear about what everyone else did shows that you are a team player and are aware of what is going on around you and what other people contribute.
Craft your project descriptions so that the above five questions are answered seamlessly therein. Don’t wait for the interviewer to prompt you. Most will not and will just rely on the incomplete information you volunteer.