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Interviewing for your first project manager position can be an exciting and rewarding experience. At the same time, it can also be stressful and time-consuming. Despite the steadily increasing demand for project managers in every industry, competition for PM roles is always fierce. When you’ve polished your resume, bought a new outfit and are starting to see interview requests show up in your email inbox, these tips will help you make the right first impression as you begin the hunt for your dream job.

Do Your Research
Two partners meeting in office

Two partners meeting in office

Few things are as off-putting to an interviewer as candidates who don’t seem to know anything about the organization they are trying to join. Take the time to learn about your prospective employers before you go in for an interview. A few hours of online research can get you up to speed on the company’s products and services, management structure, customer base and even its employee benefits and employment policies. Not only will this knowledge make you a more attractive candidate, it can help you determine in advance if a company is not the right fit, saving you the trouble of interviewing for a job you wouldn’t accept anyway.

Be Prepared

Every company has a unique approach to interviewing and hiring, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare in advance for some of the questions you’re going to be asked. The internet abounds with lists of project management interview questions, and some of the people who will be interviewing you are reading those same exact lists. Develop thoughtful, honest responses to the project manager interview questions that strike you as most likely to come up, and be sure to make note of any answers that seem to get an especially good response in an interview, as you can say something similar in your next interview.

Ask the Right Questions

Many prospective project managers sail through the early stages of an interview, only to crash against the rocks when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?” Asking intelligent, worthwhile questions is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. Especially in a first interview, you should avoid asking about salary, benefits, vacation time or similar topics—there will be plenty of time to discuss those after you convince the employer that you’re the right candidate and they extend you an offer.

Know Your Worth

Many first-time project managers are so eager to get established in their chosen field that they jump at the first job offer they get, even if the offer falls short of their expectations. Avoid the temptation to take a step down in pay or responsibility just for the sake of landing a new job—it could take you years to climb back up to a level you could have achieved simply by continuing your job search for another few months. At the same time, it’s important to be realistic about your market value and to ask for the salary that your skills and experience are truly worth. Here again, a bit of online research can give you the data you’ll need in order to accurately assess the salary of every job offer you receive.

Know the Tools of the Trade

If you’re brand new to the world of project management, you probably haven’t had a chance to experiment with any tools. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a general idea about what tools and software a project manager uses day-to-day in their role. From cloud-based project management tools and scheduling software to professional freelancing websites, you should have at least a basic understanding of each and how they contribute to the bottom line. If you have the time, attend webinars of free training sessions so you won’t be lying when you say you have a “little bit of experience” with the tools.

Learn more about how project managers use Clarizen day-to-day, check out a product tour.

Angela Bunner
Angela Bunner, Sr. Director Product