Why are you leaving your job?

Don’t say anything negative about your previous or current company, manager or co-workers. A negative response will make the hiring manager think you’ll speak badly about them too.  Equally, don’t mention anything related to being under-paid, over-worked, under-appreciated, or give the impression that you’re job-hopping.

The best approach is to say something concise and positive. For a Project Manager Job a good response could be:

I really enjoyed working at my current company, for the last four-years I have delivered multiple projects from procurement to deployment, and I have developed many strong business relationships.  I am looking for more management responsibility, but the opportunity for growth in this area is limited. I feel leaving my job is the next step to achieving my goal.

Click here to download the complete “Interview Preparation Guide”.

Have you ever worked as a Project Manager at a Digital Agency?

If you’re applying for a Digital Project Manager and you have limited experience an ideal answer could be as follows:

Project Management is my core competency and as a hobby I occasionally set myself personal projects. I hand code demo websites to sharpen my skills in HTML, CSS and Java Script.

I’ve always kept up-to-date with the changes in the web development industry too. When the industry started to move away from hand-coding to Content Management Systems I taught myself Drupal and Word Press.  I’m also capable of setting-up dedicated web servers and configuring SQL databases.

This mean I can better communicate with the Web Development Team at a technical level and give more detailed explanations to the stakeholders.

Click here to download the complete “Interview Preparation Guide”.

Your Definitive A-Z Guide to Interviews: Part 1

Your Definitive A-Z Guide to Interviews: Part 1

Interviews are inevitable part of job hunting but they don’t need to be something you dread. With the right amount of preparation you can stand out from the other candidates and give yourself a much better chance of getting that job.

Ask

If the letter inviting you to an interview is rather vague, don’t just accept it. It will be time to ask some questions, so give HR a call and ask for a few more details. It’s advisable to have names and job titles of your interviewer(s) and what the interview agenda will be. Get as many facts as you can since all information will help you focus in the right areas for your interview. The added bonus for requesting this information is that the HR department will remember your high level of professionalism which will give them a very good first impression of you.

Always prepare at least 3 questions to ask at your interview. These should be appropriate to the role or to the company – but don’t try and be clever in asking a question to catch out your interview panel, it will put them right off you. Good question areas are: the products and/or services provided by the company, training procedures and career progression.

If you think you have the confidence to ask questions during the interview as opposed to just at the end please do so, it will demonstrate you are engaged in the interview process and are interested in the role. Take care not to interrupt the interviewer with your questions though, always be patient and let them finish talking before jumping in.

Body language

Even if you are nervous, anxious or scared out of your wits, a positive body language will do you well and boost your confidence no end. A firm handshake, an honest smile, holding your head high and shoulders back and making eye contact, will all be remembered by the interviewers as you being a positive and likable candidate.

You may want to take notice of some of your habits you have when you are nervous or being slightly economical with the truth, for example, picking your nails, fiddling with your hair, rubbing your nose, scratching your face etc. The interviewers may not pick up on what these habits represent, but it will definitely distract them. Its better that they listen to what you have to say as opposed to being mesmerised by how often you stick your finger in your ear!

What is your ‘listening look’? For many years I used to frown when I was concentrating on what someone was saying – unfortunately their perception of me was that I was angry with them. Now that I am aware I do this, I have changed my ‘listening look’ by relaxing my face to avoid that frown.

What do you look like when you concentrate? Do you look angry, bored, confused? How can you check? You can ask someone who’s opinion you trust and get then to talk to you. Concentrate hard on what they are saying and then get them to give you feed back on how you look. You can discuss any adjustments that need to be made to change your ‘listening look’ to something more positive.

CV

Ensure you have a copy of your up-to-date CV with you at the interview. It is unlikely you will need to refer to it, but it will make you feel more confident having it with you. Make sure you are well versed on your CV; there is nothing worse than trying to remember where you worked 5 years ago and fumbling around in your head to recall what you did.

Dipping

If you find yourself in a situation where the interview has dipped and the mood has taken a down turn – stay calm. Humour can help here but don’t go too crazy, just put on a smile and explain how nervous you are and be positive. Take a deep breath and carry on. Showing your honesty and the appreciation of the situation with a positive spin will be acknowledged and appreciated by your interviewer(s). Remember there is nothing wrong in saying you are nervous, they are probably nervous too.

Enthusiasm

If there is one thing I enforce more than anything else to my clients it is this: be enthusiastic about the job! Even if it sounds like the dullest job on the planet, you can still show enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is highly infectious and it’s something that companies cannot train. Given the choice between 2 candidates – one with skills and no enthusiasm and one with hardly any experience and bags of energy and enthusiasm – the job will mostly likely be offered to the enthusiastic candidate. Remember: companies are happy to invest time in training for the job role, they won’t want to bother training someone to have a positive attitude.

Friendly

It is important that the interviewers realise that you will fit in with the team or department. Showing you are approachable and friendly is just as important as having a strong skills set in the job itself.

Grooming

Yes first impressions do count. Ensure you have the simplest of things sorted: Clean polished shoes, freshly laundered and ironed clothes. If you are a smoker avoid having a quick ciggie right before the interview as the smell will linger, if you are desperate though, make sure you have mints or mouth freshener to hand. Avoid very tight fitting clothes or clothes that will irritate you.

Ladies: Take care on the jewellery and make-up, a classic look is best. I have interviewed ladies with glitter lipstick and wearing enough jewellery to put Goldsmith’s to shame. Avoid showing to much skin even on a hot day (that includes décolletage!). Make sure there are no holes in tights/stockings and it’s always a good idea to pack a spare pair discretely in your bag – just in case.

Gentlemen: Ensure your aftershave is not going to knock out a rhino at 20 paces; less is best. Facial hair is OK as long as it’s neat and tidy. Avoid ‘builder’s cleavage’ when you bend down, so ensure your shirt is tucked in well.

Homework

Make sure you have done your research on the company and the role as much as you can. Try and remember a few facts about the company, as it will be highly likely they will ask a few questions in this area at the start of the interview. By making a little effort in your research, you will gain a lot of head way at the interview. I am always amazed at the number of candidates who do not bother doing this.

Intuition

Your preparation can in some instances go against you, especially if you have done prep work weeks in advance of the interview. Be ready to be intuitive with your answers and tweak your responses accordingly, rather than regurgitating what you have rehearsed and sounding like a robot.

Just one more thing”

This is what I call the Columbo technique. For those of you who missed out on the fabulous 70’s detective series, our genius detective Columbo would ask loads of questions to the prime suspect. He would then leave the room, the suspect would then relax and then Columbo would suddenly reappear and say the classic line “..just one more thing ” and then deliver the killer question while the suspect was completely off guard.

This can happen to you at the end of the interview. So if you think everything is drawing to an end, please stay in interview mode until you actually physically leave the building…you never know, they could ask that make or break question as you are shaking their hand good bye.

Killer skill set

Don’t just think of qualifications and experience when preparing for your interview, chances are you will have a fabulous skill set too. It is very usual for all of us to play down what we do so well. If you made a list of all your skills most, if not all, would be transferable to anything you decide to do.

Remember soft skills are just as important as hands-on skills. So if you are an excellent negotiator, good listener, a natural leader or you just have the ability to brighten a persons day, then remember to mention this and prepare examples where you can illustrate your excellent talents.

Luck

I have put luck in this list as a number of my clients insist that getting the job is more about luck than it is about anything else. I don’t agree, if you have done your preparation, dressed according, have a positive attitude with lots of enthusiasm you will definitely be short listed or better still offered the role.

What is your biggest weakness?

This is a question which comes up in all job interviews. Do not answer with a cliché response like “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”.

The best way to answer this is to select a weakness which isn’t a critical skill necessary for the job and then counter act it with a positive step you’ve taken to solve the problem.

An ideal answer for project management role is as follows:

In the past I used to struggle slightly with public speaking. A few years ago I went on an acting course where I built my self confidence. At my last workplace I did several presentations and no longer felt nervous and received lots positive feedback from colleagues and management.

Click here to download the complete “Interview Preparation Guide”.

The Monopoly of Agile

The Monopoly of Agile

By no means is agile a new concept in the business world. It has been introduced more than a decade ago and has since changed the way people around the world approach work and project management. However, while agile is still spreading over to new areas, a natural question rises – what is next? Have we now reached a point in time where agile itself will be innovated upon? Or will agile become a monopoly practice? Let us explore.

Over the years, agile has grown from a small movement in the developer community into a mass trend that brings results and productivity to every team it touches. Various applications of agile methods exist today and as the idea spreads further more are coming about. At this point there is really no questioning of the possibilities and value that agile approaches bring to the right teams and because of that most are starting to consider agile as one of the traditional project management approaches instead of a novelty.

Due to this acceptance, agile is now being applied in fields that would have never even considered the practice before – accountants, marketers, government officials and even families are using it to manage their tasks in the most effective ways. Which is something that could not have been even imagined couple of years ago, when agile was seen as designed and helpful solely to developer teams creating specific software products. However, as more and more true life success stories regarding other agile applications surfaced, this perception has changed significantly.

Due to this new acknowledgement and applications that we have in the agile field, the number of practitioners is ever growing as well. Furthermore, it is not only that the number of new practitioners is rising, the number of the experienced and knowledgeable people is rising as well. Agile community is now for the first time ever filled with such a big base of people that have over 5 years of experience in the matter and truly know and understand the practice to its core. Which means they are the ones that know firsthand what are its main benefits and shortfalls.

So will the changes come? Or will agile become the monopoly practice? Well, the premise for change is there already. Agile has been used for quite a while now and for all of that time it has been tweaked and improved to fit the requirements of each team applying it. Whether it was small things, like modifying the concept of backlog or bigger things, like mixing two different approaches to come up with a new one, the agile community has already witnessed change in search of the best process.

The case with monopolization is a bit different, until recently agile was still fighting for its place under the sun. However, once that place was established, it started to become more and more of a monopoly. At the moment, agile is easily swallowing up any and all similar practices, almost not letting them see the light of day, before they are gone. It is simply easier for people to refer to a methodology as agile, thinking they are describing it as something new, while in reality they are dooming that practice for extinction while established and tested agile applications hold their place, withholding innovation and progress.

The only thing that can change this monopolization is people. To be more precise – the ever-growing agile community. Within this community, there is enough knowledge, experience and need to bring the best out of agile. Most importantly, there is enough practitioners who are not afraid to innovate and search for the absolute best solutions, which means that agile applications can not only be tweaked and reworked, but that agile itself may be innovated upon and changed for something even better. While this change may still take years to come, the community already has the capacity to understand and innovate away from the monopoly. Therefore the time to step up and realize the potential in new and different approaches is now!

Why do you want to work here?

This is a question which comes up in all job interviews. Avoid answers like “I need a job” or “I need more money” or any response which benefits you.

The employer is trying to see how well you will integrate into the culture of the workplace.

I recommend you research the company’s website and publications first and find something unique which has compelled you to apply that fits directly with your personal beliefs, values or expertise.

A good answer could be:

I heard about your charity division which trains disadvantage kids into a career in software development. I personally give back to my local community too by volunteering my time to teach kids to code. In a way I felt your company and I share the same fundamental goals and values.

Click here to download the complete “Interview Preparation Guide”.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

This is a question which comes up in all job interviews. Your employer is checking your loyalty and commitment to the firm.

Give an answer which indicates a slow and steady career progression within the company.

An ideal in answer for a technical project manager could be as follows:

I hope to still be a project manager but more senior, and with more experience working on a more diverse range of IT projects. My long-distance plan is to ultimately become an expert in Agile Development and transition into a Scrum master and give mentorship to my scrum team and the other project managers.

Click here to download the complete “Interview Preparation Guide”.

The 5 Scopes of Agile Planning

The 5 Scopes of Agile Planning

The concept of planning within the agile methodology has often been misunderstood. Due to the commonly known statement “We value responding to change over following a plan” most of teams starting agile think that they will no longer need to plan for the future. Contrary to this popular opinion, planning plays just as big of a part in agile as it does in any other project management approach it is simply a little different.

In its essence agile is built to cater the environments with constantly changing requirements and goals. Which means that the traditional planning model, of just setting something in motion at the beginning of the project, is no longer viable. Instead, the planning needs to cater to the changing circumstances and help the team navigate them in the best possible way. To achieve this, the agile planning is organized in different scopes, where each of them are equally important and carry value towards the end goal.

First comes the product vision. This is the largest scope of the project planning and is usually handled by the management. They have to define what the project is all about, what is it they are trying to achieve and for which purpose. While this may seem perfectly clear for the top management, without communicating such information to the people involved in a simple and concise way, the project may run off the desired course very quickly. Therefore to have a clear product vision is essential to any agile team.

Second – a product road map. The next largest scope of agile planning, helps to clarify which steps need to be taken to achieve the defined product vision. Simply put, the product roadmap is made up out of all the features that are required out of the finished project. Based on their importance and priority they are put in a specific order and represent how the product will be built. This planning scope is particularly important for products that span over a longer period of time and have multiple releases.

Similar to the product road map, the next scope of planning is all about the release plan which defines how many releases the product will have. The release plan is not focused on features or dates, but ties directly with the scope of work to be completed. This planning step is important as it gives the teams more incentive to finish a specific product version, ensures the management of the progress and allows for larger fund and effort allocation.

After defining the vision, roadmap and the release plan for the project, the agile planning turns back to the teams completing the work. The next planning scope is on them, with a commonly known sprint planning. Contrary to the previous planning scopes, this is done more frequently and directly relates to the day to day tasks of each employee. With that, it is also a more flexible planning event that (within the allocated borders) allows the team to react to any changes in requirements and circumstances and move forward to the project completion.

The fifth and the absolute smallest scope of agile planning is the daily stand up. While some may see it just as an update, this is a planning event as well, defining the goals for the next day. This small planning event helps to ensure that the sprint plan is being executed well and that the team is not forgetting the overall vision of the product.

The planning of agile projects is different from the traditional waterfall planning we are used to having. Just like the methodology it is designed for change and for frequent updates. The different scopes of this planning approach ensures the team has clear goals set for the overall project and can easily plan their day to day work.

What are your strengths?

This is a question which comes up in all job interviews. The best way to answer this is to pick a strength which is a requirement for the job.

An ideal in answer for a technical project manager or business analyst could be as follows:

I have a natural ability to communicate effectively with all members of staff in a way they understand. For example I’m able to speak to the stakeholder or client in a non-technical lingo. Whereas I’m able to draw on my technical background and communicate at a more detailed level with the software developers; when resolving issues I am able to ask the technical team the right probing questions to help steer the project back on track.

Click here to download the complete “Interview Preparation Guide”.

How Do Product Managers Prepare For A Marketing Disaster?

How Do Product Managers Prepare For A Marketing Disaster?

As product managers we generally spend our time trying to find ways to update our product development definition in order to make our product be more appealing to potential customers. Our goal is to convince them that we make a good product that will solve whatever their problems happen to be. The one thing that we never seem to spend any time worrying about is what to do if there is a marketing disaster. Do you even know what one of those looks like?

What Is A Marketing Disaster?

The first thing that a product manager needs to understand is just exactly what a marketing catastrophe is. If we don’t know what they look like, then there is no way that we’re going to be able to recognize it if it happens and that won’t look good on our product manager resume. A marketing catastrophe is any event that could negatively impact the profitability or reputation of either your product or your company.

The world that we live in today is unique in that the arrival of advanced technology tools allows for stories and rumors about products or companies to travel very quickly. No matter if the story has to do with a misstatement by a member of your company’s management or marketing team, a product defect, or a court ruling that goes against your company, your potential customers may be aware of it before you could say “Twitter”.

As a product manager you need to understand that a marketing calamity could happen at any time. The most important question that the rest of the company is going to be looking to you to answer is going to be “how big of a deal is this?” You are going to have to be able to quickly and efficiently evaluate the severity to of the marketing calamity so that you can make a recommendation to the company as to just exactly how many resources they need to dedicate to dealing with it.

What Is The Best Way To Gage The Severity Of A Marketing Disaster?

Product managers need to create a way to evaluate just how severe a marketing disaster is. The good news is that we are not alone in having to do this. The experts who work in the field of creating disaster recovery plans have been doing this for years. We can build on their work when we are creating our tools to evaluate the severity of a marketing disaster. When creating a marketing severity tool, there are three things that a product manager needs to keep in mind:

Limit The Number Of Categories To 5: It can be far too easy to get carried away with creating a large number of different marketing disaster categories. Don’t do it. Instead, try to limit yourself to creating no more than 5 different categories that run the range from “no big deal” to “may cause the company to go out of business”.

Determine “Impact”: Every marketing disaster will be different. As the product manager, it is going to be your job to create a way to evaluate the impact that this event is going to have on your product and on your company. Keep in mind that the intensity / firestorm that may accompany an event may have nothing to do with its long-term impact.

Create An Action Plan: Make sure that you have an action plan created for each category of marketing disaster. This will help the rest of the company to understand what they are going to need to do once the current marketing disaster has been placed into a category.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

As though being a product manager was not hard enough, it turns out that another thing that needs to be added to our product manager job description is the ability to understand that in the world that we live in bad things can happen. Specifically, marketing disasters can happen. A marketing disaster puts our product’s reputation at risk and can impact the future success of our product.

Product managers need to realize that it is their responsibility to create the tools that their company is going to need in order to gage the severity of any marketing disaster that strikes them. These tools are going to have to limit the number of different categories that marketing disasters get classified into, determine the impact of the event, and identify what action plan will need to be executed.

The good news is that when (note that I did not say “if”) a marketing disaster strikes your product or your company, if you have a tool that will allow you to judge the event’s severity, then you’ll be well suited to deal with it. Product managers who can evaluate how important a marketing disaster are the ones who will be best suited to guiding their products through it.