How to Leverage Every Project Interview

It can be extremely frustrating for your presentation team to put forth so much time and effort and not get selected. How many times have you heard: “It was so close! You were second!” After losing a project interview, those words are about as comforting as, “You almost won an Olympic Gold Medal.”

Most of us have heard the proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But, as Albert Einstein noted, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Therefore, it makes sense to learn how you can refine your Project Interview approach and use each experience for leverage.



Golfer Ben Hogan once said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” Your most important Project Interview is the next one. So, make the most of it!

One of my clients likened Project Interviewing to his golf game, “There is always room for improvement and sometimes, making a few minor adjustments to your game can make a world of difference.”

Win or lose, here are three ways to ensure that you benefit from each interview.

1. Record Interview Details
For each client, create a folder for each interview. Include any information that might help you prepare for future interviews with this client: the shortlist letter, a list of interview participants, the rehearsal schedule, panel members and presentation room details. You may interview in that same space in the future, so it is a good idea to draw a floor plan that includes the location of tables, seats, doors, windows, the projection screen, etc.
This is critical: Write down each question that was asked during Q&A along with your response. The participants should discuss the responses with your Marketing/Business Development team and your Interview Preparation Consultant. This process will help you find opportunities to improve future responses to similar questions. You can also use these questions to help future interview teams prepare for interviews with the same client. Since you can lose a job in Q&A, practicing this interview element is critical.

2. Track Progress with an Interview Journal. Note what worked and what needs refinement. For each team member, identify the most prominent strengths and key areas for improvement.

3. Ask for a Debrief

Whether your team has been selected or not, a post-interview debrief can be an excellent opportunity to learn from the owner where you were on-target and where you may have been off. Every loss can become an opportunity if you learn from it.

Lori Stanley, of Selection Solutions Consulting, spent many years on the owner’s side. I have had the great pleasure of partnering with her on a few projects. Lori mentions that it is not a good idea to debrief every single time, especially if you submit a lot of SOQ’s or do multiple interviews with a client in a short period of time. However you should ask the owner to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, “if it was your first time interviewing with that owner or if you thought you were particularly well qualified for the job.”

If you determine that debriefing is appropriate following a particular project interview, make a phone call to the client’s primary contact and ask for a brief, 15-20 minute appointment. While it may not always be practical, it is best to debrief in person. This is especially important if you don’t have a solid, established relationship with the client. Consider debriefing an additional opportunity to develop a relationship, connect and make a favorable impression.

It can be difficult for anyone to recollect in detail events from a month ago. Be mindful that too much time in between the interview and the debrief discussion may alter the feedback. If it appears that you may be unable to visit with that individual for a while, you might let them know a few of the questions you want to discuss and kindly ask them to jot a few ideas down for your meeting.

Keep your questions targeted so you can get useful feedback:

1. Positive or negative, what 3 words would best describe the impression our team left on the panel?

2. Where were we off target?

3. What did we do right?

4. What elements had the greatest impact on your selection?

5. Could we have done something that might have made the difference?

6. Are there any upcoming projects that you think we might be good candidates for?

By leveraging each interview opportunity, you will have a better view of the target, improve your aim, and build consistency-increasing your short-list to win ratio.