7 Steps to a Successful Project Interview

The dreaded microphoneFew things cause more panic in a project manager, superintendent or estimator faster than these two words: interview presentation.

Having worked with interview teams for many years, I have heard my share of disaster stories. One fellow got so nervous; he’d break out into a profuse sweat during interviews.

Another project manager turned green and headed toward the nearest men’s room, leaving the rest of the team to go on without him. There was an estimator who seemed to have an amazing number of family illnesses coincide with interviews. Presenting has, for many, become a necessary evil in the construction business. It is a critical skill that must be developed because your team represents your organization. Therefore, it’s vital that your team project a positive image.

Most folks in this business love to build and aren’t natural presenters. When your people are unskilled, uncomfortable or unprepared they are more likely to send a negative impression to the selection panel that could cost the job.

How do you avoid such costly mistakes?

1. Do your homework. The presentation team needs to have a clear understanding of what it will take to build the project, what matters to the selection panel and the issues critical to the success of the project. This enables your team to speak passionately and intelligently to the questions posed in the formal presentation as well as Q & A.

2. Make it collaborative. Some presentation directors take a dictatorial approach to planning content. They plan it out, create the PowerPoint, and tell each participant what to say. While they do this to make it easier for their team members working in the field, I have found that collaboration is much more effective for several reasons. Your interview participants can provide different and valuable perspectives that enhance the presentation content. Besides, the panel doesn’t expect your team to be professional speakers. They expect them to understand the project and provide solutions, while sounding natural and authentic. Plus, as the team begins taking ownership in the presentation and their role in it, they’ll create that team energy so critical to making the interview flow.

3. Provide ample time to rehearse. It is hard to get your folks out of the field. However, when your team is uncomfortable or unprepared they are more likely to make costly mistakes that could send a negative impression to the selection panel.

4. Find ways to make it enjoyable. Every team knows dollars are on the line. This adds stress and pressure so try to make presentation preparation as enjoyable, fun and light as possible.

5. When possible, avoid making major last-minute changes. Occasionally it is necessary to redirect segments of the interview. But sometimes changes can make a stressful situation more challenging. Keep in mind that less skilled presenters can require more time to adjust to changes.

6. Give them the skills and tools that will help them do a good job. You wouldn’t send someone into the field without the skills and tool necessary to do their job. Yet many firms fail to provide their people with the skills and tools necessary to help them skillfully interview. While they are great at marketing and may have public speaking experience, don’t expect your marketing staff to know how to coach speakers. It is a unique skill set that some may or may not have. With an experienced presentation coach, you can see dramatic results in a short period of time.

7. Let your team know you appreciate their efforts and value them. Some members of your presentation team may not enjoy presenting. It may be difficult for them or they may experience anxiety. When we are appreciated and valued, we are more likely to put in the extra effort and go the extra mile to make something a success. The good news is that interviewing is a skill that can be developed by anyone.

1 Comment

  1. Chris B says:

    Wow, this has happened to me. I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one. Thanks for the tips – next time I will keep this in mind.

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