You Should Speak About Your Failures In Job Interviews

I had a Skype interview for a senior role that a recruiter was helping me prep for and one of the questions she asked me was, “Tell me about a project you worked on that failed. ” A typical interview response would be to spin a negative experience into a learning opportunity, which is how I crafted my response and the recruiter cut me off.

“Kimberly, you can’t be a Senior Project Manager and tell me you’ve never had a project that failed. Every good Senior resource has had a disastrous project. ” I was dumbfounded. Of course I have had projects burn to the ground, but that’s not how I had been preparing myself for my upcoming job interviews. I had lists of my accomplishments and projects I was proud of, learning opportunities, things I’ve learned from learning with cross cultural teams and ways I’ve worked through conflicts but nothing readily available in my response catalogue for a project that completely failed. I had examples of how I turned around a project that was leaning towards the deep end, but I had to spend time thinking about a failed project I wanted to expand upon and share.

It’s difficult to be confident speaking about failure as a Project Manager especially because you’re supposed to be the person that saves the day. Your job is to set the team and project for success. Shake the notion that a failed project will ruin your reputation. In the end, it matters how you handle failure and project obstacles.

Here are a couple things I’ve picked up from failed projects and noting to myself that “I’ll definitely never do that again. ”

Document your learnings

The way you’ve setup your most recent project is probably based on experience. You’ve learned from a past experience and you definitely won’t try the same thing again because something else worked way better. Document what you’ve learned in project debrief and share this with your wider team.

Communicate impact to your stakeholders

The saving grace I have with my projects is that I document everything. My advice to anyone starting out a new project is to circulate weekly updates, create an issues log and communicate impact as early and often as possible. You might sound like a broken record to some stakeholders, but as time consuming documentation may be it has always paid off for me in the long run. I received a phone call from a newbie in my old workplace that wanted to know the run down of a project I was working on before I resigned and I was easily able to navigate them to Confluence for all project details. He was able to find all details of the issues that popped up throughout the project, the date they occurred, who issues were escalated to and what the actions items were. Without this information there would be no record of the project lifeline and the actions I took.

A project that falls to the wayside will teach you more than you think. The next time you are preparing for a job interview, have a response prepared about a failed project you were apart of. The Muse gives good pointers on how to talk about your project failures. Your failure makes you a better Project Manager.

Recommended Project Management Software

If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at Project-Management.com actively recommend the following:

1 Wrike

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Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.

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2 Smartsheet

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Smartsheet is an online work execution platform empowering organizations of all sizes to plan, manage, automate, and report on work. Over 80,000 brands rely on Smartsheet for project and work management.

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3 ClickUp

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ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.

Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.

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