Project Manager Job Hunt / Interview Tips
A boom in project manager jobs in South Africa – and other professional roles such as quantity surveyors, building surveyors and property managers – is on the cards in Johannesburg. Construction is about to kick off, with the inner city undergoing an eye-catching transformation.
As a project manager, how do you get on the inside track to find the best project manager jobs in Johannesburg? And when you are being interviewed, what answers should you give to make you the stand-out Project Manager they've been looking for?
Property Developers Flock to Johannesburg
24 different developments. 27, if you include the three already underway. Johannesburg’s inner city is to be turned into a construction site, with construction beginning within six months. R20 billion (South African Rand) invested into mixed-use developments, with an emphasis on residential. 10,000 new jobs in Johannesburg, and 6,500 new homes. This is the scale of regeneration and redevelopment announced by Johannesburg’s mayor, Herman Mashaba, on Wednesday 24th April.
Run-down areas will be transformed by the project, which attracted an unprecedented 171 bidders. Winning property developers now need to finalise their funding plans and sign contracts. The city will coordinate plans with developers to move people out of their existing homes. This will enable work to begin quickly.
Property developers will need to hit the ground running. It’s likely that many will be searching for highly-skilled staff. Skilled project managers will be worth their weight in gold in the City of Gold.
How Project Managers Market Themselves in Johannesburg?
This new construction in Johannesburg will create jobs. There is no doubt about this. However, competition for those jobs is also likely to be stiff. There will be big, exciting challenges available. Roles that will enhance your CV and add value to your future worth. To put yourself ahead of your competition, you must market yourself effectively.
Here are four things you should be doing to stand out from your competition for project manager jobs in Johannesburg.
1. Sell Your Project Manager Persona
If you were a salesperson, your livelihood depends on selling your product to potential customers. Put yourself in this position. The product is you. Your livelihood depends on how well you sell yourself to your potential customers – the prospective employers.
Know your strengths: your industry knowledge, experience, qualifications, management and leadership skills. What projects have you worked on, and how successful have they been? What was your part in that success? Build your social media profile (link to article “To find the best planner jobs, leverage your social media”) by posting about your successes, and the traits and experiences that make you different.
2. Be an Active Networker
Increase your reach by employing the Project Manager network. This includes participating on the ground, in local and international groups and forums. As your network grows, you’ll find you become more aware of market news. Your professional profile will improve, but you must be an active participant. LinkedIn is a powerful way to network internationally. Build your professional brand online by:
- Maintaining your LinkedIn profile
- Including your professional objectives
- Being active in project management and other relevant groups
- Linking to professional recruiters on LinkedIn
- Following companies that interest you as prospective employers
Read more about the tactics to use on social media in our article “How senior planners can use LinkedIn to get the best job offers” (link).
3. Work with a Specialist Recruitment Consltancy in Johannesburg
A specialist recruitment agency will help your job search in several ways. For example:
- They have the inside market knowledge to know who is recruiting
- Employers know that specialist recruiters have strong candidates on their books
- A specialist recruitment agency in Johannesburg will offer you invaluable career advice and coaching for interviews
- They work with the best employers and provide job opportunities across their specialist sub-sectors
Perhaps most advantageous of all, they will highlight your skills as a Project Manager and develop a strong case for why you should be selected for a role.
4. Create a Testimonial Bank
Testimonials are an underrated marketing tool. Letters, emails, and notes from colleagues, supervisors and clients that commend your contribution, professionalism, efficiency and skills are invaluable. Start collecting them. List quotes that reinforce your strengths on your CV, and use them as examples of your successes.
How Project Managers Stand Out in Property Developer Interview
Property developers understand that project management is crucial to their success. At the interview stage, a prospective employer will want to confirm that you have the skills and ability they need. They will also seek to learn that you will be a good cultural fit, and that you will get on with other members of the team. The questions that you are asked at the interview are designed to achieve all this.
Focusing on key attributes and skills and giving the right answers will help you to achieve your goal: getting the offer of a lifetime.
Here are seven questions you may be asked in an interview, with what the interviewer wants to learn about you and how to answer.
1. The Biggest Challenges Facing the Construction Industry Today & How Should They be Tackled?
An employer wants to know that you remain up to date with the industry, and that you can apply your knowledge by formulating solutions to real-world problems.
This question requires you to describe the challenges in the industry. How you answer tells the interviewer about your passion for the construction industry, the challenges it faces, and your ability to construct solutions.
In your answer, include how you have created effective solutions for similar challenges in the recent past.
2. How Do You Communicate Best with Your Team?
Communication skills are among the most important of project manager competencies. If communication breaks down, projects fail. Your ability to communicate effectively and motivate your team is examined by this question.
The interviewer wants to determine if you are self-aware, approachable and encouraging. A suitable answer may be:
“I like to think that I’m an approachable project manager. I believe that concise and direct is the most effective method of communication. This helps my team understand the issues we face, and creates discussion of their concerns as we arrive at workable solutions.”
3. How Do You Manage a Team?
As a project manager, you rely on your team to deliver results. You’ll need to assess skills and abilities, develop individuals, and provide coaching and mentorship. This question is designed to assess your leadership skills, how you manage your daily routine and that of your team, and how you monitor and motivate performance.
Consider an example in which you have needed to be diplomatic, providing feedback and motivating improved performance with targeted coaching or training. Take the interviewer through the steps you took to identify the issue, how you designed actions to correct, and how you monitored and managed the response.
4. How Do You Delegate Tasks Through a Project Lifecycle?
You’ll need to be an effective delegator, using people’s skill sets effectively to ensure your team delivers maximum productivity at peak performance. This question probes your leadership skills, and seeks to understand how you manage inevitable obstacles by employing team strengths.
You should discuss an example of a project in which you needed to delegate, describing how you chose who to delegate to and how you delegated tasks. You should also include brief details of how you monitored progress to keep the project moving forward (for example, using PM software, daily or weekly meetings, internal reporting systems, etc.).
5. How Do You Ensure a Project Stays on Track?
Prioritisation and time management are key project management skills. It is a near certainty that you will be asked questions designed to determine your ability to prioritise tasks and manage time effectively. This will probe your understanding of work processes, attention to detail, and your management skills.
Your answer may be similar to the following:
“I discuss the project milestones with my project team, to first identify those tasks that are mission critical. Together we will discuss the resources needed for these tasks, and build these into the workflow during the project stage. We put in place a system of communication, so that we can monitor progress, and, of course, we allow for roadblocks by including contingency planning.”
6. Where Do You See You Career Heading?
This question can be deceptive. The interviewer wants to know that you are goal-focused, and that you can use resources effectively to achieve your goal. He or she wants to understand how you plan to reach your goal, and how you improve efficiency. Do you work hard? Are you resilient? Do you identify improvements that can be made as you head toward your goal?
It is important to be honest in your answer. Include short-term goals that you have, and describe how you have planned your time and other resources to achieve them. Include the company with whom you are interviewing in your goals, describing how working with them will help to advance your career.
7. Give Me an Example of a Decision You Made that Went Wrong.
This is a tough question. It is asking you to admit a weakness. That’s tough for most people to do, especially at an interview in which you want to be at your most impressive. In asking this question, the interviewer wants to know how you handle a setback and if you are able to take control in the face of a setback.
The best way to tackle this question is to use a relevant example of a time when something went wrong. Describe how you remained accountable and accepted responsibility, and what proactive actions you took to turn the situation around. Finish off by explaining what you learned from the experience, and how you took these lessons into further project work.
Project Manager Interview Success
It promises to be an exciting time for property development in Johannesburg. With such largescale regeneration in the pipeline, the demand for skilled project managers, development managers and other construction professionals creates a promising opportunity for those looking to further their career in a prosperous South Africa.
By using the interview preparation strategies above to market and sell your experience, expertise and skills, and developing interview answers that demonstrate that you have what it takes and what the employer needs to keep their projects on track and their teams motivated, you will stand head and shoulders above your competition.
As the RICS’ preferred recruitment partner, Macdonald & Company is ideally placed to help you take advantage of the demand for Project Managers in the built environment in Johannesburg. For a confidential consultation to discuss your future in South Africa, and to learn how we can help you reach your career goals, contact the recruitment team in Johannesberg today.