How to Prepare for Process Methodology Interview Questions

In competency-based interviews, hiring managers often want to know your methodology for doing important work. They ask questions like “How do you manage a complex project?” or “What is your method for leading your organization through change?” They are looking for a step-by-step approach to understanding your process.  When preparing to successfully answer this type of question, I recommend you consider the following:

Conduct analysisBefore answering a question such as “How do you solve a complex problem?” start by thinking about all of the times you’ve actually solved a complex problem. Try to go back as far as you can in your professional career and walk through each specific example. In each instance, map out each specific step that you took. As you do this, what you’ll discover is that you’ll have 3 to 5 steps that you always do or most always do. In doing this exercise, you will generate the unique list of steps that you specifically take to solve a problem. The advantages to this process are 1) it makes your answer very easy to remember and recall in an interview and 2) it gives your answers depth so if the manager asks for a specific example of when you’ve solved a complex problem, you’ll be ready.

Follow a methodOnce you determine your authentic step-by-step approach, the next step is to construct the answer in interview form. The tendency that many people have is to be too long winded. The approach I have seen work well is the following:

  • Breadth & Depth: Give a quick sentence or two about your experience in the process you are about describe.
  • For each step of the process, describe the following:
    • What: This is quick and simple phrase that names your step.
    • How: 1-3 sentences on your methods for achieving this step
    • Why: This is the critical part of the answer because explaining your motivation for why you do what you do provides depth to your answers.
  • Close: In a sentence explain how you’ve been successful in the past by implementing your aforementioned method

Take ownershipThe tendency when answering a process methodology question is to use the word “you” instead of “I”. Some may say something like, “When you manage risk, the first thing you should do is…” instead of “When I manage risk, the first step in my process is…”  The difference in those two sentences is significant and important. When you focus your answer on how you do something as opposed to how it should be done, you move the answer from theoretical to practical. That is a necessary shift to ensure that you are taking full ownership of your process.

For more interview insight and tips, pick up a copy of PCS to Corporate America.

Pete Van Epps