Leveraging Interpersonal Skills for PM Job Interviews

Interpersonal SkillsBy Tim Dalhouse, MBA, PMP 

In my work with transitioning Military Veterans, I’ve spoken with a lot of employers trying to identify exactly what value employers see in Vets. Is it the technical skills, the work ethic, the adaptability, or the tax credits available for hiring them? Actually, the prevailing theme that I hear from employers is that they need someone with interpersonal skills who can build and motivate a team, influence people to support an organizational strategy, and lead effective efforts to achieve successful project outcomes. Regardless of your military job skills or experience, as a Military Veteran, you are a treasure trove of interpersonal skills that employers are thirsty for…and having a very hard time finding in the average civilian job candidate. The trick for you is to learn how to sell your interpersonal skills, and leverage it to a great career, regardless of industry or job title.

A great place to look for guidance on the interpersonal skills that employers value, is A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), Appendix X3. That reference lists and explains 11 interpersonal skills that all project managers need to be successful, and I believe that extends to any type of management position. Take a look at this list, and see if you fit the bill:

  1. Leadership
  2. Team Building
  3. Motivation
  4. Communication
  5. Influencing
  6. Decision making
  7. Political & cultural awareness
  8. Negotiation
  9. Trust building
  10. Conflict Management
  11. Coaching

Doesn’t that sound like the last professional military education course you attended? Every training I ever attended in the Marine Corps hit hard on most of the skills in that list. And, even more than the training, we have been placed in positions of responsibility where our ability to effectively apply those skills in a multitude of situations, right up to those involving life or death decisions, has been tested and refined in ways not even possible in the civilian world. Private industry has a good idea that you possess these skills, but they need to hear it from you, with real-life examples that will overcome their fear that all you know how to do is bark orders and demand compliance.

In order to leverage the knowledge you now have that you possess these interpersonal skills employers are willing to pay for, I suggest a three-step formula that any of us can easily apply to your next job interview performance:

  1. Research the company you are interviewing with and analyze the type of work they do, what their organizational culture is like, what they value, and what their mission is
  2. Identify the interpersonal skills in the list above that you think most closely align with what you learned about the company in step 1
  3. Think of a real situation where you were able to apply the desired interpersonal skills in your own experience, and then rehearse a clear, concise, powerful rendition of the story that you can fire off in your job interview when they ask you what value you will bring to their organization

This is a great way to separate yourself from the crowd of candidates most employers hear from. Many people can say that they have this interpersonal skill or that, but few can articulate a real-world scenario on the spot to back it up. If you’re ready with your story, they will be blown away that you can clearly identify your relevant interpersonal skills and articulate them without hesitation. You’ll appear confident, and they will be able to see a vision of how you can do the same thing for them as soon as they hire you.


Tim Dalhouse, MBA, PMP is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant who stumbled into a civilian career as a Project Manager and found it a perfect fit. He now makes it his mission to help other Veterans obtain the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) credentials, and help DOD agencies & contractors increase their organizational project management maturity. He’s trained over 500 students around the country to master and apply the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) for consistent, real-world success. Email: timdalhouse@gmail.com. Website: is https://timdalhouse.com

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