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Other interview questions that are similar
What is your communication strategy for stakeholders within a project?
Tell me the steps you take when you need stakeholder buy-in
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
Stakeholder management is an important part of working in an organisation. ‘Seeing the big picture’ is what the Civil Service calls it. It means that not only are you interested in how you perform in your role and function but that you are aware of how your work impacts others within the organisation, and the organisation itself.
The interviewer is looking to see a few things:
- Do you appreciate the importance of stakeholder input in your work?
- Are you capable of assessing who is a stakeholder and who is not?
- How do you approach stakeholders to get their input?
- What is your communication strategy for keeping stakeholders ‘in the loop’?
This is a pretty standard question particularly in project based positions. Stakeholder management is a key project management skill and you should be well versed in how to answer this question as the interviewer will be expecting strong knowledge in this area.
The best approach to answering this question
This is a technical based question so you don’t need to provide an answer with an example from your experience, however if you are able to including examples in your answer this will definitely be a plus. We can’t use the standard B-STAR technique here but we can take some parts of it to form our answer.
If you are interviewing for a project position it is crucial during your answer that you discuss completing a RACI Matrix, or equivalent. If you are unfamiliar with this term then get familiar quick.
B – Belief – Start your answer stating how you believe stakeholder input is crucial to the smooth operation of a workstream or project. Talk about how you need to know how your work impacts others in order to get the maximum benefits for the organisation.
T – Task – Briefly state what your role usually is. Ideally you will talk about how Stakeholder analysis and management is your role and you oversee and ensure it is performed correctly.
A – Activity – Talk about what steps you take to ensure stakeholder needs are met. Try not to sound like you’re reading straight from a textbook but talk about how you usually; gather a list of relevant stakeholders (and stakeholder advocates), complete a RACI matrix to define responsibilities and finally how you create and maintain a communication strategy document.
R – Results – Wrap up your answer by saying when you follow the steps above you have never had a stakeholder complain about their needs not being met.
How NOT to answer this question
Don’t answer a different question than what is being asked – In my experience applicants have a tendency to go off-road with this question. There is a popular related question “How do you deal with difficult stakeholders”, people tend to answer that question instead of the one that was actually asked of them. Ensure your answers stick to what is being asked and that is about meeting stakeholder needs
Don’t just give one example – As mentioned earlier this is not a ‘Tell me about a time’ question. The interviewer is looking to see your process for meeting stakeholders needs. It’s fine to talk about a specific example but make sure you really hammer home to the interviewer that this is how you operate all of the time.
Don’t say you don’t do that or don’t have experience in that area – You would think this would be obvious but the amount of applicants I have seen give answers like “I don’t need to check on stakeholders in my role we just tell them what has changed” or “I have no experience dealing with stakeholders”. Stakeholders are important to projects and workstreams as they provide alternative viewpoints, you may not value their importance but the interview sure does that is why they are asking the question.
How do you ensure that you have considered all stakeholder needs when undertaking a new initiative? – Example answer
“I think getting input from stakeholders is crucial when undertaking any new initiatives. As a project manager I am often asked to lead projects in areas that I have no experience, and even if I am leading a project where I know the subject matter well it is always good to get a diverse range of thoughts on the project and its deliverables. After all ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.
That’s why whenever I start a new project I complete a full stakeholder analysis. This begins with a deep dive session to identify everyone that will be impacted by the project, both during delivery and with the end result.
The next step is to produce a key stakeholder list. For example in a recent project I managed we had deduced that the finance department would be stakeholders, but it would have been irresponsible to include every member of the department in our communications so we consulted with the Finance Chief and assigned one key stakeholder for the department (and one backup). We did the same or similar for all the stakeholders previously identified. If we came to a stakeholder group that we couldn’t feasibly include then we assigned an advocate. In the same project our PMO analyst would act as a representative for the customer (as she actually was a customer!).
Once I have finalised this list of key stakeholders I formalise everything by creating a RACI matrix and a communication strategy. This way we have all of the stakeholders listed, their responsibilities toward the project and how/when they will be contacted with updates. This is approved by each stakeholder.
Overall when these steps have been followed correctly I have never had a complaint from a stakeholder to say that they felt their needs were not being met.
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