Explaining Past Projects in an Interview

Having the ability to confidently talk about your past projects in an interview setting is a crucial tactic in landing your next job or consulting client. When explaining past projects in an interview it is helpful to think about it as a sales pitch. You are selling your work to get the role.

A simple framework when interviewing for a job or pitching to a client basically breaks down to four steps in the following order: 

Talk about the impact, talk about the decision the project drove, break down the decision by explaining the KPI’s and dimensions that were relevant to the decision and finally get into the granular details of your analysis. These details can include what tools and techniques were used and what specific data points were examined.

To illustrate here is what a conversation about your project could be like with an interviewer or client.

Interviewer: “Tell me about one of your most recent projects.”

Applicant: “ I recently had a really good success case with a client who hired me to do sales analysis and by the end of the project we increased their sales by fifty thousand. This was achieved through an insight that drove an effective marketing decision. We found, studying their data, that we needed to map the successes for a sales campaign. So we broke that down into the KPIs of total sales, deal size, and the number of deals. Then we got even more granular and asked “how can insights be found within these high-level KPIS?”. The KPIS were broken down further into total sales by geography, time and demographic. Through this breakdown we found by studying all of their sales data that women between the age of 35 and 44 in Georgia were by far their richest pocket of sales. This insight was used by the sales team to focus on that demographic and it drove their sales up by fifty thousand compared to their previous year sales.”


It’s important to lead with the win so you start with the impact. Regularly people will talk about their projects in a linear fashion, they tell their project’s story in a beginning, middle and end format. The problem with that is by the time you get to the end you might have lost their attention so it’s always good to start with the impact. When talking about the decision driven by your project there are different ways a “decision” can be framed. It is not always an explicit “decision” that a project can have an impact on. Sometimes it can be framed as a “trade-off” that was driven by the project. For example the project mentioned could have been explained as driving the trade-off between the advertising budget and who is being marketed. The company’s only got so much advertising budget available and you’re trying to decide which demographic you want to focus it on. 


Another detail to keep in mind when explaining past projects in an interview is that you will likely be talking about a project that involves a completely different company than the one you’re interviewing for. This company might be in a different industry and so the interviewer may not understand the nuance and so you want to avoid going too deeply into details, unless you are specifically asked to.


The goal of explaining your past projects is to show the interviewer not only that you have experience in what the job will require you to do but also to show off your skills and value. You want to convey that you bring value to the role by showing how you have made a positive impact in past projects and through the story of your project also show your technical and critical thinking skills.


Hopefully you found these tips useful and you’ll use them to tell a great story about your projects in your next interview. If you have any other tips or suggestions on explaining past projects feel free to share your thoughts and comments!