SMA Proposal Manager Interview Questions |

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SMA Proposal Manager Interview Questions

Interviews at SMA

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Getting an Interview






Proposal Manager Interview

Anonymous Employee in Irvine, CA (US)
Accepted Offer
Positive Experience
Difficult Interview


I applied online. The process took 2 weeks. I interviewed at SMA (Irvine, CA (US)) in September 2019.


An SMA recruiter contacted me after seeing my resume. They hire proposal managers as either independent contractors or regular employees. The job is somewhat non-traditional: it doesn't include a physical office, only deployments to companies for anywhere from a few days or weeks to many months. It's an hourly position and you're not guaranteed full-time work.

The recruiter did an excellent job of explaining this. Once you’re hired, you aren't guaranteed to start work on a particular date: you have to wait until you've been deployed.

I was asked to build an online profile of my experience and as many specific details on as many proposals as I could supply. I have 25 years experience, and spent 10 hours collecting and entering information for 30 proposals.

The recruiter gave me feedback on changes I could make to be a stronger candidate. I did several rewrites of my project history. I spent 25 hours total building the profile over 1 week, with frequent contact from the recruiter.

I had an online test on Word 2016 to prove my proficiency. It's a 50 question test and there is no time limit, but it records your total time. The recruiter prepared me for the questions that don't typically come up as a proposal manager (like how to do a mail merge). It's a thorough test.

I also had a personality test. The recruiter said SMA tries to deploy the right type of person for each job. I got a summary of my personality and it was pretty accurate. They said they were ready to start the interview process.

I had 2 phone interviews with Sr. proposal managers who asked a lot of questions and gave me insight into how the company operates and strategies to work as much as possible. Both said I was a good candidate at the end of the call. I didn't hear anything for several days. Then the recruiter emailed me that they were going to make me an offer.

It’s complicated how the hourly salary works (and they’re upfront about it). They will make an offer with a stated hourly pay rate (I was offered $99/hr.). But actual pay is going to depend on the contract. It may be less but may be a little more. You have the option to turn down any assignment you're offered (if you don't like the pay rate, location, etc.). From what I've seen, I don't think I will be offered less than $84/hr., and I’ve seen jobs listed as high as $125/hr.

It moved quickly and I received frequent contact and feedback. I had an offer in 2 weeks.

I suggest asking a lot of questions:
* benefits (they're pretty good and comprehensive) and how benefits work when you don't know how regularly you will be working
* the security level they have to maintain: typically you won't have a SMA laptop; you'll be given a computer to work on at the client site for the duration of the job
* how to be successful at this job and get steady work; : you need to spend time building your brand before you get a steady stream of jobs
* how jobs are assigned: it's complicated and can involve many factors
* how expense limits are determined (there are many different ways depending on the client/job)
* how much time you'll have between when you're offered a job and when you have to fly out for it (varies, probably never more than 2 weeks notice, maybe very little notice)
* how weekend trips home are decided varies, but no client will fly you home every weekend; it could be every 2 or 3 weeks, or not at all during the crunch time toward the end of the proposal process)

The only thing I didn't clearly understand from the recruiter was how expenses are handled but the basics are pretty simple. If you’re an independent contractor, you pay your own expenses and file for reimbursement. Expense checks are sent out every 2 weeks but your first one may take longer. If you're hired as a regular employee, after you receive you first assignment but before you leave town you'll be issued a company American Express card in your name that you are solely responsible for, you're expected to use it for expenses only, file receipts for reimbursement promptly and pay the bill yourself promptly.

The hours will sometimes be long. The projects may be stressful because the client didn't hire SMA until they realized they weren't capable of completing the proposal with internal resources. SMA will provide good support if you encounter issues. You can get frequent flyer mileage, etc, but you have to pay any associated fees yourself.

They have a thorough orientation process and a huge amount of information on policies, best practices, templates, etc. You’ll spend some time on orientation, setting up email, voicemail and other tools, and then steadily check email, voicemail and information on upcoming projects. You have to put in effort and time consistently before you have a first day of work.

Interview Questions

  • During the application process when entering experience: specific name of the proposal you worked on, the client it was for (if you are allowed to divulge that, you may have signed confidentiality agreements in the past), exactly what was being proposed (not just 'IT Services'), the start and end date of the proposal (or at least a good idea of the exact duration of the project), any unusual or difficult requirements in the RFP (specific) and how you addressed them, specific challenges that arose during the proposal process and how you handled them, all of your responsibilities and the tasks you completed in detail (did you lead the kickoff call? did you print and ship the final copies? did you contribute to the win theme? # and types of reviews conducted and your role in scheduling/preparing others/leading the reviews, did your company win the proposal? did you prepare or participate in sales presentations after proposal submission?). Every proposal needs to be uniquely described. You have a limited # of characters you can use in each answer so it's challenging to include the depth of unique detail needed in the space you're given). I entered about 30 proposals I could provide details on but was only able to identify the client in some instances.

    During the Word 2016 test: hard to recall, but it included doing a mail merge to print a specific type of label, altering the styles set up in a document universally, selecting multiple sections of text at the same time and performing a set of actions on all of the at once, everything having to do with Track Changes, setting up or altering tables to a specific set of requirements, altering the properties of a document to conceal where it originated, protecting a document so that someone could make changes but not alter the style settings, everything about sharing a document in real time. Because of the structure of the test, keyboard shortcuts are disabled.

    The personality characteristics test: would you rather go to a party after work or go home? If someone is far away and you need to get their attention, how uncomfortable are you at having to yell? A lot of weird questions. The test is administers through an app by a computer-generated 'person' audibly asking you questions that is programmed to be able to respond intelligently in real time regarding your answers (which I typed in).

    During interviews with 2 senior proposal managers: tell me about the most difficult proposal you've ever worked on. What is the largest proposal you've managed in terms of how many people were involved, how many subject matter experts, how many departments/divisions or any subcontractors involved, and the complexity of the proposal response (different answers for each, not just 1 large proposal you worked on). How do you work with subject matter experts to get the content you need? Tell me about a time you received content back from a subject matter expert that wasn't what you needed? How do you determine the schedule for the activities in the proposal process, and how do you maintain that schedule? Tell me about a time you managed a proposal that got behind or off schedule? How many proposals have you managed at once? What is the typical duration for a proposal you've managed (or a stated range of duration)? Tell me about the most stressful proposal-related situation you've encountered? Tell me about when you've had to deal with difficult personalities, what happened and how you handled it. Have you had to deal with proposal team members who were angry? Non-compliant? Wanted to manage the process differently than you were? How did you handle those situations? What makes a successful proposal manager? Overall, give me your best guess of the percent of the proposals you've managed that won? (that's probably the hardest question I've been asked, in my opinion)

    Putting aside technical skills and knowledge of proposal management best practices, what is the most important characteristic a proposal manager can have?
    If you're in a bad situation and running out of time, and you have to choose between sacrificing detail or staying on schedule, what do you choose and why?
    Why are proposals lost?   1 Answer
  • Not an interview question, just a question a potential applicant may have: how can I best prepare ahead of time for the application and interview process?   1 Answer
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