Job interviews can be scary. Even the most seasoned professionals can blow job opportunities if they don’t prepare. So, where do you start? You may have already researched the company online or reached out to your network for advice. These are two great methods of learning about the company culture and expectations in your potential role. But this might not provide all the insight you need to impress a hiring manager. That’s why you need to study which project management interview questions you’ll likely be asked.
Just like reviewing for a big test, mastering this step helps you sound smarter and more confident if you can provide detailed and well-constructed answers to interview questions. Researching questions you might be asked can take a lot of time. So, we’ve done the hard work for you. In this article, you will learn the project management interview questions and suggested answers that help you prepare for a project manager job interview.
Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers: Career Background
Every interview will include some basic interview questions. At first glance, these questions may seem the easiest to answer. After all, they aren’t as much about the job, but rather about you and your background.
But if you don’t know how to answer these introductory project management interview questions, you could quickly start your interview off on a bad foot.
1. Tell Me About Yourself.
This is probably the most common interview question and likely one of the first things you’ll be asked. Your hiring manager has already read your resume and most likely checked your LinkedIn profile. This is your opportunity to expand on your thoughts or fill in any gaps.
You don’t need to go into detail about every position you’ve ever held or your specific education and certifications (unless the job for which you’re applying specifically requires it) but you should describe your responsibilities and accomplishments in your most recent role.
“I have five years of experience managing projects for XYZ Company. In that time, I completed more than a dozen large initiatives for my stakeholders and clients. My largest project included developing a new mobile app that streamlined the ordering and transaction process for XYZ Company’s customers. This project took six months to complete and increased mobile sales by 10 percent in one year. Prior to this position, I worked for the state government as a data analyst and engineer.”
2. Why Should We Hire You?
This may not be specific to project management interview questions, but every company, regardless of the industry, wants to know what’s in it for them.
There are several ways you can answer this question. Just stick to your elevator pitch, highlight the reasons you would benefit the company, and keep your response to under a minute, if possible.
“I believe I would be a great fit here at ABC Company. I have all the skills and requirements for this position, including managing outsourced teams, budget planning, and working with international stakeholders. While I was researching ABC Company, I noticed a recent trend toward Agile. I have been managing projects using this and other project management methodologies for the past five years. Finally, I am a strong leader and motivator. I am confident my skills and experiences will allow me to quickly transition and get up to speed here at ABC Company.”
Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers: Skills and Abilities
Once you get through the introductory project management interview questions, the hiring manager will likely shift the questioning to focus on your skills and abilities.
There are dozens of potential questions you could be asked, many that will be specific to the company or role for which you are applying. These could range from anything about a specific type of software development or project management tools that are unique to that company. The best way to prepare for these types of questions is just to research your target company and how it operates.
However, there are a few common interview questions for project managers regarding your job skills and abilities that you should expect to be asked, regardless of the organization.
1. What’s One Skill a Project Manager Needs to Succeed?
This question may seem broad, but your hiring manager knows you’ll likely pick a project management skill in which you have personally been successful. So, this question is another way of asking about your greatest skills.
Describe the skill that you believe is most important, and then include information about how you effectively used that skill in a previous role.
“I think a project manager needs to have many skills to be successful, but if I had to pick just one, I would probably say leadership. A good project manager needs to be able to inspire and motivate his team to ensure everyone is committed to accomplishing their tasks and responsibilities. Without this, a project is at risk of failing. In my previous role, I showed my leadership by communicating with my team and listening to and sharing their concerns. This helped build a strong team and allowed us to work more efficiently as a team.”
2. What Steps Do You Take When Assigned a New Project?
This project management interview question gives a hiring manager an insight into your organizational skills. The question is designed to see how you would outline the tasks for yourself and your team.
Your full project plan might be pretty extensive, so a brief overview might suffice. However, before you answer, ask your hiring manager if he or she would prefer a detailed response or more insight into the project management templates or tools you might utilize throughout the project.
“I would determine and confirm the desired outcome and then develop SMART goals to reach the objective. Next, I would estimate the time and resources needed, both from myself and my team. After assigning team responsibilities based on strengths and available bandwidth and ensuring everyone is committed to the overall scope, I would determine milestones to help track our team’s progress. I would be routinely communicating progress and feedback to the stakeholders and my team, and carefully monitor changing priorities or business goals that may impact our project or deadline. Finally, once the project is completed, I will retrospect with my team to determine what worked well and which areas we need to improve.”
Project Management Interview Questions and Answers: Your Leadership
In addition to learning about your skills, your hiring manager will also ask project management interview questions about your leadership ability. You will be in charge of the project, so they want to make sure you are capable of effectively managing its progress and your team members.
Here are two common project management interview questions for project managers about leadership for which you should prepare.
1. How Do You Handle Conflict?
In a perfect world, everyone would agree on everything and there would be arguments in the workplace. But in the real world, conflict is fairly common when working on projects, whether it’s a disagreement between team members, the team and you, or you and the stakeholder. You want to show your hiring manager that you know how to respond to these situations.
“I would listen to all sides of the disagreement to understand where everyone is coming from. But I would make a decision based on what’s best for the business – taking our goals, deadlines, and bandwidth into consideration. After making a decision, I would have conversations with everyone involved in the conflict to make sure they understand why I made my decision and allow them to share any additional concerns.”
2. When Every Task is Urgent, How Do You Determine What to Prioritize?
Hiring managers are looking for someone who can identify the most important parts of a project. If you’re asked this project management interview question, be sure to explain how you will determine the proper order in which tasks need to be completed to ensure that your project will be completed without constraints and blockers.
“I would look at all of the tasks associated with this project and determine the appropriate order in which they need to be completed. I would then consider the prior commitments for my team and the overall impact of each task on the project to determine the priority which moves the project forward without any delays.”
Answering Unexpected Project Management Interview Questions
Even if you do your homework on project management interview questions, there are some questions that may still catch you off guard.
You never know when a hiring manager will ask you a brainteaser interview question about the number of fire hydrants in New York City or how to get four gallons of water using only five-gallon and three-gallon buckets. You might laugh, but according to Glassdoor users, it happens. If you’re faced with a project management interview question to which you’re unprepared to answer, just remember to pause, take a deep breath, and answer confidently.
Yada is not just the leader of the Project Management Training Institute (PMTI). He helped to write significant portions of the project management standards worldwide. He is helping PMI right now in reviewing, directing, and leading the development of the 7th edition of the PMBOK(r) Guide to incorporate the most monumental changes to project management standards in 35 years. He shares his wisdom with readers via the PMTI blog.