Project manager interview questions
Get ready for questions like these about your technical competence, business methodology and people skills.
The best project managers are like axles: They smoothly link management, clients and staff to keep projects rolling along. If you want to be the top candidate for a project manager job, make sure you can answer questions about your technical competence, business methodology, interpersonal skills, and behavior in the job interview.
Here’s a project plan to get you ready for your next project management interview:
Technical Skills and Methodology
Your interviewer may begin by asking about your technical skills. An introductory question might be:
What software have you used to manage projects in the past?
That question may be followed by a more specific query:
- If I gave you a laptop to plan your next project, what software would you want on it?
Once you’ve established your technical competence, expect questions about your methodology for handling projects, says Joseph Logan, author of Seven Simple Steps to Landing Your First Job.
Whether you’re a Project Management Professional (PMP) or not, general questions you can expect include:
- What’s your approach to managing a project?
- What’s your school of thought on project management? Are you an agile person?
- How do you do your scheduling?
- How do you allocate resources?
- How do you do status updates?
“They have to have a methodology,” says Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group, a recruiting firm for interactive, design and marketing professionals in Menlo Park, California. “Maybe they use software or a book, or they just have years of experience.”
If you are PMP-certified, discuss the certification process—when you earned your PMP, what the hardest part was for you, what you liked the most, etc.
Great project managers possess interpersonal skills that help teammates get along.
Questions about interpersonal skills can be general:
- How do you handle politics?
- Tell me about a time when you had two key stakeholders with opposing views. How did you manage that?
Your responses should explain how you found consensus while keeping the project focused on its original purpose, Logan says.
When you’re asked how you work with project sponsors, your interviewer is looking for two things: how you elicit information from project leadership and how you define “project sponsor.”
Some candidates will say the project sponsor is the person who reviews the project; others will say it’s the person who holds the budget.
Hard-skills questions probe what specific project-management skills you can bring to the organization:
- Are you trained in supply-chain management?
- Do you manage people and projects or just projects?
- Are you responsible for delivery and financials or just the administration of the project? Tell me about your recent project’s goals and results.
You’re also likely get questions about your past performance to uncover your business skills:
- What were the challenges on your last project?
- When the project didn’t go well, what happened?
- What happens when your projects fail?
- How do you do contingency planning?
- What is your favorite way to deliver and present results?
- What type of closure processes have you done?
- Do you typically revisit projects a few months after delivery?
At the end of the interview, you might get some behavioral interview questions related to the most common issues that arise for the organization’s project managers. For example, if the job involves working with cross-cultural teams, you might be asked something like this:
- Tell me about a time when your domestic team wanted to approach a project one way and your offshore team preferred a different approach.
- What was the issue, and how did you resolve it?
By preparing your answers to common project manager interview questions, you can help the hiring manager appreciate your mix of business acumen, technical competence and people skills needed to expertly manage projects.
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