1512813260 project management interview tips

How difficult is it to crack a Project Management interview?

Project manager job interview can be stressful. Especially, as some of you might have experienced, when the questions are not those that are asked in regular interviews for jobs. Don't be surprised if you do not find questions such as ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?', ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?' or ‘tell us about yourself?'

The success of a project management job interview starts with the understanding that this interview requires responses very specific to the job. That is, project management itself. Does that mean that one cannot anticipate the interview questions for project managers? Of course, not!

To be able to crack the project management interview, you should first understand what the required skills of a project manager are.

What are the primary skills that a recruiter looks for? 

Image source: Giphy

Project management is a complex job and as such requires numerous skills. But, there are some skills which are more important than other. 

According to PMI, "project managers are organized, passionate and goal-oriented who understand what projects have in common, and their strategic role in how organizations succeed, learn and change".  

From the above, one can deduce 6 core skills of project managers:

  • Leadership 

  • Time management 

  • Risk Management

  • Domain Knowledge

  • Decision Making

  • Change management 

Apart from these skills, recruiters also look for honesty and integrity in project managers.

For detailed information on skills of a project manager, read our article https://www.greycampus.com/blog/project-management/must-have-personality-traits-for-a-successful-project-manager

So, the top interview questions for project managers focus on the skills that are needed to do the job well. 

Sample interview questions and answers:

1. What is the importance of delegation in project management?

What the interviewer essentially asking is ‘Do you believe in sharing responsibilities and empowering your team members?' or ‘Are you someone who wants everything under your tight control'? Your response to this question gives an insight into what kind of a leader you are. 

No matter how you frame the answer, you have to imply that you consider delegation important. Add also reasons as to why you think so. It can be about how it improves efficiency.  One can also include how it encourages team members to become more involved in the project. 

Also, be ready to answer questions about your delegation style and how you track delegated tasks.

2. What according to you is the most important skill of a project manager?

It is one of those project management interview questions that can determine whether you get the job or not. Your response indicates to the interviewer whether you can fit in with the culture of the organization. At the same time, it can showcase what you consider your priorities are while managing a project. 

While what skill one considers the most important might differ from one person to another, there are certain traits that an impressive response should have. 

Acknowledge that there are many important skills that a project manager requires but make sure you elaborate on only a single skill. Do not rattle off 5 to 6 skills. If that is what the answer the interviewer wanted, he would have phrased it ‘what are the important skills of a project manager?' and not ‘the important skill'. 

Imagine you give single line answers such as ‘Time Management skills' or ‘Leadership skills', what do you think the next question will be? The obvious ‘why do you think it is important?' Save them the trouble. Support your answers for well-framed reasons. Better yet, quote some experiences from your past. 

3. How do you manage changes to your project?

"Only thing that is constant is change" – Heraclitus

In most cases, projects keep changing and evolving. In fact, in some instances, the final project looks completely different from the one that was originally conceived. Hence, the interviewers like to check whether you have it in you to handle the changes. 

Your response, then, should suggest that you are flexible and adaptable to the modifications. For good reasons, companies do not like to hire inflexible project managers. Ensure you don't come across as one.

4. If there are uncertainties in a project, how do you handle them?

This is another top project manager interview question. But, some interviewees misunderstand this question. They think the interviewer is trying to check if they have clarity of thought. So, the response is usually on the lines that they like to take up only projects that are definite. And, it backfires. 

Dealing with ambiguity is an important skill that a project manager should have. It's not always easy to predict all the variables that can affect the project. Hence, companies prefer a project manager who can handle uncertainties in an efficient manner.  

This question is most likely to be scenario-based. A good response will focus on risk management strategies and the planning in advance. It should also showcase your leadership skills. Companies like to check how well you manage team members and other stakeholders during the phase of uncertainty. 

5. How do you plan your activities as well as that of your team?

This is a question to check your time management skills. As a project manager, you have to handle multiple tasks. One of the most important and limited resources is time. A good project manager gauges the importance of each task and prioritizes accordingly. Also, the manager should be able to assess the competency of each of his team members and assign responsibilities accordingly.  Hence, companies like to hire a manager who can execute tasks efficiently.

A good answer to this question must contain tools that you have worked with in the past. Be it Agile, Lean, Kanban or Waterfall. Also, read up on the software that the interviewing company uses to plan and track the progress of work, especially if you are applying for IT project management job. Further, you can mention how your past experience with a certain software can contribute to the job you are applying for. 

6. How do you ensure that deadlines are met by you and your team members?

This is an extension of the above question. You plan, prioritize and assign tasks to your team members. But, how do you ensure that the deadlines for those tasks are met?  Not finishing tasks on time can be an obstacle to the smooth flow of the project. Therefore, this question appears quite frequently in project manager interviews. 

In your response, include points on making room for buffer time and ensuring that task doesn't become dependent on other tasks. Also, talk about how you would respond to a situation in which a team member doesn't meet the deadlines. 

7. Did you ever work on a project you disliked? What was the outcome?

Most of us have likes and dislikes. That also applies to projects that we take up. The intent behind this question is to check if your preferences affect the success of the project. What the company wants in a manager is an ability to take up any kind of a project and do complete justice to it. 

Treat this question as a grey zone one. Do not try to say that there was no project that you disliked or that you disliked a certain project. A good response indicates that you liked some projects more than the others. And, if they ask reasons for such a preference, be a little careful. It could be a slippery path. 

8. If a certain project fails, who do you think should take the blame? You or the team members?

‘Do you blame the team members and external variables for the failure of a project?' or ‘do you take some responsibility as well?' Most managers take credit for the success of a project. But, they blame everybody else other than themselves for its failure. Interviewers favor candidates who have the ability to accept failure. 

A good response shows that you stand by your team through success as well as failure. But at the same time, do indicate that you can objectively assess a situation and find out what actually went wrong. A terrible answer would be to say that you never do anything wrong. Hence, it must be someone else's fault. 

9. What is your view on ethics in project management?

It is important for a company that its employees share its ethics and principles. More so, as the project managers, you act as an ambassador of companies' values. Further, team members also look up to the managers as the role models to emulate. Therefore, one of the project manager interview questions will be to check if your principles are in sync with those of the company.

This question requires you to read up on the company before you go for the interview. What does the company stand for? What core values does it consider important? Your answer need not necessarily match with all the values mentioned. But, at least do not say anything that is in conflict with any of the company's values. Further, your view should reflect that you are honest and trustworthy. 

10. What is your approach to building excellent customer relationships?

As the importance of customer service skills in any business is obvious, companies value to project managers with proper customer orientation. It is natural that they judge whether you can deliver or exceed customer satisfaction. So, response determines whether you crack the project management interview or not. 

When you describe your approach, go into as many details as possible. You can give a point or two on each of the following:

  • Communication Skills

  • Interpersonal Skills

  • Professionalism

  • Problem Solving Skills

  • Technical Skills and Knowledge

Be sure to emphasize on not just how you handle customer relations but also how you empower the team members to do the same. 

After you described the approach, the interviewer could ask you to describe an instance in which you have applied the approach. Prepare an answer beforehand so that you do not fumble during the interview. 

Interview Tips:

To make the best impression on the recruiter, it's not enough to just know the sample project management interview questions and answers. 

Interview Tips - Project Management
Image source: http://recruitingtimes.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Interview-techniques.png

Your preparation for the project manager interview should also include the following:

  1. Study the organization you are applying for. Most importantly, study the job role and description thoroughly.

  2. Focus on grooming. Choose attire that fits in with the culture of the company. Try to look your professional best.

  3. Arrive on time, or better a little early for the interview. This allows you to be less stressed and helps you relax before you face the interview board. 

  4. Perfect your body language. Your body language can say so much more about you than your words can. Not looking at the interviewer while answering questions, fidgeting, playing with a pen, slouching etc. can spoil your chance to crack the project management interview. 

  5. Do not be shy about asking questions. But make you sure they are insightful and relevant. Clarifying doubts gives an impression to the interviewer that you are confident and are serious about the job you have applied for. 

In a nutshell

It is easy to tackle the project manager interview once you know the sample interview questions and answers. Most people either treat the project management interview as a regular interview or as an interview in which you cannot predict the questions. Both these approaches do not help you crack the project management interview.

Top interview questions revolve around the skills required to effectively work as a project manager. You can significantly improve your chances of clearing the interview with flying colors by anticipating and preparing well in advance by studying the sample project manager interview questions and answers. 

Would certification help?  How does it add value to your resume?

PMP certification has a worldwide reputation. A certified project manager is considered more suitable for a project management interview than a non-certified one. 

Certification shows that you are dedicated and have passed rigorous tests needed to become a qualified project manager. Further, a certified project manager earns a significantly higher salary when compared to the average salary. 

Would the 2017 updates impact interviewees?

From 26 March 2018, Project Management Professional (PMP) exam is changing. Some of the updates include changes in terminology as well as harmonization of tools and techniques. 

However, these changes are not significant and should not affect the project management interview questions in a big way. But it would be handy to read up on the recent changes and keep yourself updated.

Are you looking to get PMP certified? 

At GreyCampus, we offer high impact-proven PMP course covering the concepts required to clear the PMP certification exam. The vast experience of our instructors, simulated exams, video sessions, flashcards and other tools ensure that you do not fall short of any known learning required for the exam. 

To know more visit https://www.greycampus.com/pmp-training-instructor-led

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