Interviews can make even the most confident of us nervous. Especially, if it for a responsible position as project manager, then they are bound to make our heart rate speed up. But, don’t worry. You can help yourself and bring down your nerves by anticipating the questions and preparing for them beforehand.
Below are the top 30 project management interview questions and sample answers to help you with this preparation:
Most project management job interviews start with this question. ‘Be relevant’ is the mantra to do well in this question. Give a brief introduction of your background and educational qualifications. If you are an experienced manager, emphasise on the projects that you have done that are relevant to the job you applied for. If you are a fresh graduate, you can tell them about any college projects that you have done. Treat this question as an opportunity for self-promotion to show the employer why you are fit for the job.
Well, if you are a project manager you might already be thinking that there can’t be one skill that is enough to be successful. And, you are right. Your answer could be leadership skills, communication skills, or time management skills. What the interviewer is looking for is the justification for the answer. So, before you blurt out anything, have your reasons ready.
Through this question, the interviewer is essentially trying to check your clarity of thought. He/she wants you to describe the important first steps you need to take to ensure the success of a project. A good manager would try to understand ‘what’ of the project before ‘how’. What it means is you first try to understand what is the objective or purpose of the project before diving into how to achieve the goals of the project. Hence, anything on the above lines would get you some brownie points.
This is a top project manager interview question. The answer shows whether you have realistic expectations from the job you are applying for. It helps the interviewer check if your personal goals align with that of the company.
If you are applying for an entry-level position, it might be too ambitious to say ‘I want to be the CEO of this company’. It helps to research on the employee growth in the company and estimate where you could reach with your best performance in the next 5 years. On the other hand, if you are applying for a senior position, you can talk about how you wish to take the company forward and what your contribution towards that would be.
By very nature, projects are unpredictable. Hence, it is essential that a manager anticipates problems that can occur and plans ahead. Your answer then has to reflect the importance you attach to proactive project management. Show the interviewer that you can handle risks and rise to the challenges that can occur during the course of the project.
They don’t want the entire list. Pick some examples based on the following criteria:
How recently have you worked on it? (Don’t talk about a project that happened years ago)
Has it been successful? (Don’t talk about the one in which failed. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t help)
Is it relevant to the job you are applying for?
The whole point of this question is to test your approach and your work ethic. So, make sure that answer reflects those. Most people get carried away by this question and rattle off a lot of details. Please be concise and give only relevant details.
This is a kind of question for which you need to have the answer ready. PMBOK guide describes 10 knowledge areas. Read about them in detail and try to paraphrase in your own words.
The best answer for this question would be scenario-based. Sometimes, the interviewers themselves give a hypothetical project and ask you how you would handle it.
For each stage phase the project follows, briefly mention the following:
The main objective of that phase
The key people involved
Your role in each of those phases
This question is different from the one in which you are asked to name only one skill. Apart from technical skills, mention leadership skills, time management skills, decision-making skills, prioritization skills, risk management skills etc. The follow-up question can be about how a certain skill helps. So, do prepare a justification for each of the skills you talked about.
Many people think that it’s better to say ‘no’ to this question and move on to the next. But, disagreements in projects are quite common. So, it is extremely unlikely nobody disagreed with your decisions (Especially, if you are a senior project manager). So, it’s better to say yes and go on to describe how you handled the situation. Show that you are a person who can take feedback constructively and can take everybody along with you in a collaborative manner.
A sample answer can be ‘I clearly communicate what the expectations are before the team starts to work on the task. I regularly take updates on the progress and if there is a lag anywhere I make myself approachable for the team members to discuss their problems. Also, I appreciate and give feedback once the project is completed to keep them motivated’
This is again a knowledge-based question. The Pareto principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. This is a statistical analysis that is used by project managers to prioritize work. If you have enough experience as a project manager, most likely you have used this principle or at least a variation of it. Apart from explaining what it is, talk about how you used it in your previous job (if you did)
Of course, you have to say ‘yes’. Go on to describe why it is so. Any company wants an employee who shares the values and principles of the company. If you are in a responsible position such as a project manager, you are expected to show the way for others to follow. Earning the respect of your team members and the trust of your bosses can only happen when you are ethically upright.
Keeping customers happy is important for the companies. Hence, your answer should showcase that you value customers as well. You can start by explaining that during the course of the project you regularly interact with the customers so that they are on the same page as the project team. Despite this, if the customers are unhappy with the result, say that you will try to clearly understand what modifications they want and try to incorporate them. In case the changes cannot be made, you will try to convince and explain to the customer that the project fits in with the agreed scope.
A good project manager is optimistic. The way you handle failure reflects the true leader in you. If your team worked on a project and it ultimately failed, they are bound to be unhappy. But as a manager, it is your duty to ensure that failures don’t affect the morale of the team. You can tell the interviewer that instead of blaming a particular person or a group, you make it a collective responsibility. Also, mention that you communicate to the team members to learn from the mistakes they made in this project and not repeat them in the future.
‘I didn’t have the right team’. ‘I don’t deal well with changes’. ‘My boss wasn’t very supportive’. These would be bad answers to give your future employer. As a project manager, you are expected to manage people and handle risks. So, don’t tell your interviewer that you fall short in those two areas. Give an example of a situation in which the challenge was due to the external factors. It can be about when the project was abruptly shelved or when the funding for it has been stopped. Don’t forget to mention how you handled the situation and what you learned from it.
The one word that you need to focus on for this pm interview question is ‘relevance’. Do your research about the company and the role you are applying for. Your answer for this should be about the kind of projects that the company can offer.
When the interviewer asks this question, it is to know whether you can use Lean, Kanban, Agile etc. If the company uses particular project management software, read up on it. Further, do mention how your knowledge of a specific project management tool can help their company.
This is a potential trap. ‘I get along with everyone’. Say this and you will open a floodgate of questions. Focus on why you are being asked this question. They want to check your people management skills. You can talk about how you are strictly professional and do not let your emotions get the better of you while working with people. Bring out your maturity, emotional quotient while answering this question.
If you say you are fine with any project, it might imply that you do not know yourself enough to answer this question. Instead, it is better to be honest and communicate your preferences. But, if you are applying for a software project manager position and say you hate software development, slight chance you will get the job. So, be a little smart.
One of the important roles of a leader is to keep the morale of the team members high. Show the interviewer that you are team player and work collaboratively. Tell the interviewer that you would like your team members to look up to you for advice. Also, they should feel free to share their ideas and suggestions with you. Instead of imposing decisions, you allow the team members to contribute and make it a collective effort.
This is an extension of the question on how you ensure that your team members meet deadlines. Talk about clearly defining the responsibilities, arranging regular meetings, empowering the team members to approach if there is any concern and constant updates on the progress of the work.
The answer varies from person to person. But responses can be ‘I like to be out of my comfort zone and hence love challenging projects’. ‘Projects which help me learn and evolve, pushing my potential’. ‘I am attracted to success and achievement. The thought of reaching the project goals within the stipulated time motivates me’. Think about the answer that you want beforehand so as to justify your statements with real-life examples.
Changes and modifications are a part and parcel of most projects. An employer wants a project manager who is flexible and adaptable to changes. The best answer can be about how you actually put in place a change management process even before the changes occur. At the same time, showcase that you are not a person shy to say ‘no’ when you feel that a certain change is not suitable for the project.
Project managers need to have good communication skills. So, don’t be too honest and say that communication skills are your weakest area. The answer has to either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. But, don’t sound overconfident while saying so. If they ask for examples, be ready with two or three examples in different settings to justify your point.
It is another question to check if you fit in with the company’s culture. It also indicates whether you are self-aware to communicate your work style. Though it sounds vague, this question provides an opportunity to show how you can be an asset to the company. You could talk about your emphasis on speed and efficiency, how you like to work collaboratively, your way of communication etc. Further, you can mention about how you organize your day and how many hours you work.
Companies want their employees to be fully invested in the jobs that they are applying for. There are many software tools coming up and many processes being invented regularly in the project management landscape. Hence, project managers need to continually upgrade their skills to be relevant. Basically, tell your interviewer about what you are doing to grow in your field. It could be certification courses you are taking or workshops/courses you are attending. Also, you can talk about your interactions with project managers and people in the field to stay up-to-date with the latest.
You need to go prepared for this interview question. If their working style suits yours, you can discuss it. If the job you are applying for is the next logical step for your current job, tell them that. Or, even something like you being attracted to their work culture or vision, can be a good response. Better yet, you can say how the job and the company align with your personal growth. This shows that you are looking for a long-term collaboration with the company.
You might or you might not have faced issues with your former colleagues. But, if you mention that you did, don’t be too negative. You can discuss the problem. However, put your emphasis on what you did to resolve the problem. Give it a happy ending. You can also talk about what has been the learning and how you would handle similar kind of people in the future. It shows your leadership skills.
Most of the applicants will say ‘no’ to this answer. But, by asking questions you can stand out from the crowd. It also shows your interest in the company. Your questions can indicate that you want to know a little more about the job you applied for. Or, you can ask them some questions about the organization itself.
A project management interview need not be dreaded. The above sample project management interview questions and answers should help you face the interviewer confidently. However, there can’t be a single right answer for any of the questions. Use the answers as guiding tools but make sure you take into consideration your own experiences, background, strengths, and weaknesses while answering the PM interview questions. Good luck with your job hunt.
Have you attended a project management interview recently? Do share your experiences with us in the comments section.
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