How to Become a Project Manager
Project Manager Interview Questions
Employers may ask you a range of questions at your Project Manager interview. The questions will vary depending on the role and job description, but they will likely be a mix of technical and behavioral interview questions. The questions will assess your project management knowledge and expertise. Equally as important, the employers will be seeing how well you would fit in with the company.
Employers are eager to find Project Managers who can lead and work well with a team. During the interview, candidates should emphasize their skills and strengths, backed with facts and figures. Employers may also ask a Project Manager candidate interview questions regarding past challenges or failures. If you’re asked to elaborate on unsuccessful projects, focus on what you learned and how you adapted. Employers want to test your problem-solving skills and make sure you'll be the right fit for their team.
The best way to prepare for your Project Manager interview is to practice. Ask a friend or colleague to do a mock interview with you, or record and listen back to your responses. Prepare a variety of real-life examples that support your project management experience. To help you with your interview preparation, we have compiled a list of frequently asked PM interview questions and answers.
List of Project Manager Interview Questions: Project Management-Related Questions
Project management-related questions will assess your understanding of the role and your knowledge about processes and practices. Employers will also want to learn more about your past project management experience. They will want to know more about the last project you worked on and get insight into your project management career so far.
A few examples of these types of PM interview questions include:
Tell us about a project you're particularly proud of.
As you're looking to not only toot your horn about your past career success and why your work throughout the project was key in bringing it to its completion, you'll want to answer this question in such a way as to show the methodical way you evaluate the success or failure of your projects. To answer project management interview questions like this one, use the STAR method:
- Situation (be positive)
- Task (explain your role and goals)
- Action (what you did to resolve the issue or help complete the project)
- Result (explain the solution to the issue, how you addressed the situation, and what you learned)
The STAR method is something you should always use in a job interview to clearly explain a real-world situation and how you handled it.
How do you combat scope creep?
Budget management and time management skills are crucial elements of a project manager's job. Scope creep refers to any factors that might cause you to miss deadlines or exceed budgets. From your answer, interviewers should gain a sense of how you carefully manage staff, resources, and other factors to ensure your projects stay on track. Provide a real example in your answer of a major project you steered that had both large scope and some challenges that you couldn't possibly have anticipated (you don't want your example to include issues that you should have expected but somehow overlooked, so make sure whatever problems arose were truly out-of-the-blue).
Go into detail about how you divided the project up into smaller parts that you could complete in advance and how you responded on the fly to client feedback that threatened to take the project over budget. Projects do need to change and adapt constantly due to client needs, market conditions, and other factors, so this example should prove your ability to use time management and superior communication to adapt to these issues and present finished projects in the agreed-upon amount of time.
- Can you describe some of the projects that you handled in your previous job?
- What is the most important thing a Project Manager does?
- When do you know a project is off-track?
- If the project is not adhering to schedule, how do you get it back on track?
- How do you prioritize tasks on a project?
- Describe all the steps involved from the time of project initiation to project completion.
- What qualities are required to be an effective Project Manager?
- What does a typical relationship with your project sponsor look like?
- What is stakeholder analysis and Power-Interest Grid used for?
- What kind of documents do you need during project initiation?
- What are the techniques that you can use to collect project requirements?
- What is the importance of maintaining a requirement traceability matrix?
- What are the details that a project plan should include?
- What are the steps that you will take to do risk planning?
- What is the difference between QA and QC?
- How would you define a successful project?
- Are you aware of conflict management techniques that can be applied for managing conflicts between stakeholders and team members?
- What are the activities that you plan to perform during the closing of a project?
- Can you explain the differences between risk and issues?
List of Project Manager Interview Questions: Technical Skills Questions
Your project management skills and expertise will be put to the test in the interview. A good Project Manager must have a range of technical skills, so expect interview questions for a project management position to cover a spectrum of project management knowledge.
For a project manager interview question targeting technical skills, you could expect to be asked:
What sort of project management software and tools do you use?
Unless the information is included in the job posting – and it's certainly worth looking – you won't know exactly which project management tools are used at different companies. So you should aim in your answer to illustrate a breadth of different tools and programs that you have experience using. You would like to include industry-standard communication and PM tools like Microsoft Project, Trello, or Basecamp since there's a good chance their organization will at least use one of them. This will also show your overall technical skills and proficiency.
- What project management software do you prefer?
- What’s your preferred project management methodology?
- Do you have budget management experience?
- Have you managed remote team members and outsourced resources?
- What are the different kinds of project management tools you have worked with?
- What is your strategy for prioritizing tasks?
- What experience do you have with process development?
- What’s your proficiency level with [software/tool]?
- What are the steps you take to assess the risks of a project? How do you work to manage them over the project’s lifetime?
- Describe how you schedule projects and establish timelines.
- What is the first thing you do when assigned a new project?
List of Project Manager Interview Questions: Personal Questions
Employers want to know that you will fit in with team members. Personal questions help employers better understand your personality, work habits, interests, and passions.
Project Managers come from a variety of different career and educational backgrounds, and it's rare that any two PMs have the same story. This is your chance to tell your story and show how you differ from other candidates. You can also explain why this specific organization and job role are so appealing, as well as hinting at your overall career goals. That's important because both sides should be mutually exploring whether there's a fit here.
Some personal interview questions you may be asked include:
What do you think is an important skill for a Project Manager to have in order to succeed?
This is, in fact, a personal question, so your answer will differ based on your job experience. Think back to your own career and past projects and reflect on why your best projects were so successful. Once you do dial in on a skill – let's say, communication – be sure as you answer this question to not only explain why it's an important quality for any PM to have, but also illustrate why it's an area you excel. Even if an interview doesn't include this specific question, it's a wise exercise for any job candidate to think about his or her top skills and how they bring value to companies.
- What’s your ideal project?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you think is an important skill for a Project Manager to have in order to succeed?
- What kinds of projects interest you the most? Why?
- What part of the project management process do you enjoy most?
- Why do you want to work with this company?
- What are the three words that describe you best?
- Why should we hire you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
List of Project Manager Interview Questions: Leadership and Communication
A good Project Manager needs to know how to interact with colleagues and stakeholders, as well as make sure they can motivate and lead team members.
PMs are often at the helm of a project team that includes all kinds of people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Setting realistic deadlines, assigning project tasks and keeping teams focused and on track all require that PMs have top-notch leadership, management, and communication skills.
Expect questions such as:
How do you resolve conflicts within your team?
The interpersonal aspect of a project manager's job cannot be understated. Managing team members and their various styles of work, areas of specialty, and personalities is a massive part of a PM's job. When you answer this question, emphasize that you prefer to encourage your teams to resolve conflicts on their own first, as it bolsters overall communication and team cohesiveness. But then be prepared to offer a concrete example of when you had to intervene, how you mediated the conflict, and what the ultimate resolution was.
- What’s your management style?
- What’s your communication style?
- How do you manage team members that are not working to their full potential?
- How do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?
- How do you gain agreement with different teams in an organization?
- How should a Project Manager communicate a failure to their team?
- How do you handle underperforming team members?
- Can you tell me an example of how you communicated a failure to your team, manager or customer?
List of Project Manager Interview Questions: Behavioral
For behavioral questions, a Hiring Manager is looking for concrete examples of how you handled issues in the past. This will help them determine how you might handle future situations.
Make sure to answer these Project Manager interview questions with specific examples. Include the situation, the action you took, and the results in your response – in other words, the STAR method will be useful in answering this interview question as well.
Some common project management job interview questions with behavioral themes include:
Have you ever had a project that did not meet the deadline or budget?
No one is perfect, and as long as you have a good explanation for why a past project wasn't delivered on time or on budget – and you can illustrate how you learned from your mistake – this answer should show that a candidate has the ability to grow as a PM. One way to answer this question without necessarily admitting a mistake of your own would be to think back to a situation when a client might have wanted to add a new feature sometime over the life of the project that would increase the cost or time to complete the project.
- What was a challenging project you have worked on and how did you manage it?
- What’s the biggest mistake you have made on a specific project?
- Have your colleagues or your manager ever challenged your decisions?
- Describe a time the customer was not happy with the result and did not accept the project. What did you do to resolve conflicts?
- What was your most successful project?
- What was the last project that you worked on?
- Have you ever had a project that did not meet the deadline or budget?
- Tell me about a time when your stakeholders didn’t agree on a project. How did you proceed?
- Talk about a time when you had to persuade or influence someone to achieve a goal.
- What was one of the biggest mistakes you have committed in your past projects? How has it impacted your approach to work?
List of Project Manager Interview Questions From Top Companies (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft)
To give you an idea of what some of the top tech companies are looking for in Project Managers, here are a few interview questions from Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.
- Tell us about a time a coworker refused to do their part.
- How do you use Scrum to improve project success?
- Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond to solve a problem for a team member.
- Tell me about a time you exceeded expectations working on a project.
- What would you do if there was an issue between two team members?
- Tell me about a time when you had a project in trouble and how you handled it.
- Describe a time that you exhibited leadership in your organization.
- Describe a time when you went outside normal procedures to get a project done.
- You are going to miss tomorrow's deadline. How do you and your team members handle it?
- What is your definition of "team"?
- How has your past experience prepared you for this job?
- What is the hardest thing a Project Manager does? What’s the most important?
- Give me an example of when you had to think outside the box.
- Can you describe the most complex project you led?
- How do you prioritize competing projects?
- When was the last time you felt challenged working on a project?
- What are the project management principles?
- As a Project Manager, how can you make a project more profitable?
- What size (budget and staff) projects have you managed?
- How would you design a children's alarm clock?
- What were the toughest decisions you had to make in your role as a team leader?
- What consequences did you think they would have?
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