Senior executives and HR managers recognize project management as indispensable to business success. They know that skilled and credentialed project managers are among their most valuable resources.
The Project Management Institute reports in a survey that in the U.S., over $122 million gets wasted for every $1 billion invested due to poor project performance. When it comes to hiring certified project managers, things get a little tricky, and candidates are reviewed in several ways.
Will the candidate fit into the culture of the organization? Will the candidate get along with other team members and lead them effectively? Will the candidate deliver on the project goals on time?
Getting through an interview successfully is both an art and a science. There are a lot of unknowns, but focusing on key areas or competencies and giving the right answers to the questions based on them in the interview helps you get selected. Here is a list of ten areas or competencies that are tested by interviewers through the following project management interview questions. Pointers on how to answer them are also given below to help you prove that you are the right fit for the role of a project manager.
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Scenario-Based Project Manager Interview Questions
1. How do you define an ideal project?
This question, being one of the most important project management interview questions, intends to know the type of projects you would like to take up. By answering this question honestly, you open up an opportunity to manage projects that excite you or those in which you can excel. Your answer should include multiple points such as whether you like to work as part of a team or alone, the kind of deadlines you prefer, whether you are interested in innovative and creative projects or not, and more.
2. Work from home has become the new normal in the post-COVID-19-world. How well are you prepared to manage a remote team?
In the present world, project managers often choose their teams from a global workforce and are expected to manage teams remotely. You should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to work with team members virtually. It calls for a different management technique. Your answer to this project management interview question should clearly describe the project management methodology you may choose to manage people and resources in a remote environment.
3. What is your strategy for prioritizing the tasks?
Regardless of its size and scope, prioritization is a critical concept that determines the success of the project and the timely completion of it. If your interviewer asks questions on prioritization, your answer should include how you distinguish between urgency and importance. You can say how you determine what is crucial and leave behind what is unnecessary. This project management interview question is also to test how flexible and adaptable you are while managing a project. Your answer should describe that you know when to say no during the project.
4. What is the most desired skill that is required to become a successful project manager, according to your experience? Please give us a couple of examples regarding your past projects.
If you are experienced in project management, you might probably know that there is no single skill that is enough for a successful career in the field. To be a successful project manager, you should possess multiple project management skills like leadership skills, communication skills, negotiation skills, and time management skills, to name a few. To answer this question promptly, you should be able to justify why you have chosen a particular skill. You can include a couple of examples to substantiate your answer.
5. Tell us about the most challenging projects you have managed so far? What were the steps you have taken to tackle the challenges?
Here, the interview panel wants to know how you respond to critical challenges and deal with conflicting situations in a project. It would be best if you did not refer to examples where you had to manage tough team members or lack of support from management. As a project manager, you should be smart enough to handle such occurrences. Instead, focus on external factors like a situation where the project was unexpectedly called off, or funding was reduced in the middle of an extensive project. Also, you should explain how you tackled the challenges and managed the team during tough situations.
6. Suppose the project has gone off the rails. What steps would you take to get it back on track?
Once you realize a project is not going as per the pre-planned time, budget, scope, or goals, the next top priority is to get it back on track. The project manager should be efficient enough to take the necessary steps to resolve the discrepancy between actual progress and planned progress. Your answer to this project management interview question may include re-adjusting resource management, finding the real cause of off-tracking, putting in extra effort, and more.
7. Which was one of the biggest mistakes you have committed in your past projects? How has it impacted your approach to work?
To err is human, they say. It is how you deal with the errors that define your skills. By asking this project management interview question, the interviewer intends to check your honesty and whether you take responsibility of mistakes you have made in your past projects. Rather than giving a ‘no’ for the answer, you can mention a couple of mistakes. Make sure you show that you take responsibility for the mistake as it is a way to reveal your maturity level. Also, you can explain how you had resolved it.
8. Can you tell us an example of a failed project? Have you had any such experiences?
Success and failure are part of your career as a project manager. It is not wise to answer ‘no’ to this question as well. Instead, you can think of an event or phase in your previous projects where you have experienced failure. This project management interview question aims to check your experience in managing risk too. You need to include how you have handled the issue.
9. Suppose the customer is not happy about the quality of the project outcomes. How do you handle the situation? What is your way of handling an unhappy stakeholder?
As a project manager, you will be answerable when the customers are unhappy about the project outcomes. While you answer this project management interview question, you should be able to reveal how much you value the customers and that you would accept their authority without being critical. You can say that you will try to make the necessary modifications that the customer is looking for. You can explain the steps you have taken to ensure regular interaction with the customer throughout the project. Also, you can say that you will communicate effectively to make the customer understand that the outcomes are within the scope of the project.
10. What is your strategy to deal with internal conflicts among the team members?
Here, the interviewer is trying to understand your mediation skills and how impartial you are while resolving conflicts. You can explain why there is a necessity to listen to both the parties and understand both perspectives. Your answer should include how you convince both the parties to come to a conclusion that works best for the project at hand and delivers a win-win situation. Also, it would help if you communicate how you ensure that both of them are not benefitting at the loss of the other.
11. Define processes and process groups in a project management framework.
This project management interview question aims to understand your domain knowledge. In a project management framework, processes refer to the defined way of doing tasks for completing the project successfully. On the other hand, process groups are a collection of processes that are carried out at various stages during the project. Initiation, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Control, and Closing are the five process groups.
12. Can you explain the differences between risk and issues? What are the major types of risks that may be encountered in a project?
Risks refer to an uncertain event or situation in the future that would bring a negative or positive impact on the project goals. Issues apply to any event or situation that currently impacts the project objectives. In other words, risk focuses on future events while issues are more of present occurrences. Issues are often considered negative, say a team member suddenly resigns from the organization. Risks would be either positive or negative.
The following are the most common forms of project risks:
Market Risk, Schedule Risk, Cost Risk, Resource Risk, Performance Risk, Technology Risk, Governance Risk, Legal Risk, External Risk, Strategic Risk, Operational Risk are all factors to consider.
13. Explain the concept of RAID in project management.
As you know, RAID is a critical tool for any project manager. It stands for Risks, Actions, Issues, and Decisions. To define it, RAID is a tool used by project managers to track risks, actions, issues, and decisions in an organized way. While answering the project management interview question, you should include the definitions of these four concepts as well.
14. What are the techniques you may use to define the scope of a project?
With this question, the interview panel is trying to understand your knowledge in the concerned domain. You can explain these various concepts involved in defining the scope of the project that include – Product Breakdown, Requirement Analysis, Systems Engineering, Systems Analysis, Value Engineering, Value Analysis, and Alternatives Analysis.
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15. Describe the team forming process you follow in project management.
A project manager should possess knowledge about the various stages that a team goes through during the project; hence, this is one of the common questions asked in interviews and exams on project management. Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning comprises the five development stages in team formation. While you answer this project management interview question, you should describe each of these steps with clarity of thought.
16. What do you know about the triple constraint triangle of project management?
Any project has restrictions and hazards that must be handled to be successful in the end. Project managers should know that time, scope, and money are the three critical restrictions. These are sometimes known as the project management triangle or the three restrictions.
This is yet another technical question in which the interviewer assesses your technical knowledge and how you use it in your day-to-day job. Explain the definition and how you would use it.
17. How will you avoid gold plating?
- To prevent gold plating, the top management should first stay away from anything above the requirements and scope baseline.
- Secondly, We need to look at the project's scope from the outside. An independent auditor or inspector can quickly detect gold plating by verifying the deliverables to the project's scope baseline.
18. When would you escalate an issue?
Consider escalating a problem at work if:
- The problem might cause a project delay or budget overrun.
- You've attempted to reach an agreement and establish a common ground with everyone concerned.
- You've previously tried and failed to solve the problem with various methods.
- You or other teammates are forced to take on a large quantity of extra work due to the problem.
19. What’s your leadership style?
There are several methods to lead, each with its benefits and drawbacks. When it comes to project management, it's impossible to avoid bringing up a leadership style. A project manager may have to choose how they lead depending on the project, from top-down to servant leadership. Examine their understanding of leadership approaches and apply them to project management.
20. What project management software do you prefer?
Most project managers depend largely on Gantt charts regarding project planning and scheduling. Award-winning online Gantt charts in ProjectManager allow project managers to plan every aspect of their projects. Managers may use one screen to build dependencies, set milestones, assign tasks, manage workload, and more. The capability of our planning tools would wow any general contractor you employ.
A project manager needs project management tools to plan, monitor, and report on a project. There are several options, ranging from simple to sophisticated. This question exposes, first and foremost, how current the candidate is with software and project management technologies. It also gives an overview of the tools and techniques they employ to manage a project.
21. What’s the difference between project monitoring and controlling?
Monitoring entails identifying discrepancies between actual project results and the project baseline, whereas Controlling entails identifying repair options for deviations and recommending corrective actions.
Both project monitoring and control are used to keep projects on track and carried out from start to finish. These procedures must be planned as part of the project management strategy for the project life cycle to go well.
22. How will you implement Earned Value Management? What is EVM and its use?
EVM is a practical approach for statistically determining project discrepancies and performance to aid the team in forecasting and planning appropriate preventative steps for dealing with variations. EVM is a project management approach that uses a schedule and cost performance index to calculate schedule and cost variances. It aids in the development of new project performance and cost estimates.
A PM should use EVM by keeping a project schedule that lists all of the project activities and their start/end dates and budget. This timeline will serve as a benchmark against which the project's progress will be measured.
23. What is stakeholder analysis and Power-Interest Grid used for?
Stakeholder analysis involves compiling a list of all potential stakeholders who will be involved in some manner with the project.
A power-interest grid aids in the classification of stakeholders based on their relevance and influence. These two aids in developing all-important stakeholder engagement strategies for diverse groups by outlining the positions of the project's stakeholders.
24. What is the difference between Program, Project, and Portfolio?
- A program is a sequence of interconnected initiatives handled as a unit. It is transient, just like a project, but it lasts longer. The program adheres to high-level plans that are supplemented by numerous specific plans.
- A project is an attempt to develop a one-of-a-kind solution or product. It is transient and has a solid start and endpoint. The emphasis is on precise delivery.
- A portfolio is a vast collection of projects and operations handled by a single group to achieve a strategic aim. It is permanent and integrated with strategic planning, unlike projects and programs.
25. Explain Ishikawa/ Fishbone diagrams.
A root cause analysis for a specific problem is performed using an Ishikawa or Fishbone diagram. The essential advantage of this tool is its clear depiction and effectiveness in studying complicated issues with hidden elements. This enables the project manager to go beyond the symptoms and treat the root problems.
26. What is the process of calculating the three-point estimating method?
The three-point estimate can be calculated in two different ways:
- PERT Distribution E = (P+4M+O)/6
- Triangular Distribution E = (P+M+O)/3 Beta
Where P denotes pessimist, O is optimist, and M denotes most likely.
27. What is Work Breakdown Structure (WBD)?
The Work Breakdown Structure is used to identify the project's core work activities and the different sub-activities that may be required to complete each activity. With a top-down or bottom-up approach, WBD's structure follows a hierarchical pattern, with core activities split off into sub-activities housed under each parent.
28. What is the Pareto principle analysis?
The 80/20 principle is another name for the Pareto principle. The efforts of 20% of the people produce 80% of the results. This approach aids in the prioritization of activities based on their significance rather than their urgency.
29. What are the motivation theories and formal techniques to keep a team motivated?
A project manager must keep the entire team motivated all of the time. The following motivation theories are helpful for project success:
- McGregor's Hypothesis
- McClelland's Hypothesis
- Maslow's Theory of Motivation
- Theory of Hertzberg
- Vroom's Prediction Theory
Domain Knowledge and Skills-Based Project Management Interview Questions
A good project manager should have 2 features—experience, as well as an in-depth understanding of project management theories. While one without the other hinders performance, to be the ideal project manager, you must have a solid foundation in project management principles. The following question is often asked by interviewers to test the candidate’s domain knowledge and skills:
30. What are the three key challenges for our industry today, and how can these be tackled effectively?
This question will test your knowledge about the project management industry. Not only should you describe three relevant challenges, but possible solutions as well. Good examples can include challenges you’ve had personal experience with, along with effective solutions that you’ve used.
Think about the top challenges of the industry in which the organization operates. Your response will reveal your understanding of the industry, the market, current challenges, and possible solutions. This knowledge is critical to the success of any project manager, as you will be tackling these challenges inside the organization if you get hired.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Clear Communication
One of the essential skills for project managers is communication. Without this, everything else fails. Communication is the life and blood of any project. It is claimed at PMI® Research Conference that about 90 percent of a project manager’s time is spent communicating. In today's siloed organizations, communication happens between various groups and levels, including internal as well as external groups of stakeholders. Here are two communication-related questions asked to candidates:
31. What were the communication challenges on your last project?
As a project manager, you’ll need to communicate with your team for all projects effectively. Communication challenges will arise; nobody expects that this won’t happen. What the interviewer wants to see, however, is how you’ve handled these challenges in the past. It needs to be evident that even with communication issues, you were still able to work with your team effectively. For example, perhaps instead of being able to have face-to-face meetings when necessary, you were able to put together webchat meetings. Think of a time when something like this happened and how you dealt with the communication challenges efficiently to ensure that the project outcome was still a good one.
32. What is your communication style with your team?
If your interviewer asks this, you’ll want to assure him or her that you are an effective communicator who motivates others on your team. Not only should good project managers be encouraging when delegating to their team, but they should also be clear in their expectations. Make sure you point out that you understand the significance of being an effective communicator as a project manager.
While the first question helps the interviewer assess how effectively you can handle communication in challenging situations, the second question helps understand how you engage with others, whether you demonstrate good sense and judgment, and are able to use language effectively.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Consistency and Integrity
Honesty and trustworthiness are of utmost importance in the world of business. Project managers manage critical responsibilities and resources such as material, money, and human resources. They also represent the organization to employees, customers, and vendors. They are role models for their team members. Any lack of consistency and integrity can cost the organization a lot more than money. Therefore, the key questions asked to the candidate will be:
33. How do you communicate bad news?
It’s likely you’ve had to deliver bad news in the past as a project manager, and your interviewer wants to see how, exactly, you go about doing so. They want to see that you’re considerate and upfront with everyone, that you have all of the facts first, and that you’ve thought about how this news will impact all of your team members—not just the person you’re delivering the bad news to directly.
34. How have you handled disgruntled employees?
The interviewer wants to see that you’re a critical thinker and an effective problem solver. Even if you don’t have a specific example to talk about, explain that you always care about your team members and would want to uncover the root of the problem, and find out why, exactly, they’re unhappy. While it may not be possible to please every disgruntled employee, the interviewer just wants to see that you would make an effort to rectify the situation and be professional about everything.
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35. What are some examples of times you’ve kept your promise even when that might have been difficult?
Think about a time when you reluctantly agreed to a challenging request, because as a project manager, you’re expected to make things happen. Explain to the interviewer how you managed to juggle your tasks and effectively manage your time to ensure that you would be able to follow through with an ambiguous promise. Even though you may have had a lot on your plate, interviewers want to hear specific examples that show you were still successful in accommodating additional requests.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Customer Orientation
Project managers are responsible for understanding the need of the customer and responding in a timely, efficient manner in ways that meet customer expectations. They are also responsible for establishing and maintaining effective relationships and gaining the trust and respect of customers. Here are a few questions that are usually asked to gauge the candidate's customer orientation:
36. How do you ensure you and your team deliver or exceed customer expectations?
In a nutshell, the interviewer wants to see how, in detail, you’re able to succeed as a project manager. After all, meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations when it comes to project delivery is your ultimate goal. It’s important not to be vague and give a generalized answer; you’ll want to give precise examples and details about your process.
37. What are some best practices you’ve used to develop excellent customer relationships?
Current clients make the best repeat customers, and it’s important to maintain excellent relationships, beyond just delivering them what they paid for. The person interviewing you wants to know you feel this way also, so as you explain the ways you’ve maintained excellent customer relationships, be sure to stress the importance of always having a very happy customer.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Developing Others
A project manager relies on the team to execute activities to achieve the desired results. It is crucial that a project manager can assess talent, contribute actively towards developing, mentor, and coach team members, and offer constructive feedback to them. Responses to the following questions will reveal if you are someone who can motivate the members of a team:
38. How do you go about managing the performance of your team?
It’s important to show that you have leadership skills when you answer this question. Be thorough about your daily tasks when it comes to managing your team’s performance—for example, perhaps you hold weekly strategy discussions and meetings. You’ll also want to provide specific examples of how your management style has resulted in positive team performance.
39. How do you motivate team members?
It’s crucial as a leader to not only ensure your team stays on the right track but also gets motivated about the projects they’re working on. Maybe you give praise for a job well done as a form of motivation. As long as you can demonstrate past examples of how you’ve motivated team members, there’s not a right or wrong answer here.
40. What are some of the tools and resources you’ve used to develop your team?
This is your chance to show your knowledge of some of the many different technologies that project managers use these days. Be sure to name any software programs, online tools, and other things that you’ve used to complete your daily tasks. Be sure also to explain that you are always open and eager to learn new tools or programs.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Effective Delegation
One of the key success factors for a project manager is effective delegation. How effectively can you get work done through others? The delegation must happen through empowerment without interference or loss of control. The following questions will determine if you are good at delegating:
41. What is your delegation style?
This is a question that is designed to ask about leadership skills. Explain what has been best for you and use examples of how your delegation style has worked well in the past. Even if you’ve never technically led a team before, it’s important to find an example of how you might’ve delegated in the past.
42. How easily do you delegate responsibility?
Easily delegating responsibility is an essential quality of any project manager. Be sure to discuss a relevant example that assures the interviewer that delegating responsibility comes naturally to you.
43. How do you monitor and review the delegated responsibilities?
As a project manager, it’s important to routinely stay on top of your team members’ tasks and responsibilities. Discuss how you do this with specific examples—whether it’s by scheduling brief meetings, using project management software, and so on.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Goal Focus
Being focused on goals is essential for project managers. You need a clear focus to succeed. It is important for candidates to demonstrate the ability to align resources to achieve key objectives, to plan and identify ways to improve and achieve greater efficiency and to monitor and fine-tune execution with agility, hard work, perseverance, and good judgment. Key questions asked in this area are:
44. What are your career and project goals for the next six months?
Be honest about any short-term project goals you have currently, as this shows the interviewer that you are enthusiastic about your projects and that you’re goal-oriented. When it comes to discussing your career goals, be sure to include the company you’re interviewing with as part of your goals. If you’re interviewing with a recruiter for job placement, you may not have a specific company in mind, and that’s okay—just be sure to be clear about what type of role you see yourself working in.
45. How do you set goals for your team? And how do you track these goals?
Whether it’s deadline goals or overall project goals, setting goals is an important part of being a project manager, as it motivates team members and helps to keep projects on track. Be sure to give specific examples that demonstrate how you’ve set goals for your team in the past and how you’ve tracked these goals. For instance, you might have set a project completion goal for a specific project that required everyone to complete their part by a certain date. Perhaps you regularly checked in with team members to see if any obstacles could stop them from meeting that deadline and if so, you offered possible solutions.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Managing Ambiguity and Risks
A project manager has to deal with uncertainty. It is important that you can identify and prioritize risks and take appropriate action in ambiguous situations. It is equally important to manage others’ concerns in changing environments. To assess competency in this area, the following scenario-based questions are often asked:
46. Describe two areas in your current project, where there is a high level of uncertainty. How do you tackle these uncertainties?
No project goes without a hitch, and people expect that. What your interviewer wants to see is how you handle anything that can result in a potential setback. An effective project manager should always have a few tricks up his or her sleeve.
47. How do you control changes to your project?
Some level of change is inevitable, but as a project manager, it’s important to adapt to those changes quickly. Explain to your interviewer how you continue to keep your team on track whenever any project changes pop up.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Prioritizing and Time Management
A project manager must tackle multiple tasks and issues. To be a successful project manager, you have to choose your battles wisely. Since resources are always limited, they need to be prioritized. Time is a valuable resource for the project because once lost; it cannot be recovered easily. As a result, Project time management is one of the key skills for any project manager. The following questions are asked to assess whether you are capable of taking up the responsibility for creating efficient ways to execute tasks:
48. How do you ensure that your project is always on track?
Your interviewer wants to understand your work process and see that you’re detail-oriented. Explain how you check in with your team throughout a project. For example, you may want to point out that you believe effective and regular communication is key to ensuring that a project stays on track.
49. What tools do you use as a manager to plan your activities as well as that of your team?
From meetings to project management programs and everything in between, there’s an endless list of tools and processes that project managers use to stay organized. Be sure to list as many tools as you can think of that you’re familiar with to demonstrate your knowledge of project management software and other tools.
Project Manager Interview Questions on Proactive Decision Making
A project manager needs to be able to identify and prevent issues from impacting the project adversely. It is important that the candidate demonstrates the ability to take proactive steps, avoid procrastination, and not shy away from making tough decisions. Thus, candidates are often asked to share examples and real-life scenarios from their projects and life where they made proactive decisions. Here are a few such questions:
50. Give a few examples of proactive decision-making in your past projects and your life in general.
It’s always important to take the initiative as a project manager, and your interviewer wants to see just how you do that. Think of specific project examples that included a lot of proactive decision-making, but don’t also be afraid to include examples that don’t include the workplace.
51. Can you give me a few examples of a time when you made a tough decision, and it backfired?
This question is a tough one for candidates to handle as it tells the interviewer how honest you are with yourself and compels you to talk about an instance when you failed. Your interviewer wants to see how you handle setbacks because no matter how good you are at your job, they will happen. Most importantly, they want to know what you learned from these experiences. When you give your examples, explain how you used those setbacks to improve as a project manager overall.
The video below will take you through some of the most popular questions that you may face in your Project Manager interviews. Here we discuss the list of most popular questions you can expect in an interview and how you can frame your answers.
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The 10 areas mentioned above and the project management interview questions under them are not an exhaustive list. Nonetheless, the interview questions cover the most important project management skills and competencies that the candidate not only will be tested on during an interview but also will need to succeed as a project manager. Knowing the right answers alone isn’t enough. Simplilearn offers project management certification training programs that can help you acquire and build on these skills further, and prepare you to get beyond the interview and land the job!
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