There exists a stream of project management job interview questions all around the web here we break down certain types of questions PM practitioners can come across specific to their interviews/specialties, etc.
Project Manager Interview
If you’re looking to be hired as a Project Manager, you can expect questions specifically designed to draw out information about your PM skills and knowledge. For example…
- Give an example of how you tackle the initiation of projects?
- Describe how you have undertaken the practical application of a project methodology for a programme or project?
- Please discuss with examples how you undertake managing a project on a day-to-day basis? What is project management?
- Briefly describe the project lifecycle.
- What has been the most significant project you have worked on?
- What was your actual role in that project?
- What is the most important thing in project management?
Project Manager – Soft Skills
Consider some of these soft skills questions that could conceivably come up in the interview for a Project Manager role.
- What mechanisms do you employ to enable you to cope with a heavy workload?
- Can you give an example of when it has been difficult to maintain your own effectiveness due to external changes or pressures?
- How did you manage the situation? Will you describe your decision-making processes with reference to a particular decision you have made recently?
- How do you manage the situation when your plan of work is upset by unforeseen circumstances?
- What aspects of your leadership style might positively or negatively influence members of a team? Can you give me an example of each?
- How do you make your opinion known when you disagree with the views of a colleague? How would you deal with a direct report who is failing to meet their objectives?
- Can you give an example of where you have had to direct work through colleagues who were reluctant to participate? How did you deal with the situation?
There are denominations within the project manager’s responsibilities that you’ll undoubtedly have to address when hired. Before you’re hired, you’ll have to face questions about how you’d handle/have handled them.
- RISK: How have you managed risks on a project you have run?
- CONTRACTS: Given a situation when we are delivering a project without a contract but on a promise that the customer will pay (they have always paid before), what are the issues?
- FINANCES: How do you start costing your projects? What experience do you have of building a change request for more money to complete your project?
- QUALITY: Consider the statement ‘inadequate quality management will result in project problems’. Give an example of why this should be.
- ISSUES: What methods do you use to capture issues when initiating your projects?
- CHANGE CONTROL: In terms of time quality and cost and time please give an example of how you have managed change? How did you identify and determine the impact of your change options? Give an example of where a requested change was refused and how you managed it?
- What is your style of management?
- When you see underperformance in a process or a person how do you handle it?
- How do you like to track your business progress? How do you develop, manage and communicate you businesses plans?
- How do you manage your customers and stakeholders expectations?
- How do you ensure communication has/is happening?
- Leadership, give examples of motivation, team work and where you have made a difference.
- How do you communicate your ideas, influence and persuasion what examples?
- How have you identified and resolved conflicts in your teams?
- What does diversity mean to you?
- How do you deal with sound business but sometimes annoying process, delegation, levels of authority, have you ever managed to get an existing policy/practice changed?
Support role Specific
Certain questions pertain particularly to those going for a Project Support role.
- What are your main reasons for applying for this role? / Why do you think you would be an ideal fit for this role?
- What do you think are the main tasks for a Project Co-ordinator / PMO Analyst / Project Admin and Why?
- Tell me about something new you’ve learnt in project support recently?
- Tell me how you would deal with a PM who constantly misses the deadline in sending reports to you?
- Which elements of the project co-ordination do you enjoy the most / the least?
- You’re asked to prepare a document that outlines a process that you’re not familiar with, how would you handle this request?
- What activities/tasks are expected to be completed by a Project Co-ordinator in the area of planning / risks / issues / reporting, etc?
- What level of expertise would you say you were using MS Project?
- When asked by friends and family about your career – how do you describe what you do?
- In a project you’ve supported what did you learn in terms of the management of the project?
The Basic Questions
And lest we forget, there are many questions bound to turn up at all project-related job interviews.
- You applied for XXX role – tell me what attracted you to apply for it in the first place?
- What makes you the right person for the job?
- What skills & experience do you want to highlight straight away for this role?
- What relevant experience do you have in – (a) could be a particular industry sector; (b) a particular project subject matter
- Tell me about the process knowledge you have – IT development lifecycles – project management methodology
- I notice you have the (XXX) accreditation – do you have your candidate number to hand or would you be able to email it to me later?
- The role demands that the Project Manager has exceptional leadership skills and a good deal of assertiveness – how would convey this about yourself?
- What would others in your team right now or previous role really say about you? What kind of feedback on people management skills?
- Tell me why in five words your CV should be in front of the client today?
- Having heard more about the role is there anything that makes you want this role even more than before?
- The specification for the role is asking for a proactive, enthusiastic and ambitious individual – are you this?
- Are you passionate about your project management role?
- What elements of your role do you not like performing at present – why?
- What was the last thing you learnt?
- Describe your last conflict situation on a programme or project – how was it resolved?
What happens after the interview?
Are you close to being offered the job? Celebrate good times, come on! Or, not. It’s never enough that the job is being offered; rather, it’s enough that you maintain an even keel and come to terms. In our haste, we can’t forget the controllables during the hiring process.
Factors You Can Control
- Your partner objects to job essentials — A long commute, for instance, can introduce strain into a relationship that hadn’t previously existed. New reservations may arise within you.
- Candidate draws counter offer from old employer — You will likely need the need to take the new company’s interest in you to them for this to work, but it does force your current employer’s hand.
- Candidate messes up the final, “just a formality” interview — This often happens when the candidate took this formality for granted instead of sticking to the interview essentials and handling matters professionally. Treat it like the celebrity who falls from grace — for all the good they did, they’re remembered for one bad thing.
- Status of other job applications changes — Recruiters will likely be more open to use you if you’ve been up front about where you are in your job search. If your status has changed recently with other job applications and interviews, your appreciation for this job offer might have changed according to the status of those applications.
Accordingly, there are a variety of things that a job candidate simply cannot control:
Factors Beyond Your Control
- Significant change in package desires — Maybe you were in a relationship but decided to move in together since salary was discussed. Or you’ll need private health after learning your health situation has changed.
- Package is not satisfactory — If you have an idea of what your market value is, and the package falls below that value, you will likely have reservations about the vacancy.
- References and/or credit history don’t support you — If you’ve listed an unsupportive job referee or are dealing with CCJs, your accountability may suffer significantly.
- ‘Cold’ feet settles in — Maybe you’ve realised you can’t work with that line manager, or the company’s tactics or methodologies don’t mix with your style of management. It happens in life — but it doesn’t have to happen at the expense of your career.
- Long delay before the candidate starts — This scenario arises if you have to provide a long notice period, for instance, or relocation is required, adding complications to the timeframe. Or both. It could force you into an ‘Is it really worth it?’ situation.
Accepting a Role
If it all checks out and you want to accept the job, be sure to make clear when talking to all parties involved about what you’re looking for in starting salary, relocation allowances, holiday entitlement, benefits, and eligibility for employment (i.e. medical, examinations, references). If you have an idea of what you want versus what you can live with, you’ll be ready for negotiation.
How to Accept an Offer
If you verbalise your acceptance, you’re still in a good bargaining position. If you’ve signed anything pertaining to an agreement, you’re not. But you can have it both ways, too. Call it the non-committal commitment — if you use terminology such as “I’ll accept an offer if (Insert Demand Here)”, you put the onus on THEM to break the verbal deal and show what you’re looking for.
It’s advisable, however, to avoid throwing too many demands into a single statement. If the job offer is not giving you a lot of what you need, use words to the effect that make you sound open to negotiate and work with them, such as “There are a few things in the offer I’d like to talk about before we proceed any further.” A blanket statement like “I’ll accept an offer that gives me V, W, X, Y and Z” will come off to the hiring manager as you appearing more greedy and needy than ready to negotiate.
When making sure your job references are ready to present, the project management recruitment industry feels that the job offer stage is the best time to make them available. This flies in the face of what you have been told, but the facts bear out the following:
- A CV with references leads to potential employers contacting referees directly
- Referees don’t like their contact details handed out to head hunters
- The referee may be reluctant to provide a reference
The later in the job recruitment process your referees are contacted, the better off your status with both parties will be.
Proof of Qualifications
With trust in CVs waning due to fraudulent detail embellishment, employers have cracked down, so it’s a good idea to have your qualifications filed and ready to hand over for proof at the job offer stage. This is especially true for project managers who wish to impress upon interviewers their PPM-related certifications.
When being told you won’t be offered the role, you’ve got some tough pills to swallow.
You also need to keep your wits about you and remain strong through perseverance and determination. Your ability to handle rejection can say a lot about you as a person: how well you re-group, and how quickly you can “take stock”.
Assessing the aftermath of the rejection for the role, consider factors outside of your control. Was there a solid in-house candidate? Did the interviewer display incompetence? Did the situation change at any point? Was there any kind of bias at all? Ask for honest feedback, as interviewers are almost always able to provide it with prompting.
But taking stock means more than just assessing the role; you must also assess yourself. Here are some things you can assess:
- Do you need to reconsider the roles for which you’re applying?
- Is your CV still strong?
- Would you change anything you did at the interview stage?
This isn’t about beating yourself up – it’s about honesty that can refresh your outlook at a career. So don’t hold back; it’s to the benefit of your career prospects that you let yourself have it!
We’d all like to avoid the rejection matter and simply succeed in our job interviews each time we were keen to work in a specific role. We are a winning-like people who want to succeed, each and every time, if you please.
Life doesn’t usually work that way, however. History teaches us that even the most successful among us have not done so without their share of difficulties. The job market is wrought with highs and lows, but the diligent few who can adapt, survive and improve their lot in life at low tide will bring in a great catch.
There’s an old saying, “Make it impossible for them to tell you, No.” Ultimately, through giving you the best tips & advice known for the betterment of your job interviewing practices, you will have been able to show your next employer how effective you can be in the job opening you’ve applied for. In essence, we’ve aimed to make you present yourself in such a well-maintained, capable fashion that make it impossible for a firm to say “Thanks, but no.”