In getting a Project Management role, companies and individuals have some questions that are designed to help to evaluate the personality, understanding and capacity of the prospective PM.
In this article, Ritetrac Consulting outlines some of the most common interview questions for a project manager, the intention of the interviewer and what your ideal answer ought to be so that you can nail that job and boost your career with a new challenging position.
1. Tell us about yourself and your background
This is a common question in most job interviews. It is an invitation to promote yourself and your activities regarding the specific role you have applied for ie Project Management, so you be sure to include relevant information about your education, work experience, and projects you have completed. You should also insert technical words to show your knowledge of the field. For example,
My name is Dexter and I am a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Darwin University. I started my working career with ABC Construction as a junior Project Manager and was particularly in charge of Project Schedule Management. I got promoted to Senior PM after 2 years and successfully managed and completed 4 projects for the company including the A2 Highway project which was successfully delivered 2 months ahead of schedule.
2. How do you manage Project Constraints?
As a PM, most of your jobs is about ensuring that the primary constraints of Time, Scope and Cost are within the prescribed levels. Additionally, you need to ensure that the Risk, Quality and Resource Management are constantly in check. You should respond by acknowledging the importance of balancing these constraints and applying previous experience and knowledge to speak on how you create a separate WBS for each project rather than rely on a general template which may not be the best in some cases. The accuracy of the project WBS and the effective management of the activities under the WBS determine the project success. WBS organizes and lists down the project scope in detail and one can say that those activities which do not come under the WBS can be considered to be out of scope. The work package which is formed from the WBS components is the basis for the calculation of project time and cost. From the WBS, you can perform risk assessments, PERT Chart and Critical-t0-Quality tree for your tasks.
3. How do you motivate your Team?
Project team motivation is crucial for the success of a project. If a project team is not motivated, it will be impossible to reach project objectives. Or, even if you reach your project objectives, project quality will suffer. A sample answer can be:
I always like to build personal relationships with members of my team and show concern for their well-being beyond issues of the project so when a member under performs, I do not simply issue a disciplinary action but rather meet them one on one to understand the reason for the under-performance, and I am also quick to commend them, officially when they do a good job. All of my projects have had birthday celebrations for team members and I organize events when we achieve a milestone to mark it and receive their input on the project so that everyone feels like a vital part of the project.
4. How do you handle conflict or problematic team members?
Managing a team is an important part of project management and You must ensure your team can work together to deliver a product or service but conflict is inevitable in human interaction and here’s a chance for you to share knowledge and real-life experience on conflict resolution.
I approach the issue with the intention to understand and defuse the situation. If it is a conflict between two team members, I limit their interactions while listening to their complaints independently to identify the stressor and ensure I do not take any sides. I then try to facilitate a meeting to resolve the issue to reach a compromise. I also make sure to continuously check in on that matter moving forward, to ensure that the root issue has been addressed, resentment has been eradicated and a new conflict isn’t brewing. Once I had a team member who was always problematic, and I initially tried to understand his concerns and issued and resolved them; however, new issues kept coming up and I had to make a decision to let him go as he was becoming a distraction to the other team members.
5. What is your most challenging project?
This is a test of your honesty, humility and experience. If you have not had challenging projects, you are either being economical with the truth or do not have a lot of experience in Project Management. To answer, acknowledge the toughest experience you’ve had, by sharing the Situation, the Action you took and the result. For instance,
One of the toughest projects I ever had was when I had to lead a team to build software in an extremely competitive and rapidly changing field. The Sponsor kept requesting new features and the team was getting tired. I facilitated a meeting with the team members to express my understanding and allow them to vent while documenting their concerns. I reached a compromise with the Sponsor to allow for bonuses as well as better break periods while the team was able to deliver an innovative feature that helped the product stay ahead in the market.
6. What is your preferred Project Management tool?
Technology has advanced all the sectors of human endeavor and Project Management is not an exception. It is best to share an array of software you are familiar with and then express which is your preference and why.
I enjoy Asana and Clickup because of their mobile applications and how they are adaptable for many industries but I would have to say that Microsoft Project is the most robust tool I have used and I generally recommend it even though others are quite good too.
7. What was your last project like?
This is an opportunity to be specific without necessarily divulging vital details and you can use it to show what you have learned as a project manager and any setbacks and achievements you experienced.
I just completed a project where a critical member was ill and had to be taken to the ICU and we almost missed the deadline. However, because of the team spirit we had built, some of the team members were happy to pick up the slack without having their own tasks suffer. Even though, I learned to always have alternatives prepared, especially for the most highly skilled members of the team.
8. How do you deal when you’re overwhelmed or under performing?
Project Managers are also human beings and can be subject to fatigue or reasons to under-perform. This question seeks to understand how you monitor yourself and your performance.
I try to avoid getting overwhelmed by having a well-outlined plan and also delegating effectively. However, when I notice that I am under-performing, I ensure it is not transferred to the team members in any way. I identify the cause of the issues, isolate and resolve them as quickly as I can so that the project is not adversely affected.
9. How do you know the project is off-track?
Again, monitoring is key in every project and this is a question to see if the project manager candidates have experience implementing a risk management plan to mitigate risks and keep projects on budget and schedule. You can say
I actively maintain a project dashboard that gives me an eagle-eye view of the entire project and helps to detect if there is a deviation before it becomes a serious problem.
10. How do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?
This question draws on your communication and stakeholder management skills. At the centre of everything a project manager does, there’s communication; from team members to sponsors, customers and other stakeholders. A sample answer could be:
I think strong communication skills is one of the most critical qualities of a project manager. My communication style can vary greatly depending on who I have to interact with. I know that Stakeholders want the broad strokes about the project management plan, while team members will need more detail so I make sure to give each party what they require and in timely fashion too.
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