Most people command a great deal of confidence as they go about their everyday lives. This usually continues until they have a job interview. Well, it is one hurdle we must all cross as we make progress in our chosen profession.
First, job interviews differ in their level of severity. Some are easy, others are moderately difficult, and a few others are very tough. Meanwhile, the severity depends on two factors. The first factor is the role you are applying for. And the second factor is the hiring company.
Seemingly, a sales rep interview for a corner store would be quite easy. That of a sales rep at Microsoft would, however, be more difficult.
Today, we are here to discuss the interviewing of a project manager in any company. We can all agree that the role of a project manager (PM) is a very vital one. The project manager is in charge of the company’s projects. And his or her duties include the planning and execution of most-if not all-the projects.
Hence, job interviews for this position are usually very difficult. This makes sense since hiring managers are always looking to take candidates unaware. And what better way to see if the interviewee can answer the questions honestly?
Nonetheless, you would be more relaxed if you are aware of the process before proceeding. This means knowing what questions you would be asked and the best answers to them. The questions are mostly based on how to tackle project problems. Your communication and leadership skills are also important.
This is the purpose of this article. We have put together 25 of the most frequently asked questions. These are questions you are likely to face in a project manager job interview. Worthy of note is that the answers are to give you an idea of what to say.
1 How did you begin your career as a project manager?
Soon after graduation, I began my career. But this was not as a project manager but as an ordinary project staff. I really loved (and still love) getting involved in developing projects and seeing them being executed.
I worked as a regular staff for 2 years at ABC Holdings [insert previous company’s name]. Then, I was promoted to the role of an assistant project supervisor (or whatever role you played before you became a PM). In that role, I led a team of seven high-spirited individuals.
We developed and delivered five major projects for the company: one, two, three, four, and five [quickly list them]. They were each executed within the allotted time and budget.
Then, the management awarded with the role of a project manager. I believe they must have been amazed by my team’s accomplishments.
2 Why do you want to be a project manager at XYZ Limited [hiring company’s name]?
First, I have always had a passion for project management. Second, I strongly believe it is my calling as an individual. I was an active member of several teams and unions while I was in college. And I even partook in developing and executing a number of school projects.
While in school, my professors were my mentors. After school, I found a role model in my first manager. Separately, they all taught me how to manage time and follow a defined schedule. Also, they helped me improve my organisational skills.
Moreover, XYZ Limited has been said to offer an excellent working environment. Pros range from great internal culture to focusing on employee’s well-being, happiness, and compensation. Altogether, I believe XYZ Limited is a great place for me to show my project management skills.
3 Tell me about yourself.
Well, I recently worked as a project manager at ABC Holdings. While working there, I was in charge of our top performing project teams.
Prior to that, I worked at MNO Inc. [insert another previous company’s name] where I was a project supervisor. During that period, I oversaw all projects being executed in the Mumbai branch.
And I truly liked my work at ABC Holdings. Yet, I would love an opportunity to advance much further in my career. This is why I’m aiming to be a project manager and the reason I’m excited about this opportunity at your company.
4 Do you think it is important to have a great project manager? If yes, why?
Two factors are important to the success of any project. The first is how efficient the project manager is. Second is the cooperation of every member of the team.
I believe having an excellent expert to take charge and coordinate the entire project tasks is very important. He or she would make sure the project is implemented within the set and budget.
It is also vital that a project manager has excellent communication skills. Relationship and leadership skills are priceless. They will enable him or her to carry every member of the team along. This way, getting the members to work together would be within easy reach. And achieving the project goals would be simple.
5 Can you describe the perfect project manager?
To me, the perfect project manager is one who has excellent communication and people skills. He or she is a leader who is empathic yet firm and discipline.
He or she is an excellent manager of time and other resources. He or she thinks on his or her feet and has a knack for meeting deadlines. A great project manager is one who knows how to efficiently utilise resources and motivate people to succeed.
6 What would you say are your strongest skills as a project manager?
I would say my strongest skills include excellent communication and relationship skills. Time management and organisational skills are also on the same level.
Others would include critical thinking skills and my keen attention to details. I believe these skills have been the key factors to my success in my overall career.
7 How do you keep these skills alive?
There are several ways I keep my skills alive. The first and most important way is applying my skills to any project I can get my hands on. I understand that a skill is only truly learned when it is applied to achieve a result.
So, I always look for an opportunity to apply them-no matter how small. E.g. I usually volunteer to handle the logistics for our family get together or a project in my community.
Further, I am always on the lookout for new information in books, podcasts, and on the Internet. I make sure to read one project management book a month and watch several video tutorials on the project.
I belong to many online project management communities. I would visit them and ask important questions from people who know more than I do.
8 What aspect(s) of project management do you enjoy the most?
Project management has to do with the development, planning, and execution of a set goal. But underneath that simple outline is hours of work, brainstorming, and sometimes a conflict of interests.
People from different backgrounds have to come together to achieve a common objective. And they will have different mindsets and ideas. To do this, there has to be a synergy of skills, strengths, ideas, etc.
The part I most enjoy is seeing the objective being accomplished. That moment when it all comes together and you see the reward of all the labour and time that has been put into it.
9 How have you handled a red status in the past?
A lot of projects encounter red status, even when ample amount of planning and preparation goes into it. Red status usually arises from factors that were not (and could not have been) accounted for during the planning.
Whenever I encounter a red status in a project I am handling, I would inform my manager or director about it. Then, I would pause and get my team together. We would brainstorm and come up with a long list of solutions. Accordingly, we would pick the best out of them all.
When the project is finally completed, my team and I would properly analyse the entire project to see what went wrong. So, we would devise a solution to prevent it from happening again in the future.
10 Have you ever handled a project this big in the past?
Yes, I have handled projects of this size in the past. I have over 6 years of project management experience. And in those years, I have handled more than 10 big projects.
Yet, I have only worked in a similar-not exact-industry to yours. Despite this, I believe the core pieces of a successful project are with little variations based on the type of project they are applied to.
Note: If you have not handled a project that big, say…
Well, I have not handled a project this big in the past. But, I have been on teams that have handled something this big. This has helped me to gather a lot of insights on what goes into a big project.
It has also helped hone the necessary skills needed to head a project of this size. This makes me confident that I can handle this project successfully.
11 What is the most tasking project you have ever handled?
The most tasking project I have ever handled (or been involved in) is the construction of the Buj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai [replace this with the project you worked on].
I was in charge of the construction of the foundation, which was built on an artificial island. There were 50 architects, 200 civil engineers, and 5,000 construction workers on my team.
In total, I headed 5,250 project team members in the course of this project. The part I found most challenging was the imposed deadlines. The sheikh of Abu Dhabi had given a deadline and was unwilling to move it forward.
It was also challenging as other significant aspects of the project depended on the portion of the project I was handling. This means that every minute counted and any delays would have a ripple effect on the rest of the project.
For example, there was a full 24-hour delay in delivering the iron rods for the foundation. This caused over 300 construction workers to wait. That delay cost $180,000 (i.e. ₹12,325,500). The pressure fell on the executive members which in turn fell on me.
12 How do you as project manager motivate your team?
Throughout my years of experience leading teams, I have learned that motivation comes from progress. We as humans feel happier and more confident when accomplishing goals no matter how little they are.
And so, during the planning phase, I set short milestones between the first task and last task at the end of the project. This way, my team gets automatically motivated when they reach a milestone. It shows them that their efforts are paying off and there is progress.
Also, I encourage them verbally and praise their efforts, no matter how small. And I constantly remind them of the big picture. Altogether, these keep them sharp and focused.
13 How do you approach a new project that has been assigned to you?
First, I would seek for me and my team to fully understand the core objective of the project. Second, I would understand what the client intends to achieve with the project. After that, I would carry out a comprehensive research to find out the scope of the project.
I would also find out if it has been done elsewhere before and how it was done. Then, I would document everything that could be needed to execute the project.
Following that, I would draw out a list of all the tasks or steps that would be taken to start and finish the project. Finally, I would assign a task to each member of my team based on their strengths. This allocation system helps in order to achieve the best results.
14 How do you, as a project manager, keep your team on track to meet a project’s deadline?
I believe communicating effectively is one. Making each member of your team accountable is also crucial to helping them stay on course to meet the deadline.
I usually make sure everyone on the team is aware of (and properly understand) what their roles are. Also, each member needs to be aware of what other members’ roles are. This will help ensure that everyone knows how their work affects the next person’s, either negatively and positively.
I also set daily (or sometimes weekly) goals for each member of the team. And I make sure they achieve each goal. It is mandatory that everyone ‘clocks-in’ daily to present what they have done for the day.
Lastly, I support them with answers if they have questions. This keeps them on their toes and makes them accountable.
15 What do you do when your entire team disagrees with your methods or has a different idea?
A team is made up of people from different backgrounds and with varying perspectives.
So, there is bound to be differences in the way we would want to achieve an objective. I understand this and give room for it.
If my team has an opposing idea regarding a project, I will throw the floor open for discussions. They would thoroughly explain the reason behind their idea. And if it is actually better than my idea, I will work with.
As a project manager, I give top priority to the project and not my ego. I believe I am not always right and not all ideas should come from me.
16 How do you determine the right scheduling for a project?
Well, several factors go into the planning of a project’s schedule. First, I conduct a research to find out how long it took similar projects to the completed. Also, I analyse the scheduling method used on those projects to see how it fits mine.
Further, I would look at factors like the area where the project is being executed. This will help me observe if there are factors that might influence the project’s schedule—either negatively or positively.
Meanwhile, I would speak to the client to discuss the factors on the ground and try to understand why the deadline was set on the given date. All these, in one way or the other, affect how the project is scheduled.
17 Why do you want this job?
First, I was drawn to the fact that it is a projected business development position (or whatever factor that makes you like the role). It is one thing to manage a project but it is another to be able to land one in the first place.
But, what I love about this role is the opportunity to combine both my project management skills with my business development knowledge. Altogether, these include skills in negotiation, presentation, and sales. I garnered them from my first job after college as a business developer.
I have been interested in combining both project management with business development for a while now. And I have been developing businesses for people in my community. This tends to be a hobby that I have been involved in for a few months while looking for a job.
18 What is your greatest weakness?
I would say my greatest weakness is the fact that I am new in this state (or country). Yes, this is my first time here. And so, everything seems different. I do not have adequate knowledge of how things work around here. Yet, I have strong cultural sensitivity and can relate very well to people of different backgrounds.
Note: In answering this question, it is important that you mention a weakness that is not directly related to the position you are applying for. As you are applying for a project management position, you cannot say your weakness is that you lack leadership skills. That would be disastrous.
19 Why did you leave your previous job?
I suppose I am a better fit to work in a company that is strong in its commitment to mentoring its staffs. And also developing their skills.
A company where both sides are very loyal to each other. A company where a culture that fosters career growth and development is cultivated.
I have come to understand that there are companies that cannot be committed to training and mentoring their employees. Also, there are companies that do not create an environment that supports growth and development.
Well, this might work out well for them. But for me, I feel it is not a good fit and I prefer to work for another firm.
Note: Be careful when answering the question. This is because your interviewers might catch a sign of you bad-mouthing your previous company. And it could cost you the job.
20 What are you looking for in the new position?
I have spent a few years improving my business development skills. Hence, I would love a position that allows me to employ those skills. This way, I can help my employer achieve growth.
What excites me (and is also of value to me) is that the position gives me the opportunity to handle projects. But that is not all. Working with teams is one thing I cherish and enjoy. Also, the position would allow me to be involved in securing the contract for. projects. That would be a thrilling experience for me.
Again, I look forward to a role that would help me grow professionally. This is an asset that is very valuable to me as I hope to handle bigger roles in the future. And the only way to be able to do so is by growing and developing oneself.
In summary, I am looking for a position where I can visibly see the impact of my contribution. Yes, I understand that I am only a small part of the entire company. But, I will feel fulfilled if I could see the impact of my work.
21 What is your style of management?
It is really difficult to define what a management style is. Still, I would say a good manager is one who fulfils three roles.
First, he or she gives clear, explicit instructions. Second, he or she gets out of the way and trusts his or her team to handle the job. Third, he or she is never too far to offer assistance when it is needed.
I would say that is an idea of my management style. And I also try to ‘read’ my team to know when help is needed. Even without being asked, I always offer the required help.
So, I try to keep a small level of informal relationship with my team. This is to keep them at ease when they are working or reporting to me about their tasks. It also helps me gauge the level of pride they get from their work. Lastly, I try to know if there is anything I can do to make them even prouder.
22 How would your co-workers or boss describe you?
In my last performance review, I was described as a person who never runs away from hard work. A person who takes initiative. And also, a person who takes responsibility for problems rather than play the blame game. I think my boss liked that about me.
I have also noticed that people come to me for ideas on how to get around tight corners or tricky situations. This is because I know how to quickly come up with steps on how to solve problems. My team members are not afraid to approach me. Either on matters that are sensitive in nature or general issues, they are free to talk. They believe I am considerate and discrete.
23 Have you ever managed a team of people of other nationalities?
Yes, I have. I once managed a team that was made up of 15 members from 5 different countries. And the project team had diverse professionals. There were telecom engineers, building technicians, and civil engineers.
Five members were from Italy. Three members were from Croatia. Three members were from South Africa. Two members were from Indonesia. And the other two members were from the US.
It was a thrilling experience when I was working with them. I garnered knowledge from diverse cultures.
24 How do you handle a team member who is performing poorly?
When any of my team members are performing poorly, I take a few steps. The first step I take is to observe that member very well. This would help me see if it is just one incident or a recurring flaw.
I do this to also understand the member’s daily unmotivated behaviour. If it keeps happening for a relatively long time (2 to 3 weeks), I would ask him or her out to lunch. This is where we can have a serious discussion.
After pleasantries, I would ask him or her a number of questions. “What do you think about the project? Are you happy to work on the project? Would you like to switch your current role(s)? Is there anything you find demotivating about the project?”
Basically, I would get the member to open up to me. He or she would tell me what might be the cause of the poor performance. Then, he or she could proffer solutions. If not, I could offer the solutions.
Some people could be demotivated by personal issues in their lives. If that is the case, I would do my best to help him or her.
25 Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I have nearly 5 years of PM experience. In the next 3 years, I want to advance my career as a project manager. I want to become a true expert at my job. I hope to really immerse myself in this role. This can be achieved by learning the ins and the outs of the job. And also, by making the most of it.
In the 2 years after that, I intend to extend the knowledge and skills garnered in the first three years. I can extend to other departments such as marketing or finance. Also, I want to handle more important roles in this company. I look forward to being an inspiration to my colleagues. And above all, I want to be an asset to my boss and the company.
The Best Interview Advises for Project Managers
The business climate of today’s world is extremely competitive. There are tens, hundreds, or even thousands applying for the same job or position you are applying for. But, usually, the company can only take one person.
This makes it very crucial that you prepare adequately for the job. The interview is the first step. Your preparation should be prioritised as you would prepare for an examination. Yes, this is the only way to improve your chances of success.
Again, thorough preparation is required if you hope to be hired for the role. And so, it is important to invest time, resources, and effort into preparing for the exercise.
First, you should take out time to research the role you are applying for. Second, you should know what it would take to be successful at it. Third, you should research the company to understand their vision, mission, culture, and core values. Knowing extras like products and/or services and the kind of customers they serve would also help.
The information garnered from the research will help you a lot. You will understand the reason behind some of the interview questions. This will give you the power to turn the interview in your favour.
Further, be prepared to have a long and stressful interview process as this is the norm these days. In years past, you could get a project manager job after one interview session. However, this is no longer the case as the competition has reached its all-time high.
Presently, it is common to be scheduled for layers and layers of interview sessions just to get a single role. This, however, depends on the company. A rule of thumb is that the more renowned the company is, the lengthier the interview exercise. There are so many efforts put in by companies these days to make sure their chosen candidate is the right fit for the role.
If you should learn anything from this article, it is that no interview question is trivial. This is because your interviewer has a reason behind every question put forward. Even seemingly casual questions are designed to squeeze out flaws or strengths in a candidate.
As stated before, take out time to prepare for the exercise. Meet people who are already employed for the same role in another company. Ask them questions about what kind of questions were asked in the interview.
Also, use the Internet to your advantage. Join forums where people share information on job interviews. Reading this extensive article already shows you are on the right path. Keep it up and good luck!
Should you have any question or comment, leave a message in the comment section below.