Project Management

10 Common Questions Asked in a Project Management Interview

October 31, 2020
  •  
7 min read
Ben Willmott
Founder

Interviewing for the role of a Project Manager, Junior Project Manager or Senior Project Manager can be daunting, but with the right preparation, you can deliver with confidence and in a relaxed state. 

Interviewing for the role of a Project Manager, Junior Project Manager or Senior Project Manager can be daunting, but with the right preparation, you can deliver with confidence and in a relaxed state. 

The more interviews you do, the easier they become, but if this is your first interview than you need to spend more time preparing, so the answers aren't forced or hurried.

When planning the questions to ask a project manager in an interview, the questions for the interviewer usually can fall under these areas.  

Could I see myself and my team working with this person? 
Have they done this before and have they done it well?
How do they learn, and are they adaptable?
What will they bring to our company that we don't already have? 
What do you love about being a Project Manager?

The questions you’ll be asked often fall in a consistent pattern and this post covers what they typically are and what answers they’re looking for. 

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Q1. What do you love about being a Project Manager?

The interviewer is looking for some passion here about what you love about the role, so be sincere in your answer as otherwise, it won’t come across well. Find one thing you really enjoy and have a brief story to explain why this is.

By telling a story, it's making it much more believable and easier to understand for the interviewer. Just saying "I love making project plans” just isn't going to cut it.

Q2. Tell me about your last project?

Prepare this story before the interview as it needs to clear and concise highlighting some key messages. The interviewer is trying to build up an idea on how you worked and your approach on the project, not what the project actually delivered. 

It might sound impressive to rattle off the objectives like we had 100k users, 2 million budget etc.. but they want to know about what you did, not what your team or manager did. 

You can mention some of these project-specific points, but only to shape what the project was and it must be brief. 

Focus on how you planned the project, how you dealt with difficult moments and what went well but make sure you're involved in all these stories. 

Q3. How do you prioritise your tasks?

The interviewer is trying to find out how you manage yourself and those around you, not just what action tracking app you use. They’re looking to see how you structure your day, plan long term and work with others.

Tasks could be checking in with the Project Team in adhoc 121’s, or a call to the stakeholder as they looked concerned in the last status meeting. 

You want to convey that you’re thinking broad so you can focus where your time will provide the highest value. So prioritisation is the key message here. 

Q4. How do you build relationships with your team?

Any good interviewer will be reviewing the candidate to make sure they’ll be a good team fit. 

As a Project Manager, this is even more important as you’ll be working with everyone on the team. 

Provide some examples of how you've built relationships with your project colleagues, focusing on different role types that you know the role you're interviewing for will have. 

Highlight the challenges you’ve had and how you’ve overcome them or what you’ve learnt on previous projects. 

Q5. What is the worst thing that has happened to you on a project?

This is a really tough question to answer as you may feel like you’re admitting your weaknesses or you’ve made mistakes. 

The interviewer asks this for two reasons; they want to know how did you learn from it and how honest you're about your experiences. 

Everyone makes mistakes, and there is no such thing as a perfect Project Manager. Every project is different, and something will go wrong at some point. 

Be brave, as if you gloss over this question, the interviewer will lose faith that all your other responses are reliable.   

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Q6. How do you like to learn and improve?

This question separates the interviewees who treat this as any other job versus the ones who love to learn and improve themselves and will ultimately thrive in this new role. 

Without a learning mindset, the interviewer knows that this interviewee will be hard to develop and require a lot more time and effort on the interviewers part to get them to progress.

At a minimum, you need to discuss how a learning mindset helps you develop day to day, so the classic learning on the job. Highlight some techniques on how you reflect, learn, and then implement change. 

A bonus is the interviewer is looking for is how you develop yourself outside of the day job, so Meetups, webinars, books etc... Have some examples.

Q7. How do you like to communicate? 

This question is first looking at how the interviewee will work with the team they will be working with. 

The interviewer is looking for clues on will the interviewee's communication work well with the team, management or the clients. Depending on the role and company you're interviewing for, the right communication approach here will vary. 

Secondly, they’re looking for some real project examples of how you communicate different aspects of the project. This could be a major risk has occurred, project success or the project status to the stakeholders. 

Have some clear, brief and to point examples which highlight the benefits of your approach but also show they’re adaptable to any given project. 

Q8. How do you deal with conflict within your project team?

How you manage conflict resolution within a project team can be the stand out response in your interview that may get you the role over other candidates. 

Dealing with conflict is something no one wants to do and as a manager, although they're there to support, if disputes within the team can be resolved at team level, their lives will be made much easier. 

Prepare some examples with approaches on how you deal with conflict at the team level that show you have fixed them without the need to escalate. Highlight how you keep your manager abreast of the situation but only seeking advice over escalation. 

Q9. How do you manage risk on a project?

Managing risk can be discussed in many different ways from tracking them through a report through to how you verbally review risks with your team and stakeholders.

The interviewer is looking at what your approach and mindset is when it comes to risk management. How do you integrate risk management into your everyday tasks and planning?

Have some scenarios ready on how you discover risks on your project through interactions with your team, stakeholders and personal planning. Knowing various ways to extract risks from the wider team is a great way to manage risks. 

Make sure you have some examples of when to track risks and how. Each company will have a different level of detail on how they track risk, so have a detailed example as well as a more lightweight version or approach to this. 

Q10. How do you plan a project?

This question is all about your approach rather than the detail of everything you do. This is a crucial question to prepare for as you need to summarize your strategy for planning a project as you could easily spend an hour just answering this question.

Do you have some principles and some tried and tested methods that could be adapted for any project? You need to be able to share these so the interviewer can understand how you build a plan for a project end to end.  

Look for opportunities when describing your methods to add some real-life examples.   This makes it easier for the interviewer to see that you have done this in the real world rather than what you learnt in a Project Management exam.

The Bottom Line

You'll never truly know what questions you'll be asked in an interview but the more considerable preparation you put in, the more likely you'll be able to answer with confidence. 

Create stories and examples so you always have an answer to the key questions asked in this post. Once you have these examples, practice them over and over again. 

The more you practice your responses, the more natural they'll become and when asked, you can deliver them with confidence and adapt them where needed on the fly. 

If you're asked any new questions that you haven't come across before make sure you make a note so you can prepare if that question appears again in a future interview. 

Interviews can be tough, but remember that the interviewer also needs to sell the role to you, so don't put too much pressure on yourself. Don't be afraid to ask questions as it's just as important you understand the role as much as they know what you can offer.

Ben Willmott
Founder
Ben is Head of Agile Practices at the London based creative agency Karmarama where he creates bespoke ways or working for his clients and teams. Ben is also the founder of The PPM Academy specializing in coaching Project Management, Agile Delivery and how to be more productive at home and work.

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