Best Project Manager Interview Questions
Before you can plan, execute and successfully complete a project, you must hire a project manager to manage it. A project manager is a difficult position to fill. As they need a wide range of skills, knowledge of methodologies and mastery of communication? Whether you’re interviewing candidates, or you’re the one seeking a new job, you need to see our Top 21 Project Manager Interview Questions.
You’ll need behavioral- and scenario-based questions and interview techniques such as the star method to gather information about the candidates’ leadership skills, management style, soft and hard skills.
It’s hard to find a person who is both comfortable with the project management processes and adept at motivating team members to do their best. It feels as if you might have to employ a squad of workers to handle every aspect of project management, such as planning, scheduling, monitoring, tracking and more.
But, there are individuals who have the breadth of knowledge and experience necessary using project management methods to successfully lead projects. They’re experts in many things, such as using project management tools but not arrogantly so, in that they know the power of collaboration and can have the communication skills to delegate work to focus on where their attention is needed most.
So, how do you find a project manager who fits both the criteria of the job and the culture of your organization? Hiring a project manager, it’s more than just finding candidates that match the job description. To gather all the information needed from them, HR professionals use different interviewing techniques. Here are some of the best project manager interview questions that will help you find the best talent for your projects. They’re also helpful if you want to learn how to prepare for a project manager interview.
Behavioral Interview Questions
This type of interview question asks for events that happened in the past. The purpose of these project manager interview questions is to get an idea of how the project manager has acted in the past, and how it was applied in their project management knowledge and skills to solve real-life problems.
The star method is an interviewing technique that consists in making behavioral interview questions and answering them in a structured manner. STAR stands for (situation, task, action, result). So when you ask a project manager a behavioral question, they’ll tell you about the situation or task they had to solve, the actions taken and the results obtained. The purpose of the star method is to provide the whole picture of events from the project management experience of candidates. It helps gather all the information possible and capture details that could be missed otherwise.
Scenario-Based Interview Questions
The purpose of scenario-based interview questions is to ask project manager candidates how they would respond to hypothetical project management scenarios. Here you can understand the thinking process of your project managers and look into their problem-solving skills, management style, knowledge of project management methods and tools, etc.
Hard skills are those skills that can be taught to an individual and are specific and measurable. They’re often described in the job description and are an important part of the hiring process. Hard skills are what make someone capable of executing a job. Some examples of hard skills to look for in the project management interview process are:
- Working knowledge of project management tools
- Working knowledge of project management software
- Working knowledge of project management processes
- Project planning
- Budget management
- Risk management
- Time management
- Task management
Soft skills are those that are inherent to an individual. They’re all the traits and interpersonal skills that make a project manager unique. These skills describe the personality of the project manager. Some examples include:
- Leadership skills
- Communication skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Conflict resolution skills
- Work ethic
Project Management Experience
As in any hiring process, you need to ensure that the project manager candidates have the experience you’re looking for. It’s important to dig into their project management experience by asking behavioral project manager interview questions. Here you’ll want to ask if they have worked in your industry before, what has been their most successful project, among other things.
Project Management Experience Questions
1. What’s your background, personally and professionally?
It’s important to get a snapshot of the applicant to bring their project manager resume into sharper focus. Knowing a bit about their life story can inform about their soft skills and how they might respond to issues at work, and whether they will fit into the corporate culture. The same goes for their project management experience. Staying at a single job for a long time can be either bad or good for project managers, but you won’t know until you put their choice into context.
2. Have you worked in this industry before?
Does the candidate have project management experience in your industry? That’s important because they might excel at the project management methods your company uses, or may have the right risk management skills to manage your projects. If they don’t, it’s not a game-closer. Much of project management is the same from industry to industry. Perhaps they have strong project management skills that relate to your industry, such as project management software skills even if they don’t have direct experience. However, if they do have experience in your field, that’s a plus, so ask how those relevant projects panned out. Note how confidently they answer behavioral interview questions. You want an authentic person who is comfortable in the position.
3. Do you have budget management experience?
It helps to drill down into specific aspects of the project management experience of your candidates. Naturally, if the candidate has specific skills they’ll be briefly sketched in the resume, but here’s your opportunity to get a deeper sense of where they stand in terms of their experience with project management processes such as budget management. Project managers are known as planners. They create a project schedule and lead teams to success. But there’s often money involved, so they better know how to handle a project budget.
4. Have you managed remote teams?
Not all projects are executed under one roof and remote teams are very common. With more dynamic project management tools and a global workforce to choose from, many project managers might never meet the members of their team, at least in person, but they’ll be able to work together using project management software. Then there are the necessary resources that will be outsourced, which involves a different resource management technique than when working with employees. Knowing how they have managed people and resources can help you get an overview of their leadership skills and be a crucial point in your decision to hire or not to hire.
5. How did your last project end?
This question is about discovering any lessons they learned from that project. Everything about project management is a learning experience, and each project offers lessons from which a good project manager grows.
6. How do you prioritize tasks on a project?
Task management is important. There’s going to be more work in a day than can be accomplished, so any good project manager is going to have to determine what is crucial and what could be left undone if necessary. It will prove interesting and informative to see how the candidate makes these time management and task management decisions.
7. How do you seek help outside of the project team?
This project manager interview question gives you information about the leadership and communication skills of your project manager candidate. Some project managers are going to think you want a person who is wholly independent and pulls from an inner reservoir. Fair enough. But more resourceful is the project manager who knows when they’re over their head and asks for help from a mentor or a network of professionals.
8. Do you delegate?
They are better! The last thing you want is a project manager who carries everything on their shoulders. That’s nuts. But this is a bit of a trick question or at least one that has an implicit question embedded in it. What you really want to know is not whether they delegate, but how they delegate work to their team members. This is a great way to weed out the micromanagers. That doesn’t mean a project manager is absent from the process. Project management software has features to keep them aware of what their team is doing but not in the way.
Behavioural Interview Questions
1. What was a challenging project, and how did you manage it?
This behavioral question takes the conversation from the theoretical to the practical. You can see how the project managers responded to real-life problems, which helps you determine how they would manage projects at your organization. This question also provides a sense of the person’s project management experience, such as how they lead teams and deal with conflicts. By asking about a challenging project, you can see how they apply their hard and soft skills when pushed to their limits and beyond.
2. How do you manage team members that are not working to their full potential?
Sometimes, no matter how much due diligence you put into assembling a skilled and experienced project team, someone under performs or creates conflicts. While the project is rolling, you don’t have time to stop and tweak your team. Rather, the project manager must use problem-solving techniques and communication skills to deal with the problem. This comes up with even the best project team, so any capable project manager would know how to nip under performance in the bud.
3. How do you deal when you’re overwhelmed or under performing?
It’s easy to forget that project managers are people, too. They are hired to perform project management processes and lead a project to success, but they can suffer the same setbacks as anyone on the team over the course of the project life cycle. The difference between a good and great project manager is the ability to monitor oneself and respond proactively to any drop-offs in performance.
4. How do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?
Even project managers have to answer to someone. Responding to executives, project sponsors and stakeholders requires a different approach than the one they would use with teams and vendors. Part of their duties includes managing stakeholders who hold a position of authority over the project manager. That takes a subtle touch.
5. What’s your leadership style?
Talking about managing a project will inevitably lead to a discussion of leadership style. There are many ways to lead, and all have their pluses and minuses. Depending on the project, a project manager might have to pick and choose how they lead, ranging from a top-down approach to servant leadership. See how well-versed they are on leadership techniques and how they apply them to project management.
6. What’s your communication style?
This is another classic project management interview question that directly stems from asking about managing projects and leadership. A project manager is nothing if they have poor communication skills. They need to be able to speak to team members, stakeholders, vendors, etc. Each group will need a slightly different approach. Stakeholders want the broad strokes about the project management plan, while team members will need more detail. If a project manager can’t clearly communicate, the project is doomed before it has begun. Being a good communicator is only the start. Project management software helps you better target that communication with your team and stakeholders.
7. How do you know the project is off-track?
Every project hits a snag along the way, but not every project manager is aware of that delay until the project budget or project schedule is affected. The ability to monitor and track the progress of a project and tell immediately when it’s not meeting the benchmarks you set in the project planning phase is perhaps the most important duty of a project manager. Then it’s also important to see if the project manager candidates have experience implementing a risk management plan to mitigate risks and keep projects on budget and schedule.
8. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project?
Everyone makes mistakes; character is defined by how you deal with them. This project management interview question will allow you to first gauge the candidate’s honesty. If they say that they’ve never made a mistake, you can rest assured that they’re not being truthful and their resume can go into the circular file. However, when they tell you about the mistake they’ve made, note if they take responsibility for it (that will reveal their level of maturity) and, of course, how they resolved it.
9. How do you gain agreement with teams?
Where there are people, there are conflicts, and even the best projects have people problems. Good teams collaborate and trust one another. If there’s a problem between two or more project team members, it must be resolved quickly. But this can also apply to stakeholders, vendors, etc. A project manager is a bit of a psychologist who must know how to resolve conflicts quickly.
Scenario-Based Interview Questions
1. If the project is not adhering to schedule, how do you get it back on track?
Knowing that a project is not keeping to its schedule is only as important as being able to get the project back on track. Once a project manager is aware of the discrepancy between the actual project schedule and the schedule baseline estimated in the project plan, they need to take action, such as project crashing or fast tracking. Any project manager worth hiring will be able to answer this with practical specifics. On these types of questions, it’s best to answer with the STAR method.
2. What’s your ideal project?
Try to get them to answer honestly. It will let you know what sort of projects they prefer to work on. In doing so you’ll get a better feel for what kind of project management methodology excites them and maybe even what they excel at. This can help you place the project manager with the right project, or help them adapt to the project team you’re hiring them to manage.
Hard Skills Interview Questions
1. What project management software do you prefer?
A project manager needs project management tools to plan, monitor and report on the project. There are many, from simple to more complex. This question reveals first how up-to-date the candidate is regarding software and project management tools. Additionally, it provides a picture of what tools and processes they use to manage a project. Most project managers heavily rely on Gantt charts when it comes to project planning and scheduling. Managers can create dependencies, add milestones, assign tasks, and manage workload and more— all from one screen. Any project manager you hire would appreciate the power of our planning tools.
2. What’s your preferred project management methodology?
There are almost as many ways to manage a project as there are projects. From traditional methods like waterfall to hybrid methodologies, you want a project manager who understands the many ways to work. And more importantly, can they use the project management methodology that best suits the work at hand?
It’s no secret how important a job interview is. Companies, lives and projects are forever shaped by how a job interview goes. Stakeholders usually ask for broad strokes to make sure the project is going well, but sometimes they want more detail. Teams are a project’s most valuable resource. Let us know how you prepare for interviews. All the best on your project management journey.