Joseph Phillips
project management

If you’re reading this, you’re preparing for an upcoming job interview. Congratulations! Now that you’ve got your foot in the door for a project manager role, it’s time to show them what you’ve got. To help you prepare, I’ve identified several common project manager interview questions. I’ve also shared solid advice on how you should answer them.

Of course, you won’t have to answer all these questions in a single interview. Chances are, you’ll get questions that aren’t on this list, depending on the job you’re interviewing for.

Prepare the best you can. Now let’s jump into the PM interview questions!

Your project management background

1. What’s your personal and professional background?

This is your chance to expand on what’s in your resume. Make sure to discuss any of your personal experiences that add something unique to your professional life.

2. What is your experience in this industry?

This is another opportunity to expand on your resume. Most project management careers aren’t linear. This is your chance to explain your unique experience. 

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3. What is your most successful project?

This doesn’t have to be the biggest project you’ve completed or the most complicated. Share a specific project that you find to be successful and the reasons why you see it that way.

4. Describe the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project.

This is your opportunity to share your project management weakness. While there is no specific right answer to this question, you want to choose a mistake to share that you’ve learned from. A great technique to remember is STAR. STAR means Situation, Task, Action, and Result – it tells a whole story for the interviewer.

5. How did your last project end/what lessons did you learn?

This can be a successful ending or a lesson learned from the last project you completed. This question can be a larger opportunity to share why you’re moving on to other opportunities, if you feel it’s appropriate.

6. How do you plan your project schedule?

In general, share your methods for creating a project schedule. If you have a unique experience that requires a different method, share that too.

7. How do you prefer to give status updates?

Share how you give status updates to the project team and stakeholders. Ask the interviewer how they currently share status updates too.

8. What are your tactics for motivating a team?

This is an opportunity to share what you’ve done in the past to motivate a team. If you have specific scenarios, those are always good to share.

9. How do you monitor and manage risks?

This question and the few listed before it are there to determine your abilities as a good project manager. Just as importantly, these questions aim to see if your management style fits in with the company’s. In project management, a risk is anything that threatens the project’s success or key performance indicators, such as schedule, cost, and scope.

10. Do you have any budget management experience?

This is another opportunity to expand on your resume. If you do not have any budget management experience, you can share any additional experience that’s not listed on your resume.

11. Have you ever managed remote teams and outsourced resources?

COVID-19 has pushed many of us to remote locations, so this is key right now. If you haven’t managed remote team members and/or outsourced resources, share similar experiences or your capability to learn quickly.

12. What is one of your weaknesses in project management?

Questions about weaknesses in any industry are tough. Be honest, of course, but not so honest that you won’t get the project manager job. Choose a weakness that’s fixable and that you’re working on. A common example I see among project managers is the ability to delegate and let the team work without hovering.

13. How many people have you managed at one time?

Be honest here, as this is a question to see if you’re fit for the requirements of the job.

14. How have you handled an unhappy stakeholder?

You’ll never be able to please everyone, and that includes stakeholders. Share a past experience where you worked on a project and not everyone was pleased with the project outcomes. It’s okay to discuss the prioritization of stakeholders and how this relates to business value and desired outcomes. Competing objectives are common in project management.

15. What are the techniques you use to determine a project’s scope?

Share successful methods that you’ve used to determine a project’s scope. If it’s a unique method, feel free to share how you came up with it. This is also a good time to compare Agile approaches with predictive project management.

16. What are some best practices you’ve used to develop and maintain excellent customer relationships?

It’s easier to keep a customer than to get a new one. This question is a way for the employer to see if you understand the importance of this and if your views align with the company’s views.

17. How do you control changes to the project?

Changes are bound to happen on most projects, so share your success methods for dealing with them. I recommend you discuss integrated change control and how even a tiny change in the project scope can affect the schedule, costs, quality, resources, communication, risk, and stakeholders. This question offers you a great opportunity to show your project management experience.

Project management scenarios

18. Describe a challenging project you’ve managed and how you did it.

This is your opportunity to share things you’ve learned from a challenging project. It’s also a great way to expand on your approach to unique situations.

19. What is the first sign a project is off-track?

Share your project management red flags and how you monitor and control a project through scrum meetings, status reporting, risk tracking, task completion, and what charts you use, such as a Gantt chart. You can also cite your experience in Microsoft Project or other project management information systems.

20. What is your method for getting a project back on schedule?

Once you’ve identified the issue and understand its root cause, share your tactics for getting things back in line with the schedule. Answer with the STAR method.

21. Describe your ideal project.

No project is perfect, but if you could have a project go exactly the way you wanted, this is your chance to elaborate. 

22. How tall is the world’s tallest mountain?

Questions such as this one are sometimes tossed in to see how well you cope when you don’t know the answer. If you don’t know the answer — which is the point — share how you’d get it. 

23. What is your method for organizing project tasks?

Share any successful tactics you’ve used for keeping project tasks organized.

24. What is your preferred project management software?

List your favorite project management software and why. If you have experience with other software, software development, or project management tools, share that as well. I like to tell people that the pyramids were built without Microsoft Project.

25. What project management methodology do you prefer?

There’s no perfect answer here, so you can be honest about how you like to work. Do you like predictive methods, Agile, or a hybrid approach? Of course, the hiring company wants to make sure you can work in their preferred method.

26. How do you gain agreement with teams?

Projects involve all sorts of people and different teams. This question is more about your approach to problem-solving, especially when it comes to people.

27. What are the most important qualities in a project manager?

This is a good way to share what you see as the ideal project manager. Who is the project manager you’re aspiring to be?

28. How would you resolve a conflict between two or more team members?

Share your method for resolving conflicts between those working on the same project. If you have an example, share it.

29. What are three key challenges in the industry today and how can they be tackled?

This is a test: have you been keeping up with what’s happening in the industry? If so, what’s your take on it? Share how you, as a project manager, can improve the industry.

Culture, office politics, and style

30. Describe your leadership style.

This question — along with the ones listed below — is a chance for the hiring company to see how you’d fit in if hired. When practicing your sample answers, be honest here, but keep the project manager position you’re applying for in mind.

31. What is your communication style?

Communication in project management is key. Share what works for you, but also what works best for a project team.

32. How do you handle office politics?

Office politics are often a necessary evil. As always, be honest, but tread lightly. You never know what type of office politics are in the same building as your interview!

33. How do you handle a team member who is not productive?

Share an example of how you’ve handled this in the past. Provide a sense of how you handle people in general.

34. How do you manage team members that are not working to their full potential?

Share a specific example of how you’ve handled this in the past, including situations on different kinds of projects. Provide a sense of how you handle people in general.

35. What are your coping mechanisms for when you’re overwhelmed or underperforming?

We’ve all been there. This is a chance for you to share your healthy coping mechanisms for stress and/or lack of motivation.

36. How do you work with customers, sponsors, and stakeholders?

Share your methods for managing these relationships. How do you prioritize their wishes against the project?

37. Do you seek help outside of the project team?

If so, explain when and your approach for doing so. Certainly, subject matter experts, working with business analysts and management, are all resources to call upon in the project. 

38. Do you delegate?

Hopefully, the answer is yes. If so, share your methods for successful delegation, such as the RACI chart or a roles and responsibility matrix.

39. How do you communicate bad news?

This is a necessary evil in any job. Expand on your approach. If you have a specific example, share it. Never go to management with a problem unless you also have a proposed solution. Project managers need to manage the problems and issues, not drop off problems for someone else to solve.

40. Share something you don’t want us to know.

This is a curveball! Everyone puts on their best self in an interview, and with this question, the hiring team wants to know the real you. Get creative here.

41. Do you prefer working on one project at a time or many?

If the potential new job requires you to work on several projects at a time, answer accordingly.

42. What made you want to apply for this position?

This is your opportunity to share why you want this job. Feel free to include anything else that might put yourself above other candidates, too. Why do you feel this job is for you?

Of course, you may not get asked all of these project manager interview questions in a single sitting or ever. But it’s always good to be prepared. 

Keep moving forward!

Page Last Updated: January 2021

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