Before you can plan and execute a project from start to finish, you need to get hired for the position. If it’s your first time getting ready for a project management interview, it’s normal to be nervous. But those nerves subside if you’re well prepared.
Even if you’re an experienced project manager, it’s always in your best interest to prepare for an interview instead of just relying on your resume. If the decision comes down to you and another candidate, nailing the interview can seal the deal in your favor.
Every project is unique. Hiring managers look for key indicators during an interview to see if they can fulfill the required responsibilities.
I’ll teach you how to prepare for project management interview questions in this guide.
What are Project Management Interview Questions?
Project management interview questions come after you’ve already passed the first phase of the hiring process.
By now, the hiring manager has already reviewed your resume and pre-qualified you for the position. If you’ve made it to an interview, whether it be in-person or virtually through Skype or another video chat solution, you’ve made the shortlist of roughly six candidates for the job. There will be multiple rounds of interviews for the hiring manager to narrow the field in some instances.
All of the candidates will be asked similar interview questions related to project management. If you’re well prepared and know how to answer these questions effectively, the job is as good as yours.
3 Resources to Help Prepare You For Your Project Management Interview
These are three excellent resources to help you prepare for project management interviews.
#1 — Project Management Institute
The Project Management Institute has been around for over 50 years. This nonprofit organization is a global leader in the project management industry. At PMI, you can find tons of great resources to take your project management skills to the next level. The site has learning tools, training resources, and other ways to advance your knowledge in project management. This will definitely help you prepare for interview questions.
Furthermore, the PMI is also known for its project management certifications. If you hold specific certifications, you’ll be able to stand out from other candidates who aren’t certified. You’ll still need to do well on your interview, but you’ll have a leg-up by impressing the hiring manager with your credentials.
#2 — TopInterview
TopInterview is an online interview coaching service. It’s a great way to run mock interviews and practice answering questions before you face actual interviews. The platform offers one-on-one coaching via phone or video chat. Every session is recorded, so you’ll be able to go back and hear yourself at a later time.
Another benefit of TopInterview is the personalized action plan you’ll receive. Your coach will create a blueprint for success that’s related to your specific needs. TopInterview has helped people land jobs at some of the best companies in the world, including Google, Qualcomm, Spotify, and Boeing. Interview coaching services from TopInterview start at $149.
#3 — Big Interview
Big Interview is another popular online service to prepare for job interview questions. The platform is unique. It’s a combination of training lessons and interview practice. But what makes Big Interview stand out from similar platforms on the market is its AI technology. You’ll benefit from customizable behavioral-based and occupation-specific questions to prepare for your project management interview.
The curriculum involves in-depth training from industry experts. You’ll also have the ability to work at your own pace to get prepared. Interview scheduled for tomorrow? No problem. Big Interview even has a fast-track program to help people prepare for last-minute interviews. Training starts at $79 per month with no long-term commitments. A 30-day money-back guarantee backs all purchases.
The Core Elements of Project Management Interview Questions
Nailing your interview is more than just question preparation. You need to understand the big-picture scenario of what hiring managers are looking for.
There are certain components of a project management interview that are entirely unrelated to project management. Yes, you read that correctly. You could be the best project manager on the planet and still not get the job if you don’t fit in well with the company’s culture.
Project managers have such a unique position. They must lead teams while simultaneously balancing their responsibilities to executives in the company. So you need to look beyond the basic day-to-day tasks of running projects and think about the big picture of the organization. What is the ultimate goal of that company? Aside from specific projects, what does the business stand for?
Show the hiring manager that you’ve done your research and you fully understand the company’s long-term goals outside of turning a profit.
Be prepared to answer why you want the job in question. “Getting money” is not an acceptable answer to this question. But if you explain that you’re interested in improving green energy initiatives or whatever else the business might be prioritizing, it shows you’re a good fit for that company’s culture and understand their overall goals.
Scenario-Based Interview Questions For Project Management
It’s very common for hiring managers to ask you hypothetical scenarios during an interview. So being well prepared for these types of questions will give you a leg-up compared to other candidates.
Depending on the question, you could potentially refer back to a real-life experience of how you’ve handled that exact scenario during a previous project.
Examples of common scenario-based project management interview questions include:
- Assume a project has gone off the rails. How would you get it back on track?
- A customer is not happy with the final deliverable. What’s your approach to dealing with an unhappy stakeholder?
- There is an internal conflict between two members of your team. How will you resolve the problem?
- Every project has risks. What are some types of risks that you could face during a project?
- It’s midway through a project, and you’re on pace to go over budget. Describe your course of action from here.
Stay calm during these scenario questions. Project managers are faced with critical real-time decisions every day. So keeping cool during an interview when the scenarios are hypothetical is a must. Managers will be judging more than just your response. They want to know how well you stay composed in pressure scenarios as well. If you struggle to get through the interview, they might be hesitant to put you in a high-pressure role managing projects with many moving parts.
Leadership and Communication Interview Questions
Being a leader is a crucial aspect of project management. But leadership is more than just telling people what to do. There’s an art to delegating tasks and leading a team to success. Effective communication is a significant part of this core element.
Project managers must be able to communicate with everyone. In addition to communicating with the team members, you’ll also need to regularly communicate with stakeholders, sponsors, clients, and executives.
Questions related to project management leadership and communication could include:
- What were some of the communication challenges you faced during your most recent project?
- What is your communication style?
- What software or technology have you used to improve team communication?
- How have you adjusted to working with remote teams?
- How do you delegate tasks?
- How do you monitor and track the responsibilities that you’ve delegated?
- How do you handle a team member who isn’t pulling their weight?
- In what ways do you motivate your team or bring up morale?
Be specific here, but stick to the point. You shouldn’t go off on a 10-minute rant about one particular story. Your responses should be specific with just enough detail to avoid ambiguity or boilerplate responses.
Technical Knowledge and Skills-Based Interview Questions
You should also be prepared to explain your skill sets in the field of project management. Knowing how to answer a question about being a leader or painting a hypothetical picture won’t be enough here. Every project management interview will have some questions to truly test your knowledge.
Examples of questions related to technical knowledge and skills include:
- What are the five phases of project management?
- Can you explain the concept of RAID as it applies to project management?
- What’s your process of defining the scope of a project?
- What strategy do you use to track actuals vs. estimated costs?
- What is your preferred project management methodology? Why?
- What project management software have you used in the past? Which tool is your favorite?
- How do you prioritize tasks for a new project?
- How do you track your team’s progress and make sure they’re hitting deadlines?
- How do you allocate resources effectively?
- How do you estimate costs and manage a budget throughout a project?
These questions might be a bit more challenging than some of the other categories. That’s because there’s no fooling anyone here. If you don’t know your stuff, you can’t fake your way through these questions.
Other Common Project Management Interview Questions
Some questions don’t necessarily fit within a specific category. But I wanted to share some other potential interview questions so you’re not caught off-guard by a different line of questioning.
- What are three big challenges for the project management industry today? How can these challenges be resolved?
- What are your career goals for the next six months? What about the next five years?
- How do you separate personal goals from the goals of your team
- What obstacles could prevent you from meeting deadlines?
- How do you handle changes during a project?
- Give an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision.
- Explain a time when you made the wrong decision.
- How tall is the Empire State Building?
- What’s the tallest pyramid in Egypt?
Sometimes a hiring manager will throw a wrench into the questions just to see how you respond. They don’t actually care whether or not you know how tall a building or a pyramid is. When you’re on the job, you won’t know the answer to every scenario you’re faced with. If you get thrown a curveball, and you don’t know the answer, just take a second to gather yourself and explain how you’d find the answer quickly and effectively.
5 Tips For Getting Hired as a Project Manager
If you want some easy ways to prepare for your interview questions, apply these hacks and best practices. These tips will help you nail your project management interview.
Trick #1: Don’t Memorize Responses
You might be tempted to memorize all of the common questions in this guide and prepare memorized answers ahead of time. Don’t do this.
For starters, it’s a huge waste of time. The common questions on this guide, or any other guide for that matter, are just a point of reference. You might be faced with variations to these questions that won’t fit your memorized response.
Even if you knew exactly what questions you would be asked in an interview, memorizing answers word-for-word is ineffective. Have you ever listened to someone give a speech that was memorized? It’s tough to hear. It sounds unnatural, and the second they forget a word or a line, the whole thing gets derailed.
The same concept applies to interviews. If your response sounds memorized or unnatural, the hiring manager will see right through it.
Trick #2: Be Confident
Walk into an interview like you’re the right person for the job. You belong in that room, and there should be no doubts about it.
If you feel like you’re underqualified or don’t think you should get the job, chances are, you won’t get it. Hiring managers need to know that you feel fully capable of leading a team and managing successful projects.
Trick #3: Practice Interviews
Practice makes perfect. This age-old expression holds true for interviews and nearly everything else in your life. Just like you can’t expect to hit a home run your first time swinging a baseball bat, you can’t expect to get hired during your first interview.
If you’re fresh out of college or new to the job market, you probably have minimal experience with interviews. That’s okay.
Take some mock interviews online or hire an interview coach. These are the best ways to learn from your mistakes. By the time the real interview comes around, you’ll be much more comfortable.
Trick #4: Use Your Network
Don’t be afraid to use any resources at your disposal. If you have connections to a company through a friend or family, ask that person for a referral.
When you land an interview based on a referral, it can break the ice and offer some common ground between you and the hiring manager. If the two of you share a common connection, you might start the interview by quickly talking about that person or sharing a quick laugh. That helps you build rapport and ultimately makes for a more relaxed interview.
This isn’t a replacement for good preparation, but it’s an excellent way to gain an advantage.
Trick #5: Record Your Practice Interviews
Hearing yourself on tape is extremely valuable. It is one of the best ways to learn from your mistakes and prepare for the real thing. You could think that an interview went great. But when you go back and hear the recording, you might realize that you sound nervous. Or maybe you’re not as confident as you thought.
Recording your mock interviews can help you prioritize what to focus on for improvement.