The Project Manager Interview – What to ask and what to expect
June 1, 2011 3 Comments
Whether you have been on the receiving end of the interview process, or have been tasked with evaluating a potential candidate, the types of questions and answer expectations can vary depending on the position. Some companies are very geared towards technical acumen, others focus on interpersonal skills and the experience level of the candidate.
When it comes to the project manager interview, the type and style of the questions you may be asked is quite diverse. Much of what may influence the scope of the questions will be governed by the type of position you are applying for. More senior level positions will focus on your actual work background, while more junior level positions might be targeting your knowledge of certain key fundamentals within the project management space.
Whatever the case, if you are either going to be performing a project management interview or will be on the receiving end of one, there are certain key interview question types that you should become familiar with in order to prep yourself for the eventual interview experience.
For the Junior Level Project Manager
- Do you know what the Triple Constraint is? Explain its meaning
- Are you familiar with the key knowledge areas as defined by the PMI institute pertaining to project management?
- Describe a project you recently managed (if applicable depending on experience)
- How would you rate your communication skills?
- How would you go about working with team members for the first time?
- Are you familiar with various project management software types? Which ones have you used, if any?
- What future scholastic goals do you have? What additional certification or degree program types are you considering?
For the Senior Level Project (or Program) Manager
- Describe your experience in managing different projects. Where they interrelated?
- Describe your experience in managing a diverse team that spans both geographic and cultural boundaries. What techniques did you employ?
- Describe one of the most complex projects you had to manage from start to finish.
- What techniques do you use for setting realistic schedules and milestones for your projects? If they are inter-related, how do you coordinate the timelines?
- How do you handle managing your stakeholders and sponsor? What techniques do you use to ensure they are constantly kept in the loop?
- Have you ever performed a risk assessment and do you take risk into account in your projects?
- How do you describe your abilities as a leader? What techniques do you use to earn the trust of your team?
- What steps do you take to finalize and close a project?
- Describe a project you were working on that had problems. What steps did you take to solve the issues and did it work?
- You and your team are at odds about a particular feature for the deliverable of your project: all members of the team want to do Feature 1 but you are more inclined to do Feature 2. How would you resolve this conflict?
- How do you contend with a team member that is not meeting deadlines and consistently delivers sub-par work?
- How do you deal with project dependencies?
The aforementioned lists are just a sample of what you can expect to encounter in a standard project management interview. Note that depending on the role, there may also be technical questions that you will have to contend with. For certain organizations, their expectations about the technical background of their project/program managers may be more than what is usually encountered. This is especially likely for Technical Project Management positions where the focus of the organization is to hire someone whose background is more technical in nature or more fundamental pertaining to the type of work the company is doing.
One great reference for individuals that are going to be interviewing for a particular outfit is to access the website: http://www.glassdoor.com/. It is an excellent resource where individuals that have gone through interview experiences at various companies post those experiences online. You can search for a particular company on the website and then read a synopsis of the responses provided by people who have interviewed for that company. Difficulty rankings are also available for viewing as well.
In closing, an interview is always a stressful situation, regardless of the experience level of the individual or their knowledge. We are all going to encounter positive and negative interview experiences in our working lifetime. What’s important is to maintain your cool and do as much due diligence as possible to prepare. In addition to being familiar with your own knowledge space, take the time to become familiar with the company and its product line. Knowledge is power afterall, and demonstrating good understanding of the company fundamentals will go a long way towards scoring points with the people who will be interviewing you.