Whether you are preparing for an interview as a candidate or an interviewer, you’ll be thinking about questions. What are they going to ask me? What are the questions I should ask?
Here are 40 job interview questions for project managers for you to use in your preparations.
Interviewers: read through the list and pick the questions that you feel will give the most appropriate responses for the role and allow you to find out relevant information about how the candidate would perform in the job. Make sure you have some spare questions to ask if you have extra time or want to find out more about a topic.
Candidates: read through the list and think about what you would answer if you were asked those questions. Try to come up with specific examples of where you have used skills on projects. Interviewers are looking for evidence that you can do what you say you can, so have examples in mind to demonstrate what you can do.
We’ve arranged the questions in groups so you can easily compile the perfect list for your interview preparations.
1. Can you briefly tell me about your career to date?
2. Tell me why you chose the project management certification that you have, instead of the other certificates available?
3. We use [insert name of project management tool] to manage projects here. What experience of that software do you have? If you haven’t used that software before, tell me about the products you have used.
4. There are aspects of most jobs that we don’t like doing. What do you like least about the role of the project manager? How do you maintain your motivation when you have to do that part of the job?
5. What are your personal career goals for the next 1/2/5/10 years?
Technical skills questions
1. Explain how you would start a brand new project. How would you manage project kick off?
2. How do you select resources to be on the project team?
3. Tell me about a project budget that you managed. What activities and tracking were you responsible for and how did you do it?
4. Describe the standards, approaches or tools that you use to monitor and measure project performance. How do you use them to measure what the team is achieving?
5. How do you typically manage project risk on the team?
6. How do you manage your own time? Tell me about the tools and tricks you use to keep your task list in order when things get busy.
7. Tell me about a time on a project where you have ensured that the project delivers value to the organization, even if that meant changing the original scope or objectives of the work. How did you assess the value you were delivering, and how did you come to the decision to change what you were doing in order to add more value to the project outcomes?
8. Describe how you work with the project team to create a project plan and schedule. Give me a specific example of how you have worked within a team to plan and organise the activities required.
9. What factors do you take into account when creating a project schedule, so that you can use resources as efficiently as possible?
10. Many projects suffer from slippages, and it’s common that project plans need to be amended with date changes. Tell me about a time when your project schedule slipped and you weren’t able to deliver on time. What was the situation, and what caused the delay? What did you try to get it back on track? And how did you communicate the eventual delay to the project stakeholders?
11. Sometimes getting a task completed on time, or not having adequate resources, means that you can’t finish the work to the quality level that you expected or would have liked. How have you managed situations like this on your projects? Give me an example of where you haven’t been able to meet quality standards and what you did about it.
12. How do you approach lessons learned and continuous improvement? Tell me how you incorporate these into the way you manage a project.
13. A project stakeholder comes to you and asks you to change something. Tell me about a time this has happened to you. How did you react and what steps did you take to come to a final decision on the change?
14. Projects often hit major issues. Tell me about a project you’ve worked on where there was a ‘showstopper’ issue. What happened and what did you do? What was the outcome?
15. What, in your opinion, are the most important things to do when a project finishes? Describe how you normally manage project closure.
Interpersonal skills questions
1. Tell me about a time when you had to manage conflict between stakeholders on the team. What happened and what did you do about it?
2. Describe a situation where you have needed to be persistent. What was the situation and how did you overcome the barriers? What were the outcomes from this situation?
3. Give me an example of a situation on a project where you had to manage a team member who was not keen on doing the work. What factors did you take into account and how did you manage the situation? What was the outcome of this situation?
4. Tell me about a time when a project sponsor set an expectation that you felt was unreasonable. What was the situation and how did you respond?
5. Do you have an example of a situation where you had to chase up a colleague for information? Tell me what you did, how they responded and what the outcome was. Is there anything you would do differently next time?
6. Tell me about a time when you had to escalate a decision to the project sponsor instead of making it yourself. What was the decision and why did you feel the need to escalate it? Tell me about the final outcome of this situation and how you followed up on what needed to be done as a result of the decision.
7. How do you stay in touch with other project team members while you are working?
8. How do you adapt your communication style when dealing with different people? Give me an example of where you have had to vary your style for dealing with senior managers/technical colleagues/peers/customers etc. How successful were you and what would you do differently next time?
9. Talk me through a time when you had to negotiate something difficult to get a favourable outcome for the project. Perhaps it was securing resources or working with a vendor. What obstacles to the negotiation were there and how did you resolve them? How did the negotiation play out, and what was the eventual outcome?
10. In project teams you often have to delegate work to other people. How do you do this effectively? Can you give me an example of where work has been allocated or delegated to a team member and you have supported them through the activity?
11. Many projects work on a matrix structure. Tell me about a time when you were able to get someone from outside the core project team to participate in a project on a particular task. How did you determine who to ask and how did you approach them? What was the outcome?
12. Describe how you thank or reward project team members for their contribution.
13. Tell me something you’ve learned about project management; a piece of advice that you would want to pass on to new project managers just starting their careers.
1. As a candidate, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions either throughout the interview or at the end. Here are some questions you can use to help decide if the job is a good fit for you and your skills.
2. What are the career development opportunities here?
3. What’s the normal career path for a project manager at the company?
4. How many people work in project delivery?
5. What would my induction involve; do you have a mentoring scheme?
6. Do senior managers here get any training about how to lead and sponsor projects?
7. What project management software tools would I be expected to use?
Elizabeth Harrin is the creator of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, which she started in 2006. She has won a number of awards for her internationally popular blog: "A Girl's Guide To Project Management." She also authors two additional blogs, regularly featuring interviews she conducts with industry experts: "Talking Work," and "The Money Files," on Gantthead.