Back in 2006, I submitted a post on the ALLPM.com forum site asking for a discussion on good PM interview questions. Twenty-two responses and over 40,000 views later, we had quite a long list of questions that managers and other PMs use when interviewing PM candidates.
In this current economy, we have a lot of individuals looking to either reposition themselves within various industries – including as PMs – or PMs looking for new work due to layoffs, etc. I thought this might be a helpful time to re-visit that list and provide what I consider to be some of the key questions that were discussed on that thread over the course of several months.
Key suggested questions
- How do you handle non-productive team members?
- Tell me about a situation where your loyalty was challenged. What did you do? Why?
- Give me an example of a win-win situation you have negotiated.
- Give me an example of a stressful situation you have been in. How well did you handle it? If you had to do it over again, would you do it differently? How do you deal with stress, pressure, and unreasonable demands?
- What are the necessary steps to successful project management?
- How do you plan for a project?
- Your three-month project is about to exceed the projected budget after the first month. What steps will you take to address the potential cost overrun?
- You are given the assignment of project manager and the team members have already been identified. To increase the effectiveness of your project team, what steps will you take?
- You’ve encountered a delay on an early phase of your project. What actions can you take to counter the delay? Which actions will have the most effect on the result?
- Have you ever had a project that was considered a failure? What factors caused the project to fail?
Key guidelines for preparing for the interview and responding to interview questions
- Pause a second or so to formulate a CONCISE answer (hopefully 1 minute or less per question as the interviewer’s time is important).
- Keep a professional and business focus … When you’re asked general questions like “Tell me about yourself” you want to mostly focus on your education and experience
- If your mind goes blank or you don’t the answer, tell the interviewer you’d like to think about that question a little more and come back to it.
- Be yourself, be honest, smile, make eye contact, etc … Some HR interviewers want folks to have polished scripts that are outside how they’d normally respond. You should be professional, but don’t try to present a false personality.
- Dress professionally even if it’s a business casual environment (unless told specifically otherwise
- Practice the night before on formulating summary answers to key questions you expect that might be asked. Develop and even memorize summary statements (keeping advice from #4 in mind that you don’t want to say things completely unnatural). For example, print Michael’s great list and answer it in single sentences. Then go over it and refine your answer as a continuous improvement process. Then print it off and have it to read over while you’re in the waiting room just prior to the interrogation process
- Have a family member or friend, select some of the questions and give you a brief interview. Attend any classes offered by your state employment commission.
- Above all else – be yourself. Answer confidently and be honest. And more than anything else, I’ve found that making good eye contact lets the interviewer know you are serious, interested and providing a thoughtful and honest response. And as always, please feel free to provide your own thoughts and potential questions. It will certainly be to everyone’s benefit. Thanks.