Framing Your Project Manager Interview Questions
Before we get into which questions to ask, it’s important to clarify that the way you ask your questions also matters. Leave them open-ended enough to allow the other person to answer with their personality and unique style in mind, but specific enough to enable you to get the correct type of information.
Before the interview, try to determine:
- How much the organization needs a person to be a good cultural fit
- The level of technical ability required
- What project management approach(es) are ideal for meeting goals in this organization
- Which project management methods you are open to that you may not use now
During the interview, don’t forget to pay attention to the interviewee’s body language as well. The main thing is that you ensure the candidates are answering authentically, rather than feeling like they are saying what you might expect or want to hear.
Here are the 10 questions that we feel are great to stick with no matter what type of organization you run.
1.What types of projects would you want to veer away from, or have you moved away from in the past?
It’s a project manager’s job to lead projects even if they don’t love them or feel they don’t have the time. Asking them what they might try to avoid will offer them a chance to bring up challenging projects or times when they felt less motivated.
They can talk about both mistakes and solutions here. It’s crucial to pay attention to how they answer and address aspects of the job they like less. You can weed out the bad seeds here based on response. For instance, perhaps they were intimidated by a specific project but jumped in any way -- they may have seen that as an accomplishment and found something they liked that motivated them.
Or maybe they will mention that they only take on projects they like. Again, this could be a red flag regarding how willing they are to help management with fluctuating needs.
2. What do you love/not like about this career choice?
This project manager interview question opens up the door for them to detail their career progress, including highlights and lowlights. Here, you should glimpse what aspects of their personality are naturally suited to a project management career.
For instance, maybe they like motivating and coaching people but don’t love working intensively online. Maybe you need someone who is super positive and wants to engage - it could be a good fit. On the other hand, if they are the type to sit on the sidelines and monitor from afar, this might be a good fit if you work with introverted creatives committed to their work but don’t like frequent interruptions.
Do you know when to pull the plug? Learn about the signs its time to pause your project in this blog.
3. Tell me about a challenging project (or conflict) you handled and how you made sure it was completed successfully.
When you ask for a specific example of an accomplishment or challenge, this offers candidates the chance to dig a little deeper into their management style.
Here, look for moments where they seem to shine or otherwise look concerned if talking about stressful moments. The important thing is that they were able to problem-solve and overcome challenges, not do everything perfectly. If they try to make it sound like they “never” have challenges or conflict, this is probably a red flag.
4. How familiar are you with (x) project management tools?
Today there are so many project management tools on the market. You want to make sure they are proficient in the ones you use or at least can learn quickly about something they are unfamiliar with.
Want to learn more about strategic project planning? Check out our blog all about it here.
5. What is your preferred project management method/approach?
Technically there are thousands of different approaches and methods. A few common methods include:
- Critical path
- Adaptive Project Framework
- PMI’s PMBOK
Ensure that the person you are hiring will be able to use a method that suits your organization’s objectives and values.
6. How do you typically delegate? How do you know when to delegate or stand back?
One of the most interesting project manager interview questions is how they relate to other individuals in the organization. Here, you can open up a dialogue that touches on their people-management skills, as well as their capacity to handle uncomfortable situations and conflict.
It’s also informative to learn about how they decide when to jump in and when to stand back. This can help you understand whether they have well-developed leadership skills or whether they may try to assert too much control.
7. As a project manager, what is the most important part of your job?
The most obvious answer here will be “to get projects completed properly and on time.” But leaving the question open offers them an opportunity to discuss their strategy and approach in more detail, as well as what elements of project management they may like more or be best suited to. See how they elaborate beyond the most basic answer and how that answer fits with your organizational style, culture, and priorities.
8. What’s your take on “managing up?”
Trying to keep people on task who are higher up the chain than you can be one of the most challenging aspects of this job. So do check-in and see how they respond.
9. Why did you change jobs, and what are you looking for now?
Don’t worry too much about whether this person was “fired” or quit. Instead, see what language they are using -- are they externalizing or taking responsibility? Are they looking for a new challenge? Did they get burned out?
10. What’s one thing you’ve noticed that can almost always be improved to make a project run smoothly and on time?
Ideally, this is one of those project manager interview questions that gives them a chance to answer in specifics about how they could improve processes, move projects forward, and generally improve the whole project management process. Hopefully, they’ll be able to present some self-made solutions that they’ve used that you will be able to discuss in more detail if you hire them.
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Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:
5 Key Tips for Strategic Project Planning
5 Minor Issues that can Kill a Major Project
5 Critical Mistakes Every Project Manager Makes