(This post has been updated for 2021.)
The demand for project managers today continue to increase as companies throughout the world continue to look for the best people to fill the position. They screen out candidates, first, based on their resumes, and second and more importantly, based on their interviews. As a PM applicant, you want to make a great impression. And the job interview gives you the right opportunity to make that impression to land you the job.
The job interview is a critical step in the hiring process. You are given the chance to showcase your knowledge and skills, and hopefully to impress the interviewer enough to consider you for a job offer. How well you perform in an interview depends significantly on how well you prepare for it. You have the greatest chances when your knowledge, experience, skills, personality and attitude matches the requirement of the job you want to be hired for.
Competition for jobs in project management can be stiff. Expect tough questions from interviewers who are tasked to screen out the best professional candidates from the rest.
In a project management interview, you will be given questions related to any of the projects you listed in your work experience. They will test your knowledge and inquire about the experience you gained from completing different projects. Their examination will include the projects that you deem successful and those that you deem were not, as well as the lessons you learned from participating in these projects.
Interviewers will also try to discover your personality to ascertain the best job fit. So they may ask you to share stories and experiences that highlight certain behavioral traits and competency skills. For project management jobs, interviewers look for qualities and skills like leadership, team building, planning, goal setting, time management, budget allocation, and adaptability.
PM job interview questions
So what are the common questions that interviewers ask for a project management position? Let’s start from the basics.
Tell us about your experience in managing different projects and what you learned from them.
Your interviewers would want to know how their organization will benefit from your previous job experiences. Select the most important projects you participated in, and briefly discuss the difficulties that you faced and how you successfully managed them.
How can your experience in these projects contribute to our company?
The challenges you overcame in your previous projects are worth mentioning. They help describe you as a problem solver with strong commitments. With prior research and planning, find a successful experience in any of your project involvement that has some situational similarities with the hiring company.
Describe a situation in which you were faced with a challenge and how you overcame it.
The roles you performed in your past projects and how well you performed them help the interviewer know where to place you and in what position you will excel. It also gives them an idea if you can lead as well as follow, work better independently or excel in a team environment.
What was your role in the last project you worked on?
Some professionals became project managers by going up the position ladder, while others were accidentally placed in the lead position by need. It is important for your interviewers to know not only your competency but your confidence level and your attitude in performing a certain role.
Have you ever led a team?
It is a simple question that you should answer concisely with an affirmative or a negative. You can elaborate further if they ask for additional questions.
Tell us about a situation where you, as the project leader, resolved conflict within your team.
Leadership is an essential quality of a project manager, and interviewers would like to know more about your ability to lead. You can cite a situation when your leadership role was most successfully tested.
Describe a situation where you led a diverse team towards the achievement of a common goal and how you motivated your team members.
Try to remember a past experience as close to the situation in question. The key is to cite a work experience where you successfully motivated a team composed of individuals to work together and reach a goal that made all of your team proud.
What is the most important skill of a project manager?
This is a difficult question that can have many correct answers depending on how well you can justify your answer. Some organizations place greater importance in hard skills like project planning and scheduling. Some will look at your professional certifications or your volunteering activities. Others would like a more rounded professional with leadership and coaching qualities. Communication skills are always important, and how well you answer this question can give your interviewers a better gauge of your qualifications.
How do you determine realistic schedules for your project?
Describe the process you used in past projects that were delivered on time or with time to spare. You can give details of your estimation process, or emphasize the importance of defining requirements so your estimates are more or less accurate.
How do you break activities into tasks and decide on their importance?
Choose a past project where you have successfully broken down large activities into small measurable tasks. Describe how you determine the order of priority, for example, by referring to the larger milestone or project goal those tasks belong to, or by making the most of available resources at a given time.
How do you react in unforeseen circumstances?
You can recall a past experience where you reacted to an unforeseen circumstance logically and with the least impact to the project. You can also describe the risk management approach that have worked for you in the past.
Why should we hire you?
As a project management applicant, remember that you have something of value to offer the hiring organization as much as they have a job to offer you. You can look at the interview as an opportunity where a company with a requirement is searching for the best solution, and you are trying to help them find it.
Other questions that can be asked by interviewers are:
- How do you handle unproductive team members?
- Do you inform all stakeholders of the progress of the project on a regular basis, and how?
- How do you present results?
- What type of closure practices do you use for closing the projects?
- Do you typically revisit projects a few months after delivery?
- Have you ever had any training that would be of benefit to this project?
Try your best to remain calm and confident during the interview. And you can do so if you feel you have made enough preparations for it. Interview questions vary widely from company to company, but answering these questions in advance can help you be more prepared as you pursue your project management career.
If you find yourself on the other end of the table, take a look at some tips for conducting a great job interview.
Recommended Project Management Software
If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at Project-Management.com actively recommend the following:
ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.
Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.
monday.com Work OS is the project management software that helps you and your team plan, execute, and track projects and workflows in one collaborative space. Manage everything from simple to complex projects more efficiently with the help of visual boards, 200+ ready-made templates, clever no-code automations, and easy integrations. In addition, custom dashboards simplify reporting, so you can evaluate your progress and make data-driven decisions.
Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.