Going into project management? You’ll need to prepare for project manager interview questions. In this article, we’ll explore project manager interviews, what type of questions to prepare answers for, and examples of project manager interview questions. Let’s get started.
What to Expect in a Project Manager Interview
The project management discipline is about executing complex projects under a set of parameters including budget, stakeholder interests, and interdependent timelines. Because the job can be so complex, the project manager interview process can seem daunting. Specifically, within tech companies, applicants often assume they need to prepare a lot of technical information.
However, project management roles, especially those for more entry-level positions, are primarily interested in interviewees demonstrating experience in executing projects end-to-end.
While there are obvious examples that an interviewee can reference from previous work experiences, for those looking to transition into project management without solid examples to pull on from previous jobs, there are other ways to exhibit the ability to successfully manage a significant project from end to end.
Some undergrads, prior to getting significant work experience, can struggle to find examples of projects that had multiple complex parts that interviewers would view as sufficient to speak to skills required in a corporate setting. However, there are lots of creative ways outside of work to display these abilities. For example, leading class group projects or participating in extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs.
Keys To Crush Your Project Manager Interview
The key to project manager interview questions is to show, not tell. Don’t tell your interviewer that you are a quick learner or a good problem solver. Share examples that allow them to draw those conclusions for themselves. There are several main points to highlight as you explain the project you managed:
Creation of the Project Plan
If you identified the need for the project to be created and/or created the project plan, that is something to stress in your interview. This shows leadership and the ability to problem solve independently. Not only are you able to execute a project, but you are also able to identify needs and create solutions for them. Your interviewer will also be interested in understanding the way you think about and approach problems.
It is important to show your ability to manage the totality of a process. This shows that you are able to perform multiple types of tasks within the scope of the project and manage how they interact with one another to push the project to completion.
Organization, Timelines, and Budgets
A huge part of project management is staying organized. There is a lot to manage including meetings and time zones, roles and responsibilities, schedules and timelines, and even budgets. Maintaining organization is imperative to the success of a project. Thankfully for interviewees, many people have experience following a budget or sticking to a timeline. Be prepared to answer questions about tactics and tools you use to stay organized (more on that in the following section).
Communication, Tools, & Agile
As the project manager, you will likely have many team members you’ll need to communicate information to. You will usually be expected to be the point of contact for the status of all parts of the project. In the project manager interview, you’ll also want to talk about the tools you used to stay organized and agile. The more complex a project becomes, the more helpful technology can be to keep track of things. Some common applications are Slack, JIRA, Azure DevOps, Teams, and more.
Project manager interview questions often relate to your ability to pivot. A great project manager can identify potential problems and adjust the project plan accordingly. If there were moments during the project where things weren’t working and you had to pivot or problem-solve, that is a great way to demonstrate that you are able to think on your feet.
Stakeholder management is a huge aspect of project management. As projects become larger and more important, more influential stakeholders will be involved. As the coordinator of the project, you’ll be expected to communicate between all of the different parties involved. You’ll often be acting as a middleman which can create opportunity for confusion when there is disorganization.
In addition to all this, there are sometimes political aspects you will have to manage while working within and between teams. It’s important to demonstrate that you have the maturity and tact to handle these types of situations.
A good example of this outside of a corporate setting would be to describe a time when you worked with the leadership at your school or as part of a symposium team to accomplish an initiative or deliver a project.
Driving Projects Forward
When entering the project management space, you may be unsure of how to lead the project effectively in your new role. In addition, you’ll often find that you may be leading a project in an area you are not a subject matter expert in. Even when this is the case, your role as the project manager is still to understand the overall content and then drive the strategy without always getting into the weeds. The rest of the team will likely be looking to you for direction, and while other team members will be working on the content, your focus should be the end goal and the steps you need to accomplish it.
Project Manager Interview Tips
One great tip for preparing for project manager interview questions is to write out the entirety of the project in story format, providing as much detail as you can, about your role in the project and what key decisions you made to ensure its success. This will help refresh your memory on projects that may have taken place years ago. This is critical because your interviewer will likely ask specific questions about aspects of the project and your role.
Project Manager Interview Questions
Below are a few of the most common interview questions for project managers.
- Tell me about your background.
- Tell me about your most successful project.
- Have you ever had a project that didn’t meet the deadline or budget?
- What project management tools are you familiar with?
- What project management methods do you use?
- Do you have budget management experience?
- How do you handle team conflicts?
- How did your last project end?
- How do you foster team collaboration?
- How do you prioritize tasks in a project?
A Day in the Life of a Project Manager
An average day for a project manager consists of:
- Scheduling and facilitating meetings
- Creating communication and other strategies for the project
- Meeting with stakeholders and sharing status updates
- Updating tracking tools and dashboards
- Creating timelines and slides to display information to leaders
- Following up on deliverables and requests with team members
Much of the project manager’s role involves interacting with others, so having good people and communication skills is key. You will have to build and maintain relationships in order to ensure team members are able to work cohesively in the project.
In conclusion, when breaking into the project management space, the most important quality to display in your interview is your ability to successfully lead an initiative to completion. Be creative in the examples you choose to highlight in order to show your effectiveness as a leader and thinker.
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