If you're looking for a project manager job, it's important to prepare to answer interview questions specific to that role. Discover some of the most commonly asked project management (PM) job interview questions, along with examples of how to answer.
The Role of a Project Manager
When looking to hire a project manager, the interviewer will likely ask questions to determine how candidates perceive the role of a project manager. Before interviewing for this type of job, be prepared to explain what project management means to you.
- How would you describe the role of a project manager? By asking this question, an interviewer wants to learn your perspective on what it means to be a project manager. You'll want to briefly describe what a project manager does. Your answer should reflect knowledge of what project management is, in the context of the type of PM job (information technology, construction, etc.) for which you are applying.
- What's the most important thing a project manager does? An interviewer who asks this question wants to get a sense of whether a candidate understands the nature of a project manager's job. Here, they're not looking for a list of the tasks a project manager performs, but the overall goal of creating an environment in which the team can accomplish its goals and effectively complete the projects to which it is assigned.
- What's the best approach to keeping a project on track? With this type of question, interviewers are trying to get a sense of whether you will be proactive in keeping up with how things are progressing (as a project manager should), rather than waiting for a project to hit a snag and having to be reactive. Explain your strategies for being in the know about project progress, and what you do to ensure that things are moving forward the way they should.
- How can a project manager facilitate effective team communication? The interviewer is looking to see how you'll establish inclusive and effective communication norms. Will you hold virtual meetings and make recordings and transcripts available? How will you encourage team members to voice concerns or share feedback? Be prepared to describe what you see as the ideal approach to communicating with members of a project team, individually and as a group.
- Who should a project manager consider to be their customer? Your response should make it clear that you are aware that project managers have multiple customer groups. These groups include team members, project stakeholders, end-use consumers, company leaders, other departments, and teams within the organization. Be prepared to give examples specific to each of these customer relationships.
Past Project Management Experience
It's important for interviewers to get a good sense of each candidate's experience with project management. Interviewers can learn about work history and years of experience from applications and resumes, but interview questions are necessary to find out details about how a candidate has approached projects and overcome challenges.
- What is your favorite of all the projects you've worked on, and why? An interviewer who asks this wants to get a sense of the type of project management work you prefer. Consider the types of projects likely to be involved in the job for which you are applying, and do your best to select something from your experience that closely aligns with work that would be involved in this role.
- What aspect of project management do you find the most rewarding? With this question, an interviewer is looking for you to provide insight into which parts of project management you like working on the most. For example, it may be organizing for efficiency, motivating team members, or any other part of the job. As with all of your answers, it's important to answer truthfully.
- What aspect of project management do you find the most challenging? When interviewers ask this question, they want you to honestly share what part of the work of a project manager is the most challenging to you, whether that means it's the part you like the least or what you find the most difficult. Be sure to explain how you are able to effectively meet this aspect of the work, even though it's not your favorite part.
- Thinking of a recent project that you managed or played a key role in, what would you like to change, and how? Be prepared to give an example of something that didn't go well from a recent project you oversaw (or participated in if you're applying for your first PM job). Explain how you would approach it differently now or in the future. Be sure your answer isn't blame-oriented, but rather is solution-focused.
- When did you first know you wanted to work in project management? The interviewer isn't looking for a specific date, but rather an anecdote from the point in your education or career to date when you realized that you wanted to work as a project manager. Describe the particular situation, being sure to elaborate on what exactly happened that led you to pursue this career path.
Project Management Knowledge
Interviewers also need to make sure that candidates have a solid understanding of what project management really is. With that in mind, an interviewer is likely to ask some questions designed to help them figure out how well-versed candidates are with regard to some core PM concepts.
- What skills are the most important for a project manager? If asked this question, list a few key skills that project managers must have, and give examples of how you exhibit them. Common responses include things like great time management skills, ability to organize and prioritize tasks, strong communication skills, leadership ability, and technical expertise related to the type of projects one manages.
- When managing a project team, what are some key risks that need to be considered? With this question, an interviewer is looking to see if candidates are aware of what types of risk can impact a project and how to mitigate likelihood or impact. You may want to mention things like risks associated with schedule, costs, performance, legalities, etc. that may pose an issue in the type of work you would be managing.
- How can a project manager tell if a project is getting off-track? Interviewers will ask this to see what applicants do to stay in touch with project progress. Explain how you monitor progress, and identify potential issues that need to be handled. They want to see how you monitor the schedule, what tracking tools you use, etc. It's best if you can give specific examples of how your approach helps you course-correct quickly.
- How do you approach prioritizing project tasks? If asked this question, demonstrate your PM knowledge by explaining that you'll start by working with the team to identify all tasks that need to be performed, then prioritize them based on level of importance and urgency. Be sure to mention the importance of continually monitoring not only progress, but also whether tasks might need to be re-prioritized as the project unfolds.
- How do you keep up with best practices in the PM field? An interviewer who asks this question wants to identify candidates who realize that succeeding as a project manager requires keeping up with developments in the field. Share if you are a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), if you have or are seeking Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and/or what publications or blogs you keep up with related to the field.
Individual Style/Approach Questions
Beyond developing an understanding of your knowledge of project management and how your experience might relate to the job you hope to get, interviewers also want to get a sense of who you are as a person and as an employee. As a result, you should expect to answer some questions about how you approach work and what your job-related preferences are.
- Do you prefer working independently or as part of a team? As a project manager, you will most likely be leading a team. Be sure to keep that in mind when answering. If you do actually prefer working independently, explain how you are able to adapt effectively to lead a project team. If you prefer working with a team, clarify how you'll balance the desire to be part of the team with being in a leadership role.
- How would your last boss (or former co-workers) describe your communication style? This question addresses communication style and self-awareness. By the time an interviewer asks this question, they have a good sense of how your communication style is coming across in the interview. Does what you say about how others perceive you match what they are seeing? Are you communicating in a manner appropriate for a project manager?
- How do you approach communicating with team members and stakeholders? An interviewer who asks this question wants to get a sense of how you'll communicate in the role of a project manager. They're likely looking for candidates who will take a collaborative approach that includes dialogue, listening, understanding, feedback and motivation, but who can also inspire action and keep a project on track.
- How would you describe the role of feedback in project management? Since feedback is essential to project management, interviewers want to see that a candidate knows how important it is to provide effective feedback to team members and stakeholders on an ongoing basis, as well as asking for (and listening to!) feedback from individuals in these groups.
- What does leadership mean to you? By asking this question, an interviewer wants to know if you understand that leadership is about interpersonal influence rather than formal authority. Explain your understanding of leadership not just in the context of how it can impact project results, but also in the context of how informal leaders often emerge in teams, and the role of the project manager in helping team members grow as leaders.
Agile Project Management Perspective
Being agile is an important skill for project managers, especially in companies that emphasize innovation. Most project management roles require the ability to be agile, which includes the ability to work in sprints while maintaining flexibility and adaptability.
- What is your approach to providing status updates? With this question, the interviewer is trying to find out if you will be diligent in keeping stakeholders updated as projects progress. A winning answer should indicate that you view status updates as a key component of a project manager's responsibility. Follow up with specific strategies you use to follow through with providing timely and regular status updates.
- How do you feel scrum cycles can best be utilized with project teams? An interviewer who asks this wants to make sure you understand what scrum is and know how to apply it in the context of a project team. You should be prepared to explain your perspective on the best way(s) to utilize scrum cycles in a project team. It would be ideal to provide some specific examples from your past work or from your studies, if you are an early-career project manager candidate.
- How will you adapt to changing priorities during a project? The purpose of this question is to make sure that a candidate will be appropriately flexible and adaptable throughout a project. Explain how you will continually monitor to ensure that the team's efforts are focused on the aspects of the projects that are the highest priority at that time, adapting as needed to meet stakeholder goals and ensure project success.
- How have you overcome impediments in past projects? The answer to this question sheds light on how a candidate handles difficulties that can get in the way of project progress. Common impediments include technical issues, delayed access to resources, unavailability of team members, lack of support from management, etc. Give an example of a time you've faced an impediment as a project manager or team member, and explain how you overcame that barrier.
- How do you approach debriefing a project once it is complete? An interviewer who asks this question will want to see that you know how important it is for the team to reflect on (and celebrate!) its accomplishments, as well as to talk through the lessons learned from the project. It's important to summarize how things went and identify key takeaways to adopt or avoid on future projects.
Prepare for a Successful Interview
Preparation is the key to a successful job interview, just as it is the key to successfully managing a project. As an interviewer, you'll need to ask questions that help you get to know the interviewee's work style and how they'll function if hired to work as a project manager in your company. As a candidate, it's impossible to know exactly what you'll be asked. However, reviewing these questions and preparing for a variety of typical interview questions, including scenario-based behavioral interview questions, will position you to make a great impression.