The 20 Most Common Project Manager Interview Questions

What’s the value of a great project manager? The Project Management Institute reports that in the U.S. over $122 million is wasted for every $1 billion invested due to poor project performance. Employers know that a competent project manager can make an organization’s projects run more smoothly, stick to parameters, deliver on their goals, and improve the company’s bottom line. To nail a project management interview, you’ll need to show potential employers that you can add value to their company in a way that other candidates simply can’t. So how do you stand out from the competition?

A qualified project manager has skills in planning, communicating and solving problems. Fortunately, those exact same skills can help you ace your interview. Consider your project management interview as… well, a project. As with any project, you’ll need a goal, a strategy and plenty of planning. Get prepared by reviewing our list of the 20 most common project management questions that you’re likely to be asked in an interview. While we can’t tell you just what to say, we can tell you the type of project management questions that are likely to come up, along with some guidance on how to present your answers.

Of course, you shouldn’t neglect to prepare for the usual interview questions (“tell me a little bit about yourself…”), but be aware that you’ll be answering primarily specific project management questions. The most common project management questions cover five essential domains of professional competence: Planning/Organization, Communication, Team Management, Risks/Problems, and Goals/Outcomes. Employers will also want to know your professional background and exactly how your skills can serve their corporate goals. Arm yourself with some clear and concrete answers to these common project management questions and walk into your interview with confidence.

Answering Project Management Questions Related to Experience

To demonstrate competency in your interview, you’ll need to show both a solid grasp of project management theory and real-world experience. This applies whether you hold a bachelor’s degree in project management, a master’s degree, or an MBA in project management, and holds true whether you have 2 years’ experience or 20. If you’re fairly new to the field, you’ve got a fresh education but will need to play up any fieldwork you’ve logged to show your workplace skills. Been in the game a while? Along with your work experience, mention any continuing education or training. This will show your continued commitment to ongoing professional development. Technical skills are a priority for 43% of employers, so share what you know. Talk about the management tools and software do you use on a daily basis. If you have training in a particular methodology, like Agile, Waterfall, Kanban, Scrum, or Six Sigma, bring that up. Don’t assume your employer understands what these entail- explain why you like this approach and how you can use it to add value for their projects.

Most Common Questions:

  • What type of projects did you handle for your previous employer, and what role did you play in the organization?
  • Do you have any special training relevant to this position (PMP certification, supply chain management, IT project management…)?
  • Tell me about the scope and life cycle of a project you’ve recently managed.

Answering Project Management Questions Related to Planning and Organization

Project managers have to be able to establish an overarching vision, create iterative steps to achieve it, and allocate limited resources (time, funds and personnel) towards that end. Often times, they are called upon to this on multiple fronts, juggling between several projects simultaneously. As you answer these project management questions, try to give concrete examples of your organizational skills in action. Explain how you define a project’s scope, and how you choose what to delegate and what to prioritize. Recall times your strategic thinking brought in a project under budget or before the deadline. Think of times that your thoughtful and efficient planning kept a project on track or allowed you to smoothly change courses when an issue arose.

Most Common Questions:

  • What’s your process for establishing a project’s goals and monitoring progress?
  • How do you go about creating a project’s timeline?
  • How do you prioritize your workload and delegate tasks?

Answering Project Management Questions Related to Communication

The Project Management Institute has found that project managers spend 90% of their time on communication. The same study determined that ineffective communication causes one third of projects to fail. A separate study showed that communication is the single most frequently-cited skill that employers are looking for a in a project manager. Competent communication is often easier said than done- it takes practice to exercise empathetic listening, for instance. Fortunately, however, these are skills that can be acquired through formal study and routine practice. And formal training is the only way to gain facility with written and presentation skills in business applications. If it’s been a while, bone up on your training. Give specific examples of how you handle status updates and present results. In answering project management questions related to communication, don’t just talk about your communication abilities- show them. Given the importance of this domain, it goes without saying that your top priority in the interview should be showing that you can express yourself clearly, coherently and completely.

Most Common Questions:

  • How do you communicate your initial vision and goals for a project to the people involved?
  • How do you handle status updates and reports?
  • Tell me about how you keep members of different departments on the same page.

Answering Project Management Questions Related to Team Management

41% of project manager employers are looking for skills in managing stakeholders . Project managers are called upon to lead and manage teams from both a strategic and operational perspective. Getting the best performance out of everyone individually and making those results cohere into a desired result takes serious skills. No doubt you’ve also had to manage client expectations and interests as well. In your interview, recall times that you’ve demonstrated different management skills- show that you can be a motivator, a mediator, a leader, and a negotiator. As you answer the following project management questions in your interview, provide specific examples of how your oversight or feedback led to a positive outcome.

Most Common Questions:

  • What words would your team members describe your management style?
  • How do you motivate a team member who’s not fully productive?
  • Tell me about a time you encountered conflicts between key stakeholders. How did you resolve the difference of opinion?

Answering Project Management Questions Related to Risks and Problems

If projects were smooth sailing from start to finish, there wouldn’t be much need for project managers. These professionals consider and plan for possible contingencies, and deliberately weigh the risks inherent in a project against the potential benefits. Interviewers will want to know that you can handle unexpected changes and difficult situations with ease. In answering these project management questions, show through specific examples that you’re a competent decision-maker who’s guided by logic and calm in a crisis. Let them know exactly how you anticipate risks from the outset and what you do to take ownership of problems when they arise. If a problem took you by surprise, use that example to talk about how you were able to adapt the project parameters or goals to the change in situation. Explain your decision-making process and the outcomes it led to.

Most Common Questions:

  • How do you do contingency planning?
  • What aspect of your most recent project posed the biggest challenge?
  • When problems arise, what decision-making process do you follow to deal with them?

Answering Project Management Questions Related to Outcomes

Begin to answer project management questions related to outcomes by considering your closure process. Talk about how you deliver results, and if you typically revisit projects a few months after delivery. Describe how you assess results and define success. Keep in mind that a successful project and successful project management are not synonymous. A project can be successful in spite of poor management, or fail for reasons outside the project manager’s control. In your interview, about the successful outcomes your work has led to, being as specific as possible. Dollars and percentages speak volumes! The company holding the interview will want to know what you’ve delivered in the past. At the same time, don’t be afraid to discuss failures. Many job candidates become anxious when faced with the inevitable project management question in an interview that’s related to failure. But interviewers report that questions about failure are important to ask because they reveal a job candidate’s attitude. Demonstrate that you have what they are looking for: a sense of responsibility, a capacity for self-reflection, and a growth mindset. If you’ve taken concrete steps to prevent such outcomes in the future, so much the better.

Most Common Questions:

  • What criteria do you use to assess success?
  • What has been your most successful project?
  • Tell me about a time your project failed and how you managed the outcomes.

Answering Project Management Questions Related to the Employer

The single most important project management question in the interview won’t be asked aloud, but will determine whether or not you’re hired: “Will this person add the most value to the company?” Your fancy training, demonstrated leadership, and winning personality won’t matter unless they make you the best fit for the organization. Project management questions related to the organization are your opportunity to tie it all together. You’ll want show that your skill set can improve the company’s bottom line by explaining how you’d fit into the big picture. If you see yourself aligning with the company’s culture, or creating change over time, bring that home. A little research goes a long way in this phase of the interview, so show that you know the organization by boning up on their corporate story and current developments.

Most Common Questions:

  • How has your past experience prepared you for this particular project management position, and what skills make you the best fit?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

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