Below are the top 13 interview questions for technical project managers you’ll most likely be asked at a job interview, plus tips and examples of the best answers.
1. Which Project Management Software And Tools Do You Prefer Using, And Why?
Project management software makes up for a major aspect of the project management industry, and interviewers want to know just how skilled you are at using them.
Tip #1: Before stepping in for the interview, look up the project management tools and software that the company is familiar with.
Tip #2: Talk about the software that you have used previously, where your expertise lies, and how you apply such frameworks practically.
Tip #3: Use terms like “baseline” and “issue log”, as any manager with project management software will use.
“The first thing I do is create the baseline of the project, and mark the milestones. I use this baseline to compare the project progress and values and foresee the remaining costs and time period every few weeks.
I keep a log of the project using Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Project for crafting a project plan and a Jira software tracking tool to help me micromanage the process, and see how much percentage of a task has been completed.
With Jira, I have the option of customizing my dashboard for each task and that helps me report it to the person working on it every week, and to update them if they are getting urgent.”
2. Do You Have Any Certifications That Are Relevant To This Position?
There are many software, tools, and programs being invented on the regular in the project management industry, so it becomes important to stay relevant and up to date.
Added certifications may not be obligatory but they are a sign of how serious and invested you are in your job, and companies want employees that are fully invested in what they do.
By asking this question, the interviewer gets a better idea of your area of expertise and where your passions lie.
Tip #1: You can also bring up your interactions with other project managers in the industry, as it shows that you are in touch with what is on the go.
Tip #2: If you have a career plan as a project manager over the next couple of years and it involves getting new certifications, be sure to bring that up.
“I intend to apply for PMP certification. I definitely see myself proceeding with the course within the next few months. I want to move up the ladder, past project management and onto program management and various other opportunities.
I am planning on taking ITIL foundation certification to add to my IT service management skills and a PMI-ACP certification to add to my agile project management skills. I believe that constantly enhancing my skills and applying for new certifications will hone my abilities to manage projects.”
3. What Specific Training Have You Had That Would Be Relevant To This Project Manager Job?
The interviewer wants to learn about the training you have received over the years, which enable you to perform better as a project manager.
Tip #1: Provide a specific example of any training course you underwent prior to becoming a project manager.
Tip #2: Keep your answer concise, i.e. highlighting how your training helps you as a project manager.
“My educational background is in electrical engineering. Over the course of my education, I became adept at planning research and other projects. This basic training enabled me to break down a project into different stages to ensure I could complete it on schedule.
I have also completed a few certification courses in different disciplines of project management. A large part of my project management training has been on the job, working on a wide range of projects. I have handled projects ranging from software development to creating websites for clients.”
4. What Are The Most Important Qualities Of A Project Manager?
Interviewers ask this question because it makes the candidate pick the qualities that they think every project manager should have. Because there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, the answer will also indirectly reflect your experience, abilities, and priorities as a project manager.
Tip #1: Don’t be vague and try to skitter around the question; list down three concrete qualities that you think are the most important in a project manager.
Tip #2: Ideally, the qualities that you list down should be the ones that are some of your greatest strengths. Team building skills, project scheduling, flexibility; whatsoever is at the top of the list of your skills are what you think are the most important qualities of a project manager.
Tip #3: Talk about how the skill is crucial to project management and relate it to the benefit it can have for the company for which you are interviewing.
“Project managers need a diversity of skills to do their job efficiently, but I would say that by far the most important is the ability to be flexible. All kinds of projects with different requirements pop up, you have to work with a whole array of personality types that often clash with each other, and more often than not the schedules, deadlines, and budgets are tight. A project manager needs to be quick on their feet, think strategically, and be flexible to adapt to a different tactic according to the circumstances.”
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5. Do You Have Budget Management Experience?
Budget is probably the most important part of a project, and therefore budget management skills may make or break the hiring chances of a project manager.
Ideally, project managers are responsible for the negotiation, managing, and utilizing the allocated budget efficiently –and the interviewers want to know just how well-versed you are at these skills.
Tip #1: Focus on the fact that you have good budget management skills, then highlight those skills with a narration to cement the fact that your tactics actually work.
Tip #2: If you have good negotiation skills, throw in the fact that you can ask for additional funding if necessary.
“I have handled the budgets of quite a few of the projects I was assigned, but I think the highlight was when this one project had a very high budget of about 40 million dollars. It was a huge number for me compared to my previous experiences, and I was in charge of approving the expenses and procurements in every phase of the project.
The numbers made me a little nervous but I was particularly good at communicating with vendors and finance department of the company directly, so any issues that came up were often minor and resolved themselves quickly.
In case additional funding was needed, I could very easily organize a meeting with the sponsor and present the case. This project ended up costing us an extra million dollars, but it all went by very smoothly.”
6. If You Were To Pick One Skill For A Project Manager To Have, What Would It Be And Why?
The interviewer wants to learn about the skill you give most value to as a project manager. You have to back up your answer with an example.
Tip #1: Mention a skill that you strong at. There’s no point going off about a skill that you cannot prove yourself adept at down the line.
Tip #2: Keep your answer to the point. You simply have to name the skill and the reason you think it is crucial.
“As a project manager, I value communication over everything else. From a technical standpoint, I know the people working with me are skilled, or else they wouldn’t be on my team. From my own experience, I know I can organize a project well and ensure timely completion.
The ‘X factor’, in a manner of speaking, is communication. Maintaining effective communication with each party involved in the project, from the client to my team, is the key to keeping things on track. Moreover, through timely messages, I make sure that no one presses the panic button at any stage”.
7. What Have You Done To Improve Your Knowledge In The Last Year?
This question is a good measure of your own passion for your career as a project manager; if you’re genuinely passionate about it, you’ll be learning something new just about every other year. Showing that you are open to learning will impress the interviewer.
Tip #1: You don’t have to refer to any specific training or education you may have received. You can even narrate your efforts to conduct online research to improve your skills.
Tip #2: You have to prove that your efforts to improve your knowledge enabled you to execute projects successfully.
“I am an avid reader. Over the past year, I have read three books on project management, which helped further my knowledge. I recently read the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, the sixth edition of which came out in 2017. Though I am familiar with the PMBOK methodology, the book helped me learn a few new things.
I also branched out in my previous job, taking on projects of larger scopes than I managed before. Luckily, I managed to complete the first project successfully. Thus, I learned to manage large-scale projects, which I hadn’t done before.”
8. How Would You Rate Your Project Management Skills?
The interviewer wants to learn about your assessment of your abilities as a project manager. Keep in mind that the answer relates strictly to project management.
Tip #1: Modesty won’t serve any purpose here. Giving yourself a ‘high rating’ can show your confidence.
Tip #2: You have to back your assessment with evidence. Hence, provide an example of the way your skills come to the fore for successful completion of a project.
Tip #3: Rate yourself from 1 to 10, to make it easier for the interviewer to understand your rating.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my project management skills at 8. The main reason for not giving myself a full 10 is that I have worked on a limited range of projects so far and I want to broaden my horizons, which is one reason why I applied at your organization.
My strongest suite is project organization, where I break down the project into manageable chunks. It helps me align the strengths of my team to the timeline we need to follow for successful completion. I also pride myself on efficient and timely communication, apprising every party involved in the project about each stage we accomplish.”
9. How Would You Deal With A Situation Where Your Project Is Running Behind Because The Resource You’ve Booked Is Being Used By Another Urgent Project?
The intention of the recruiter behind asking this question is to see how you reacted to a difficult situation in which resources were limited, and you still had to get the job done. They want to know if you can work in adversity and unpredictability, succeed in uncomfortable situations, and gauge how good of a manager you are.
Tip #1: There are three things that you need to focus on here: how limited was the staff, money, and time, how you renegotiated, and what solution you provided. The details of the project and the people working on it are irrelevant to your answer here.
Tip #2: The main solution that you can provide in a situation based on limited resources on a tight deadline; this includes smart allocation of work, catering to everyone’s strengths, reassigning work, all the while increasing incentive plan for overtime.
Tip #3: Let them know that you are not a quitter, or slacked things off.
“I worked with a project team for a software development project and there was a tight deadline of only six weeks for system design, development, and testing. We had 10 people on our team, and all of them were also working on a couple of other projects as well, all of which were also just as urgent.
The workload was obviously too much for only 10 people, and not only was I concerned about keeping their motivation levels up because of the pressure but also that the work simply would not get done and we would potentially lose steady clients.
I rolled out an incentive plan for attendance, target achievement, and discipline to keep the staff working overtime and motivated. I was also able to chart out a plan and communicate with the clients to hand over projects a week ahead than usual.”
10. How Do You Allocate Resources?
Project management is not just about ordering people around, but also about managing often scarce resources according to the needs of the project. By asking this question, the interviewer is testing the extensiveness of your theoretical and ground knowledge as a project manager.
Tip #1: Talk about allocating, as well as relocating sources –being flexible with the sources is what is being tested here.
Tip #2: The most important resources that can be allocated and relocated are time and budget. This requires you to showcase your organization skills, time management, and communication and negotiation skills as well.
“I think allocating resources entirely depends on the project more than anything, so an experienced project manager would probably not have a specific manner in which they do the job.
Personally, the first thing I do is analyze the needs of the project and what resources are required to achieve it. I then identify the sources we have and compare them with the project that needs to get done. More often than not, there are multiple projects going on at the same time and they require sharing of the resources, so you have to be really creative with what you are given, and be good at managing time as well.
The next thing I do is after the project has initiated is to create a usable and informative dashboard for everyone, particularly for sponsor and senior management. This dashboard contains everything, from the accomplished percentage of the project, a timeline of remaining tasks, the budget health, and the stakeholders and customer side high-level players.
In case additional funding is needed, I simple organize a meeting with the sponsor and present the case. This sounds a little technical, but micromanaging time is a really effective strategy for managing resources because everyone stays focused and productivity increases.”
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11. Do You Have Outsourced Personnel Or Supplier Management Experience?
The interviewer wants to learn about any experience you have of working with outsourced personnel or suppliers. The question is straightforward and relates clearly to your practical experience.
Tip #1: Your answer should be on the dot. You only have to relay your experience of working with outsourced personnel or suppliers.
Tip #2: Provide examples of projects where you worked with outsourced personnel or suppliers to add value to your answer.
“During my first job, I handled a software development project for a client. The scope of the project meant that my existing team would not be able to handle the workload and deliver it within the given timeframe.
Based on recommendations from our lead developer, we outsourced 25% of the work to an outsourced team. I learnt that effective communication could become an essential tool in handling outsourced personnel. We not only managed to complete the project but used different tools and software to correspond on a frequent basis.”
12. Do You Have An International Project Team Management Experience?
You are likely to have worked with an international project team if you have been working as a project manager for a number of years. The interviewer wants a clear-cut answer.
Tip #1: Your answer has to be short. However, a Yes or No answer won’t suffice.
Tip #2: Offer a basic overview of the project where you worked with an international team.
“Managing an international team proved a significant challenge for me. I worked with a team on creating a website. The client required us to provide the functionality of the site in multiple languages and hence, we had to seek help from developers based overseas to ‘localize’ the site.
The major hurdle was communication, as the team we were working was on a different continent and in a different time zone. For the duration of the project, I assigned my subordinate the responsibility of handling correspondence.
He had to change his shift timings to accommodate the requirements of the project. The key takeaway for me is that we had to rely on online tools. There, I realized the importance of documenting each step of the project. I also explained the process to the international team.”
13. What Is The Best Way To Set Up And Manage An Interdepartmental Team?
If you have more than a couple of years of experience as a project manager on your resume, then you must have had to set up and manage a cross-departmental team. With this question, the interviewer wants to know the extensiveness of your experience, what it was like, and your contributions and skills in setting up and handing such diverse teams.
Tip #1: Highlight your communication skills, negotiation skills, and motivation skills; these are the main things that can get an interdepartmental team up and run efficiently.
Tip #2: Talk about how you used the aforementioned skills to successfully manage interdepartmental teams, and got the project done efficiently and on time.
“Interdepartmental teams are very diverse and need a lot of communication to set up and manage; so I have a system in place to make it work. The first thing that I do is get an idea of all the people and teams involved, how they work best, their strengths and weaknesses –understanding them gives me a better idea on making a baseline to getting them all to work together as a macro-team.
The next thing I do is hold a focus group meeting with different individuals from all the departments. In this meeting, I highlight and outline what needs to be done by every member to work with other departments and make sure to explain it with examples relative to the departments. I feel that this phase is the most important because helping everyone understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths really goes a long way in aiding teamwork.
I craft an action plan including a priority list of tasks and actions that need to get done. I assign the tasks to the teams as an initiation plan, making sure to distribute the workload cross-departmentally, and then I schedule a follow up meeting every 40 days.
As the teams start working together, I regularly check in and keep track of their progress. This includes making a list of problems that may have occurred, and teams that do not work well cross-departmentally; I try some conflict resolution by effective communication tactics here as well.
I make sure that the teams meet frequently in addition to the 40 days meeting, and continuously improve the teamwork. I have not met with any flaws in this system as of yet, so I’m hoping to continue with it for a long time.”