Below are 8 Project Manager interview questions and answers that would be asked in an interview to test various aspects of skills on managing project schedules.
1. How Do You Go About Planning A Schedule For A Project?
Setting the schedule for a project is a critical step. As a project manager, you have to be able to plan a project perfectly, and execute it as per the deadline. Hence, the interview will want to learn how you organize a project from the outset.
Tip #1: Cite an example of a project where you set a schedule from the start and how your team adhered to it until successful completion.
Tip #2: Provide an overview of the frequency at which you are able to lead projects to timely completion, with a focus on effective scheduling.
Tip #3: Name scheduling software or tools that you rely on.
“At my previous job, I had to deal with new projects on the basis of the priority. I had to schedule the projects according to the deadline for each one, assigning team members and defining their roles and responsibilities.
The first step for scheduling a project is breaking it down into a number of steps or phases. For example, I tackled a project where we were developing software for an airline. The deadline was three weeks, with an additional week for revisions.
I broke the project down into specific stage, including initial pitch, proof of concept, design, development, presentation, and final changes. I assigned two days each for the first three steps, and four days each for the remaining three stages. Hence, I scheduled the project to be completed in 18 days, when we had 21, and potentially 28 days.
Leaving some wiggle room and breaking down a project into manageable chunks is my modus operandi when it comes to scheduling.”
2. Tell Me How You Schedule Projects And Establish Timelines.
The interviewer wants to learn your ability to schedule projects effectively. Companies live and die by deadlines, and hence they seek project managers who can get work completed on time.
Tip #1: This question is similar to the question about scheduling above, but the focus here is on timelines rather than the method you use.
Tip #2: You have to demonstrate that the timelines you establish contribute to successful completion of the project.
“The key to meeting project deadlines is managing the scope and the schedule. While the scope is beyond our control in most projects, the schedule is right in our grasp. Hence, I focus on establishing some time management processes from the outset. The key is to complete each stage of the process on time.
The next step is to create a detailed schedule where I give a timeline for completion of each part of the project. The key to making this work is leaving some wiggle room, to adjust the schedule as per the needs of the project.
I also keep a close eye on the progress of the project, and identify potential obstacles. This enables me to update the schedule over the course of the project, while ensuring we can complete the project on time.”
3. What Are The Ways A Project Time Schedule Can Be Compressed?
Schedule compression is an important skill for project managers. Knowing how to cut down a schedule you created enhances your ability to improve the efficiency of your project teams. The interviewer wants to learn your ability to compress a schedule.
Tip #1: Learn about the different ways to compress a project time schedule, including the technical terms you should use.
Tip #2: Demonstrate your experience of compressing a schedule and how it helped you complete a project successfully.
“Compressing a schedule requires achieving a tricky balance. Being in complete control of the project is important. You need to learn whether it is possible to assign more resources to the project. In that case, crashing is the ideal technique to use. I have worked on projects where the clients changed the scope of the project midway through and I had to bring on more people to expedite the process.
In my experience, fast tracking is a more effective method. My technique involves breaking down projects into manageable chunks. Hence, fast tracking without allocating additional resources is possible.”
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4. How Do You Evaluate Whether Or Not The Team Is On Track?
The interviewer wants not only to assess your monitoring skills but also your familiarity with the best project management tools and software.
Tip #1: Provide an example of the methods you use for maintaining accountability over the course of a project.
Tip #2: List the tools that you use for enabling you to keep track of each member’s performance.
“I plan the project carefully and concisely at the start. Breaking down the project into its core stages enables me to set a baseline against which I can then evaluate the performance of my team. Since I assign each member a specific role, monitoring his or her progress is easier once I know the different goals we need to achieve.
Depending on the nature of the project, I use different tools and software. For simple projects, I stick to Microsoft Excel. The manual nature of the tool gives me a sense of being in control. I can simply update the sheet at the end of each week, or whatever period I decide”
5. How Do You Handle Missing A Deadline?
With this question, the interviewer wants to tackle your organization and productivity skills. They want to know how often you have to face a situation of missing a deadline, and what you do to cope with it.
Tip #1: There is nothing good about missing deadlines, so don’t talk about how you turned around a deadline that you yourself neglected to meet.
Tip #2: On the flip side, acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s always best to hold yourself accountable to them rather than anyone else.
Tip #3: Make sure that you focus on your problem-solving skills and highlight the solutions that you offered to fix the problem, rather than anything else.
“At my previous company we would often get a lot of low-priority projects and I often go with them on the basis of their priorities. However, one month we had an exceptionally high number of these orders, more so than usual, and missed the deadline for one large project.
A few days before the deadline approached, we reached out to the client and informed them of the reasons of delay. Afterward, I spoke with my team and moved our schedule around to get the work done as soon as possible, avoiding unnecessary delays. All throughout the ordeal, we kept the client updated and sent them bits of snippets that were already done with so we could communicate that this is a genuine delay.
Now, we were able to send that to the client on the extended deadline, but I needed to make sure that it would not happen again. We assigned a team lead to every project, instead of having one large project pool and then we started making visual progress reports.
This percentage completion goal was set up on the servers online, and everyone was able to visualize how much of the project was done and stay focused accordingly. It turned out to be a very effective strategy, and we had not suffered from any delays ever since we put it in place.”
6. How Do You Ensure Your Team Stays On Track To Meet Project Deadlines?
The interviewer, naturally, would want to learn about your ability to keep projects on time and to ensure effective completion within the given deadline. Your answer to this question will help the interviewer determine whether you are capable enough for the job.
Tip #1: Provide a relevant example where you were able to complete a project within the deadline.
Tip #2: Demonstrate how your role as a project manager was crucial to the completion of the project.
“The two key tenets of effective project management are accountability and communication. Each member of the team should have a clear idea of his or her role, as well as what the other members are responsible for.
By informing each member of their role in the project, I ensure that they are well aware of their responsibility towards their fellow members. They know that if they don’t perform, the other members will not be able to complete their tasks on time.
Based on this principle, I assign tentative deadlines for each task. These deadlines are well ahead of the project deadline, leaving ample room to cover up for any issues that may arise during the course of the project.
Moreover, I follow up with each team member on a regular basis as well as offer guidance and support where necessary”
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7. When Every Task Is Urgent, How Do You Determine What To Prioritize?
When the person is asking this question, they want to know how you handle priorities under pressure. This is a common occurrence in all kinds of jobs, there will be workload, pressure, and dissatisfied and angry clients. When such a situation arises, it becomes important to maintain your competency and prioritize the tasks.
Tip #1: Focus on a group activity, where you prioritized for not just yourself but for the whole team and multiple projects.
Tip #2: Talk about a situation that had happened, what you did to combat the situation and the results that were achieved because of it. Make your answer uniquely yours, and stand out in the crowd.
“My previous job often required my team to do multiple tasks with narrow deadlines, and prioritizing was an everyday task. What my manager and I did to help the team with this particular issue is that we assigned account managers to every project, instead of having one large project pool and then we started making visual progress reports.
The process of assigning roles involved identifying the members that can perform each activity. The next step involved aligning each member with the most appropriate role. At the same time, I made sure that the senior members of the team took on time-sensitive and urgent tasks, as well as the most crucial ones.
In addition to selecting the right person for each role, I prioritized the tasks based on the requirements. We focused on the major features first, so we can wrap the critical stages first. This process served me well on a large number of projects at my previous job, and I plan to execute it here as well”
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8. What Is The Difference Between Effort Variance And Schedule Variance?
The interview will try to test your knowledge about the theoretic of project management with this question. Both effort variance and schedule variance are critical values that the top dogs in the corporation want to see in any big or small project. These factors will help them evaluate and analyze the total performance of the project.
Tip #1: The question is of a technical nature and hence you should keep your answer to the point.
Tip #2: This tip is pre-interview, but nonetheless important. You have to brush up on your knowledge of effort variance and schedule, along with the other technical project management concepts so that you are ready to answer articulately.
“Schedule Variance – After you’ve determined the estimated time of starting the project and the end dates (this includes all the tasks), the next step is to variance calculation. The difference you see between your estimated end date and the real end date is known as Schedule Variance.
For instance, if an action for the project is estimated from January-22nd-2018 to January-27th-2018 (six days), but the activity was performed at January-24th-2018 to Feb-1st-2018 (eight days), the actual variance is four days because the vital tasks are being pushed forward by four days each.
Sometime the project may be delayed by any number of days, but if the overall project was completed within the due date – the variance is calculated as zero.
Effort Variance – EV can be estimated by identifying the difference between the hours determined to complete a task and the real number of hours spent to complete it. For example, if a task is scheduled to be completed in 50 hours and is completed in 70 hours – the effort variance is 20 hours.
So in terms of percentage – 50 hours is 100% and 70 hours is 130% – so the percentage variance of that particular task is 30%.”