Got an interview coming up for your dream project management role? Congratulations!
Quick question: how fast did you go from excitement —“Wow, I got an interview!” — to terror — “Oh my God, I got an interview!?!”?
You’re definitely not alone. In fact, 93% of us feel nervous about job interviews. 30% would prefer a trip to the dentist!
However, as a project manager, you know that the secret to success is preparation. So, without further ado, here are the 6 most common project manager interview questions, and how to answer them.
What makes a great project manager?
To sail through a job interview, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your interviewers. What are they looking for? What will be most important to them? How do you need to position yourself to stand out from the crowd?
To start with, think about what skills make a great project manager. These are the skills that your interviewers will be looking for.
We asked our very own Project Manager Team Lead, Kim Landau, what she looks for when she hires project managers for the monday.com project team. Here’s what she told us:
“I’m always looking for creative people, people that can think outside the box. I want people that would challenge others–they don’t always need to agree with me! I want them to be very confident in themselves, but still to be able to take feedback and know how to take “No” as an answer.”
Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, author of the Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook, adds the following list of project management skills in his HBR article:
- A strong understanding of project management concepts and tools – such as waterfall planning, Agile, Scrum, Lean, or Prince2
- The ability to initiate, plan, execute, and monitor projects
- A high level of emotional intelligence and empathy
- The ability to think rationally and logically, and to identify the root causes of problems
- The ability to make decisions thoughtfully, even under pressure
- The capacity to influence, inspire and persuade other people
So, your interviewers will probably ask you questions to uncover whether or not you have developed these skills, and how you have used them in previous roles.
How can you prepare for a project management interview?
The best way to prepare for tough project management interview questions is to craft a personal narrative.
Review your resumé and read the job description and company website in detail. Ask yourself:
- What are my personal strengths that make me a great project manager?
- Which stories from my career and personal life should I aim to share during the interview? Which skills and strengths do these stories show?
- What are the key values of the company I’m interviewing with? Which of my skills will be most relevant to those company values?
- What is the company’s main priority at the moment? How can my experience help them achieve their objectives?
- Who will I be interviewing with? What do we have in common?
- What impression do I want to make? How do I want them to remember me after the interview?
- When I look at the job description, where am I strongest? How can I make sure that I convey those strengths?
- Where am I weakest? How can I address those weaknesses?
Tip: You can organize your project manager interview prep on monday.com
6 common project manager interview questions — with answers
During a project manager interview, you should expect the interviewer to ask questions about you, your project management skills, your team and stakeholder management skills, and your values fit with the company. Here are a few examples of the most common interview questions for project managers:
Questions about you:
1. Tell me about yourself.
How to answer: This question can feel so vague that it can be hard to answer. But actually it gives you a great opportunity to share your unique selling points. Think about the wording of the job ad you applied to, and respond in a way that relates your experience and skills to what the company is looking for. However, it’s also crucial that you’re honest and natural at this point. After all, if you’re not the right fit for the role, you won’t enjoy working there anyway!
Ex: “I’ve been working as a project manager for [Company] for over 3 years. During that time, I’ve successfully managed 4 major projects, delivering a 95% success rate. What I most enjoy about the job is that it gives me the opportunity to work collaboratively with a wide range of people and use my critical thinking skills to solve complex problems.”
2. Tell us about the last project you worked on.
How to answer: Take this as an opportunity to showcase your ability to evaluate your performance and look for ways to improve.
Ex: “My most recent project was [X]. Overall, I’d describe it as a success–we delivered on time and on budget, and the client was very happy. However, if I had to do it again, I’d spend more time upfront on stakeholder management. It was challenging to bring the Account Management team and the Development team onto the same page, and it cost us a bit of time. I feel like some more time securing buy-in would have been beneficial in the early stages.”
3. What is the most successful project you’ve worked on?
How to answer: Don’t be shy! You want this to be a story that your interviewer will remember about you. Sometimes, it can feel awkward to blow your own trumpet. Get round that feeling of embarrassment by describing the success as a team result, not your own solo triumph.
Ex: I was really happy with [Project X] because I felt that we over-delivered for a really demanding client. I think the key to our success was that we defined clear success metrics and kept our focus on those metrics throughout. We could push back against scope creep confidently, because we’d already defined some ambitious outcomes for the client that we could keep reminding them about.”
Questions about your project management skills:
1. What is your strategy for prioritizing tasks?
How to answer: This question gives you an opportunity to show off your technical project management chops. Answer this question in a way that showcases your understanding of the client’s preferred project management methodology.
Ex: I usually start by assigning all tasks a value out of four, taking into account their importance to the project outcomes, the client’s requirements and priorities, and their cost in terms of effort and time for the team.
Questions about your people skills:
1. How do you handle conflict within a team?
How to answer: Project managers are always people managers, too. As Kim points out,
“When you manage projects, you usually interact with many people, and some of them can be a little dominant or think that they know best. You don’t want what these dominant people say to be the only thing that is relevant or the reality for the project. You have to have the common sense to think about what is really needed for the project.”
For questions like this one, you’ll need to draw on your experience to illustrate that you have what it takes.
Ex: I had a situation on a project a few years ago, where there was a lot of conflict within the team. One of the main developers had a serious difference of opinion about how we should design the user experience for the client, and he just couldn’t let it go.
I stepped in to fix the situation because it was causing a lot of friction. I took him to one side and listened to his concerns. I helped him to see that the way he was expressing himself was actually holding up the project.
Then we looked for more productive ways to address the issue. We ended up offering the client the option for a second project that would add the features he was pushing for, so everyone was happy.”
Questions about your values or cultural fit:
1. Why do you want this job?
How to answer: Interviewers always want to make sure that you’re going to be a good fit for the team you’re joining. They want to feel reassured that you understand the company, the team, and the role. This kind of question gives you the opportunity to show that you’ve done your research, and that you want this specific job – not just any job!
Ex: I’d love the opportunity to join this team because I love working on projects like [X]. I also share a lot of the values of the company – I’m a big believer in innovation and fast iteration, so I’ll be very comfortable with the pace of work here. Plus, I’m already very familiar with [the project management methodology used there] so I know I’ll be able to hit the ground running.
Got more questions about project management interviews? We got you covered.
How do you interview for a project manager position?
If you’re hiring a new project manager, start with the big picture. What skills and experience are most important for your company? What are your company values? From there, define the specific skills and mindset you need for the particular role. For example, project managers need to be creative, confident, communicative, empathetic, organized and logical.
How should I prepare for a project manager interview?
To prepare for a project manager interview, review your previous experience and craft a personal narrative. You should think of specific examples from your career that illustrate your unique skills and strengths. Focus on how you want to present yourself to stand out from your competition.
How do you prepare for a construction management interview?
Construction project managers are responsible for highly complex and high-stakes projects. If this is your first construction project management interview, focus on demonstrating your relevant experience with managing smaller projects or supervising construction workers. Aim to showcase your skills in team management, organization and prioritization, quality control and risk management.
Become a better project manager with monday.com
When it comes to project management, monday.com’s Work OS has you covered. Our powerful, easy-to-use project management software lets you:
- Visualize your entire project with Gantt charts, modify and control your dependencies and milestones, and keep an eye on the whole project lifecycle
- Make key decisions based on real-time data, and centralize your project data into a single high-level view
- Manage your team’s workload with live information on current capacity
- Stay ahead of the game with custom automations to keep project tasks flowing efficiently
Whether you’re just starting out as a project manager, or many years into your career, monday.com can help you level up your PM skills and knock every project out of the park.