Top 50 Project Management Interview Questions and Answers

project management interview questions and answers
project management interview questions and answers

Preparing for a project management interview and answering project management interview questions during a project manager interview is daunting experience.  There are hundreds of possible project management interview questions and answers, you’ll only be asked a few.

To help prepare you for your next project management interview, I’ve compiled my Top 50 project management interview questions and answers in the the following categories:

Project Management Interview Questions and Answers Categories

Project Management Interview Questions – Past Project Experience

project management interview questions experience

1. Have you managed a project in our industry previously?

Other versions

  • Do you have experience in this type of project?
  • Have you worked in this industry before?
  • Have you worked on a project in our field before?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to understand if you have experience working in the specific industry. If you have industry experience, you will have a better context of the type of work and the related problems.

In a previous project manager interview, I found a candidate who did not have industry specific experience but scope management, schedule management and project concepts were transferable to the job role.

Interview Answer Guidance

If you have industry experience, ensure you include it in your resume. Assuming competition is tough, you likely won’t receive an in-person interview if you don’t have relevant industry experience. However, if you haven’t managed projects within a specific industry, be sure to highlight how your project management skills are transferable. You also need to provide examples where you’ve been a “quick learner”.

2. Tell me about a recent project that you managed from beginning to end?

Other Versions

  • Can you describe some of the projects you handled in your previous job?
  • Tell me about the projects you have managed?

Interview Question Intent

In this project management interview question, the interviewer wants to hear in your own words how you managed a project from the beginning to the end. By having you describe the goal, objective, purpose, scope and outcome of the project, you will demonstrate knowledge of the solution.

Interview Answer Guidance

This is an opportunity to explain how you successfully setup the project, executed and monitor project progress and highlight key stories. Ensure you provide real world details about some of the challenges and how you overcame them to deliver the project. Avoid generic process responses (i.e. I took the team through the Initiation phase and then planned the project) and provide some of the “war stories”. The interviewers have had their own set of experiences and they will relate to real-world examples versus generic examples.

3. What is the most complicated project you managed?

Other versions

  • What is the largest or most complex project that you have managed?
  • How many projects you have managed at the same time?
  • What was the most challenging part of your previous project?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to hear about a significant challenge and how you overcame the challenge. Projects always have complex challenges and interviewers want to learn about your problem solving skills.

Interview Answer Guidance

This is another opportunity to provide specific details about a project challenge and how you and your team overcame the obstacle. Projects are tough and the prospective employer is looking for leaders who can solve problems. Remember to detail how you handled the specific complications versus escalating up to your manager to resolve. Complicated projects often require stakeholder support so don’t be hesitant to indicate when you escalated to project sponsors for support. However, your first answer shouldn’t be “I got my boss involved” to solve a complicated issue.

4. What was your favorite project and what did you like about it?

Other versions

  • What kind of projects interest you and why?
  • Are there any projects that you don’t want to work on?

Interview Question Intent

This is a “softball” question that allows candidates to highlight the types of projects they prefer. Ofcourse, it the candidate attended the in-person interview, the interviewer is going to assume the project opportunity meets their interests. It is also a good question to determine if the candidate is a short term fit or a long term resource for subsequent projects.

Interview Answer Guidance

Be truthful in your response. If the project involves implementing SAP in multiple countries and you have no interest in complex ERP implementations, don’t position ERP projects as a favorite project. When you are in the market, you will be more open to broader range of opportunities and its ok to fill a short term project while you look for your favorite project.

If there are specific projects you don’t want to work on (i.e. data center migration), be honest and explain how you’ve delivered successfully in the past but you have a real passion for your desired project areas (i.e. digital marketing, eCommerce, ERP, etc)

5. What are the top 3 lessons learned from your past projects?

Interview Question Intent

The interview wants to know what you’ve learned from past projects and how you’ve learned from those experiences. The interviewer is also listening for any similar lesson learned that could be applied to the current project.

Interview Answer Guidance

Every project manager understands lessons learned are conducted (usually at the end of the project), however, many organizations don’t implement the lessons learned. This is another opportunity to highlight your experience and demonstrate how you and your team learned from past experience. As you prepare for the interview, think back to your past projects and identify what you would have done differently. By sharing your experiences with real-world examples, it further demonstrates your project management background.

6. How have you handled failed projects or conducted a project turnaround?

Interview Question Intent

The reality is projects don’t always succeed. I’ve seen projects initiate, execute for a few months and then abruptly get cancelled. I’ve also seen large programs run for a year or two and quickly get reduced due to costs and failure to achieve project objectives. The interviewer know experienced project managers have had their share of success and failures and it is important to highlight how you communicated to the stakeholders.

If the interviewer asks about a project turnaround, they are likely looking for you to turn around their troubled project. Projects are not easy so don’t be turned off by the challenge.

Interview Answer Guidance

If you’ve experienced a project failure or had challenges delivering a program, be straightforward and clear about the project issues and the actions you took to improve the project’s health. Projects are not easy and complex projects often don’t go according to schedule. It is important to highlight the actions you took so the interviewer can understand your thought process and leadership.

If the past project wasn’t a success, it likely wasn’t your fault versus the external factors impacting the project (stakeholders, risks, lack of resource, etc). I like hearing about the successes and failures because it provides a better insight into a project manager’s experience and thought process.

Troubled projects often require a different perspective to turn around the project. Ask questions about the project’s context and restate the fundamentals of managing project deliverables, schedule, issues and how to ensure all stakeholders are informed.

7. Tell us about a time when you made the wrong decision on a project, the impact and the corrective actions you took to fix it?

Other Variations

  • What is the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project?

Interview Question Intent

Similar to the lessons learned question, the interviewer is assessing how you’ve learned from past mistakes and the actions took to fix the mistake.

Interview Answer Guidance

People are fallible. Mistakes will happen as projects have many moving parts and project risks. The project manager makes decisions based on the information presented and sometimes the decision isn’t the best one. It is important to communicate the actions took to fix the situation and demonstrate how you helped get the project on track. Projects will often go off-track and it is the project manager’s job to fix it.

8. How have you handled a challenging situation on a project and how did you deal with it?

Interview Question Intent

Projects are inherently challenging. The interviewer wants to hear how your took on a challenging stakeholder, a problematic vendor or a troubling team member and resolved the situation. The interviewer knows the project will have challenges and understanding your thought process and actions on past challenges will help demonstrate your qualifications.

Interview Answer Guidance

Think back to your past projects and have a few key examples ready. I’ve found a lot of project challenges occur because of people and communication. Technical problems often have a straightforward solution. People problems take a little longer because of emotion, communication challenges and just the complex nature of being human.

You can also highlight how managing a remote team was a challenge or how meeting a project deadline was a challenge. However, I’d lead with a people challenge as those are the most complex to resolve. Ensure you have an answer for this question. If your reply indicates you never had project challenges, the interviewer will doubt your experience.

9. Can you tell us how you’ve demonstrated creativity to solve a past problem?

Interview Question Intent

Complex projects require creative solutions. The interviewer wants to understand how you’ve brought creative solutions based on your past experiences.

Interview Answer Guidance

Project management can actually be pretty dry with updating project schedule, communicating status and follow up on tasks. Creativity may seem hard to demonstrate but I would look for problem solving examples that demonstrate creative thinking. I often use brainstorming with mind maps as a creative solution for problem solving. If you ever created a fishbone diagram or an Ishikawa diagram to determine a problem’s root causes, then you can use those a creativity examples.

10. Have you managed remote teams, outsourced teams or teams located in different areas?

Other Variations

  • Have you managed international or global projects?

Interview Question Intent

Depending on the size and the company’s global presence, this question may or may not be included in the interview. The interviewer is looking for a project manager who has worked across time zones and managed deliverables and project teams in different locations. The workforce is global and the Internet has flattened traditional geographic barriers. Interviewers are looking for project managers who have had local and global experiences.

Interview Answer Guidance

If you have past delivery experience with remote teams, identify the challenges with time zones, communication and cultural behaviors. If you haven’t managed global projects, look for examples where you managed project team members located in different cities or buildings. A lot of organizations outsource work locally to advertising agencies, technology shops and niche-skilled contractors. Demonstrating how you successfully delivered via conference calls, instant messaging and tele-conferencing solutions is just as applicable to managing global teams.

Project Management Interview Questions – PM Process Knowledge and Methodology

project management interview questions methodology

11. How have you applied the PMBOK processes to your project?

Other Variations

  • What knowledge areas have you applied to your past projects?
  • How do you implement PM standards on your project?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer recognizes PM standards and processes are important. The interviewer is assessing your PM theoretical knowledge and looking for examples on how you put fundamentals into practice.

Interview Answer Guidance

When I screen project management resumes, I’m looking for the PMP certification as an initial way to evaluate if the candidate is serious about project management. Passing a certification test is one way to validate project management theory. Theory provides a solid foundation but you also want to demonstrate how you’ve applied project management principles.

The PMBOK guide describes 10 different knowledge areas. Brush up on the knowledge areas and think about practical examples where you put issue management, scope management, risk management, etc into action.

Balance the theory with the practice. I’ve delivered plenty of projects without a signed charter, but I also know the value of using a project charter to gain alignment.

12. How do you deal with project changes?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to understand how you manage changes on a project – including scope, budget and even changes in project direction.

Interview Answer Guidance

Change in inevitable since uncertainty is high at the beginning of a project. As the project progresses, requirements are refined and changes are introduced. Over time, the initial customer request evolved and the project requirements need to change.

Think back to the last time you handled significant changes in scope, budget or deadlines in your last project. Ensure you include examples where you informed the project stakeholders, got approval to change the project baseline, and managed formal changes through a change control board.

If you’ve delivered an Agile project, then change management is built into the Agile processes. However, remind the interviewer how you can apply practical change management across the project without administrative burden.

13. What project management methodology do you prefer?

Other Variations

  • What project management methodologies have applied to your projects?
  • Describe your project management process

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to understand your experience with different methodologies including both Agile and Waterfall based methodologies. The organization likely has their own methodology to manage projects and the interviewer is assessing if your experiences are similar to their existing processes.

Interview Answer Guidance

Experienced project managers have seen organizations with little or no methodology as well as organizations with highly structured methodologies. Identify the pro and cons of each methodology and indicate how you delivered successfully under both organizations.

If the company does not have any formal processes, they will appreciate your experiences and look for opportunities to apply your experience across the organization. If the organization has a structured methodology, they want to see how you’ve worked in formal methodologies while delivering the project. In structured organizations, highly administrative methodologies are seen as roadblocks. You need to demonstrate how you have delivered while negotiating administrative challenges.

14. How have you improved project management processes in your current role?

Interview Question Intent

Companies are not just looking for project managers to deliver projects. They are also looking for thought leadership to improve the current state. The interviewer is looking for examples where you improved processes across the organization and not just the past project.

Interview Answer Guidance

Think back to your past project management lessons learned. How have your applied them to future projects and shared them with other project managers? Think of an example where you provided feedback to the PMO on how to improve a mandated project management process.

I often use the example of changing the project charter from a 5 page word document to an optimized PowerPoint presentation format.

15. How do you initiate a project?

Other Variations

  • How do you start a new project?
  • You’ve just been assigned a new project. What are you first few steps?

Interview Question Intent

Project initiation is a key phase in project delivery as many projects struggle with simply getting a project off the ground. If you were assigned this project, how would you start it?

Interview Answer Guidance

Highlight how you’d identify the project’s goals, objectives and project scope. Once scope is defined, how have you identified all the project stakeholders, established roles and responsibilities and successfully conducted a project kick off. You should also mention the project management processes to manage the project.

16. What is the best way to setup and manage a cross functional team for a larger project or program?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to understand your approach to managing a large project that spans multiple departments, organization or teams. Many organizations implement large programs that impact multiple department in the organization. The focus is more on program management although large projects need a similar level of program governance.

Interview Answer Guidance

Large projects and programs require similar processes and standards found in smaller projects. The importance of milestone management, communication management and stakeholder management increases as the number of impacted people and organizations is larger. The fundamentals of project management apply to programs and you want to highlight how you’ve worked across organizations to manage the work.

In large programs, the program team rarely has direct control over all the resources so it is important to highlight how you’ve used influence versus direct control to deliver the project. Large programs are more complex and require more attention to communication. The mechanics of schedule and milestone management still apply.

17. Describe the steps involved from the time of project initiation to project completion?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to not only understand how you’re start a project but how do you manage a project through project closure.

Interview Answer Guidance

This is your opportunity to walk them through how you’ve managed your current project or a past successful project. Be specific with your answers using past examples. Avoid making generic statements about following a the project management plan, tracking the schedule and reporting status.

Those aspects are important but highlight how you implemented the project tracking techniques. For example, I explain how I organize each project into workstreams and identify a specific workstream lead. Each lead is responsible for providing workstream status in our weekly status meeting. I’ll highlight how I’ve used specific tools such as Atlassian Confluence or a Sharepoint site to collaborate on workstream status.

By assessing each workstream progress, I update the project schedule and prepare the status report for the upcoming status meeting. I’ll also indicate how I track and manage the risks across the project using the provided tracking template or a template I create on my own. Do you see how being specific is much better than “I followed the project management plan”.

18. How do you prioritize multiple urgent tasks with the project team?

Other Variations

  • How do you prioritize tasks on a project?
  • When every task is a high priority, how do you determine what to prioritize?
  • How do you prioritize your workload?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to get a sense of how you prioritize work with the team especially when there are multiple competing tasks. It is a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of project context, stakeholder management and how to negotiate.

Interview Answer Guidance

Describe how you sequence tasks within your project schedule. If every task has the same priority, no work can get done. Therefore, you need to work with the stakeholders and the project team to determine what should get done first, second and so on.

You can include an Agile technique of identifying all the user stories on the project backlog and identifying how many stories can be completed within a 2 week time period. The team can work on the most important tasks that fit into a 2 week cycle. However, the stakeholders must help prioritize the most important work.

19. How do you plan a project schedule?

Other Variations

  • How do you schedule projects and establish timelines?

Interview Question Intent

The project schedule is one of the fundamental deliverables in any project. It is the key tool that determines if the project is one track or not. The interviewer is seeking to understand your process for identifying all the tasks, sequencing them, estimating the durations and ensuring everyone agrees with the project timeline.

Interview Answer Guidance

Avoid providing the generic answer of “I build the project schedule using Microsoft Project”. Take the interviewer through your process of task identification, task sequencing, task estimation, resource assignment and resource leveling.

If you use brainstorming sessions to develop a task list or rely on individual team members to provide tasks and estimates, include those ideas in your response. Experienced managers know resource leveling is a pain so highlight how you identify over-allocated resources and manually resolve the conflict by adjusting the dates. I would also use this opportunity to show how you update the project schedule weekly and identify late tasks for the team to follow up and adjust the schedule.

20. How do you allocate resources?

Interview Question Intent

Finding people qualified and available to do project work is always hard to do in an organization. Understanding how you allocate these valuable resources to project work is important to ensure money and time isn’t wasted. If the interviewer is also a strong Microsoft Project scheduler, you may get additional questions about percent allocation in your schedule.

Interview Answer Guidance

Clarify if the question is about actually allocating resources into a scheduling tool or if they are interested in your staffing approach. The interviewer may ask for both responses. If it is scheduling focused, I recommend with breaking down the work breakdown structure so only 1 resource is assigned to each task.

If the question is more general, I would explain how understanding the project’s context and required skills form the basis for resource requisitions. Once the schedule is further developed, the exact resource allocations can be made. If resources are not available until a specific date, you need to ensure the project schedule accurately reflects resource availability.

21. How do you plan, monitor and manage project risks?

Interview Question Intent

Risks and issues will always affect a project. The interviewer wants to understand how you handle risks on a project including any risk identification, classification and mitigation planning. Risks will always occur on a project and how your handle them will determine if they become issues or if they are successfully managed.

Interview Answer Guidance

Think of the project triangle – budget, schedule, scope – and you have handled risks on each project. You can refer to the formal steps of risk identification, risk probability, impact analysis and risk mitigation however, I’d discuss the approach informally. If the interviewer asks about formal steps, provide the appropriate response. However, it is better to discuss a pask project risk and how you mitigated it.

Project funding shortages and mandatory delivery date risks are good examples to demonstrate how you identified the risks, communicated the concern and built mitigation plans. Remember, if a risk event occurs, it triggers the risk response plan and often becomes a project issue. By referring to a real world example, you’ll convey your management approach without delivering a text-book answer.

The interviewer may also want to hear how risks are formally tracked in a risk log or project management tool. Be ready with past tool examples even if it as simple as an Excel risk template.

22. What is the largest project budget you’ve managed and how did you manage it?

Interview Question Intent

The budget question is a common question that provides a sense of scope and complexity. Executives often refer to their budget responsibility as it infers complexity and scope of responsibility. A $500,000 project is much lower in complexity than a $50 Million portfolio of projects. The question can be a bit misleading as small projects also present their own challenges and complexities.

Interview Answer Guidance

Before the interview, review you past projects’ scope and budget estimates. I recommend keeping a list of the contract costs or resource costs for each of your projects as a historical record. If you manage an internal team and don’t have an external budget, you can estimate resource costs based on the number of people assigned to the project.

When answering this question, use it as an opportunity to discuss the breadth of experience and scope managing different projects of various sizes. Provide a high level overview of how you tracked project costs and how you worked with the accounting or finance organization to ensure invoices matched budget expenditures.

23. When do you know if a project is off-track?

Other Variations

  • How do you ensure your team status on track to meet project deadlines?
  • If the project is not adhering to the project schedule, how do you get it back on track?
  • How do you ensure your project is on schedule to meet the deadline?
  • How do you evaluate if the team is on track?
  • How do you monitor progress and assigned tasks?

Interview Question Intent

There are a lot of different ways to ask how you monitor and track project progress. Date and milestone management is a key skill every project manager needs to demonstrate. The interviewer wants to learn about your project schedule capabilities and how your manage to deadlines.

Interview Answer Guidance

The project schedule is the key tool every project manager must use. I am scheduling tool agnostic as long as you have one in Microsoft Project, Primavera, LiquidPlanner, Workfront, Wrike or even milestone charts mapped out in PowerPoint slides. The demonstrable key behavior is how you manage dates, establish a baseline and help improve off track projects.

Tools like Microsoft Project and LiquidPlanner will definitely help identify date slippage, missed milestones and forecast new end dates. These tools make your job as a project manager easier.
When responding to these questions, share a story of how you managed a project with slipped tasks, how you identified the late tasks and how your worked with the team to achieve the milestones later in the schedule. Projects always have late tasks so you should have plenty of opportunities!

When I ask this question, I look for a balance of using the tools (i.e. project schedule mechanics) as well as leadership and communication to improve the project’s performance.

24. What metrics do you use to ensure the project is still on track?

Interview Question Intent

This is a more advanced schedule management question. Many organizations lack the PM maturity to track schedule variance or initial earned value management. However, it is important to acknowledge how you objectively track vs subjectively measure project progress. The interviewer is looking for specific metrics you have used on past projects to measure project performance.

Interview Answer Guidance

Project managers use several quantitative metrics to ensure a project is still on track including cost variance, schedule variance and issue and risk counts. The metrics also depend on the type of project as waterfall and Agile projects use different metrics. In a traditional waterfall project, schedule variance and milestone counts are used to track project progress. In Agile, velocity, burn down and burn up charts are used to measure performance.

Budget vs actual spend is an easy metric to manager but not all project managers have budget responsibility. In your response, highlight how you’ve measure task progress against the schedule baseline and how track the number of completed tasks versus planned to complete tasks. This forms a basic schedule performance index. Ofcourse, if you haven’t adopted this technique, I’d encourage you to start.

25. How do you go about turning around a troubled project?

Interview Question Intent

This question is more advanced than standard project management interview questions. You should be prepared to answer how you’ve turned around troubled projects previously. The position your are interviewing for likely has a troubled project that needs a new project manager to steer the project.

Interview Answer Guidance

Look for examples where a project was failing to achieve its objectives and review the actions taken to improve project progress. Project recovery is a methodology in itself however, highlighting how using a project audit, identifying “inchstones” vs. milestones to measure turnaround progress and applying the fundamentals of project management help provide turnaround answers.

I’ve found project turnarounds really require a return to the fundamentals of managing tasks, communicating issues and risks and obtaining stakeholder support to remove obstacles. Sometimes, we get too busy trying to deliver a project that we lose focus on the fundamentals that ensure project success.

26. When a project hits roadblock and doesn’t go according to schedule, what actions do you take?

Interview Question Intent

Similar to the off-track project question, the interviewer is assessing your analysis skills and leadership skills to resolve project roadblocks.

Interview Answer Guidance

Avoid providing a generic answer and instead ask about the context of the question. Is the interviewer referring to a specific roadblock for a project they are experiencing? If you have more context, you can provide a more specific answer.

In general, once a roadblock occurs, I bring the team together, identify the root cause of the issue and build a plan to resolve the issue. I also ensure the issue is appropriately communicated in the project status report and in a portfolio review. If the roadblock is significant enough, I’ll escalate to the stakeholder and my immediate management for support.

Roadblocks can be found in executing purchase agreements, signing contracts, resolving a technical issue or depending on another team to do work yet they haven’t delivered to their commitments. Your past project history will provide a wealth of examples.

27. How do you provide status updates?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to understand your status reporting and communication approach to all stakeholders and not just the immediate management team.

Interview Answer Guidance

Status reporting is a mundane administrative task however, you can demonstrate your expertise by including how you leverage a communication plan and manage stakeholders with status reporting. Go beyond the “I fill out a status report” answer and provide examples on how you’ve managed stakeholder expectations when communicating a “red” status report.

You can also mention how you’ve implemented a governance structure using weekly project team status meetings, bi-weekly steering committee meetings and monthly executive committee meetings. Different stakeholders require different types of communication so highlight how you’ve used status reporting, email and 1:1 communications to manage status updates.

If you used any project management tools to create project dashboards (Trello, Confluence, Sharepoint), be sure to include those examples.

28. What goes into a meaningful status report?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer understands the key components of meaningful status. The question is directed to you to see if you know.

Interview Answer Guidance

I’m a fan of 1 page status reports that summarize the milestones, accomplishments, future plans, top 3 risks and issues and objective budget and schedule metrics. No one wants to read a 2-3 page status report. The status report is the mechanism to communicate progress and request support.

Review you project archives for past status report formats and content that worked well with the project stakeholders. If you need an excellent one page project status report template, check out http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com/project-status-report/

29. How do you close a project?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer is assessing your project closure and wrap up knowledge. This is a less likely asked question as a lot of project teams are quick to disband once the project launches and the project completes.

Interview Answer Guidance

Conducting lessons learned is an obvious step in the project closure process. Lessons learned are important but they also can be gleaned any time in the project. Think about the other administrative closure steps including transitioning any project artifacts to the support team, archiving project documents and ensuring invoices and contracts are properly processed and closed. You organization may require formal approval for project closure or a tollgate.

Also remember to include the individual team member feedback for the annual performance review. Most importantly, highlight how your gave credit and recognition to the project team and individual team members.

Project Management Interview Questions – Leadership Behaviors

project management interview questions leadership

30. What are the top 3 leadership behaviors a project manager should demonstrate?

Interview Question Intent

Project managers are placed into a leadership roles often without direct HR responsibility for the project resources. The intent is to understand what leadership behaviors should a successful project manager demonstrate?

Interview Answer Guidance

The are a lot of different leadership behaviors ranging from effective listening, coaching, team motivation and communication. My top three favorites leadership behaviors are demonstrating a drive for results, customer commitment and communication. If I had to pick a fourth, it would be demonstrating courage.

Project managers need to maintain a drive to achieve the project objectives and overall results. By maintaining a focus on the customer, it ensures the project team is listening to the customer needs and can anticipate needs earlier. Communication is the third key leadership behavior as 90% of a project manager’s job is communication. Demonstrating courage to try new approaches, communicate bad news and identify new ways to accomplish work are all important leadership traits for successful project management.

31. What’s your leadership style?

Other Variations

  • What is your work style?

Interview Question Intent

The style question is used to get a sense of how the project manager would work with the team. Similar to the leadership behaviors question, the style question should balance when to be directive, coaching or listening to all the options for the best solution.

Interview Answer Guidance

Leadership style is always subjective but it is a good idea to be familiar with the different types of leadership styles. Daniel Goleman and Ken Blanchard and Hersey have two different models around situational leadership. Coaching, democratic, authoritative and coercive are a part of Goleman’s model. Blanchard and Hersey describe a telling, selling, participating and delegating leadership matrix style.

These organizational behavior concepts are good to know and apply in a team leadership role. Of course you don’t want to cite Goleman and Blanchard in your answer, but understanding their models will help you shape your response. I often apply a coaching approach but if the situation requires a different style, I can adjust to be authoritative and coercive. The key is to apply the right leadership style that applies to the situation while always driving for results.

32. What three skills do you think are most important to be an effective project manager?

Other Variations

  • What are the most important qualities of a project manager?
  • What qualities are required to be an effective project manager?
  • What is the one skill a project manager needs to succeed in project management?
  • If you were to pick one skill for a project manager, what would it be and why?

Interview Question Intent

This question is another opportunity for you to demonstrate the balance of your technical project management skills and the softer, non-technical project management skills. Technical project management skills refer to Microsoft project scheduling expertise, web-based PM tool knowledge or practical PMBOK based tools and techniques. The softer, non-technical skills include communication, effective listening, team building and managing conflict. Successful project managers need to balance both.

Interview Answer Guidance

I’ve interviewed candidates who rely heavily on their PMBOK knowledge of PM processes and their ability to use tools like Microsoft Project, Excel or JIRA to manage projects. Technical knowledge is important but the candidate also needs to demonstrate leadership characteristics.

If a candidate is an expert in the PMBOK but can’t talk effectively to an executive team or manage conflict between team members, then the candidate won’t be successful in my teams. There needs to be a balance in the response as you don’t want to appear to strong on the softer skills. I’ve worked with “project coordinators” who thought of themselves as project managers but couldn’t build a project schedule worth following.

The best candidates will demonstrate a balance between the soft and hard skills. My preferred response is communication, negotiation and the ability to track progress in schedule. Communication is 90% of a project managers job and a PM is often negotiating with others to motivate and achieve project results. The PM also needs to know how to build and track to a project schedule to ensure the project is on track.

33. What’s the one thing a project manager should do?

Interview Question Intent

This is similar to the PM skills question as it incorporates the leadership style with the skills question.

Interview Answer Guidance

It is very difficult to simply indicate the one thing a project manager should do on a project. It is a simple question that drives an open ended response. Communication, lead and issue resolution are some of the key things but if I had to pick only one, I would respond with – Enable the team to deliver the project.

Follow up your response with how you’ve enabled teams in the past. In an Agile project, the Scrum Master effectively removes impediments and enables the team to deliver. In classic Waterfall projects, the project manager should do the same.

34. Tell me about your organizational skills

Other Variations

  • How do you organize an average work week?
  • When have your organizational skills helped to keep a project on track?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer wants to know more than you keep a tidy desk and create daily task lists. This is an excellent opportunity to highlight how you organize a project for success.

Interview Answer Guidance

Lead with an example of how you organized your last project. I rely on creating a project management plan presentation instead of a lengthy project management plan document. The project management plan is used to orient all the stakeholders to the processes within the project. By leading with this answer, you can then dive into how you communicated with stakeholders, how you reported status, managed risks, etc.

It demonstrates you have knowledge on how to formally organize a project as well as flexibility in using templates that add value.

35. How do you improve your project management knowledge?

Interview Question Intent

Learning didn’t stop with college. Managers want talent that keeps up with changing times and continues to learn and improve the organization.

Interview Answer Guidance

If you respond with blogs or articles, be ready to cite the last article your read. If you mentioned ongoing PDU classes or local PMI chapters, be prepared to provide a key information nuggets or key take away. Avoid the generic answer of I read articles on the Internet. Be specific and demonstrate how you’ve put that learning into practice.

There are a lot of different ways to learn today. Lynda.com, Skill Share and Udemy all have technical and non-technical content that you can affordably learn. There are many project management podcasts available and even YouTube has a few PM channels. You always want to be learning and be ready to share what you’ve learned.

Project Management Interview Questions – Communication and Stakeholder Management

project management interview questions communication

36. How do you communicate a failure or negative news the team?

Interview Question Intent

This question focuses on how well you communicate the bad news. It is easy to communicate positive news to a stakeholder or an employee. The interviewer wants to understand how you’ve communicated a failure or negative news to a team.

Interview Answer Guidance

Integrity is a key leadership behavior for all employees and not just project managers. However, a project manager needs to be able to demand the truth and communicate good news and bad news with integrity.

Communicating bad news isn’t easy and it can be intimidating as there is a tendency for the stakeholder to “shoot the messenger”. However, your role as a project manager is to communicate status, issues, risks and where help is needed. This also means communicating bad news early and being transparent about the actions that cause the problem and the next steps to address the problem.

A common scenario is communicating a project will miss its launch date. The key is to communicate early, identify the actions taken to maintain the original launch date and next steps to ensure the revised launch date would be maintained. I’d also include how the customer agreed to the revised timeline despite the team’s attempts to maintain the original date.

37. Assume the customer is not happy with the project’s result and does not accept the solution. What would you as a project manager do?

Interview Question Intent

How do you handle a disgruntled business customer?

Interview Answer Guidance

If you are going to be in project management, you will experience happy and unhappy customers. Project management can be a thankless role as you are often the bearer of bad news when communicating project overruns, missed dates and project issues. You may be the messenger but the business customer is looking for your proactive solutions to address missed requirements or a poor performing solution.

It is important to listen to the customer and seek to understand their position. People rarely behave poorly or rudely in a business organization unless the behavior is motivated. Ask for time to review the issue with the team and follow up with several options.

The customer may be upset due to a missed requirement or a misunderstood requirement. The project team can then determine if any corrective action is possible or if the team can fix the issue within the project constraints.

38. What kind of people do you find difficult to work with?

Interview Question Intent

This question probes your temperament and the types of behaviors that irk you.

Interview Answer Guidance

You will inevitably find yourself working with another team member with a different communication style and perspective on how to accomplish the project. This person could be a project sponsor, a vendor or a co-worker. The key is the communicate the types of behaviors that cause issues within a project and how you handle those challenges.

I’ve worked on several projects where my co-worker and I agreed differently on approach and the key steps to complete a project. However, we both agreed on the need to complete the project despite having spirited conversations that could pull the team in different directions.

In a project management setting, you are being brought in to deliver a project and the interviewer wants to hear how you’ve delivered independent of the personality challenges you encounter on a project.

39. How would you describe your communication and leadership style?

Interview Question Intent

The majority of a project manager’s job is communication and you are being put into a leadership role – usually leading team members who don’t report to you. The intent of the question is to determine how you communicate to different stakeholders as well as your leadership style.

Interview Answer Guidance

Think about a past example where you implemented a communication plan to different stakeholders and how you’ve demonstrated your leadership skills. You can refer to the communication plan but that may appear to PM textbook. Instead, think about the various people you communicated to on your last complex project.

  • How often did you communicate?
  • How did you adjust the communication to the stakeholder?
  • What medium did you use to communicate? In-person, email, status report?

Refer back to the What’s Your Leadership Style question in this article on how to handle the leadership question.

40. When do you seek help outside of the project team?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer knows you will have challenges in the project that can’t be solved by the immediate team. They also want to understand how you solve problems before escalating the issue.

Interview Answer Guidance

Think about how you’ve asked for help in the past but ensure you communicate how you’ve tried to solve the problem before escalating for help. Project managers typically track these items as issues on a project log. Some issues need senior management assistance and need to be communicated during status reporting or even before the next status reporting period.

Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness. As the project manager, you are expected to work with the team to solve the impediment or project problem. However, knowing when to ask for help is a key success factor for a successful project manager.

41. How do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?

Interview Question Intent

Every project has different personalities with customers, sponsors, vendors and other stakeholders. The interviewer wants to get a sense of how you handle communications and relationships with various stakeholders.

Interview Answer Guidance

Stakeholder analysis and communication plans are textbook project management answers. You can refer to these tools to get a sense of each stakeholders needs. Don’t rely entirely on those tools as answers because you’ll come across as too textbook. Provide a few examples of how you handled different stakeholders needs and how you assessed their impact on the project. The stakeholders that have a lot of power and influence need to be handled differently than the less influential stakeholders. However, both groups need sufficient communication.

42. Did your colleagues or your manager ever challenge your decisions?

Interview Question Intent

You won’t always have the best solution to a problem. Be prepared to discuss how you handled team members challenging your decisions.

Interview Answer Guidance

Project managers don’t make all the decisions. The smart ones know when to engage the team and incorporate the feedback into an overall recommendation. Think about a time when you had to brainstorm options and facilitate a recommendation.

It is ok if team members or stakeholders challenge or disagree with a decision. It will happen in a project and if you don’t have open communication with your team, you may never know of dissenting opinions.

43. How do you gain agreement with teams?

Interview Question Intent

Gaining consensus is never easy. The interviewer wants to hear about your approach to resolving conflicts and gaining consensus on a team issue.

Interview Answer Guidance

Be prepared to talk about a recent time where you were responsible for gaining agreement among a team or between two different teams. Think of examples where you sought to understand the other teams point of view, paraphrased their feedback and gained support for a specific action.

Project managers may have to escalate an issue to stakeholders to gain agreement. However, the project manager shouldn’t escalate every issue and should demonstrate how to gain consensus.

44. How do you handle office politics?

Interview Question Intent

Politics are everywhere in an organization. The interviewer wants to hear how you navigate those rocky waters.

Interview Answer Guidance

This is a great question as every organization has office politics with inside influencers. Think about a few times when you or your project was influenced by office politics. How did you manage the situation?

I recommend communicating the situation and how you still focused on the project goal and drove for the result. This is also an good opportunity to demonstrate how you manage challenging stakeholders including the stakeholders who aren’t 100% aligned with your project.

45. Can you give us an example of a time you successfully managed up?

Interview Question Intent

Managers and executive teams will often give a directive or an aggressive deadline. Project managers need to manage the project and they need to manage their stakeholders effectively. How have you managed these demands?

Interview Answer Guidance

Think about a time when you were given an unrealistic date and needed to manage expectations. How did you approach trading off scope or get additional resources to meet the date? How did you raise the issues or key requests to the stakeholders or your direct manager to get support?

You will want to demonstrate how you delivered even if you had to negotiate some of the project constraints. Managing a demanding executive or direct manager is a much needed skill as you won’t always have the luxury of a sympathetic or understanding executive team.

46. How will you gain and keep the support of your project sponsors?

Interview Question Intent

The interviewer knows gaining project sponsor can be a challenge. Keeping sponsor support during a troubled project can be even more difficult especially when organizations may kill poor performing projects. How do you gain and maintain support for your projects?

Interview Answer Guidance

A project is usually sponsored by an executive team or a senior manager who has an idea for the organization. The project charter, a product canvas, or a vision document is used to garner support to start the project. Think about a past project where you successfully initiated the project and then maintained communication with the stakeholders.

When the project was in troubled, how did you communicate a troubled status? How did your manager stakeholders’ expectations? The formal PM documents like a communication plan and stakeholder analysis will help formulate your answer. However, you also want to show how professional judgement and your leadership skills were applied to keep project sponsor support.

47. How do you handle conflict?

Interview Question Intent

Can you think of any project that executes without conflict? Nope – Neither can I. If a project didn’t have conflict (scope, time, resources), then you wouldn’t need a project manager.

Interview Answer Guidance

This should be an easy question to answer as every project has conflict. Project team members will debate scope, project priorities, timelines and project costs. You can demonstrate your value as a successful project manager by demonstrating how you effectively manage conflict.

I’ve found several resources to be helpful in resolving conflict including – Crucial Conversations and The Speed of Trust. Both resources are recommended reading to help manage conflict between team members. Both these resources provide guidance on how to handle a strong minded person as well as approaches to ask for more time, think about the different viewpoints and come back with alternatives.

When I am in a conflicting situation, I try to take a breath and ask the person to “Help me understand the request or viewpoint”. This allows the person to express their concerns and gives you time to listen without reacting to an aggressive attack. Once your listen, paraphrase and restate the problem, you can ask for more time and come back with options.

Managing conflict isn’t easy but it is an important skill to demonstrate on your projects.

Project Management Interview Questions – Team Management

project management interview questions team management

48. Tell me about a time when you had to work with difficult co-workers?

Interview Question Intent

Similar to the Communication and Stakeholder management questions, these questions focus on resolving conflicts while driving the project forward. The sheer nature of project management operating across multiple organizations will create various opinions that often result in conflicting views. Some of these team members will make project delivery difficult. With this question, you want to demonstrate how you professionally addressed the concerns and found a path forward.

Interview Answer Guidance

This question is an excellent opportunity share some of your worst conflicts and hopefully your successful resolutions. Co-workers become difficult because of a difference of an opinion that becomes an internalized lack of respect and trust. Think about a time when you had a conflict, sought to clear the air and successfully addressed the concern. If you were unable to resolve the conflict, identify how you still delivered the project with an agreement to “agree we disagree”.

Projects have plenty of conflict so you should be able to identify a few examples.

49. How do you keep your team members motivated?

Interview Question Intent

Team motivation can be difficult to maintain on long projects with a lot of indecision. I’ve been on projects where the team is assembled and waits for architecture, infrastructure or an agreed set of requirements. I’ve been on other projects where the requirements keep changing week after week and the development feels like they are not making any progress.

Think about a time when you were responsible for rallying the team and how did you encourage team members to continue despite the challenges.

Interview Answer Guidance

I worked on one year-long project where our mantra quickly became “Every project has an end date”. That project had 3 different project managers and experienced a lot of drama. The team was definitely motivated as we conducted a staff meeting in the emergency room of a hospital when one of the team members was injured in a car accident.

In that project, despite the challenges, we found ways to keep the team motivated by organizing the project so each sub-team could control their own scope and outcome. When a team can’t manager their work themselves, motivation decreases as teams become order takes vs. trusted free thinkers.

In my case, I sought more project management specific tasks as building schedules and a plan to address the risks was my motivation to move into project management roles. The key to this question is to identify a time when you listened to team members, identified what they want to actually work on and found ways to include those experiences while delivering on the project.

If you have a developer who wants to learn project management, let them shadow you or take on small project management tasks. If you have a busienss analyst with a desire to learn development, pair them with a seasoned developer and ask them to take on small development tasks to build their confidence. When team members are learning and growing their skills, their motivation will also improve.

50. How do you handle a team member who isn’t productive?

Other variations

  • How do you handle an under-performing team member?
  • Have you ever encountered team members who struggled to complete their tasks?

Interview Question Intent

You will inevitably have a team member who isn’t as productive as you had hoped or planned. The interviewer knows there are team members who are not as productive as others and wants to understand how handled the situation previously.

Interview Answer Guidance

Provide an example when a task was assigned and the person did not meet the delivery date. How did you communicate the expectation and work with the person to establish a new date? If the person still doesn’t deliver on time and a trend emerged, how did you raise the issue?

Direct and open-communication is key with an under-performing team member. Ensuring clear expectations were set and understood help communicate the need. If a team member isn’t productive, you’ll need to remove them from the team but also need to build a plan to handle the change in resources.

51. Do you have outsource personnel or supplier management experience?

Interview Question Intent

Many organizations leverage consultants, external service providers and offshore teams to deliver projects. Outsourcing is a common practice to achieve business results when the firm doesn’t have the resources internally. It is still an attractive financial option given how technology enables firms across the world to collaborate.

Interview Answer Guidance

Whenever there is an outsourced team, there will be a contract. Highlight how you developed the contract scope, managed scope changes, established service level agreements and managed overall project timing with outsourced teams.

You’ll also want to include examples where you developed a good working relationship with the outsourced supplier. Even the well detailed contracts will have scenarios where the work doesn’t fit exactly within the contract scope definition. The relationships help bridge the gap when there is ambiguity or a delay in contract changes.

Project Project Management Interview Questions – Project Management Software

project management interview questions software

52. What are different kinds of project management tools you worked with?

Other Variations

  • Which project management tools have you worked with?
  • Do you prefer any particular project management software?

Interview Question Intent

The de facto standard in project management tools is Microsoft Project or Excel. Many project managers unfortunately use Excel as a task tracking tool when they should be better scheduling tools like Microsoft Project, SmartSheet or LiquidPlanner.

There are new project management tools introduced every year. The interviewer wants to hear how you use industry proven tools like Microsoft Project as well as any emerging tools.

Interview Answer Guidance

I’m assuming you already use Microsoft Project as a tracking tool. If you are one of those Excel project managers, that’s ok too, just be sure to highlight how you tracked tasks, dates and dependencies. A casual interviewer will listen for the buzzword, but be prepared to discuss how to effectively build and manage a project schedule.

Spend some time researching prominent web-based project management tools as organizations are adopting more project portfolio management solutions that integrate with task management tools like LiquidPlannerJIRA, Workfront, Trello and Asana.

Over 50 Project Management Interview Questions and Answers

If you’ve made it this far, you’re read over 50 key project management interview questions and answers which will  help prepare you for your next project management interview! If you want a formal step by step process on how to prepare and pass your next project management interview, check out Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy.

Other PM Resources

project management salary range
Opt In Image
Get the Job You Deserve In 7 Easy Steps
Learn a simple 7 step process for finding, preparing and passing your next PM interview
  1. Learn how to write a project management specific resume. Optimize your resume to highlight your PM experience and get an interview
  2. Find the right opportunity. Ensure the opportunity is a fit for you as well as the company. Finding the right opportunity goes beyond applying to job boards and attending a PMI meeting.
  3. Pass the initial phone screen. Learn how to pass the phone screen and learn the secrets recruiters use to validate your profile.
  4. Prepare for the on-site interview and the stages afterward. Learn how to successfully prepare for the on-site interview using a proven technique with minimal preparation.