Whether you’re just getting started as a project manager or looking to grow by switching companies, you’re going to have to face the dreaded hiring squad. Even if you’ve been working in a professional setting for years and years, being asked to prove your value in an interview setting can be very intimidating. Of course, the best way to avoid feelings of insecurity and self-doubt during an interview is to prepare extensively.
It’s not only very important that you know how to prepare for a project management interview, but also that you have answers ready for the most common project management job interview questions.
To help you really shine at your next round of interviews for project management jobs, we put together this list of the most common questions you can expect and a few great ways to answer them.
Tell us about your professional background.
This one is pretty standard across every industry, and one of the most important statements to prepare. There’s a good chance your professional background is fairly extensive, so you’ll want to figure out how to most effectively condense it beforehand.
Instead of listing your past jobs (which will already be on your resume), summarize each one with your key achievements. Concrete numbers and statistics will really help make your wins standout.
If you can combine this part of the interview with a prepared case study that you can present to the hiring team, all the better.
Tell us about a time you faced a challenge and how you overcame it.
This question is bound to come up in just about every interview, so it’s a smart idea to prepare for it.
Be honest. Take a look back at your job history and reflect on a time when you truly felt like you hit a major roadblock and found a way around it. For example, perhaps communications on your team were lacking, and you suggested a project management software to improve it. Or your processes were inefficient, so you rewired the system. Every job comes with its own set of challenges, and it’s human nature to fix them.
Don’t be humble here; now’s your time to brag about your problem-solving capabilities! One small caveat: as tempting as it might be, try not to disparage your previous companies/supervisors while answering this question.
How would you describe your leadership and communication style?
As a project manager, you have to – you guessed it – manage. This means you need to be an excellent leader and communicator. A great way to answer this question is by describing your versatility in both endeavors.
Show that you are flexible and a great listener, but can take the reins when needed. Reading up on and being able to discuss popular leadership styles (e.g., transformational, strategic, democratic, etc.) will show that you’re deeply in tune with guiding business principles.
How can you tell if a project is off track, and how do you get it back on schedule?
Because this is 90% of your job, it’s a very important question to answer favorably. Using an anecdote of a time when you spotted a project going off the rails (before it was too late) would be the most effective way to answer this question. Show the interviewer that, as a project manager, you are capable of setting up processes to detect issues early on.
As for the second part of this question, this is another good opportunity to show off your leadership capabilities. How do you communicate issues across the team? How do you rally the team to get on track? Look back on your experiences – including what leadership techniques, software, and communication strategies – you used to smooth the course of the project.
What if I don’t have project management experience?
Many people choose to start project management careers without formal experience in a PM role. Sure, in this case, the fourth question might be tricky to answer if you don’t have specific projects you can point to. But chances are your experience pointed you toward the path of a PM for a reason. Look for informal experiences in your job history that demonstrate the traits of a successful PM: flexibility, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills, just to name a few.
If you’re interested in seeking out new project management jobs, you should begin by taking a look at your past achievements, revelations, and growth over the years. Once you wrap your head around all that, you should be able to answer the above questions effortlessly. Best of luck with your interviews!