Common Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers

by | Dec 10, 2021

By 2027, there are expected to be 22 million new project management jobs globally. With project management roles in high demand, now is the perfect time to hone your digital skills and prepare for your next project management interview.   

The role of a project manager is multifaceted. A project manager is responsible for creating and organizing a project plan, managing a team, communicating with key stakeholders, and executing a project plan on time and within budget.

Project managers are required to learn a wide range of technical and non-technical skills.

  • Technical Skills = technical knowledge and abilities (i.e., knowledge of project management tools and software, time management skills, task management skills, budget management skills, etc.)

  • Non-Technical Skills = interpersonal skills (i.e., leadership skills, problem-solving abilities, communication skills, conflict resolution, etc.)

During a project manager interview, you can expect to receive questions about your previous experience as a manager and how you’ve employed both your technical and non-technical skills to complete a project plan successfully. 

Below is a list of commonly used project manager interview questions, along with strategies you can use to prepare and answer these questions effectively.  

Project Management Interview Questions and Answers

1. What is the most important thing a project manager does?

This question evaluates your knowledge and understanding of a project manager’s critical roles and responsibilities. It is an opportunity for you to explain how your previous experience has shaped your understanding of the position and helped you identify what skills are most valuable to the success of someone in a project manager position.

How to Answer: Start by reflecting on past projects you’ve worked on and identify the task you spend most of your time doing. Then, determine which technical or non-technical skill you employed to complete the task. Once you’ve decided on a skill to highlight, explain why you believe this is the most important thing a project manager does and illustrate why you excel in this area.

2. Describe your management style

A project manager relies on their team to execute the project plan and achieve desired results. This question aims to understand how you manage and lead a project team. Interviewers often ask this question to gain insight into your values as a manager to see if it fits their company’s current needs and culture.

How to Answer: Before describing your management style, briefly explain what qualities you think make a strong manager. Once you’ve defined what makes a good manager, describe your management style and how you apply this to your role as a project manager.

In addition to describing your management style, describe how you can adapt your management style to meet the varying needs of a project or team. This question is also an opportunity for you to demonstrate a clear understanding of different project management methodologies and their various applications.

3. Describe your communication style

Strong communication skills are essential to all project management positions. According to the Project Management Institute, 90% of a project manager’s time is spent communicating [2]. Without effective communication skills, a project manager cannot lead or manage a successful project. The interviewer is asking you to demonstrate how you communicate with your team and other parties involved in the project plan.

How to Answer: Start by defining which communication skills are most important to you. Then, describe your communication style. Are you direct, approachable, empathetic? How do you communicate roles and responsibilities? What tools do you use to motivate your team to achieve project goals?

You will also want to touch on how you communicate with other parties involved in a project plan like key stakeholders, vendors, customers, etc.  Each party involved requires a slightly different approach to how you communicate. As the project manager, it is your responsibility to strike the right balance and share critical information with each party.

4. What was a challenging project, and how did you manage it?

This project manager interview question assesses how you identify and respond to problems that arise. It gives the interviewer insight into your previous experience as a manager and demonstrates how you lead when presented with obstacles or challenges.

How to Answer: When answering this question, start by identifying what made the project challenging in a positive, constructive way. Then, describe how you managed to overcome the challenge. Do this by pointing out the technical and non-technical skills that aided you in mitigating the issue and reaching the project goal. 

5. Have you ever had a project that did not meet the deadline or budget?

One of the fundamental responsibilities of a project manager is to manage the project’s budget and timeline. It is not uncommon for complications to delay deadlines and adversely affect a project budget. The interviewer is directly asking you to reference your budget and risk management skills.

How to Answer: The strategy for answering this question can be split into two parts. First, you will want to demonstrate how you identify possible risks and take appropriate action to avoid or mitigate those risks to keep a project on schedule and within budget. Second, give a detailed example of a time when an unforeseen variable derailed your project timeline or budget. Then, explain how you employed problem-solving techniques to get the project back on track.

6. Explain how you prioritize tasks on a project

Project managers are required to manage multiple moving parts at once. Solid organizational and prioritization skills are essential to the success and timely completion of a project. The interviewer will ask this type of question to gain insight into how you organize a project plan, prioritize tasks, and utilize time management skills. 

How to Answer: Start by explaining how you organize project tasks – more specifically, how you determine urgency and importance. Then, demonstrate how you communicate priorities and assign tasks to team members within a given timeline. It might also be helpful to provide specific examples of organizational tools you’ve used, such as Asana, to prioritize and delegate project tasks.

7. How do you manage team members that are not working to their full potential?

Project managers are responsible for delegating tasks and overseeing the work of a team. An underperforming team member can negatively affect the timeline and overall success of a project. This interview question aims to assess your management and leadership skills as well as your ability to resolve conflicts that arise with individual team members.   

How to Answer: This is an excellent opportunity to highlight aspects of your communication style, such as empathy or listening skills. Consider detailing specific strategies you’ve used to support and motivate a team member struggling with their work on a project. Demonstrate your ability to overcome challenges, be flexible with task assignments, and lead your team to meet collective project goals.

8. What sort of project management tools do you use?

Project managers rely heavily on project management tools and software to create, delegate, and execute a project plan. This interview question seeks to identify your experience using existing project management technologies.

How to Answer: Start by referencing the specific project management software(s) you have experience using. Mention the various aspects of the tool that you’ve used to manage a project. Demonstrate that you are up to date on current technologies and stress that you are willing to adapt your management style to fit the company’s needs.

Read the job description to determine what types of project management tools the company currently uses. If it is a tool you’ve used on past projects, give an example of how you’ve used that specific tool to plan, monitor, and report on a project. If you’ve never used the tool before, discuss similar programs you’ve used and explain that you are eager to learn a new tool.  

9. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project?

Mistakes are inevitable. It is how you manage those mistakes that define you as a strong leader and manager. An interviewer typically asks this type of question to assess your ability to take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes.

How to Answer: When answering this question, it is essential to be honest and refrain from placing blame. Take responsibility for your mistake and explain how it has made you a better project manager. Start by briefly explaining a mistake you’ve made in a previous role. Then, discuss what you learned from the experience or how you improved. Finish by describing how you plan to eliminate the potential of this mistake happening in the future.

Advancing Your Project Management Career with Pathstream

 The nine project manager interview questions and answers above cover some of the critical project management skills and competencies that a project manager candidate can be tested on during an interview. In addition to preparing your project manager interview answers, additional skills training and certification programs can make you a more competitive applicant and boost your project management knowledge base.

Pathstream offers courses like the Asana Project Management certificate to help you master one of the leading project management tools used by companies worldwide and prepare you for a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM ®) exam. Learn more about how Pathstream can help you advance your project management career here.  

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