Project management has become an indispensable part of several industries. It helps organizations run their business smoothly and achieve better results. In simple terms, project management is the practice of leading the work required to accomplish a project within the given constraints. Generally, these constraints include time, budget, and scope. The individual who leads the team to accomplish one or more projects is known as a project manager. Every line of business needs a skilled project manager that can help them to deliver valuable products or services to end-users. There is no doubt that project managers are always in demand, irrespective of the industry type. If you are striving for a project manager position and looking for resources to prepare for a project manager interview, you have landed at the right place. This article aims to provide you with some commonly asked project manager interview questions. Before diving deep into the topic, let us first try to understand who is a project manager and what are their key roles and responsibilities. So, let us begin!
Who is a Project Manager?
A project manager is a skilled professional who plans, organizes, and implements projects within the time, budget, and quality constraints. Also, they are responsible for leading teams, collaborating with stakeholders or clients and cross-functional teams, and inspecting a project throughout its life cycle. From planning and initiation to the closure of a project, the active involvement of a project manager is essential. As a result, the success or failure of a project depends on the competence of a project manager.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager
The following is an overview of the roles and responsibilities of a project manager:
- Planning everything from initiation and execution to the delivery of projects.
- Directing and motivating the team to work for achieving desired goals.
- Delegating responsibilities to teams.
- Managing resources, budget, and negotiating with stakeholders for the deadline.
- Ensuring the deliverables of a project are delivered on time and within the given budget.
- Regularly monitoring the status of a project.
- Scheduling and conducting regular meetings to discuss the changes in requirements and the progress of a project.
- Managing documentation and reports.
- Creating a Plan B in case of emergency.
- Monitoring the progress of every team member.
- Coordinating with the stakeholders or clients.
The role of a project manager is pretty complex since they are in charge of the overall project from the beginning to the end. However, there are project management tools that can help them stay organized and productive.
50 Top Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers
A project manager is not only validated for their domain knowledge but also their behavioral and communication skills. We have divided the project manager interview questions into two parts, namely domain-based and scenario-based.
Domain-based Project Manager Interview Questions
1. What do you understand about Project Management?
Project management involves the use of various methods, techniques, skills, and tools to accomplish the objectives of a project within the given constraints. The primary goal of project management is to create a working project that meets the client’s requirements. Also, it involves leading a team to achieve specific goals within the given time and budget constraints.
2. Can you state the difference between Project, Program, and Portfolio?
Project: A project is an endeavor undertaken by an organization to produce a unique product or solution. It is temporary in nature and has fixed start and endpoints. Program: A program is a group of interrelated projects. It is managed and coordinated as a group and not individually. It is temporary in nature and lasts longer than a project. Portfolio: A portfolio is a collection of related or unrelated programs or projects. It is managed by a single group to accomplish a specific goal. It is permanent in nature.
3. What do you know about the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ principle?
Edward de Bono created the principle of ‘Six Thinking Hats.’ It is a way of looking into an issue from various perspectives that are conflict-free and transparent. In other terms, it ensures that a wide variety of thinking styles and viewpoints are presented to boost creative conversations. The following are the six hats in the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ principle:
- White Hat: The White Hat or the “Factual Hat” indicates information gathering. A person having this hat needs to think about the information you have collected. Also, they need to think about missing information and how to get it.
- Red Hat: The Red Hat or the ‘Hat for the Heart” represents feelings and instincts. One who wears this hat can express feelings and share likes and dislikes without having to justify them logically.
- Black Hat: The Black Hat or the ‘Judge’s Hat’ represents being cautious and assessing risk. An individual with this hat needs to think about worst-case scenarios to find solutions to a problem.
- Yellow Hat: The Yellow Hat or the ‘Optimist’s Hat’ symbolizes brightness and optimism. A person who owns this hat is responsible for thinking about all the positive aspects of a project and encouraging team members.
- Green Hat: The Green Hat or the ‘Creative Hat’ represents creative thinking. One who possesses this hat has to think creatively. They should bring innovative solutions to solve problems and work with better productivity.
- Blue Hat: A person wearing the Blue Hat or the ‘Conductor’s Hat’ controls decision-making.
4. Can you elaborate on the project management life cycle?
A project management life cycle is a sequence of activities performed to deliver a project successfully. It provides project managers with a structured and defined way to accomplish the project goals. There are five phases in the project management life cycle, as listed below:
- Initiation: Initiation is the first phase of the project management life cycle where the project starts. All the requirements, goals, strategies, tools, and resources are defined in this phase. In short, it provides an overview of the project.
- Planning: The next phase is planning. This phase includes determining the actual steps required to achieve the project goals. It involves establishing budgets, deadlines, source materials, and necessary documents. In addition, it involves predicting risks and outlining communication protocols.
- Execution: In this phase, the actual implementation of the project goals takes place. It means putting your plans into action to accomplish the project goals. It involves measuring and tracking progress, mitigating risks, managing budget, and resources, and managing the quality of your project.
- Monitoring and Controlling: The execution, monitoring, and controlling phases work hand in hand. They are not sequential phases. The monitoring and controlling phase ensure that the project meets the specified objectives.
- Closure: The last phase is closure. In this phase, all the project activities come to an end. You deliver the final project to its owner. Finally, it involves signing off the project with its owner using the project closure report.
5. What skills do you think a project manager should possess?
The following are the mandatory skills that every project manager should possess:
- Team management
- Personal organization
- Negotiation power
- Risk management
6. What are stakeholder analysis and Power-Interest Grid?
A stakeholder analysis is a process of creating a list of all possible stakeholders who are to be involved in the project somehow. Power-Interest Grid or Power-Interest Matrix enables project managers to identify, analyze, prioritize, and manage the stakeholders based on their significance and impact. Moreover, project managers of all levels of experience and seniority use Power-Interest Grid to effectively communicate with all the possible stakeholders associated with the project.
7. What kind of documents do you need while initiating a project?
The following are the documents that we need to initiate a project:
- Business Case Document: A business case document is a formal document that highlights why the project should be implemented and how it overweighs its costs. It includes all the project objectives, costs, and benefits to convince stakeholders.
- Agreement: An agreement is a formal document signed with clients or stakeholders. It outlines times, cost, scope, and terms and conditions agreed between the performing and requesting parties.
- Project Charter: A project charter highlights the objectives and establishes the project's authorization. It has the name of the project manager and is signed by the sponsor.
- Stakeholder Register: A stakeholder register is a document containing the list of stakeholders, along with their interests and current level of involvement.
8. Can you tell me about your techniques to collect project requirements?
The following are some of the significant techniques to collect project requirements:
- Data analysis
- Requirement workshops
- Reverse engineering
- Surveyor Questionnaire
- Affinity diagram
- Interview of stakeholders and users
9. What is the requirement traceability matrix (RTM)?
A requirement traceability matrix (RTM) is a document that maps all the requirements specified by the clients to the project under development. The primary purpose of RTM is to keep track of every requirement at each phase of the project management life cycle. Moreover, RTM ensures that the project meets all the requirements specified by the clients.
10. What is RAID in project management?
In project management, RAID is an acronym for Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Decisions.
- Risks: Risks are potential problems or events that may occur throughout the project and have detrimental or adverse consequences on the project's success.
- Assumptions: An assumption is anything you believe is true without any proof or empirical evidence.
- Issues: Issues are events or problems you may encounter throughout the project development. It is essential to fix the issues; otherwise, they may become the causes of the project failure.
- Dependencies: Dependencies are tasks or activities that must be started or completed in order to accomplish the project goals.
11. Explain Ishikawa/ Fishbone diagram.
The Ishikawa/ Fishbone diagram is also known as the cause and effect diagram. It is a cause analysis tool and is one of the seven basic quality tools. This tool is a visualization tool used for categorizing all the potential causes for a specific problem.
12. Can you explain the process of calculating the three-point estimating method?
The three-point estimation in project management is a technique of determining the probable outcomes of future events, depending on the available information. It is a technique to estimate the cost and time of work items. It has got its name three-point estimation because it measures the best-case estimate, the most likely estimate, and the worst-case estimate. We can calculate the three point-estimation using the following two methods:
- Triangular Distribution: E = (P+M+O)/3
- PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique): E = (P+4M+O)/6
Where P stands for a pessimist, O for an optimist, and M for Most likely.
13. Differentiate between risks and issues.
An issue is an event that has taken place, while the risk is an event that may or may not happen and can positively or negatively affect the project. Issues are more present-focused and tend to be more negative. All the issues in a project are documented in the Issue Register, whereas all the possible risks are documented in the Risk Register.
14. What are risk impact and risk probability?
Risk probability is a chance that a risk will occur, while risk impact is the cost when the risk occurs.
15. What is the Pareto analysis?
Pareto analysis is a quality and decision-making technique that assesses competing problems and evaluates the impact of fixing them on the project. This technique allows us to focus on fixing the problems that have an overall positive effect on the project. The Pareto analysis technique is based on the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule. This principle states that 80% of the project’s results are due to 20% of the work. Alternatively, it states 80% of the total problems can be traced to 20% of causes.
16. What do you know about the triple constraint triangle in project management?
The Triple Constraint Triangle is also known as Iron Triangle or Project Triangle. The three vertices of this triangle represent the three constraints of project management, namely cost, time, and scope. Cost : The cost is the project budget. Time: Time is the deadline within which the project should be completed. Scope: Scope is the tasks required to accomplish the project goals.
17. Can you list out some common types of risks that you might encounter in a project?
The following are some commonly encountered risks in any project:
- Performance risk
- Skill resource risk
- Technology risk
- Communication risk
- Operational risk
- Market risk
- External hazards risk
- Health and safety risk
- Scope creep risk
- Cost risk
18. Can you define QA and QC?
QA stands for Quality Assurance and QC stands for Quality Control. Both quality assurance and quality control are essential in the project management life cycle to ensure that every deliverable of the project meets the quality standard and is free from errors. Quality Assurance is the managerial process concerned with the improvement of the overall process to ensure that the project deliverables are error-free. If the processes or activities for developing the project improves, the overall quality of the project also improves. Quality Control is a monitoring and controlling process that focuses on verifying whether the project meets the quality standards or not.
19. What do you understand about the RACI matrix?
RACI is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. It is also known as a responsibility matrix or linear responsibility chart. The RACI matrix is used to define and clarify the roles and responsibilities of various members for each task, milestone, and decision that take place throughout the project. Also, this matrix or chart helps stakeholders understand the role of each member involved in accomplishing the tasks or deliverables of the project.
20. Can you explain the Work Breakdown Structure?
Work Breakdown Structure, often abbreviated as WBS, is a technique that provides us with an overall idea of the project scope. In other words, WBS is a visual, hierarchical, and deliverable-oriented deconstruction of the project. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK 5) defines WBS as a “hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.” The primary idea of WBS is to break down a large project into small and manageable chunks called project packages.
21. What do you understand about the critical path of a project?
A critical path in project management is the longest sequence of actions or tasks to be carried out to accomplish the project goals. The tasks involved in the critical path are referred to as critical activities. The delay in carrying out critical activities results in the delay of the whole project completion. It is essential to identify the critical path for every project because it allows project managers to:
- Estimate the total time required to complete the project.
- Identify project risks, task dependencies, and resource constraints.
- Prioritize tasks and create project schedules.
22. What is risk management, and what are the steps involved in risk management?
Risk management is the process of identifying, analyzing, responding to risks that occur throughout the project lifecycle to help the project meet the specified goals. The following are the critical steps involved in risk management:
- Identifying the risk
- Analyzing the risk
- Prioritizing the risk
- Assigning an owner to the risk
- Responding to the risk
- Monitoring the risk
23. Do you know conflict resolutions techniques to avoid conflict between stakeholders and team members?
A conflict in project management is a disagreement between stakeholders and team members. A project manager is responsible for resolving the conflicts between the team members and stakeholders to create a healthy and trustful environment. The following are the conflict resolution techniques that a project manager uses:
24. What do you know about the motivation theories to keep the team motivated?
A project manager is responsible for ensuring that the entire team is constantly motivated to accomplish the project goals in a timely manner. The following are some common motivational theories that a project manager use to motivate team members for project success:
- McClelland’s Theory
- Maslow’s Theory
- McGregor’s Theory
- Hertzberg’s Theory
- Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
25. Can you explain EVM?
EVM stands for Earned Value Management. It is also called earned value project management and earned value performance management. EVM is a project management technique to gauge project performance and progress. It combines all three constraints of the project management triangle, namely cost, time, and scope, to measure the performance and progress of the project.
26. What is the primary difference between project monitoring and project controlling?
Project monitoring deals with supervising or keeping track of the project’s performance. It involves the determination of the inconsistencies between the actual project performance and the project baseline. On the other hand, project controlling involves various tasks, such as establishing standards, comparing actual project performance with those standards, and taking corrective measures, if required.
27. What are processes and process groups in project management?
A process is a way of carrying out certain tasks involved in the completion of the project. There are 49 processes involved in project management that are categorized into the following knowledge areas:
- Integration management process
- Scope management process
- Schedule management process
- Cost management process
- Quality management process
- Resource management process
- Communications management process
- Risk management process
- Procurement management process
- Stakeholder management process
A process group is a collection of processes applicable in various phases of the project management life cycle. It is also referred to as phases. There are 5 process groups, generally called phases, in the project management process, as listed below:
- Monitoring and Control
28. What do you know about the team forming process in project management?
There are five stages in the team forming process, namely Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. Bruce Tuckman, in 1965, proposed the first four stages, while he proposed the last stage with Mary Ann Jensen in 1977. Every team has to go through these five stages of team forming, irrespective of whether they are working on a small and simple project or a large and complex project.
- Forming: In this stage, the team members meet each other and introduce themselves. They share their experiences, background, and interests. Also, the team members learn about the project they are going to work on.
- Storming: Each team member comes up with their ideas about the project. They have different perspectives about what and how it should be done. As a result, it may create conflict within the team. A project manager is responsible for handling conflicts and guiding team members to work effectively together.
- Norming: In the norming phase, the team members begin to work effectively as a team. Instead of individual perspectives or goals, they are focused on working on the project goals as a team.
- Performing: In this stage, the team members work with great speed and efficiency to achieve their goals.
- Adjourning: This is the final stage where team members move off in different directions.
29. What kind of bid documents can we use for procurement management?
Here are some significant bid documents that we can use for procurement management:
- Request for Information (RFI)
- Request for proposal (RFP)
- Purchase Order (PO)
- Procurement Statement of Work (SOW)
- Invitation for Bid (IFB)
30. What is gold plating?
Gold plating takes place when the team members add extra features to the project that were not part of the original scope. Some possible causes of gold plating include:
- Going above and beyond, i.e., the team thinks they will make the clients happier with the outcome of the project.
- Showing off, i.e., the team members want to showcase their abilities.
- Distracting from defects, i.e., hiding mistakes.
31. What do you know about performance reports?
Performance reports highlight the status of the project and its actual performance with respect to the established baselines. Also, it helps stakeholders to understand how the project is moving on and what direction it will take in the future. The team prepares three different performance reports, namely the Progress report, Status report, and Forecast report.
32. What do you know about fast-tracking and crashing techniques?
Fast-tracking and crash techniques in project management help the team shorten the project duration while maintaining the project scope. Fast-tracking: When the team performs various project activities simultaneously that would have been performed sequentially, it is referred to as fast-tracking. This technique simply rearranges the activities in the original schedule. It is applied only if the project activities can be overlapped. Crashing: When fast-tracking does not save enough time, crashing is used. Crashing is adding resources to the team with the least cost possible. It is an expensive technique.
33. Are you aware of trend analysis and variance analysis?
Variance Analysis: Variance analysis is a method of determining the discrepancy between the actual performance and the expected one or as planned in the project baseline. Trend Analysis: Trend analysis is a mathematical technique that leverages historical results to predict future outcomes.
34. State the difference between corrective and preventive actions?
Corrective Actions: These are the actions performed to eliminate or remove the cause of existing defects. Preventive Actions: These are the actions performed to eliminate the occurrence of potential defects.
35. How will you manage underperforming team members?
A project manager is responsible for keeping track of the performance of every team member and identifying the team members that are underperforming. Here are some ways a project manager should try to deal with underperforming team members:
- Direct and informal conversation.
- Take an empathetic way to identify and understand the underlying cause.
- Provide encouragement, motivation, and training.
- Analyze whether it is possible to change the role of a particular team member within the same project.
- Also, analyze whether the underperforming team member can be replaced with a more capable team member.
36. How will you handle the project when new change requests come in?
Change requests, often abbreviated as CR, are common in any project. They involve changes in any aspect of the project, such as resources, technology, timeline, scope, and requirements. Generally, the change requests arise from the clients and stakeholders. However, they may also arise from a project manager or a team member. Here are some key steps to manage new change requests in the project:
- Understanding change requests and analyzing their impact on other parts of the project.
- Collaborate with all the stakeholders and discuss the impact of new changes on the project.
- Seek approval for change requests from all the stakeholders.
- Prepare the updated project plan highlighting new changes and confirm it with the stakeholders.
- Once confirmed, start implementing those changes in the ongoing project.
- Maintain the history of all the changes taking place in the project after implementing new changes.
37. What are the activities that you would plan before closing the project?
Here are the key activities to perform or consider before closing the project:
- Examine and ensure that all the specified project requirements and criteria are met.
- Hand over the final deliverable of the project to the stakeholders.
- Take a formal sign-off from the project and hand over all the documents to stakeholders.
- Create a final report highlighting key points, strategies used, and lessons learned for future reference.
- Reward project contributors.
- Free up all the resources and equipment.
- Provide feedback and reward team members.
- Conclude all the financial dealings with vendors and supplies.
Scenario-Based Project Manager Interview Questions
38. Tell us about yourself.
This is the common question that interviewers ask in almost every job interview. Give a brief introduction of your background and qualifications. If you are an experienced project manager, share the past projects you have worked on. If you are a fresher, tell about the projects that you have accomplished in your college days.
39. What, according to you, is the most important skill to become a successful project manager?
Well, if you are already a project manager, you definitely know that there is no specific single skill to become a successful project manager. You can answer time management, leadership, communication, and other skills, along with their justification or reasons.
40. Can you describe some of the projects you have worked on in your previous job(s)?
If you are an experienced project manager, there is no doubt that an interviewer will ask this question. Make sure you list out all the projects that you have worked on, along with your roles and responsibilities and the strategies you have used to accomplish those projects. Also, list out only the successful projects and ensure that they are relevant to the job role you are applying for.
41. What is your way of handling unhappy customers?
It is obvious that an interviewer will question you about your way of handling unhappy customers if you are an experienced candidate. Your answer should highlight how much you value customers. You can also include that you try to make the necessary changes to the projects as per the customers’ requirements and have frequent interaction with them throughout the project.
42. What kind of projects interest you the most?
The motive of this question is to get to know what your interests are or what type of projects you would like to work on. Make sure you answer honestly based on your previous work experience. Also, you can tell about projects in which you excel and have worked on.
43. How do you ensure that your team stays on track to meet the project goals within the given time frame?
You can answer this question as, “I frequently communicate with the team members, track their progress, and if they lag somewhere, I will make myself approachable to solve their problems. Also, I prefer giving feedback to each team member so that they can improve themselves and stay motivated”.
44. What is the biggest challenge you faced while working on a project?
Avoid answering ‘I didn’t have the right team’, ‘Working with change requests was challenging’, or ‘there was a lack of support from an organization. Try to be realistic here. Give an example where you faced challenges due to external factors like lack of sufficient funds, or anything else. Also, mention how you tackled that situation and what you have learned from it.
45. What are the different project management tools you have worked with?
The interviewer asks this question to know what different kinds of project management tools you can use. It is better to research the project management tool that the company uses and explain it in a few lines. Also, mention how your knowledge of specific project management tools can help the company.
46. What is your communication style with your team?
While answering this question, assure the interviewer that you are an effective communicator and you frequently motivate your team to meet the project goals. Also, highlight the importance of communication in project management.
47. How do you prioritize tasks in a project?
This is yet another common question asked by interviewers. You can answer this question by explaining to the interviewer that you prioritize tasks depending upon the customers’ requirements and the critical path of a project. You can also mention your strategy of determining crucial tasks and what to leave behind for later.
48. What was your most successful project?
This question brings an opportunity to highlight your strengths. Mention the approach you followed to make the project successful and how you efficiently handled the team members and met the customers’ expectations.
49. What is your delegation style?
The interview validates your leadership qualities through this question. The best way to answer this is to explain your past strategy of delegating tasks that have worked well.
50. What do you prefer - working on a single project or multiple projects?
Be honest while answering this question. If you are comfortable working with a single project, mention accordingly. If you have worked on multiple projects simultaneously earlier, you can mention your experience.
Bonus Scenario-based Project Manager Interview Questions
- Did it happen before that you were not able to deliver a project within the deadline?
- How will you handle the failure of a project?
- How will you manage projects remotely while working from home?
- What are your career goals for the next six months?
- How do you set goals for your team and track them?
- How do you manage the performance of your team?
- What are the best practices you have used to develop the best customer relationships?
- How have you handled difficult stakeholders?
- What communication challenges did you face while working on your last project?
- How do you communicate bad news with your team?
The role of a project manager is pretty challenging, and so is the interview. It is essential to have sound domain knowledge, along with communication, leadership, team and time management, critical thinking, and negotiation skills. The aforementioned project manager interview questions and answers can help you brush up on your knowledge. Also, they provide you with an idea of what to expect in a project manager interview and help you prepare accordingly. We have divided the questions into two categories, domain-based and scenario-based. You may face a lot of scenario-based questions in an interview. Therefore, prepare yourself with the best possible answers to scenario-based questions. Good Luck!
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