Top 10 Project Manager Interview Questions
When interviewing for a project manager position, you want to do everything you can to let the interviewer see your team building and leadership skills.
While you should always be prepared for common job interview questions, there are some specific project manager interview questions that you’ll want to make sure you have practiced beforehand.
What skills do project managers need?
Project managers or program managers (PMs, for short) are specialized managers who oversee the process of completing projects or administering programs. They are great at motivating and leading teams, while organizing people and details to make it all go off without a hitch.
This balance of process details and team leadership takes a special person!
Companies are looking for someone who can do both—handle the day-to-day details of a project while also motivating team members to complete tasks and collaborate effectively. Project manager and program manager interview questions will be targeted at finding this kind of person from a pile of resumes.
Top 10 project manager interview questions and answers
The below list of PM interview questions is not exhaustive, by any means. However, it does give you a taste for the kinds of questions they’ll be asking and help you understand what interviewers are looking for. Expect both situational and behavioral project manager questions, like:
1. What is one skill a project manager needs to succeed?
Interviewers love asking this because it forces you to choose one among many necessary skills for project managers to possess. There is no one right answer. However, this answer should reflect your greatest strength and how it would benefit the role of project manager.
"Project managers must have a diverse range of abilities, but I would say most importantly they need to be flexible. This can mean being able to quickly adjust to taking on a new direction to better execute a project or to meet a new deadline. Or it could mean being adaptable to work with an array of personality types. In this role, sometimes you will need to react quickly and strategically so being able to adapt to new circumstances is necessary."
2. How do you approach a newly assigned project?
This allows the interviewer to see your approach to project management and to gauge your organizational skills.
"First, I would specify the objective of the project and the end result we are hoping for. Second, I’ll conduct research to better understand how to reach that end result. Next, I’ll make a list to lay out the steps required among the team. Lastly, based on that list, I will delegate out tasks dependent upon the skill set of each team member. In order to achieve maximum results and bring the project to completion, it requires using the strengths of your team to your advantage."
3. When a project didn't go well, what happened?
This may sound like a trick question but be honest with your answer. However, be sure to avoid bad mouthing others or admitting to something that is a fundamental basic of project management. Also, focus more on how you fixed the situation versus what went wrong.
"In my previous role, I managed a team with a new employee. My team and I made the mistake of assuming the new employee would know how to seamlessly work around our existing process. After some time, I realized he was slightly confused. I called the team together in order to explain how we work and his specific role on this project. Also, I described how I envisioned each aspect coming together to form a cohesive and successful outcome."
4. How do you ensure your team stays on track to meet project deadlines?
The interviewer wants to know that you can manage your team effectively. Also, they want to make sure you not only get projects completed, but in a timely manner.
"I think it all comes down to communication and accountability. The team should have some sort of idea what the others are working on. This way each person knows they have to hold their weight and have others relying on them. Setting expectations and creating tentative schedules of when tasks will be completed helps to instill this among the team. We are responsible for separate aspects, however as a whole we must work together to finish a project within the designated deadline. Also, I'm adamant about check-ins to make sure everyone is making progress and to offer assistance, if necessary. I truly follow the philosophy that the team is only as strong as its weakest member."
5. You are the project manager and want to do option A. Everyone else on your team wants to do option B. What do you do?
Tension within a team is usually created due to differences in opinion. Explain to the interviewer how you would handle such a situation, while keeping the best interest of the project in mind.
"I always believe in my team and clearly there was a reason they all preferred option B. I would ask their reasoning behind the preference. Given their explanation, if I felt as if the project would be more successful using option B, I would definitely be on board. I don't take those types of things personally. At the end of the day, it's about what will create the best possible results for the given project."
6. How do you know when a project is off-track, and how do you course correct?
It’s common for projects to lose momentum or get off-track. Every project or program has its challenges. As a PM, it’s your job to know when this is happening and how to fix it.
"I set clear expectations and deadlines with my team up front—with their buy-in—so it’s easy to tell when something is amiss or behind schedule. Often, because they weighed in and helped set realistic deadlines, the team will handle these kinds of issues proactively. But if that’s not happening, it takes clear communication, asking lots of questions and getting an understanding of what’s happening from the affected team members to highlight the best way to handle the situation. Reminding them of the schedule is sometimes enough. Celebrating small wins along the way also helps the team stay on track."
7. Have you managed a project with budget constraints?
This can be a simple yes or no answer, but it’s better to elaborate with your specific experiences and numbers, especially if you were ever under budget.
"Yes, I once managed a multimillion-dollar software expansion project. The software helped modernize and automate the company’s workflow significantly, which improved margins. We were able to complete the project on time and $100,000 under budget.”
8. Tell me about your experience managing remote teams?
Especially now, remote teams and outsourcing are more of a reality than ever. Hiring managers want to know their PMs are comfortable with these kinds of scenarios. Again, if you have it, highlight your actual experience. If you don’t, explain how you would ideally manage a remote team.
"The last project I worked on at my most recent employer had a few remote team members and an outsourced graphic design component. I made sure to treat them like every other team member. Everyone was included on all pertinent meetings—which were video-based so all could attend—and communications, so we were all on the same page. The remote and outsourced team members had the same say on expectations and deadlines that impacted them as everyone else. Then it just took regular communication to keep them rolling.”
9. How do you handle a question that you don’t know the answer to or deal with a task where you aren’t the expert?
This is a telling question that will show the hiring manager whether you can delegate, how resourceful you are when it comes to finding answers and resolving issues and if you’re willing to look for help and collaborate outside your project team.
"As a PM, I don’t always know the answers, but it’s my job to know who to go to or how to connect the dots. I take every opportunity to find and build relationships with experts, so that when I need their input, they’re happy to share what they know. I also have no problem delegating work to people who are subject matter experts or who truly enjoy that kind of work. The result is more collaborative, innovative and better overall than if I’d tried to handle everything myself.”
10. How comfortable are you with technology?
This question will likely be customized based on the specific technology and software the company uses, but the underlying implication is the same. Are you comfortable with technology and/or are you willing to learn?
"Yes, I’ve used many different PM software solutions over my career (insert and elaborate on those here). I also love new technology and learning how to apply it for more streamlined and better results!”
Have you already been through project manager interviews? Did the interviewers ask you questions like the ones on this list? Tell us about it below!