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10 Questions That Pop-up in Every Project Management Interview

        posted by , January 11, 2013

If you only have 1 hour to prep for a project management interview — why not craft perfect responses to the most common questions?

Lovis Corinth

These 10 interview questions (or close variants) pop-up in most project management interviews.

1. Can you tell me about your last/current project?

This is an opportunity to show off your recent accomplishments. A few key points you should make:

Explain the context of the project. Too many candidates jump right into obscure business and technical terms — putting the interviewer to sleep. Show that you understand the project inside-out by effectively communicating its objectives.

Discuss the issues you faced and how you effectively managed them.

Illustrate how you applied methodologies and best practices.

Wrap up by stating the business value the project achieved.

2. Can you tell me about a project you managed that failed?

In many industries over 50% of projects fail. Unless you've had an unusual career, you've had projects fail — your interviewer knows this. This question can get very sticky if you don't take the right approach:

It's tempting to jump right into an explanation of the failure. However, it's better to provide some context first. Carefully describe the objectives and approach of the project. Explain what issues you faced and how you managed them.

When you get to the reason the project failed be careful not to take an accusing tone. If you say "the sponsor screwed up the requirements" (or something to that effect) you'll look negative.

State a few lessons learned at the project level.

Wrap up with a personal lesson that you learned (even if the failure was completely out of your control).

3. How do you handle unproductive team members?

Resource management questions are sure to pop up. Give specific examples and show that you're tough, fair and proactive.

4. What was your greatest project achievement?

This one allows you shine. Be sure to take full advantage by carefully explaining your contributions. Stress the business value that was delivered.

5. Can you tell me about a time that you had to cut quality to meet a deadline?

Questions that probe your ability to manage constraints and balance risk, quality, cost and time are sure to come up.

Think of a few examples from you're career when you've managed constraints effectively and be prepared to tell a good story. This approach is far more convincing than pretending you can always deliver top quality despite other constraints.

6. Detailed methodology questions (e.g. what is earned value analysis?)

If you're professionally certified or note methodologies on your resume — you can expect a few highly specific methodology questions.

This is to check if you really know your stuff. If they hit on a weak point: start with a disclaimer and then explain what you do know (even if it's high level).

If you're completely unfamiliar with a term, ask for clarification.

7. How do you manage difficult stakeholders?

Questions that probe how well you manage project politics are common.

Come into the interview prepared with some great stories of how you've influenced people, cut through political issues and resolved interpersonal challenges.

8. How do you manage project risk?

You can expect questions with regard to risk management. Again, the key is to be ready with examples from your career that you can explain well.

9. Why did you leave your last role?

Never say anything remotely negative. It's also a bad idea to sound lazy or selfish (e.g. the commute is too long etc...).

Stress that your career is driven by an intense desire for business experience and success.

10. What questions do you have for us?

A standard interview will leave a few minutes for your questions.

The key here is to avoid selfish questions related to money and work-life-balance conditions. You can figure that out in negotiations.

Show that you're intensely interested in the business and position. Try to get the interviewer thinking about you in the role.

The goal is to establish rapport, not to give the interviewer a stressful drilling.

Also Check out:
105 Project Management Interview Questions
How to Hire Good, Bad and Ugly Project Managers

This article is part of the ongoing series: how to win your next job.

More interview questions can be found here.

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