A competent project manager will need to have numerous skills and attributes to be successful. However, the most important ones are planning and execution. As a project manager you are ultimately responsible for delivering the project on time and to budget. In this blog, we’ll give you some of the common project manager interview questions that you can expect to see, if you are applying for the role of project manager, and provide you with sample responses to both behavioural and scenario based project manager interview questions. These tips will apply whatever your job you’re looking for. Whether you’re applying to the NHS, or to a construction company, or something else entirely – we’ve got the tips for you!
Q1. What is a Project Manager?
This is one question that you can definitely be asked. If you are working as a project manager, in a leadership capacity, the person interviewing you will want to know that you understand the role and that you know what qualities are expected of you. Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
A competent project manager will need to have numerous skills and attributes to be successful. However, the most important ones are planning and execution.
As a project manager you are ultimately responsible for delivering the project on time and to budget. The only way you can successfully achieve these goals is to plan thoroughly and execute the delivery of your plan. If you fail in these two areas, the client, or your employer, is let down and the consequences can be far reaching.
The only way you can successfully achieve these goals is to plan thoroughly and execute the delivery of your plan. If you fail in these two areas, the client, or your employer, is let down and the consequences can be far reaching.
In addition to planning effectively and the thorough execution of the plan, you also need to communicate effectively (both in writing and verbally), have outstanding motivational skills, be enthusiastic about the project, have a flexible approach to working, be a great negotiator, be unwavering in the face of adversity and challenges and also be confident in your own and your teams abilities.
I believe I have all of these skills and qualities and can be relied upon to deliver fantastic results, on budget and also on time.
Q2. Describe the most challenging project you have worked on and why?
If you are applying for the role of project manager, then it’s essential to show the interviewer that you are capable of dealing with problems, and handling challenges with conviction and determination. When giving your answer to this, make the project sound as difficult as possible (time constraints, changing dynamics, difficult client etc.) Demonstrate you have the ability to work under pressure and deliver the project successfully. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your skills and attributes (management, leadership and communication.)
Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
One particular project immediately springs to mind. I was managing a project for a client who had specific requirements that continually changed. Every week they would change their mind on what they required, but I focused on completing the project successfully, on budget and on time whilst motivating my team.
The project was particularly challenging because some members of my team did not like the client and were threatening to quit.
I motivated my team continually and listened to their concerns as and when they raised any issues. I found that by communicating with my team regularly, it helped them to stay focused on the project.
I decided to discuss tactfully my concerns with the client. I felt it important to communicate with them how their indecision could potentiallyhave a negative impact on the project. Whilst I assured them the project would be delivered, I felt it was my responsibility to inform them of the potential negative impact the indecision could have on the overall result.
They took on board my comments and suggestions, and thanked me for my honest feedback.
The end result was that the project was delivered on time and to the satisfaction of the client.
At the end of the project, I conducted a meeting with my team members and all discussed what we had learned from the project so that we could improve for next time. I always find an honest and open approach to managing projects works well.
Describe your communication style during the management of a project
Communication is incredible important for managers. It’s essential that you can communicate with your staff in an effective manner – this is one of the fundamental qualities of good leadership. Having an open communication style with your team and your client or employer is important. You should aim to establish an environment where open discussion is encouraged. This will help you and your team to continually improve. Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
My style of communication is always open, honest and encouraging. I believe that, by having an open and encouraging style of communication, my team will discuss with me any issues and potential problems, which will in turn allow us to deliver the project on time and to specification.
Of course, there are times when a limited communication style is required, especially when we are operating to an extremely tight deadline. However, wherever possible, I always encourage open, honest and frank discussions where the team feel they can communicate with me at any time.
Q4. How would you motivate a team during a project?
Similarly to communication, it’s vital that you can motivate your team and lead them to great results. During your project manager interview, you will need to demonstrate that, as a project manager, you are fully aware of how important it is to motivate your team to get the job finished and to a high standard. As a project manager you are also a leader, whose responsibility it is to motivate, encourage and support your team, constantly driving them to complete the project successfully. Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
I would motivate my team in 3 ways.
1. Through a thorough brief at the start of the project;
2. By laying out the required standards of the project from the get go;
3. By communicating with them and also supporting them periodically throughout the project duration.
I feel a thorough brief at the start of the project that lays out the plan and key tasks is essential. If everyone knows their role within the project, then it is far more likely to be a success and the team will feel motivated throughout.
Also, by setting out the required standard and expectations at the start, none of the team members will have any cause to complain or feel demotivated. Clear lines of communication and expectations are essential to motivating a team.
Finally, by speaking with the team throughout the project, and also offering words of encouragement and support, each team member will feel valued, which is a key driver to delivering a successful project.
Q5. How would you delegate responsibility during a very important project with tight deadlines?
Delegation is an essential part of delivering a successful project. The only way this can be achieved is by knowing your teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Identify your key players within your team, trust them, and allow them to get on with the task in hand! Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
One of the most important things with regards to delegation, is to know your teams key strengths and weaknesses. That is why it is important to get to know your team inside out as soon as possible.
If you know your team well, you should not have a problem delegating tasks.
To specifically answer your question, I would draw up a list of tasks that needed to be delegated during the planning phase of the project, before identifying which team members should carry out each particular task based on their strengths.
Once the tasks were delegated, I would ensure eachteam member was fully aware of the brief. I would also make sure they provided me with a situation report and update on a periodic basis.
This would allow me to benchmark against my plan to ensure each task was working towards delivering a successful project, on time and within budget.
I would always trust my team to deliver based on the fact I would be fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
Q6. How would you ensure a project is delivered on time and budget?
The only way a project can be delivered on time and within budget is through thorough and effective PLANNING. State that you would ensure the project was delivered on time and within budget by planning, support during execution and a flexible approach to working. Remember that you need to impress the interviewer! Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
All projects I take control of are delivered by:
- Proper planning;
- Support during the execution phase;
- A flexible approach to working.
The planning phase is always done well in advance of the project start date and this allows me to strategically plan any eventuality. I will always create a vision board during the planning phase to identify the key issues that could arise during the execution of the project. This is important because it then allows me to prepare in advance for any eventuality. Then, if something happens to potentially put the project off track, it is not a surprise because I have contingency plan in place to deal with it.
Support during execution is whereby I provide motivational support to the team, and also look strategically for potential problems with the plan. This allows me to foresee issues and deal with them properly.
Finally, by having a flexible approach to the project, you are not set in your ways and blinkered by your own thinking. It is always important to listen to your team members and other stakeholders as they may foresee a better way of working that allows us to deliver the project more efficiently and cost effectively.
Q7. What is your strategy for working with an underperforming team member?
This is where your coaching and motivational skills will come in to play. Mention the word empathy, as this can sometimes be an important part of your project management skills. Tell them you would follow the 3 steps of IDENTIFY, COACH and SUPPORT. Below we’ve included a good sample response to this question:
My strategy would be to use a 3 step approach that has always worked for me in the past whenever a situation like this arises. That 3 step approach is:
Identify the issue that is affecting the team member. This would mean sitting down with them and getting to the root of the problem. Knowledge is power and if I understand what is causing them to underperform, I can resolve the situation quickly.
Once I had gathered the information during step 1, I could then put in place a coaching or development plan to help them improve. If it is something in their home or personal life that is causing them problems, I can create a plan for them based on their needs. However, if it is solely a performance related issue, I would put a plan in place to help coach and develop them whilst showing empathy if required.
I would then support them for the required period of time to ensure they got back on track with their performance.
Whatever the issue the team member had that was making them underperform, I would get to the bottom of it quickly, support them, show empathy where appropriate and put them on track to get back to peak performance as soon as possible.