Software Project Manager interview questions are tricky.
They test your knowledge of project management and software development process as one.
Also, remember this:
All software development project manager interview questions require you to provide an answer from a leadership perspective.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll get the common interview questions for a project manager as well. I do have a separate video on these questions and answers. So, after you watch this video, scroll to the bottom – you’ll find more related videos.
10 Top Software Project Manager Interview Questions
What is Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?
So, to answer this question correctly, you need to name the main phases of an IT project.
For example, it might be:
- Designs and Wireframes
- Deployment into the production and the markets
- Hyper care
But, what’s more important, you need to understand what happens in these phases. You need to visualize and see what challenges, what kinds of work occur in those phases.
Interviewers will test your knowledge on how to deal with these challenges.
I have an in-depth article about the software development life cycle. Do read it as well.
What is Agile, Scrum, and Kanban?
And I hope you see the catch here, and you shouldn’t mix all these three terms.
Agile is an approach to managing something. It’s a set of concepts and principles.
Scrum and Kanban are frameworks.
From all IT Project Manager interview questions I have here, this one gets more candidates rejected then the rest.
Also, you need to know the specifics of how to implement Scrum and Kanban on your project to lead the development of an application.
So, you need to know:
- The main pre-requisites for the team and environment.
- How to implement this framework with new team members.
- The main challenges that a Scrum Master or a leader in Kanban framework faces daily
There are so many resources about Scrum and Kanban that I won’t waste your time here, explaining the basics.
You can also read this article: Scrum and How to be Truthful About it.
That’s why we’ll move on to a more tricky question:
What’s the main difference between Scrum and Kanban?
Agile practitioners have different points of view on this question. So, an interviewer might want to hear something different.
However, here are my top three differences:
First of all, Scrum is heavy on prescribed roles, while Kanban doesn’t specify at all.
Second, Scrum is time-boxed in all its processes. So, everything you do in Scrum has a time limit, while Kanban is a continuous flow of work.
Third, Kanban has a limit of work-in-progress items, while Scrum limits the scope of work with increments.
In any case, I do suggest you read more information about Scrum and Kanban.
The next common question that follows after the discussions of Scrum and Kanban is:
How to put it all together in an Agile Project Management approach?
You need to know that you apply Agile Frameworks to the execution phases of a big project.
Therefore, in a plan-driven project, only Implementation and Testing Phases will be done with Scrum or Kanban. The rest will go as plan-driven project management prescribes.
And again, it’s a big topic that you need to understand. Therefore, I have another video, a full video that describes Agile project management.
Agile Project Management With Scrum or Kanban (2018 Guide) [Click the link to open in a New Tab]
Okay, the next one:
Do you have any technical skills?
And believe me, the interviewers are not actually interested in your technical skills. They won’t test your skill level.
They want to know one critical thing:
How you will manage technical people without technical knowledge and expertise.
So, you need to show how to solve problems, how to make decisions without the technical skills and knowledge that your team has.
And here, you need to explain how good you are at delegating the work and decision-making to your team members.
On the other hand, you work with other aspects of a project:
- Business Value
- Scope of work
Moreover, I do recommend you point out that you do teach your team members how to work with you – the project manager.
It means that you have a ground-rule where engineers should explain complex problems in simple terms. At least your team leaders should do it well.
Also, you have a process for escalating the problems to you to make the decisions. Mention that as well.
In all other cases, you delegate.
On the other hand, an IT Project Manager needs technical awareness.
All right, moving on:
What are the main challenges in IT projects?
In IT, there’s a big list of these challenges, so different interviewers will want to hear different things.
So, I’ll share my perspective on the main challenges in IT projects.
All IT projects have a lot of uncertainty and a lot of sources for this uncertainty:
- Clients don’t understand what they really want.
- Clients don’t understand how we create applications and solutions.
- Clients don’t know the capabilities of the technologies around them.
- There is always uncertainty on whether we will be able to implement the application within given constraints of time and money.
- It’s unclear whether the two pieces of software will work together when we need to integrate them into one solution.
Moreover, the software development industry is unpredictable in general. The requirements that we collected today might be inadequate in six months from now.
#2: Communications Problem
Again, customers don’t understand how we implement an application, what does it take to code the application?
So, it’s challenging to translate the complex problems, issues, and risks related to the development of an application to a customer who has no technical education.
#3: Inadequate Skill Level of a Team
You see, nowadays, all IT projects are urgent.
Clients want to get their solutions as soon as possible.
And they cost a lot.
So, when the project starts, you don’t waste time hiring new people. You take all the resources available TODAY.
Otherwise, you may lose the client who will go to your competitors because they have the resources on demand.
But be careful with selecting the right words. Don’t make it seem like you are a know-it-all person, and your team is unskilled.
#4 Making All the Technologies Work Together
Believe me or not, it’s a wild west on the Web, for example.
Even today, it’s a challenge to make two web applications work seamlessly together.
Or one application infrastructure to work seamlessly across different technologies.
Next, an interviewer may ask you:
What does it take to write code?
So, for sure, they want to test your understanding of the process, so that you do not set unrealistic expectations for your developers.
Always keep in mind that writing code is a creative process!
First, you need to analyze the requirements, and then you need to research to find any solutions that you can use.
Second, a developer needs to make quick and dirty trials to see that this solution actually works as described.
Third, he is to check whether it integrates well with what we already have.
Only after that, the developer will write the final draft of the code, following all the guidelines and recommendations of the programming language.
It’s a tiny part of all the efforts that this developer needs to make.
Nowadays, it’s a common practice to do the peer review, so another developer will analyze this work.
After review, the developer will need to make corrections.
Later, when the testing is done, there might be defects that need to be fixed.
So, I will repeat it once again:
Writing the actual part of the code that will go into the application takes only a tiny bit of this whole process.
The investigation, research, and analysis, the creative process of thinking how to make it work together – all of these take the bulk of the time.
Now, you will not be shocked by the amount of effort it takes to implement even a simple application.
Okay, the next one is a more technical question:
What is the process of deployment of the final product to the market?
Interviewers use this kind of question to ensure that you understand the deployment process is a big part of the project.
So, to answer this question correctly, you need to explain what does it take to comply with all the requirements of the markets, like Apple Store and Google Play Market, and what does it take to deliver the application there?
Likewise, you need to show your understanding of what does it take to deploy the web application into a server and make it work?
For sure, you don’t need to have in-depth technical knowledge to do it yourself. However, you need to be able to explain what’s the process and what are the main steps there.
And for sure, they will ask you this:
How do you motivate people in IT?
As you can see, there is a catch in the IT industry, related to motivation and leadership.
First of all, you need to show your understanding that you will be working with highly-educated people with critical thinking.
Also, keep in mind that in most countries, IT experts are in high demand. So, usually, they’re not afraid to lose their current job because they can easily find another one.
Therefore, there’s a challenge in motivation because you need to work on the higher levels of the hierarchy of motivation, as Maslow’s described.
So, in IT, you can’t easily motivate people, just by promising higher salaries and making a beautiful office.
They want challenges, responsibilities, and a productive working environment.
So, you need to explain how you will tap into the self-esteem of this person. How will you motivate him or her by delegating responsibilities?
And I’ve got you covered here because I also have a masterclass on how to motivate and lead people.
BONUS #1: Behaviour Questions
This type of question requires you to describe a real case of your experience. You need to choose wisely because your choice shows your personality traits.
Watch this video to learn more:
BONUS #2: Unconventional Questions
This type of question tests your ability to solve problems, collect requirements, and critical thinking.
On an interview for an IT project manager role, you may get a question that seems out-of-the-blue.
But you should be ready that this question is essential.
Somewhere during the interview, I will ask the candidate:
“Do you see this smart TV on the wall? Let’s imagine that you’re starting a QA project, and you need to test the capabilities of this TV to ensure that they work as described in the requirements.”
And the question is, how will you identify the scope of work for this project?
The easiest and the correct answer is to take the manual. It has all the requirements described and structured in some form.
Based on this manual, we can expand the test suite as far as you need, but that is the core.
But, many candidates approach this question without thinking. They go deep into the theory of testing or the philosophy of how to approach this problem.
You need to show your ability to solve problems and get things done.
Okay, there is a wide variety of such questions, you can’t have all the answers in your head.
But, in general, you should follow the simple process.
First, you need to collect more requirements to have a full picture of what needs to be done.
And second, you need to find a practical solution, and usually, this solution is either on the internet or somewhere around you.
Conclusion on the Software Project Manager Interviews
First of all, you get a mix of questions:
Some will test your project management knowledge in general.
Others will test knowledge of the software development process.
Last but not least, interviewers will whether you are a good leader or not.
If you want to prepare even better for your interview, check the article on general interview questions for project managers. It’s a separate set of questions.