Junior Project Manager interview questions are tricky in many senses.
From one side, you need to show an understanding of Project Management.
From another – you must demonstrate practical skills relevant to the role.
In fact, you have none of that in the beginning.
I interviewed junior project managers more than any other PMs.
Today, I want to share what an interviewing project manager wants to hear.
Before Interview Questions Begin
People make a decision to like you or not in the first few seconds of meeting you.
You can’t change this.
An experienced Project Manager knows that too.
She tries to overcome the gut feelings to assess you correctly. Nevertheless, the first impression is a serious factor.
I’m not going to explain all the details. It’s beyond the scope of this article. However, there are several steps you must take:
- Keep a confident posture when you come and sit.
- Maintain the eye contact with interviewers.
- Keep your hands visible. When you sit, hands should be above the table.
- Use gestures when explaining something.
- Use a firm handshake even with women. Do some training beforehand.
It all helps to get a gentler attitude towards a stranger like you. Yes, they treat you like a stranger!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Why do they all ask this question?
The interviewer needs a starting point. It is an excellent way to assess your general skills in communication. Your answer hints on your strengths and weaknesses.
So, how do you answer such a question?
Remember, it is a junior project manager role interview question.
An interviewer is 20% interested in your past. For the other 80%, he or she looks for relevant skills and talents.
You must show your understanding of the PM’s role by highlighting only relevant areas.
If you start with education, why is it relevant to the current job?
If you talk about your first job as a not-relevant-job-title-here, highlight at least one episode or aspect that applies to the work of a project manager.
Don’t just talk about your life.
2. Tell us about your previous experience
It can go as, “tell me more about your experience at…”
When the interviewer finds something interesting, she will start digging deeper.
It might be the first question as well.
From my perspective, this question is similar to the previous one.
Besides your real experience, relevant skills, knowledge, and education – nothing else matters.
And remember this:
Again, it is a Junior Project Manager interview question. It is for an entry-level role. You may not have experience as a project manager yet.
So, what should you say?
Focus only on aspects crucial for project management.
What are they?
- Getting things done
Really, the list isn’t that big.
So, your story should lead to achievements in one of these areas. That is your “relevant experience.”
And you better be ready to tell some stories.
3. Tell us about the main phases of a project.
“Tell us about Project Life Cycle.”
“What do you know about project management?”
“What does it mean to manage a project?”
“What does a project manager do?”
These are all the same questions.
One thing you need to know by heart is the Project Life Cycle in the industry you work in.
You also need to be able to visualize the work that happens in each phase.
And try not to confuse it with Project Management Process.
4. Do you have a technical background?
In fact, it doesn’t matter.
Your answer can be “Yes” or “No.”
But here is the catch:
You should say you do not rely on your technical knowledge as a source of expert authority:
“I use my leadership and management skills to build rapport with team members. The technical background helps me understand the context.”
I don’t use my own technical input in decision making.
For example, you do “technical” work on a project. Only half of your capacity is dedicated to project management.
You are four hours behind every day in development in comparison with a full-time engineer. You have only half of up-to-date practice.
Ok, you don’t have a technical background. But still, you do need to have technical awareness.
You can assess the required level of knowledge from this article:
(Adjust to your industry)
5. Who is responsible for…
“Who is responsible for project failure?”
“Who is responsible for an unhappy client?”
“Who is responsible for poor progress?”
Whenever you hear the word “responsible” it is related to you – a project manager.
Interviewer usually assesses your attitude.
Will you blame others?
Do you take ultimate responsibility for the project?
The latter is the correct answer.
A project manager is responsible for every aspect of a project. Even if a third-party impacted your deadlines.
That is your fault.
I strongly recommend you to read this article:
6. What makes you a good project manager?
It is not really about the list of traits and attitude.
It is an opportunity!
You can show that you did the homework. You learn a bit about the company to know what they value.
You can see it in the job description. You can contact other PMs from your network.
Don’t you have connections in companies that you potentially can apply to? That’s a mistake!
However, here is a trick:
Many companies use pre-screening calls. Usually, someone from recruitment asks you several questions.
All you need to do is to ask one question from your side:
“What do you value the most in the candidate for this role?”
Recruiters do discuss this with the leadership of a company. They operate from the “What kind of person we need?”
Most likely you will hear a mantra that was repeated many times in that company.
That is your answer to this question. Elaborate on it and do add a relevant story to back up your strengths:
Claims without a proof are useless.
7. What kind of work you would not like to do?
“I’m a project manager. I don’t like to do anything unrelated to project management and leadership. If I need to do some work from project scope – it means I did not put enough efforts in managing the project.”
Interviewing PM should find this answer correct.
Otherwise, I would not find it valuable to work in such an organization.
I want to develop as a Project Manager, not as a QA Engineer, copywriter, or in any other role on a project.
If that is too bold for you add this:
“I do have experience in [some work in your industry]. Nevertheless, I will not plan my capacity for that work. I can add my efforts if a project doesn’t go as planned. But only for a short period of time.”
8. Do you know how to motivate people?
The best way to answer this question is by combining theory with a practical action plan.
You must understand this three theories:
Then, you need to show a proven way to motivate people.
An action plan.
Here is the truth:
All candidates know the theory. Just a few can describe a process.
You do need to have a ready-made story. You do need to be confident in it.
The same goes for leadership.
If you need more input on motivation and leadership start here:
9. Do you know how to resolve conflicts?
When you think “Conflict”? What comes to your mind?
Two persons are arguing about something. They do it way too loud for an office. They express contempt.
That is true.
However, personal conflict resolution is only a part of a problem.
Again, everyone knows about it. You can read this article on the topic:
But that is not all.
There are conflicts in requirements.
It means that two stakeholders provided different requirements. These requirements cannot be implemented to the full extent.
At the same point, the stakeholders are not in personal conflict. Though, such a case is also possible.
What will you do about it?
There are conflicts in planning:
Clients want to get interim results to shareholders. However, it was not planned. It will impact the project schedule.
You go for a change request. It is reviewed. However, clients are on a tight budget and deadline. You cannot integrate this additional work.
Nevertheless, they need it that much. Otherwise, clients will get into trouble.
What will you do about it?
Think it through.
Extend your answer with these aspects of conflict resolution. It will put you miles ahead of the competition.
10. Do you have any questions?
“Hell, yes! I have a whole list of questions.” – I take my phone out. Open the “Notes” app. Scan a list of 15 questions with my eyes.
“Let’s start with this one…”
An interview is not an interrogation.
It is two-way communication.
Your questions weight as much as your answers.
Here are just a few that I like to ask:
- Tell me a bit about the hierarchy in the company. Whom will I report to?
- How do you support Junior Project Managers? Will I work alone or with a mentor?
- Do you provide trainings?
- What are your expectations for the first three months?
- You asked me about [something you were not able to answer]. Why is that important here?
Here is the trick.
You did not answer some tricky question. You ask this, and it appears that it was a question about theory in a vacuum. So, it’s not that important now.
- On average, what is the level of team members I will need to work with? How big is the team?
- Does the company allocate some budget for team buildings and other motivational activities?
- What are the main challenges on the project?
- What project management approaches do you use?
Conclusion: Junior Project Manager Interview Questions
Here is a tip for you:
You can control the flow of an interview.
Write a CV that highlights your skills and talents in project management. Show you understand what’s essential for the role.
Then, prepare a set of stories that describe specific achievements in your CV. Interwind them. Go from one story to the other as much as it makes sense.
And keep this in mind it:
Answering entry-level project manager interview questions as if you are a seasoned PM is not a good idea. You should be relevant. You should not pretend you are already a manager.
If you want to become a project manager but you don’t know where to start – check the quiz below now.