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 in leadership.
If you fail interviews for the PM’s role – you answer common interview questions from a wrong perspective.
That’s why I collected all the questions that you may encounter on an interview in one place and explain what recruiters want to hear from you.
- General Project Management Interview Questions.
- Software Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers.
- Behavioral Interview Questions Interview Questions for Project Manager (STAR System Plus).
Top 10 Project Management Interview Questions You Should Be Ready For
Before Project Manager Interview Begins
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!
Check the ideas from this article. It may help you gain instant likability:
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?
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.
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)
Full Project Management Tutorial
This tutorial teaches all aspects of project management that come from 11 years of practical experience of an IT project manager.
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 don’t 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:
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and It’s Practical Application on Your Projects
- Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory in Project Management
- Expectancy Theory and How to Develop People With Motivation in Mind
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 of motivation.
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:
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 new 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?
Software Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers (2020)
Software Project Manager interview questions 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. If you skipped them, scroll to the tops of the article to learn more.
#1: 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.
#2: 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:
#3: 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:
#4: 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:
#5: 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:
#6: 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.
B) 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.
C) 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.
D) 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:
#7: 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:
Full Project Management Tutorial
This tutorial teaches all aspects of project management that come from 11 years of practical experience of an IT project manager.
#8 :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:
#9: 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, and how you will motivate him or her by delegating responsibilities.
A book that covers all aspects of project management
Most project managers don’t have formal education. So, they have to google articles and videos to run a project. I know how stressful it is.
This book teaches all aspects of project management that work in real-world companies.
You can continue wasting time collecting bits and pieces of the project management wisdom, or you can get the book that comes from practical experience.
How to Answer Behavioral and Situational Questions
There’s a set of completely different questions you should be ready for.
This video explains how a project manager should answer situational questions.
BONUS: 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 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.