Whether preparing to evaluate job candidates, or getting ready for an upcoming job interview yourself, this list of top interview questions will help you prepare:
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Question 1: Describe a recent project where you were responsible for managing multiple people or teams. What were some of the key challenges and how did you handle those challenges?
This question demonstrates a result-oriented leadership behavior. Project managers need to demonstrate delivery and a desire to attain the end goal. Staffing project managers who simply point out problems but do not help resolve them will not drive the project to completion. Effective project managers demonstrate how they’ve managed a project, coordinated across multiple teams, overcame obstacles and delivered the project’s goals.
Question 2: Describe a time when you implemented a new idea without being asked or pursued a new opportunity that could improve the project or company.
Demonstrating courage and a willingness to take action without being asked is a key delivery characteristic of effective project managers. Project sponsors entrust the project’s goals, budget and their own reputations on their project managers. Project sponsors don’t have all the answers and need intelligent and motivated people to solve problems, identify new opportunities and take action without being prompted.
Question 3: Describe a scenario where you had to balance competing customer demands with project constraints. How did you ensure customer satisfaction while maintaining the goals of the project?
Maintaining a customer focused approach while ensuring the project deliverables are completed on time is a delicate balance. Business partners don’t understand all the technical details required to turn business processes into software solutions. They just want the system to work and accommodate their changing business needs. Effective project managers build rapport with their business partners, seek to understand the underlying needs and proactively address their concerns. It is a difficult balance as project managers commit to delivering the project scope while addressing a business customer’s changing requirements.
Question 4: Describe a time when you had to balance quality management with a challenged project schedule.
As projects execute and schedule variances occur, there is a tendency to shorten the quality testing cycle to maintain a project end date. In some projects, the end date can be extended, and in other projects, the end date must be maintained. Effective project managers recognize the importance of quality management in the software development cycle and prioritize the test cases and test cycles that deliver the project’s critical functionality. These project managers successfully commit to a quality mindset and ensure defects are resolved or mitigated.
The project manager should also recognize the challenge of managing the triple constraint and maintain a commitment to quality. Recognizing delays in the schedule early will help project managers adjust testing schedules so the support team isn’t called in from a day off or a holiday.
Question 5: Describe a time when you had a difficult situation working with a vendor or another peer. What was your approach to resolve the issues while maintaining a positive relationship?
Without a cohesive team, a project manager cannot be effective. Projects often depend on vendors and supplier team members to provide services. The nature of the client-vendor relationship emphasizes mutually beneficial goals. However, the vendor doesn’t always prioritize the client’s interests as heavily as their own. The ability to effectively develop teams across corporate borders is critical to project delivery. Clients will always try to maximize services at a minimal cost while vendors are motivated to increase costs for additional services.
In a challenged project with strained vendor relationships, it becomes even more important to focus on the critical issues to work together and deliver the end goal. The same skill is needed when working with other peers who are not necessarily motivated to help the project team. Strong relationships help solve problems and support project delivery. The best project management system, tools and techniques cannot replace the power effective relationships have across multiple teams.