When appearing for project management interviews, hiring managers look for someone who can exhibit leadership and demonstrate excellent project management skills. That’s why it is essential to prepare for frequently asked project management interview questions.
This article lists some of the commonly asked Project Manager interview questions and answers, that you can prepare for your upcoming project management interview. For your convenience we have bifurcated this article into 3 parts:
- Fundamental Project Management Questions [For refreshing domain knowledge]
- Scenario-Based/Situational Project Management Questions
- Skill-based Practical Project Management Questions
Fundamental Project Management Interview questions
Q1. How will you define a project?
Ans. As per PMI, a project is a ‘temporary endeavor’ that has a pre-defined start and end time along with the pre-stated scope and required resources. From developing software to planning a sales process, everything is a ‘project’ that is performed to meet the actual goals of the company. Generally, every project has the below-listed characteristics:
- A defined life cycle
- Unique deliverables leading a predefined idea
- Continues amplification
These characteristics make projects different from routine operations because we can split project tasks into:
- Project management methods
- Product centered methods
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Q2. Explain a project’s life cycle.
Ans. Every project has to go through a series of phases from initiation to closure and this is what we call a project life cycle. As per PMBOK, projects need to go through 5 phases –
- Initiation – Find answers to ‘can/should we do the project’?
- Planning – Define the ways of doing the project
- Execution – Actually put the project plan into motions
- Monitoring & Control – Compare the progress report of the project with the planned project
- Closing – Release the final deliverables and hand over the project documentations to business
Q3. What is a project charter?
Ans. It is mainly a document that officially starts a project and includes every detail of the project. From start to end, the document also includes project authorization. This document lists all the top-level requirements as per the stakeholders and the outcomes of the project.
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Q4. Define Planned Value, Actual Cost, and Earned Value?
Ans. Planned Value is the value of the project that has been estimated and approved before the project starts. Actual Cost is the total cost or the amount of money spent during the project. Earned Value is the value earned in the completion of the project. These three elements together form Earned Value Management (EVM).
Q5. What is a Decision Support System (DSS)? How many types of DSS are there?
Ans. DSS is a software system that helps in the decision making process in project management. There are two types of DSS: structured and unstructured.
Q6. What is a Fishbone diagram and when to use it?
Ans. Fishbone Diagram or Ishikawa Diagram is a visualization tool to understand the potential causes of a problem to identify its root causes. It is used usually in brainstorming sessions so that the team’s conversation is focused on the actual problem and not stray away from only the symptoms.
Q7. What is RAID in project management and why is it necessary to create a RAID log?
Ans. RAID is an acronym for Risk, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies. A RAID log is important for a project manager to track anything that would impact a project now or in the future.
Q8. Name the ten key knowledge areas as mentioned in the PMBOK Guide?
Ans. Integration Management, Scope Management, Time Management, Cost Management, Quality Management, Human Resource Management, Communications Management, Risk Management, Procurement Management, and Stakeholder Management.
Q9. What do you understand by the Pareto (also known as 80/20 rule) principle/analysis?
Ans. It is a decision-making technique through which by doing 20% of the work you produce 80% of the desired result.
Q10. Define the Triple Constraint Triangle in project management?
Ans. The triple constraint triangle or project management triangle is a constraint model where scope, schedule, and cost are constraints forming the sides of a triangle, with quality as the central theme.
Q11. What is Work Breakdown Structure (WBD) and how does it affect the work estimates of tasks/activities?
Ans. WBD is the process of decomposition of a project into deliverable-oriented components. This helps the project manager to oversee the project more effectively.
Q12. What are some techniques used for defining scope?
Ans. Product breakdown, requirements analysis, systems engineering, systems analysis, value engineering, value analysis, and alternatives analysis.
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Q13. What are the techniques for doing “activity time” estimates?
Ans. The techniques are parametric estimates, three-point estimates, and analogous estimates.
Q14. What is the plan baseline?
Ans. These are the final version of all plans before the initiation of a project. It includes a time schedule, quality plan, communication plan, and everything else. This acts as the reference to measure the project performance.
Q15. What is the time & material contract?
Ans. It is a mutually agreed arrangement, where a contractor is paid on the basis of factors like –
- The actual cost of direct labor at hourly rates
- The actual cost of equipment and material usage
- A fixed add-on to include profits and overheads
Q16. What is effort variance?
Ans. Effort Variance = (Actual effort – Estimated Effort) / Estimated Effort.
It is the difference between the estimated effort and the effort required.
Q17. Explain the difference between Risk Impact and Risk Probability.
Ans. As the name implies, Risk Probability is the chance of a risk to happen, while Risk Impact is the cost when the risk occurs.
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Q18. What is Project Scope Management?
Ans. It is a set of processes to ensure that a project’s scope is accurately defined and mapped. The process involves a number of steps, which include –
- Planning scope management
- Collecting requirements
- Defining scope
- Creating Work Breakdown Structure
- Validating Scope
- Controlling Scope
Q19. What is CMM?
Ans. It stands for Capability Maturity Model and has five levels, including –
- Initial – Start point of a new process.
- Repeatable– It suggests the repeated use of any process.
- Defined – It includes documentation of the standard guidelines and procedures.
- Managed – It involves the measurement and management of a process.
- Optimizing – It is the highest level of process maturity in CMM and includes optimization and improvement of a process.
Scenario-Based/Situational Project Management Interview Questions
Q20. How do you handle any changes to the project?
Ans. A project manager’s strength lies in his/her ability to display a high level of adaptability. Nobody wants changes in a project and are not entirely unavoidable. You must approach this question with great wit and convince the interviewer that you are capable, having handled such situations before.
Q21. What values do you think a project manager should have?
Ans. Everybody has their own idea of values. However, it should focus on the job profile and associated with project management.
Q22. What performance metrics do you use to determine if a project is going as expected?
Ans. The ability to understand if a project is going in the right direction is a core skill of a project manager and performance metrics will help in that matter. Some of the useful performance metrics are Cost Variance, Resource Utilisation, Quality, Customer Satisfaction, and Gross Margin.
Q23. What strategy do you follow to mitigate the risks involved in a project?
Ans. There will always be risks involved in a project; sometimes even before you start it. You must be able to give the interviewer enough points on different areas where you can work so that there are effects of risks.
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Q24. Did you ever face any challenges while managing projects? How did you handle those challenges?
Ans. With the responsibilities of a project manager, comes a lot of challenges. So pick out one which you have been successful in handling. Give the various ways how you have handled it and the strategy you came up with.
Q25. Which of the methodologies have you used in your projects? Why do you prefer it over others?
Ans. There are various methodologies — Agile, Waterfall, etc. — which are used in project management. Be well-prepared about the various pros and cons of each methodology that you have used. Never mention the ones that you haven’t used.
Q26. What do you know about the critical path of a project? What steps will you take if you find that one of your tasks is going to take more time than expected?
Ans. Put simply, the critical path of a project is all the key tasks that are required to complete a project. There are ways to shorten task time. E.g. adding an extra person to the project on the contract or from a different team to complete the particular tasks.
Q27. How do you estimate using three-point estimating methods?
Ans. It is the best technique to develop estimates for your project. There are three steps:
- Identify the positive and negative risks involved in the project
- Then make three estimates — Best Guess (BG), Pessimistic (P), and Optimistic (O) estimates
- The final step is to calculate the mean and standard deviation using the formulas: (O+4BG+p)/6 and P – O/6 respectively.
Q28. Do you prefer working on a single project or multiple projects at the same time?
Ans. You must always show your enthusiasm to the interviewer, but also be honest. If you feel that you can handle more projects than one, then say that you prefer multiple projects.
Q29. Which project management tools have you used before?
Ans. Tell them about some important and commonly used Project Management tools like –
- Gantt Chart
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Product Breakdown Structure
- PERT Chart
- Logic Network
Q7. Which one skill does a project manager need to succeed?
Ans. There are multiple ways to answer this question:
- To answer this question, you must decide on one of the critical skills needed by a project manager.
Sample Answer: Team building skills are often the most essential skills for the project manager as s/he can only lead the team in a good direction if they are cohesive and well organized.
- If you think more than one skill is important, then you can frame your answer like the following.
Sample Answer: There is not just one important skill for a project manager. A project manager must be equally versed in leadership skills, and communication skills, decision making, time management, and resource allocation. All these skills are essential for your success as a project manager.
Remember that your greatest strength as a project manager should be your answer to this question.
Q30. How will you handle the failure of a project?
Ans. Being a project manager, one should have the quality to handle both successes and failures. While informing about the failure of a project, one should always ensure that it doesn’t impact the morale of the team and the work pace.
Q4. What was the most difficult decision you have made?
Ans. It will show their knowledge of PMI code and their approach towards work. The interviewers want to know how they have handled the new challenges and stressful situations. Get this one right to score major points.
Q31. How are you managing projects while working from home?
Ans. To make a project successful while working from home we follow the below-listed strategies:
- Focus on clear and timely communications
- Well-organized workspace
- Set remote working guidelines so that we meet the desired expectations and maintain productivity
- Extensively use project collaboration tools to increase the productivity of the tasks
- Conduct weekly meetings for discussing project updates and problems
- Set and prioritize things as per the requirements
Q32. What do you do when you/your team does not meet the project’s deadline or budget?
Ans. This is a very tricky question and by asking this question recruiters want to know how often you miss the deadlines and what do you do when you miss them. Thus you can share your experience. Generally, the following reasons are some of the most prominent reason for missing a product’s deadline:
- Unclear deadlines
- Overburdened deadlines
- Poor monitoring and tracking system
- Added project-related responsibilities by clients
- Performance issues
- Less staff
- Inefficient process
- IT/tech-related issues
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Q33. How do you handle an unhappy client?
Ans. As a project manager, it is your job to keep the clients satisfied. However, there are incidents when the clients are not happy with the project deliverables. In such cases the following practices help:
- Communicate with clients at regular intervals
- Listen to his/her problems before reacting
- Look for a median point between the needs
- Rightly evaluate and discuss their expectations
- Ask questions and give the desired solutions
Q34. What is your approach towards gold plating?
Ans. Gold plating in project management is about delivering more than what was desired. From the client’s point, this is a good thing and can make them happy. However, this can severely affect the project’s predefined timelines and can also add to the costs. Thus as a project manager, it is your job to control gold plating which can be done in the following ways:
- Define and assign clear KPIs to project team members
- Connect with leaders to monitor if any team member is doing gold plating
- Give a clear message to the members involved in the same by first making them understand what is gold plating and how s/he is doing it along with pros and cons. The objective should not be to demotivate the person involved but to make his/her understand the desired scope of work.
- Make a note of possible ideas of optimization possible in the project and give the same to the sales team who can convince clients for further optimizations resulting in up-selling.
By doing this you prove to the recruiter that you understand the project scope, give weight to delivery timelines, and at the same time handle your team effectively.
Skill-based Project Management Interview Questions
Skill 1: Conflict Management Skills
Project management teams are usually big and demand interaction with clients, team members, tech-team, and all the other stakeholders. Thus, hiring managers prefer to hire professionals who have strong people management skills and can wisely resolve conflicts.
Some of the most frequently asked project management interview questions to review conflict management skill are:
Q35. A customer rejects the final deliverables. What will you do?
Ans. This is a tricky project management interview question and you must answer it in a way that you know how to handle conflicts and showcase the skills stating that you have convincing skills.
To answer this question, you can start having a conversation with the client, and initially, you can bring up the scope of the project and ask on what ground they are rejecting the project when your team has met all of their initial requirements. Before starting this in the actual conversation, you need to be sure that you have not missed anything from your end.
Also, in such situations, you must ask the clients about any additional expectations, discuss and plan with the internal team, share the additional costs with clients, and post-approval, deliver the final product.
Q36. Your team has some internal issues and the project is suffering due to these internal conflicts. What will be your course of action?
Ans. When a team works to achieve common objectives, internal conflicts are likely to happen. As a project head, my task for this would be to identify:
- The root cause of the conflict
- How it is affecting the project
- What can I do for handling this situation without elevating a feeling of demotivation in my team?
- If the issues are still persistent, what alternatives solutions are available
- Some major things which need to be taken care of are:
- Avoid individual feelings and show empathy
- Resolve problems analytically
- Hear both the parties and give and play the role of a moderator while they share challenges
- Give reasonable solutions
Skill 2 – Leadership
During the project manager interview round, the recruiter asks certain questions that outline your leadership qualities, and cracking these kinds of items increases the chance that the recruiters like your candidatures.
Some of the most frequently asked project management interview questions to check leadership skills are:
Q37. What is your leadership style?
Ans. This is the most common yet most tricky question that most hiring managers ask during interview rounds. Some of the common leadership styles are:
- Lead by example: Leaders demonstrate what needs to be done and give clear understanding to the team.
- Lead by communicating: Here the leaders choose to lead by facilitating easy and quick communication within the team.
- Delegating – Lead by delegating: Leaders are pro at delegating the jobs based on an individual’s strengths and areas of interest.
All you need to do is evaluate yourself and identify your leadership style and vouch for the same to the hiring manager by stating an example.
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Q38. Do you believe in delegating responsibilities/work?
Ans. As defined earlier, a project is a pre-defined goal that needs to be delivered by a solicited time. Thus, most often project managers need to delegate the job to their team members with complete responsibility.
That makes this question among the most important ones as through this question, the hiring manager audits your ability to lead, flexibility, and team management skills.
Share your experience of how you used delegation as a strategy to get the work done and deliver the project on time.
Skill 3 – Goal-oriented
Project management is all about meeting the desired goals in the given time. Thus, hiring managers assure to check skills like – goal-driven abilities, agility, smart working approach by asking certain project management interview questions like:
Q39. How do you manage to drive the team towards achieving the desired goals and project expectations?
Ans. As the leader of the team, it is the responsibility of a project manager to deliver the project on time. For this, it is very important to stay self-motivated and at the same time, ensure that the team members are also motivated. For this we follow the following practices:
- Set realistic goals/deadlines and clearly state them to the team
- Plan and execute based on project timelines
- Anticipate the possible disasters and plan a way out beforehand
- Offer a room to team members to share their ideas, feedback, and views
- Conduct frequent project review meetings to discuss the progress and talk about the challenges faced by the team to give timely resolution
- Set milestones and celebrate small success/achievements
- Give and take feedbacks
- Incentivise if possible
- Provide access to the right project management tools and technologies
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Q40. Why do you think you are goal-driven?
Ans. Being goal-driven makes you impactful at work and that’s why you need to prove that you are a goal-driven person who has the ability to drive the project as per the planned strategy.
When the recruiter shoots this question during your project management interview round, you need to answer them aptly by describing past incidents that prove that how you:
- Break long projects into sprints
- Plan your time effectively
- Write everything down
- Organize your work
- Motivate your team
- Delegate the job
- Offer/ask for constructive feedback
Also state how you have delivered the projects in the past, what strategies you have used, etc. as this will convenience the interviewees that you are goal-driven.
Skill 4: People Management/ Team Handling
Q41. How do you inspire the team member who is not very motivated and ensure that s/he delivers the desired results?
Ans. Every team has a set of employees who are somewhat demotivated, underperforming, sensitive, or/and restraining.
However, as a project leader/manager it is the job to handle all such employees and direct them in a path where they start performing. For this the following tips can help:
- Observe if this is a one-time thing or happens frequently and try to have a conversation with the person and let them open up so that you offer help
- Set a KPI dashboard to track project performance
- Keep everyone on the same page and ensure that your team clearly understands your expectations
- Value the team’s feedback and suggestions
- Avoid micromanaging
- Help the team to learn and grow
Q42. How do you manage your team’s workload?
Ans. Managing workload is another important aspect of a project manager’s job. This needs to be well planned to keep moving forward the project in the right direction. The below steps help:
- Review the team’s current workload by following the matrix organizational structure
- Use resource management reports to find ways for answering project related queries
- Connect with staff who are overloaded and find ways to optimize their tasks
- Delegate responsibilities to staff who have less on their plate
- Plan upskilling sessions for employees
The Parting Note
These are some of the popular and most frequently asked project management interview questions that you need to prepare to crack the interview round. Most of these project management interview questions are skilled-based and cover functional and scenario-based situations to make you ready for all sorts of questions asked during the interview.
Do let us know which project management interview questions did you face during an interview.
All the best!
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