Category Archives: Careers

Recruiters Reveal Their Favorite Project Manager Interview Questions

You’ve memorized answers to the “Tell me about a time when…” questions. You’ve practiced your STAR stories. And if anyone asks about your spirit animal, you’ll be ready for that too.

And so have the other candidates. If you want to stand out from the competition, you need to prepare for the curveballs and the PM-specific questions.

We asked recruiters, hiring managers, and talent acquisition specialists for their go-to project manager interview questions. Take note of what they’re asking and what they’re looking for in a response, and you’ll be ready to ace your next interview.


What do you do when you realize a project is off deadline?

“This question will be 90 percent of my evaluation. I want candidates to walk me through, in detail, the steps they take to alert the stakeholder and make a plan to get the project back on track. Hitting deadlines is the most important issue in my industry. In fact, it’s the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth most important thing.”

Cody Swann, CEO of Gunner Technology


The project team is clearly not working well together. What are three different ways to address this?

“Every project is full of the unexpected. A critical skill for project managers is the ability to solve problems flexibly and with agility. Thus, asking project managers to present multiple solutions to a challenge is a great interview question!”

Eve MacKnight, Lead Consultant at littleowl.us


Tell me something you have never told anyone else.

“When recruiting for project managers, I’m looking for sound communication skills. Asking this fun question and hearing the candidate’s response allows me to recognize what the person in front of me is actually like.

If the interviewee comes up with an interesting answer, I know they are creative and can communicate well. Their response obviously shouldn’t be negative, but needs to be something honest and interesting enough to remember.

It also allows me to see if the candidate is a quick thinker, which is another important skill required from a project manager. As this is not a particularly common question a candidate would expect to be asked, it’s fascinating to see what they come up with.”

Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Cuuver


What do you do when you are overwhelmed by all the moving parts in any given project?

“I love this question because it allows the candidate to show if they are aware when they are overwhelmed. You can learn if the candidate gravitates toward being tight (follow the blueprint, no matter what) or loose (wait too long to address their own confusion). Lastly, it shows whether the person knows how to ask for help, whether that’s for coaching or resources.”

Joyce Wilson-Sanford, Executive Coach and Author


Who would you put on your personal Mount Rushmore?

“It always gets a laugh and creates a comfortable mood in the room. It’s also enlightening to hear who they choose and why they value them enough to have their heads immortalized on a mountain.”

How many stacked pennies would it take to equal the height of the Empire State Building?

“The candidates that use critical thinking as opposed to dismissing the question as silly are the ones you want to keep around. I once had a candidate jump up to the whiteboard and mathematically find his way to an answer that was within 100 feet. Needless to say, he was the type of person that we wanted on our team.”

Sean Killian, People Operations Lead at Enola Labs Software


What’s the most critical or difficult issue you’ve had to deal with while managing a project?  How did you solve it?

I ask this question all the time because it allows me to understand what kind of problems the candidate feels are critical. What is difficult for one person might be all in a day’s work for another. It also demonstrates their thought process, creativity, and sense of urgency.”

Karla Pooley, Head of Talent Acquisition, Blue Spurs


If the rest of the members of our PMO were in a bus accident tomorrow, what would you do? How would you handle it?

“I think this gives us insight into two key areas. First, the candidate’s ability to think on their feet. Very few candidates expect a question like this, especially junior candidates. Second, it gives us a little bit of insight into what kind of leader they are. Would they start by collecting data? Would they immediately take action? Would they delegate or try to do it all on their own? There are a million possibilities in this kind of hypothetical.”

Jonathan D. Rogers, Operations Director and a Certified Scrum Master at AndPlus


What do you do when your project is in trouble?

“Most project managers will say they’ve never failed on a project, and they easily steer things back on course. But, in reality, a lot of projects fail based upon original estimates in budget, time, resources, market conditions, and stakeholder time/expectations.

This question allows for further investigation and probing.  I like to hear how a project manager adapts and deals with tough situations; their thought process and level of humility; dealing with difficult and unreasonable stakeholders. All these are part and parcel with being a project manager.”

Ken Kwan, Founder of Career Prophets


More Resources for PM Interview Prep:

10 Killer Interview Questions for Project Managers, LiquidPlanner

Project Managers, Here’s What to Ask the Hiring Manager, LiquidPlanner

9 Must-Ask Questions When Hiring a Project Manager, HubSpot

 

Project Manager Talent Gap: How to Make the Most of It

Skill shortages are now a global phenomenon, impacting organisations in virtually every industry sector. In the field of project management, however, the skills gap is growing at a faster rate than was anticipated just a few years ago.

The implications for organizations and project management professionals are highlighted in new research from the Project Management Institute (PMI). The Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027 report, the third commissioned by the PMI, explored the problem in depth across a number of global markets, including China, India, the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which collectively represent the world’s developed and growing economic powers.

Wanted: 87.7 Million Project Managers

The findings reveal that employers in those countries will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles by 2027. The previous PMI Project Management Talent Gap report in 2012 had estimated that the number of project-related jobs would reach 52.4 million by 2020. This figure has already been exceeded, topping 66 million at the start of this year.

One of the main drivers of talent shortages is the fact that the global economy as a whole has become more project-oriented, giving rise to a sharp increase in the number of jobs requiring project-oriented skills, particularly in the fast-growing economies of India and China.

Another factor is that demand for project management skills extends beyond traditional sectors, such as manufacturing, engineering and construction, into financial and professional services, publishing, and healthcare. This trend looks set to continue with industries that are currently not highly project-oriented likely to experience growth in project management-related openings.

New Technologies Bring Increased Demand

In order to remain competitive, organizations are increasingly relying on technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to boost productivity and efficiencies. This trend is creating additional demand for project managers with the skills to deliver and support technology implementation projects.

As a profession, project management is mature and well-established. The inevitable result of which is an increase in attrition, as long-time project managers begin to retire. Their gradual departure from the ranks will further impact the skills shortage; there are not enough experienced project managers to take their place.

The shortage of project management talent is of huge concern for organizations that are more reliant than ever on that talent to remain globally competitive.

However, this talent gap makes experienced project managers incredibly valuable right now and in the future.

Taking Advantage of the Talent Gap

In high-performing organizations, talent management strategies are aligned with the overall strategies of the business. In keeping with the rapid pace of change that these organisations must adapt to, there have been shifts in what is expected of project managers in terms of their competencies, both now and in the future.

They no longer excel just at technical skills, but also at leadership and strategic and business management expertise. This broader set of skills is known within the PMI as the talent triangle, and are the key skill areas that today’s qualified project professional should possess in order to successfully complete the project.

Technical Project Management Skills

Technical skills and knowledge enable a project manager to perform specific functions or tasks that help them to achieve their organisation’s business goals. Project managers will be expected to have technical knowledge of the project activities needed to complete a project.

Leadership Abilities

Although technical skills are essential, soft skills are also a priority to employers. Good leadership skills are crucial for developing a vision for the team members and inspire them to achieve the target.

Team Building and Training Skillset

Project managers must also be inspirational, proactive, and able to motivate people from the start of the project to its successful completion. An additional responsibility is ensuring that members of the team have the skills they need to successfully complete their job, and if necessary to provide any training or coaching that is required.

Strategic and Business Management Experience

Employers rate this one as one of the top three in the “ideal skillset” for project managers. A project manager who is skilled in strategic and business management is better able to analyse business decisions before implementing them. These analyses include cost benefit analysis, strength and weakness analysis, market conditions, legal requirements, and compliance, etc.

Change Management Expertise

Change is a constant in business. In addition to the key skill areas detailed above, many organisations are now looking to incorporate some of the softer change management and organisational development skills into the project management function, and will seek out project managers who can provide that more integrated approach to large project management and the inevitable organizational change.

With the predicted rise in new project-orientated jobs, competitive salaries and opportunities in global markets, career prospects have never looked better for project management professionals.