A Project Manager role is unique in that it requires a certain broad set of skills in order to perform at a high level – and your interviewers will be expecting you to perform at this high level!
A Project Manager needs to have excellent communication skills, they need to be a good manager, they should be highly organised. A Project Manager will need to be able to plan for months and even years in advance but also be able to adapt quickly to changing environments.
While a Project Manager – in theory – can work on any project, this is often not a view that is shared with employers. It is therefore also often expected that you have some level of domain knowledge regarding the area you are stepping into.
Hopefully this hasn’t put you off too much!
If you are still with us then let’s get to it. This post today is going to look at Project Manager Interview Questions. We are going to start with some interview tips specific for project managers, we will then discuss the best way to answer PM interview questions (and how now to answer them!).
The chunk of this post will be going through some Project Manager Interview Questions and sharing some example answers.
Project Manager Interview Tips
Lean heavily on your experience – Follow the B-STAR process (discussed further below) and refer back to your previous projects regularly. Show the interviewer that you are very well acquainted with the subject matter at hand.
Name drop the processes, systems and tools you have used – If you are telling a story about a project you planned name drop the software you used to plan (MS Projects, JIRA, etc.). If you are explaining how you did stakeholder management discuss how you completed a RACI Matrix. Basically pepper your answers with PM vernacular. Make sure it comes across naturally though.
Tailor your answers to the organisation – Learn all you can about the organisation that is interviewing you. You particularly want to know:
- What are their current, past and future projects?
- What is the level of their PMO, what processes/methodologies do they use, what are they looking to use going forward?
- What software and tools do they use day-to-day?
When answering your questions try to showcase your experience that you have in the above areas. For example if you learn that they have completed numerous waterfall projects automating business processes but are looking to move into an Agile delivery then you talk about how you have experience with Agile and in automating business processes.
How Best To Answer Project Manager Interview Questions
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? – As a Project Manager you should have your own set of philosophies and processes that you tailor to each situation.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. – Try not to spend too much time describing the situation. The bulk of your answer needs to be about you and what you did so keep the situation simple to understand and even simpler to describe.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter – You are going for a PM role (presumably) so the situation you describe should have you in the driving chair of a project.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. – This should take up the bulk of your time answering the question.
R – Results – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold) – Discuss how as a PM your projects always finish with a lessons learned phase.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should Not Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action.
Project Manager Interview Question & Answers
Tell me about a project that failed to deliver? What lessons did you learn from this?
“Obviously I don’t like to see my projects fail. I always try to plan for enough scenarios and build in enough contingencies to my projects that I am ready for anything. But some times things change and what was going ok yesterday might not be today, so I also believe it’s best not to get too attached to projects and realise when it is the correct move – for the business – to wind the project down.
There was one occasion in early 2020 where a project was facing massive delays. We were attempting to offshore one of our processes and the next step in the project was to send a few trainers overseas to initiate the training sessions. Unfortunately, days before we were due to fly out all flights were cancelled indefinitely (COVID-19)
It was now my job to try to salvage what we could. Our fallback plan was to conduct training sessions via Teams. This was going well until COVID-19 got in our way again. The overseas offices were closed by the government (soon after our own offices would close).
Our team all had the ability to work from home however the offshore colleagues did not.
We started to perform analysis on what it would take our end to get all of the required colleagues trained and working from home. It readily became apparent that the initial costs of deploying such a solution would be higher than the expected benefits over the coming years.
As a result I proposed to senior management that we terminate the project as it no longer made commercial sense. My proposal was accepted and the project was halted and the colleagues were assigned to other projects.
All was not lost however as we were able to repurpose the training materials to be used for our onshore colleagues which saw a reduction in the time spent in attaining competency.“
Tell me about a time you improved a process
“I am a big fan of continuous improvement. I am always looking for ways to improve my skills and to make the people and processes around me better and more efficient. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is my passion but something I very much enjoy doing is automating repetitive functions.
One such occasion was in a previous role where I was working in the accounts department of a flooring company. This firm employed numerous contractors across the country who would be submitting expense reports and invoices regularly.
My job was to receive these emails and transpose the data into our accounting software in order for payment to be made.
As I was interested in automation I knew that a lot of repetitive type data entry tasks could be automated. But I wasn’t sure how. So before I approached my managers with my idea I did some research into various solutions.
Once I found how it could be done I pitched the idea to my managers who were totally on board. We hired an IT contractor who automated the entire process within a week.
The end result was instead of spending 20 hours a week on expense reports and invoices I spent just the 1 hour doing quality checks of the tool, leaving me an additional 19 hours a week to spend on other value adding tasks for the firm”
Describe a time when you communicated effectively in a difficult situation?
“I believe that proper planning and training is the most effective way to get out of most difficult situations. Sure you cannot plan for everything but if you prepare as best you can you will be happy to fall back on that preparedness when difficult situations arise.
Recently while working on a major software deployment at my current employer I was tasked with being the ‘Go-live Day Coordinator’. This meant that I had to communicate with the IT team, the business team and senior stakeholders all throughout the deployment. We took the servers down for 4 hours to deploy and 2 hours to test before release.
During these 6 hours it was my job to receive status updates from the IT teams and to facilitate the communication between IT areas. I also needed to communicate with the business team doing the testing so that any issues were raised through the IT team for fixing and then back for retesting. All of this had to be done without delay otherwise we would not meet our 6 hour target. On top of this it was expected I provide hourly updates to senior management.
In order to prepare for this I needed to establish a communication strategy. We use Teams within the organisation so I created a number of new Team groups so that information could flow through. I also established a backup WhatsApp group for the IT team and the Testing team – this came in handy when all of our systems went down partway through the activity!
Even though the whole 6 hours felt like one long continuous hectic process we were never hindered by a lack of communication. All information was provided as and when it was needed thanks to the effective planning that took place earlier. At the end the deployment was completed successfully and on time.“
Tell me about a time when you needed to communicate bad news to a colleague or stakeholder?
“I believe that bad news is best delivered in person and discretely, where it is responsible to do so. I don’t particularly relish giving bad news (I suppose not many do) so I often try to resolve the situation in advance so the bad news never needs to be given.
Obviously though that isn’t possible all of the time. For example in a previous role I managed a team of complaint handlers when word came down from senior management that we were offshoring a large part of our process and this meant layoffs of nearly 40% of the department.
I tried to go to bat for my team and show how our quality and production scores were the highest around and unlikely to be replicated using our offshore colleagues, but the decision had been made and was purely cost driven.
It was my job to determine which members of my team would be let go and which would stay.
We had all joined the department together on the same contract so there was no element of seniority that needed to be accounted for. Instead I devised a balanced scorecard type of approach, ranking each team member against the department’s relevant KPIs (quality, production, skills).
Once I had my list I booked one-on-ones with all of my team members as close together as possible, starting with the colleagues who would be staying. With the colleagues who were being let go I got straight to the point and told them the company would be terminating their contract. I allowed them to ask any questions they wanted and informed them that I would be around for any help they needed in looking for a new role.
During the meetings 2 of the colleagues I wanted to keep informed me that they were planning to leave soon anyway and suggested that they would leave now instead freeing up room for other colleagues to stay.
In the end I had to tell 6 members of my team that they were being let go. They were all understanding of the situation and were grateful that I offered to help them look for new roles.
Going forward if I were to be in the same position I would have gone to the meetings with some open positions that I would recommend the colleagues apply for”
Tell me about a time when you were late delivering a piece of work?
“I was given the task of producing a SEO report for a very important potential client. This was on top of my regular workload but I was happy to pick it up as the client would bring a lot of business to our firm if we were able to secure the contract.
During the week that I had to complete the report a number of unforeseen events happened; my work laptop died, the office I worked in flooded and someone stole my car. It really was one of those weeks!
I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to meet the deadline so I looked at the piece of work that I had been given and the reasons why the firm wanted it. From my conversation with the firm I knew they were more interested in the On-site critiques rather than any Off-site SEO analysis.
So I focused my efforts so that I was working only on the On-site portion of the report. I communicated this with the client and with my colleagues. Everyone seemed largely happy with this and I delivered the report in 2 stages, the first at the agreed upon date and the full report just 2 business days later.
Luckily this delay did not upset the clients and we did bring them onboard. After this fiasco I petitioned the firm to provision VPN access on personal devices (with the relevant security software added) so that if this confluence of events were to repeat I would suffer no downtime…except for the time spent wondering where my car was.”
Have you ever had to work to an extremely tight deadline? How did you navigate that?
“I don’t think anyone likes deadlines, I know I don’t. But I do appreciate their importance in the workplace in how having a deadline provides structure to how we work.
As a Project Manager deadlines are kind of my thing. Deadlines, Cost and Quality are my primary motivators. I like to ensure that all my projects are properly planned so that there is no stress about the deadlines.
However that is obviously not always possible. There was a recent project that I was handed very last minute. The previous project manager had abruptly left the business and had seemingly let the project run without direction for a number of months prior to this.
I was given control of the project and told the deadline was just 2 months from now. I immediately knew this was not possible given the current status. But I persevered.
First thing I did was re-validate all of the assumptions. I found out that the deadline was not a fixed deadline of 2 months but was told under no uncertain terms could it extend past 3 months. That bought us some respite but not enough.
Next steps was to re-examine the requirements. This was a new product launch and the initial project design was to go live with the full product spec on Day 1. I took this back to the project sponsor and drilled down to which requirements were critical for Day 1 launch and which requirements could be delayed to a subsequent ‘Phase 2’ launch.
With all of this done I had a plan that would get us there. I just needed a motivated project team. I again linked in with the project sponsor for his support in both bringing in new team members (who I had a close working relationship with) and to re-affirm to the remaining project members and all stakeholders the importance of this project and it’s deadline
This seemed to be the spur that everyone needed as we were off to the races so to speak. The project was delivered on time and to the required quality with the remaining non-critical features being added to a month after. I also raised with the PMO team that this situation could have been avoided had there been a requirement on the previous project manager to provide status updated into the project sponsor in a more formal setting.“
Tell me about a new skill or qualification you have learned over the last 6 months?
“In my current role I use Microsoft Projects extensively for scheduling tasks when working with certain clients. A few months ago I learned that one of our newer clients used Primavera as their preferred PM tool.
Even though the new firm were content that we continue to use Microsoft Projects I thought it would be best to upskill myself on Primavera so that I at least could understand what the client was used to versus what we would be providing.
I started by following some courses on LinkedIn and eventually I asked my employer if they would support me in attaining the certification – which they did.
I passed the qualification on the first go and was able to successfully amend our MS Project reports so that they more closely resembled what the client was used to”
What new skills do you hope to learn over the next 6 months?
“I am always looking to learn new things. I believe that once we stop learning we stop growing, both as individuals and as a business. Sooner or later someone will come along and overtake us. That’s why I always keep my ear to ground, as it were, and make sure I am always up to date with all the latest advancements in my area.
Within the change and project space I can see the shift to Agile methodologies growing even further and reaching into industries and firms that would previous move at glacial speed using Waterfall projects. My previous role at a Top 4 Bank showed me that even in a traditionally cautious moving firm they were slowly adopting to more agile mindsets, that is where I was working when I studied for, and attained, my PRINCE2 Agile qualification.
For me in the next 6 months I wish to expand my knowledge further from this qualification and undertake learning for the Certified Scrum Product Owner qualification. While I have been a Product Owner in my previous role I believe formal training will allow me to further develop my understanding of the role.
I think by learning more about the Product Owner position I will be able to further enhance this organisation’s release strategy and hopefully open up further progression opportunities for myself within the firm when the time comes (assuming I get the role of course!).
After Product Owner I think I will want to get further acquainted with Programme and Portfolio management skills, but let’s just take it 6 months at a time for now.
Describe a situation when you were responsible for other team members learning a new skill?
“I’m a big believer in learning new things. I’m the person on the team who is always first in line whenever new training sessions are available for the team. I just think that the more you know the better you can produce.
There was one occasion where a training seminar was held for a new software that had been introduced within our department. The core functionality of the software was the same as what we used already so we were told that the seminar was voluntary.
I of course went along. And while a lot of the features were the same – as was expected – there was some new advanced functions that I thought could be great for our team.
I spoke to the training lead after the seminar and he sent me across some documentation and guidance on the new functionality. I studied through all the documents and realised that if our team was trained on this new reporting methodology that we could save quite a bit of time each week.
I positioned this to my manager who was delighted with the idea. And the next week I trained all of my team in this new skill. Some were reluctant at first because there was an element of coding involved – we needed to use SQL queries for the reports, but once they got the hang of it they were amazed at how much could be done.
The results were immediate. Our team was getting work done in twice the time. Time spent manually pulling reports was no longer. Some of the team went even further and started to develop more and more complex reports that would never have been possible without knowing this new skill.“
Tell me about a time when you needed to convince a stakeholder that your method was the correct one?
“We had two options for a supplier; supplier A who we had used before and supplier B who we had not used but who were cheaper. As my target was to reduce costs for our department I thought that we should go with supplier B.
I approached my other colleagues, informally over coffee, to understand more about their concerns with supplier B. Learning that the principal worry was that supplier B was an unknown quantity whereas with supplier A we knew the quality to expect. It was then that I came up with a solution to quell any worries.
I approached supplier B and negotiated for them to provide sample products and also to agree to a trial/probationary contract that could be ended fairly easily should the quality not be up to scratch. Once I had this proposal in hand I went back to my colleagues who were now in agreement that supplier B was the correct option for the company.
With all colleagues in agreement we pitched the idea to the director together, ultimately we went with supplier B and enjoyed a high quality product for a lower price”
How do you handle disagreements within your team?
“As Product Manager at X company it was my responsibility to prioritise the backlog of tasks. The way things worked in our organisation was that any stakeholder could raise an item to add to the backlog, then as a team we would discuss in which order it would be best that they were worked and deployed.
Ultimately however the final decision on priority lay with myself.
As you can imagine with so many different areas of the business raises items, each with their own agendas and goals the backlog meetings would often end with a lot of disagreement
One such occasion we had two business areas both asking us to deploy a change to our product and both were asking for the change to be deployed in the next sprint. Unfortunately we only had the dev resource to implement the one change in this cycle.
The backlog call became heated between the two representing colleagues and I was forced to cut the meeting short to let cooler heads prevail.
After the meeting I sat with both colleagues to further understand the urgency behind both changes. Asking them to describe the benefits of the change and also the drawbacks of waiting until the next cycle.
Once I had this information in hand it was clear to me which change would be most beneficial to the business. I invited both colleagues into a meeting where I had compiled the information into a presentation deck with a few charts showing the resources available within the product team and the relative benefits of each change.
Explaining it this way allowed both colleagues to fully appreciate the restrictions that were on my team and also the comparative benefits of each change.
Both colleagues left the meeting happy with the outcome and both changes were pushed into production in the next 2 sprints”
Have you ever needed to reprimand a team member for poor performance?
“Yes on a number of occasions. My style of management is such that I believe that if you ensure your employees have all of the required training and all the necessary resources at their disposal that you can take a step back and they will flourish on their own. I do not believe in overly micromanaging my team. I have an open door policy and I have regular catchups with my team members and I trust that they will get the job done.
By and large this works pretty well in my current role. However you do sometimes get the occasional team member who requires more supervision than others.
One such person was new to my team and soon after their training and introductory period finished their productivity dropped week by week. At the start the colleague seemed to be at the same level as some of the more experienced members of the team but over time his output dropped until he was comfortably the worst performer all around.
I spent the next week or so monitoring this colleague more closely to understand where any issues were arising. I noticed that he was spending large amounts of time being unproductive and not completing tasks.
I raised this with him during our weekly one-on-one and he admitted how he didn’t feel much motivation to complete more work and found it difficult stay focused when there seemed to just be more work to come.
I took a few actions on the back of this meeting, all of which I cleared with my management team ahead of time.
I put the colleague on an action plan that monitored his output on a daily and weekly basis. This would be reviewed by myself along with the colleague and with our director. It was stressed to the colleague that if there were no changes after a month that we would be terminating his position with the company.
Also as a show of transparency and in an attempt at motivation by target setting we started releasing productivity reports for the whole team so they know how each team member is performing.
The action plan proved to be the motivator that was required for the ‘difficult employee’ as soon after we started the action plans his output was nearing the top of the team charts. The team productivity reports also became a big success and saw improvements across the whole team. Senior management were pleased and have taken the action to talk about a bonus structure to go along with the performance reports which is still in the pipeline.”
Tell me about a time when you have challenged the usual way of doing things
“I am always looking for ways to improve, be it my own development or trying to enhance the work in the office I believe that we all need to continually evolve else we will be overtaken by others.
On one such occasion I was assigned to oversee a process that was somewhat new to me. I took a short while to ensure I fully understood the end to end process and when I did I started to identify areas that could be improved.
My first ‘enhancement’ was also the most difficult to push across the line. In this organisation we had a number of subcontractors. These subbies would complete invoices on a word document and then email these across to the office staff who would then manually type the invoices into excel where another user would then combine them into other reports.
Coming from an automation background I knew that this process could be better streamlined so I set about seeing our options. I presented these options to my management team along with the estimated costs and benefits of each.
Management approved of my preferred option and tasked me with overseeing the deployment. Getting the subbies on board was easy as our process was similar to other firms that the subbies worked with so it made their jobs easier. The biggest hurdle to overcome was getting the office staff on board with a new process, but after a few training sessions and once they saw how much time would be saved out of their day they eventually came around. I did have to spend the first few days fighting fires though and handholding some colleagues through the process!
Overall the new process was a success and is still being used today saving a lot of time manually re-typing data.”
Tell me about a time when you have identified an opportunity for improvement within your processes?
“I am always looking for ways to improve my processes both in work and out of it. I feel that if we are not looking to improve, to optimise then we will stall and eventually get surpassed. Better to be ahead of the pack than overtaken by the pack.
Recently in my current role I was tasked with reviewing and documenting the process for one of our business areas. These teams worked in customer complaints and were primarily responsible for gathering information about our customer to input into the complaint file.
This was a purely manual process and involved the team going into various systems and pulling the relevant data to input into a spreadsheet.
In order to perform my task I shadowed a few colleagues over the course of a week to better learn how they perform their function. From here I noticed a number of things that could be improved.
Firstly the team had to manually check a folder to see if any new complaints had arrived. I suggested that an automated solution could ping an email to the Team Leader to advise when a complaint had arrived and could – if it was wanted by the business – automatically allocate to a team member.
Secondly I noticed that the systems the team would gather data from all had various data feeds coming in and out. My suggestions were to interact with this feed for the complaint so that the data required for the complaint files were automatically shared with the team meaning that they did not need to go into each system. I had a further suggestion that would compile the data into the complaint file but after further analysis I deemed this to not be feasible with the current resources available.
Once I was complete I delivered the documented process maps to the business area and filed my suggestions with the relevant programme manager, who took my suggestions and formed a project that delivered on all of my suggestions and took an action to look at further resource to implement my compilation idea. The successful delivery of the project reduced the time it took to complete a complaint file by 50%.
When you are given a new project what do you do first?
The first thing I do when given a new project is to seek out the project sponsor and ensure that we are both on the same page. I prefer to do this face-to-face but will settle for a call or video conference if that is all that is available. I feel that at the start of a project it is crucial to make sure that nothing is lost in translation and that all expectations are clear.
In my current organisation the sponsor for most of my projects is the Chief Technology Officer. Just recently I was given a new project that would deploy a major upgrade to one of our core systems. I made sure that I caught a coffee meeting with the CTO so that we could discuss the project.
I enquired as to what the expectations were from both the business and from him personally. I find asking this is key as my CTO has higher expectations than the wider business so while the business was expecting delivery by the end of the year my CTO was expecting it much earlier.
Similarly with regard to quality and budget, the business had minimum quality requirements and a budget restraint. My CTO however had higher quality requirements and made me aware that the budget could be expanded if I needed it – something that was not in the project presentation provided by the business!
Finally I confirmed with the CTO which project members were available and made a mental note to which colleagues I had worked with before and which were new to me (for the new ones I tried to pry information from the CTO as to their skills and work style)
As far as first steps goes I feel like getting the project sponsor, in this case the CTO, to have a frank and open discussion as to the aims and expectations is the best thing to do. After my conversation with the CTO I was in a really good space to start my planning, with the next step being to bring the project members into the loop.
In the end we managed to deliver the upgrade within the timelines and meeting the quality expectations set by the CTO – something that might not have been given the proper attention had I not taken that first step.“
Tell me about a time you have had to manage a difficult stakeholder
“Difficult stakeholders are unavoidable when you have been in the industry for any amount of time. It is just one of those things that you need to be aware of, not everyone is going to be on the same page or have the same goals as you and you will need to handle these people appropriately in order to deliver on your goals.
Whenever I find someone being difficult or not giving me the level of support I require in my projects I tend to do 2 things. Firstly I make sure that I fully understand the issue and therefore my colleague’s concerns and secondly I approach my colleague to discuss potential remedies to get things back on track.
For example, recently I was working on a project that would automate a key data gathering task within the process. This task was performed by 2 teams within the organisation and the lead SME of the teams was assigned to my project.
After some time I found that the SME was not participating in project meetings and any actions they would pick up would go incomplete or be delivered very late.
I spoke to the rest of my team individually as well as some contacts I had in the wider department. I learned that there was a rumour going through the two teams that once the project was delivered that the organisation was going to fire the 2 teams as they would no longer be needed with the new automation process going live.
This was not true however. Our actual plan once we delivered the project was to train these colleagues on a different process where more resources were required. I approached my senior manager to discuss a change to our communication strategy so that a notice could be sent to all impacted parties.
Once the communication was confirmed I approached the SME to explain the situation and remind them that the project still required their 100% focus. Thereafter the SME was much more involved in meetings and all actions were delivered on time. The project ending up a success and the teams were successfully trained on the new project with no colleagues being let go.“
How do you go about defining the requirements for a project?
How do you assess and monitor Risk within a project?
“Managing risk is one of the most important tasks that I undertake as a project manager. It is crucial to success that risks are appropriately identified, assessed and monitored throughout the project lifecycle.
In order to achieve this one of the first project artefacts that I create when forming a new project is the RAID log. Within this log I record all potential risks to the project (as identified by the project team and stakeholders).
Within the log risks are assessed as to the likelihood and severity and an appropriate plan is put in place, usually looking to reduce or eliminate the risk or to mitigate the impacts should the risk crystallise.
Within the log I include a date for review. When this date comes around the item is re-examined to determine if all the underlying logic still holds true.
I have found that the on-going monitoring of the risks is the most difficult to get people engaged with. It is easy to explain the need for the initial session but slightly more persuading is needed to get people involved in continually updating the risks.“
What would you do if a Stakeholder approached you with a change midway through a project? (Could also be “What have you done when…”)
“If this was one of my projects then there would be a clearly defined change request process that should be followed for all requests. This will have been discussed with all stakeholders and approved by all. Given this I would speak to the stakeholder in question and guide them through the Change Request process so that their request could be reviewed and actioned if necessary.
When these type of requests occur I find it best to gently remind the stakeholder that there was a process agreed at the beginning of the project and to remind them of that process and how changes are reviewed and progressed. I had a similar request recently where a senior stakeholder wanted to increase the scope of the software product we were deploying in a month’s time, the stakeholder reached out to me directly and requested it was added for the first release. I gently reminded my colleague that all change requests needed to be raised to the CR portal and would be triaged by a member of the project team, as his change was above the agreed small change limit it would need to be approved by the Change Board. The colleague was content with this and progressed his item through the proper channels were the request was approved for deployment in second release.
Of course this all assumes that the project was being deployed using waterfall methodologies, if we were following a more agile approach the change request would have been prioritised and added to the sprint plan where appropriate.“
Tell me about a time when you had to convince others to put in ‘the hard work’?
“I always feel that when you have a good team working for you that often you don’t need to convince anyone to get the job done, that’s why I believe in a strong recruitment policy of only employing the best and maintaining high standards within the organisation.
Of course there will always be times when a little more motivation is needed. One such occasion happened recently. One of our most valued customers asked if we could provide delivery on one of our products a month earlier than originally scoped.
The organisation agreed to ‘try our best’ when it came to this request but made the customer aware of the challenges of this new date.
The challenge was given to me and my team to try and achieve this new date. Ensuring open communication with the team is important to me so the first thing I did was meet with my team to ensure that they all knew of the new challenge.
We looked at the obstacles that lay in the team’s way and I removed them where practical.
To show the team that we really appreciated the effort they were putting in we made each Friday pizza day paid for by the organisation and told each team member that they would each receive a paid day off once the product was delivered (regardless of whether the new deadline was met or not).
The team were extremely motivated by this and with nothing stopping them we managed to deliver the customer their product within the new timeframes. The customer was thrilled with the service we provided and actually sent across a week’s supply of office fruit as thanks for helping them turn things around under short notice.”
Tell me about a time when you have had to make a decision using only limited information?
“When I worked as a store manager for X I was there on Day 1 of a new store opening and it was my job to make the staff schedule.
Now if you’ve ever been responsible for creating the shift rota you know that the number of colleagues you need is based on forecasts. Forecasts that are largely driven from past data.
But this was a new store so I needed to decide how many staff we should have in without knowing how many staff we were going to need!
I had to think about things tactically. While it would not be ideal to have too many staff in it would be worse if we had too few; so any judgements I were to make would have to err on the side of over staffing.
Through my experience I knew how many staff members were needed to manage a store when empty and when at peak. Now I just needed to make an informed estimate of how many customers to expect.
I reached out to similar sized stores in the organisation and started to speak to the store owners within the area to get an idea of what to face.
Eventually using the information I had gathered I completed the schedule. Day of opening rolled around and luckily we had enough staff to motor through, toward the end of the shift we probably had too many colleagues on the shop floor but that just meant we were able to provide even better customer service. Gotta make a great first impression after all!
After things had settled down I reported to my senior management team that in the future it would be wise to provide the store manager with the analysis that was used when deciding to open the store in this location as it would have had a lot of the necessary information for me to make my decision”
Tell Me About A Time Someone Challenged Your Decision
“Whenever I make a decision in work (or anywhere for that matter!) I ensure that I have looked at all the possible options and weighed the pros / cons accordingly to make sure my decision is the most effective one for the organisation as a whole.
That is why I enjoy when others question or challenge my decisions, as it allows me to hear differing opinions and improves my decision making abilities for the next time.
One such occasion occurred recently. I was put in charge of choosing a supplier for a part we needed on a new product range. We had taken proffers from 4 firms and it was my job to decide who to go with.
Using all of the information I could gather I made my choice, but before I rubberstamped my decision I invited some of the key stakeholders to a meeting to talk things over.
It was at this meeting that my preferred choice was challenged. The colleague raised good points in favour of one of the other suppliers, namely that we have used this supplier before so were already familiar with how they operated and would not need to create new relationships.
I agreed with my colleague and politely told them that I had considered that information when making my decision. I explained that the supplier I had chosen was cheaper than the supplier we have a relationship with. I also showed how this new supplier had recently hired a number of key personnel from our usual supplier meaning that we would be liaising with people we already had existing relationships with. Granted we would still need to create new accounts for the new supplier but for the cost savings I believed it was well worth it.
Once I mentioned this the colleague was immediately relieved, her main cause of concern was with dealing with new suppliers as our products were highly specialised and it often took a while for suppliers to get used to our requirements.
After the meeting I signed the contracts for the new supplier and we have received a number of shipments from them without incident.
Tell me about a time when your organisation didn’t go with the decision you made? Did you agree with their ultimate decision and What did you learn from this experience?
“When I make a decision I always make sure that I have evaluated each and every option and take a rational approach to choose the optimal one based on the data available. I would say it is not often that my decisions are questions or overruled but when they are I am always appreciative of the feedback provided and, while I try to advocate my position further, if the decision has been made I accept that and see what lessons I can learn for the future.
On one such occasion I had been asked to produce a list of employees who would be suitable for a new task force the organisation was deploying. This would be a great career move for all of the potential members so there was a lot of interest from within the department.
I set about immediately by collating all of the information about the candidates and matching this against a list of required and desirable qualities for task force members. Any colleague that did not have the required qualities was ruled out and then the rest of the candidates were ranked according to how many desirable qualities they showed.
When I presented this list to my director he overruled a number of the choices I had made. I listened to his reasoning for each of the changes and largely agreed (for example 2 of the candidates had disciplinary actions on their file that I did not have access to see).
There was one change that I did not agree with. The director was requesting that a colleague be brought onto the task force when their position in my ranking meant that he would be jumping ahead of 3 other better qualified candidates. The reasoning behind the decision was clear in that the candidate in question was a relative of a senior director elsewhere in the organisation.
I advocated strongly against this change informing my director that doing so would be a case of nepotism that is highly discouraged in our organisation and would look poorly upon myself, the director and might even tarnish the reputation of the newly formed taskforce. Once it was laid out in front of him like that the director acquiesced and we went ahead with the original list of colleagues with the 2 discipline cases swapped out.“
Have you ever had to motivate a team member or colleague to increase the quality of their work? How did you go about this?
How does your current (or previous) role fit into the organisation’s wider goals?
“My company specialises in making bespoke furniture for business and domestic properties.
My primary role is as a domestic designer, meaning that I work with the customer to create their dream home and relay the proposals to the build team.
Even though I am not a sales person, I am the person who maintains contact with the customer the longest. I therefore understand and appreciate how my interactions with the customer leave a lasting impression and directly impacts how likely the customer is to recommend our company to others.
This is extremely important as referrals accounts for over 60% of our domestic clients and while domestic revenue falls behind business I know that it is one of the owner’s goals to increase our domestic market share.
Trying to increase customer satisfaction (and therefore chance of referral) I began looking at the customer journey and trying to improve it.
I realised that customers did not like having to deal with multiple people. In our old workflow the customer would have to deal with the sales person, the designer (me), the build team, the delivery team and the after sales support team.
I proposed – and gained approval – to modify this so that the designer (me) would be the sole contact point from the design phase all the way through to post sales. This meant the customer would only speak to 2 departments which most customers preferred.
There was also a side benefit realised. Because I was interacting with the other teams on the customers behalf errors dropped significantly as I fully understood the customer’s vision and could explain that to the teams.
Overall this initiative was a great success. Our customer satisfaction scores increased across the board, complaints dropped significantly and we saw an increase in referrals. All of these things directly helped the organisation with its sales goals and to get closer to its target market share.”
How do you ensure that you have considered all stakeholder needs when undertaking a new initiative?
“I think getting input from stakeholders is crucial when undertaking any new initiatives. As a project manager I am often asked to lead projects in areas that I have no experience, and even if I am leading a project where I know the subject matter well it is always good to get a diverse range of thoughts on the project and its deliverables. After all ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.
That’s why whenever I start a new project I complete a full stakeholder analysis. This begins with a deep dive session to identify everyone that will be impacted by the project, both during delivery and with the end result.
The next step is to produce a key stakeholder list. For example in a recent project I managed we had deduced that the finance department would be stakeholders, but it would have been irresponsible to include every member of the department in our communications so we consulted with the Finance Chief and assigned one key stakeholder for the department (and one backup). We did the same or similar for all the stakeholders previously identified. If we came to a stakeholder group that we couldn’t feasibly include then we assigned an advocate. In the same project our PMO analyst would act as a representative for the customer (as she actually was a customer!).
Once I have finalised this list of key stakeholders I formalise everything by creating a RACI matrix and a communication strategy. This way we have all of the stakeholders listed, their responsibilities toward the project and how/when they will be contacted with updates. This is approved by each stakeholder.
Overall when these steps have been followed correctly I have never had a complaint from a stakeholder to say that they felt their needs were not being met.
Tell me about a time when a project you were working on had an impact on the way another area went about their work?
“Before I begin work on any project I always do a full stakeholder analysis to learn who else – both in the organisation and outside – will be impacted by our project. I feel it is best to do this before any work begins so that we can solicit advice and understand the implications of the impacts before we formalize any project plans.
In a recent project our aim was to automate one of the manual processes within the operations team. As this was a team that received work from another team and also provided work to another team I knew going in that I would need to coordinate my project with other departments.
The first step I took was to lay out the end-to-end process both now and in the target model. I then reached out to all the impacted areas to explain to them our project and how it would impact them.
For the team that received work from our process there would be minimal changes, the automated process would produce the exact same output files the team would just be receiving them via a different source going forward.
For the team that provided work to our process we needed to co-ordinate a change to their process so that the automated process received the correct input files. This change was brought in scope of our project and the relevant department head was provided regular project updates as per the communication strategy
In the end we deployed our automation process successfully with no up or downstream impacts on the date of go-live. The area that was fed output from our process actually used the lessons learned from our project to develop a very similar automation process a few months later, which proves that bringing them ‘in the loop’ was beneficial in more ways than one.“
Tell me about a time you worked well as part of a team.
“I love working in a team, I find the collaboration and task specialisation that group working offers allows for higher quality and more efficient outputs – than what would happen working solo.
In a previous role I actually initiated a shared team approach to our process. At the time the department I was working in was responsible for handling customer complaints for a large retail bank.
The process that we followed had 3 main phases; reviewing the complaint, calculating moneys owed in redress and production/mailing of the payment. Each member of the team would be assigned one case and would work the case through each phase to the end. We were expected to work 2 cases a day which meant 50 cases a day for the department.
I had a knack for the calculation aspect of the work and was able to breeze through them quicker than anyone else in the team. I noticed that other colleagues would struggle with the calculations not only with how long it took them but with the overall quality.
I suggested to my manager that we break the process down and allocate people based on their strengths. I took over calculations for the department while other colleagues were put on review and payments.
Using this team approach to the task we quickly started to hit 80 cases a day and even hit 100 cases a few times, a feat that I attribute to the team work we showed”
Tell me about a time when there was a conflict within the team you were working on, how did you handle the conflict in order to get the job done?
“Honestly, I hate conflict. I suppose everyone does really now I think about it. But because I hate conflict I always try to keep one step ahead of it by being aware of those around me and what they are working on and what their targets are, this way I have been able to resolve many issues before they even come up.
Obviously that is not possible all of the time, one such occasion was when our departmental budget was cut at the very last minute causing quite the stir with all of the management.
I was tasked with revising our costs based on the new allocation we would receive. This meant that certain areas would need to reduce (or eliminate) their funding. The conflict started almost immediately as each manager wanted to keep his or her own allocation and were convinced that their area was special and needed the full allocation as previously sought.
The first thing I did was meet with each manager individually to understand exactly what the impacts of cutting their budget would be, and ask them if they knew of any area that could be cut without impacting our operational effectiveness.
Once I collated all of the feedback I found that there were a number of items that could be cut that a majority of the management team were in agreement on.
My final budget proposal was to remove these non-essential items and for each area to absorb the remaining cuts equally according to size.
Obviously no-one was happy with receiving less funding but everyone was content with how the decision process had played out and there was no more inter-departmental squabbling about who should get what, so overall a positive result out of a negative situation.”
Tell me about a time when you have made a mistake in a project.
“I hate making mistakes – I suppose everybody does – that is why I always advocate for proper planning. I am a ‘measure twice cut once’ type of girl. When a project is planned correctly the risk of mistakes by any one person are greatly reduced. However on the occasions that a mistake of mine does ‘slip the net’ I always immediately highlight it to the project/workstream and take steps to remediate the fallout.
For example, back when I was Delivery Manager at [REDACTED] my project team were in charge of delivering an important piece of work to the business every Tuesday morning. This piece of work took my team 1 day to produce. One such week – after a bank holiday – the report was going to be delayed until Wednesday (as my team needed the Tuesday for production since Monday was a non-working day).
The mistake that I had made was that I had not communicated this delay to the business area expecting the report and as such there were a team of people without any work to do.
Upon learning of my error I immediately contacted the team lead of the business area and explained the situation, taking full blame for the error and apologising for the inconvenience caused. I listened to the lead talk about how their team used the report and between the two of us we devised a temporary solution. My team would deliver the report in 4 stages, so as opposed to receiving one full report the business would now receive 4. This would allow them to start work on the first stage while my team continued to produce the remaining stages.
Had I not took responsibility and sought out how to rectify the situation then the entire team would have lost a full day’s production, in the end they only lost 1.5 hours, of which the Team Lead advised me they used to complete mandatory learnings anyway.
Once the situation was resolved I went back plugged the gaps in my RACI matrix and communication strategy so that this issue would not present itself going forward. I also took the time to take a couple refresher courses on LinkedIn with regard to stakeholder management. I can safely say failure to communicate will not be an issue for me again!”
What Project Management Methodologies are you familiar with?
What Project Management Methodology do you believe is better?
What steps do you take when performing GAP analysis
How would you use the MoSCoW method/technique during requirement gathering?
How do you seek to promote diversity when working in a project team?
Work from home has become the new normal in the post-COVID-19-world. How well are you prepared to manage a remote team?
What is the most desired skill that is required to become a successful project manager, according to your experience? Please give us a couple of examples regarding your past projects.
Suppose the project has gone off the rails. What steps would you take to get it back on track?
“The first step I would take is to confirm if the project is still viable in its current state. I would do this by re-confirming the business justification and seeing if the same assumptions still hold true now. Assuming the project is still viable I would investigate the issues with the team and prioritise remediation or mitigation of each item, re-scoping or re-defining the project plan as need be. Once the new plan was ready I would re-issue to the project stakeholders for review and approval. Later on I would lead an investigation as to why these issues were not catalogued in the RAID log already, but that investigation would be held once the project was back on track.
I actually have some recent experience with a wayward project. COVID-19 had caused a number of our internal projects to stall out. I was brought onto a project when the previous PM had left the business. The aim of the project was to offshore one of our business processes. The project had stalled after our offshore office had been closed due to a lockdown.
The first thing I did was to re-confirm the business justification. In doing so I found that the project was no longer viable. The main aim of the project was to offshore a particular process (and therefore save on the labour costs), however the process itself was to be discontinued in around 18 months time anyway in favour of a new automated process. Given this, and the delays realised by COVID, the assumed cost savings were no longer accurate and the revised cost savings were negligible. I presented my findings to the Change Committee and requested I be allowed to take the necessary steps to close the project.“
Suppose the customer is not happy about the quality of the project outcomes. How do you handle the situation? What is your way of handling an unhappy stakeholder?
What is your strategy to deal with internal conflicts among the team members?
Can you explain the differences between risk and issues? What are the major types of risks that may be encountered in a project?
What’s your leadership style?
What is your communication style with your team?
How do you communicate bad news? (employees, stakeholders, customers)
What are some of the tools and resources you’ve used to develop your team?
What is your delegation style?
What are your career and project goals for the next six months?
Give a few examples of proactive decision-making in your past projects and your life in general.
Can you give me a few examples of a time when you made a tough decision, and it backfired?
How did your last project end?
What’s the biggest mistake/failure you’ve made on a project?
What’s your ideal project?
What is the most important thing a project manager does?
What project management software are you proficient with, and what role do these tools play in your projects?
Which project management methodologies are you familiar with? Which ones do you prefer?
Think about the last time you experienced scope creep on a project. What did you do?
How have you improved project management processes at your current firm?
Tell me about a time when your stakeholders didn’t agree on a project. How did you proceed?
Are deadlines intimidating or motivating to you?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“I love to travel but I like to stray from the beaten path and take the trips that don’t show up on any tourist websites. This often requires a lot of scheduling and detailed itineraries to be made so I do really lean on my Project Planning skills when doing this”
What energises you?
How would your close friends describe you?
Do you most like starting tasks or finishing them?
Do you prefer the big picture or the small details?
Describe a successful day. What made it successful?
What are you good at?
What are your weaknesses?
“I have never worked with <insert tool or software> before and I see that it plays an integral role in your organisation. I have worked with <insert other tool> before and from what I hear it lacks a number of features present in <tool>. I look forward to the opportunity to use this new tool as I hear great things about it, I have also found a crash course online that I would look to take to get up to speed as quickly as possible…should I be offered the job”
What did you enjoy studying at school or university?
When did you achieve something you’re really proud of?
What do you enjoy doing the least?
Do you find there are enough hours in the day to complete your to-do list?
What tasks are always left on your to-do list?
How do you stay motivated?
How do you feel about deadlines?
“Obviously having a future date that something is due looming over you can be daunting, especially when it is a hard deadline. It is quite easy for people to get overwhelmed and get stressed. But I feel differently. I hold a begrudging respect for deadlines. I appreciate their importance as they force you to provide more structure to your work and can act as a motivator. Without deadlines I feel like a lot of work would just not get done.
To give you an example, last year I was brought in as Project Manager on an infrastructure upgrade project. This project had been ongoing for 3 years with no end in sight. There was no urgency within the team to get their work completed as there was no deadline to meet. Instead the team would prioritise other pieces of work over this project.
Eventually this pushed on long enough that a hard deadline did appear. This infrastructure upgrade became a dependency for another project of mine and it needed to be completed before I could go-live with my project.
Immediately on taking ownership of the project I created a project plan using the new deadline to create a work breakdown structure. Then I spoke with all project team members and stakeholders to advise them of the new deadline and the new plan that everyone was to adhere to.
In the end the infrastructure upgrade was deployed successfully. As a result I was able to deploy my other project on time also. So to circle back to the question I truly believe that deadlines are important as otherwise I do not believe a lot of work would get completed.“
Have you ever done something differently the second time around?
Do you think this role will play to your strengths?
If you were made to choose between double-checking data and giving a presentation, which one would you choose?
How would you persuade a customer who tells you that they’re not happy with the company’s service?
What could you do to help a colleague who is struggling with a lot of complex decisions?
How do you resolve sudden obstacles when they interfere with your plans?
What was your biggest failure in life?
Describe your most successful day and why was it successful.
What do you consider to be your most significant achievement?
What is the thing that you are really good at?
How can you tell if a project is a success?
What are your three biggest strengths?
What is the thing that you are most proud of?
Are deadlines intimidating or motivating to you?
Do people describe you as an organized person?
What is your least enjoyable activity?
Who is the person, and it could be anybody, you admire the most?
Which tasks are usually left undone in your to-do list?
How do you stay motivated despite challenges and setbacks?
What makes you more likely to succeed compared to the other job applicants?
How do you handle situations when you work with someone you don’t like?
Do you believe that you need to be an expert at something to become a leader?