Relying on your skills alone is not enough to ace a project manager interview—you need to know about the most common project manager interview questions and how to answer them. Project managers need a combination of important skills, including leadership, communication, planning, time management and cost control. But more importantly is the ability to answer common interview questions in a way that conveys your qualifications and suitability for the open position. Read more to learn how to answer the most common project manager interview questions.
Common project manager interview questions
Here are some of the most common interview questions you can expect for a project manager role and some suggestions for answering them:
Tell me about yourself
This question will likely be the first question the interviewer asks you and it is one that is easy to get wrong without preparation. You don’t want to tell your life story here—but you do need to give a concise and relevant introduction to your background and educational history.
Adding something unique about yourself, such as an uncommon hobby or an interesting volunteering experience, is a great way to stand out. If you are a college graduate with limited experience, you can discuss aspects of your college work that are relevant for project management, such as experience with certain software or managing a team for a class project.
Tell me about your background in this industry
If you have past experience in the industry to which you are applying, you’ll easily answer this by discussing a previous job. If you don’t have direct experience in the industry, try to discuss aspects of a previous role that you feel are relevant.
In your opinion, what is the most essential skill for a project manager to have?
There is no wrong answer to this question if your response mentions a skill that project managers actually need, such as leadership or communication skills. The interviewer is testing whether you can assert an opinion and provide clear reasons that justify that opinion. This question explores how self-assured you are.
How do you prioritize tasks and ensure the team stays on track?
This question tests whether you have a flexible or rigid approach to project management. Any good project manager has the flexibility to identify mission-critical tasks that keep the project moving forward and prioritize those tasks first. Time management skills are critical so it’s good to mention that you monitor project activities and prioritize tasks based on that activity.
What is your communication style like?
Broadly speaking, most project managers need to have a certain type of communication style. Mention that you can communicate goals and tasks clearly. You should emphasize that you are optimistic and approachable and a good listener. Employers want a project manager that team members feel they can easily discuss problems with.
How do you keep people motivated?
Continued motivation is vital in any project—team members want to feel their work counts. A good way to answer this question is to mention that you enjoy giving people feedback on their work and appreciating when they go the extra mile. Many project managers hold brief one-on-one weekly meetings with individual team members to keep them motivated.
How do you deal with underperforming team members?
Quite often one or two team members will not deliver work of the required standard to keep the project moving and employers want to know how you’d handle this situation. Again, clear communication is important to highlight. Ideally, you’d have a meeting with the underperforming team member, provide feedback on performance issues and develop a plan for improving performance.
Are you familiar with project management software?
Technology is increasingly important for successful project management. Ideally, you can answer this question by talking about two or three project management tools you’ve worked with in the past, such as Asana, Trello, Slack, Microsoft Project, JIRA, etc.
The most common project manager interview questions inevitably test all of the important aspects of being a project manager.
Tips to answer project manager interview questions
Here are some more general tips for answering questions during a project manager interview:
Know your resume
Project manager interviews are often highly focused on relevant experience. You should know your resume so you can discuss former projects and share the stories of your experience. You don’t want to go into too much detail about former jobs, but for every project on your resume, you should be able to describe the main decisions you made, the impact of those decisions, the steps you took to overcome conflicts or problems and whether the project achieved its goals on time.
Practice behavioral questions
Behavioral questions are common during project manager interviews. Employers want to use past behavior as a predictor for how you’ll respond to future situations, particularly when asking about times of difficulty or conflict. The most important tip for answering behavioral questions is to practice the STAR method. Using the STAR method, you describe past behaviors and outcomes by discussing a specific situation or challenge, a task you had to achieve, actions you took to achieve it, and the final outcome of those actions.
Communicate clearly and concisely
Since communication is so important to the success of a project manager, it is crucial you show the interviewer that you can communicate clearly and concisely. Try to answer questions with the most amount of detail in the fewest amount of words. Being clear and concise is a skill that is best practiced by writing out answers first and saying them out loud.