Woman working on laptop at a table with a woman shuffling papers
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

 

Why this matters:

This question will give you insight into both the type of projects your candidate has been involved with and their ability to communicate critical project details. A strong project manager should be able to clearly articulate the scope of the project, what their role entailed, and key stakeholders. Ideally, they’ll also discuss any problems they encountered and were able to solve along the way.

What to listen for:

  • Good technical knowledge around project management tasks
  • Demonstrated ease in communicating the goal or purpose of the project
  • Instances where the candidate was proactive in addressing and rectifying problems

Why this matters:

Many project management tasks are delegated, tracked, and executed through project management software. An ideal candidate will show both an aptitude for using this software to streamline projects and an understanding that they may need to learn new software as the business’s needs (and the technology itself) evolve.

What to listen for:

  • References to specific project management software and aspects of projects managed through these platforms
  • Signs that the candidate is comfortable adapting to new technology
  • Experience using the specific tools your team relies on is a plus

 

Why this matters:

The best project managers are well-versed in and comfortable with different project management methodologies. Rather than sticking to one familiar approach across every project they manage, they employ different methodologies to organize and execute different projects, depending on factors like the scope and stakeholders’ needs.

What to listen for:

  • A clear understanding of different methodologies, such as Scrum, Waterfall, or Agile—and when to use them
  • Specific examples of using a methodology to organize and oversee a project
  • An ability to switch between methodologies depending on project demands

Why this matters:

Scope creep is a common issue that can occur when project sponsors increase their demand for deliverables without adjusting the budget accordingly. Scope creep is often unintentional, but it needs to be managed swiftly in order to prevent the project team from failing to hit its deadline or burning through its budget long before completion. This requires project managers to be diligent, proactive, and communicative.

What to listen for:

  • Examples of times the candidate was able to effectively renegotiate the project timeline, budget, and deliverables, based on shifting demands
  • Top answers may mention eliminating silos in the workflow, ensuring open communication between team members and stakeholders

Why this matters:

Project management involves overseeing a host of moving parts. Any number of unforeseen complications could derail progress, so it’s important for the project manager to remain flexible and think on their feet. You need to know that your new hire can not only spot impending problems with a project, but can take decisive action to avoid or minimize them, ensuring a successful outcome.

 

What to listen for:

  • Detailed examples of times the candidate was able to identify and solve complex problems on projects
  • Mentions of problem-solving techniques they used, such as brainstorming with the team or performing a root cause analysis

Why this matters:

An ideal project manager is a creative and strategic problem solver who is always looking for ways to maximize a project’s potential. This can take the form of process tweaks during a project or improvements made to future processes, based on lessons learned. Top project managers are diligent about analyzing results and getting feedback to make the next project even better.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence that the candidate is always thinking about strategic or innovative ways to improve processes and drive better resultsPatience and understanding.
  • A great answer may also mention listening to feedback from the team and using it to inform process change

Why this matters:

Leadership skills are an important trait for project managers. Since these professionals typically oversee other team members tasked with executing portions of the project, they must motivate their team and offer support or find solutions if team members are struggling. This also requires empathy and strong communication skills to get to the root cause of a problem.

What to listen for:

  • An emphasis on the importance of teamwork and flexibility to overcome challenges and meet collective goals
  • Details of specific strategies the candidate uses to motivate and support team members, like giving kudos and speaking to people privately if they’re struggling

Why this matters:

Project managers regularly have to use their communication and conflict resolution skills to resolve disagreements with both internal and external stakeholders. The best project managers often handle these situations by explaining how the end product fulfills the agreed-upon scope and providing the necessary evidence to back up this claim.

 

What to listen for:

  • A calm, rational communication style that reflects their approach to resolving conflicts with sponsors
  • Ideally, the candidate will draw on examples of times they’ve reached a successful resolution that satisfied all stakeholders

Why this matters:

Between budgets, deadlines, delegated tasks, and other variables, project managers have to keep track of multiple aspects of a project simultaneously. If a single ball is dropped, it can have repercussions that impact the entire project. As such, good organizational skills are essential for managing a project and staying on top of all its moving parts.

What to listen for:

  • Specific examples of organizational strategies and project management tools like Google Suite or Trello
  • A thoughtful discussion of how the candidate’s organizational methods contribute to the overall success of their projects