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Project Manager Interview Questions: Everything You Must Know

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Project Manager Interview Questions

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Project management is an exciting career field with the flexibility of welcoming any industry. Since so many people come to project management from different backgrounds – programming, marketing, business — it can be a little nerve-wracking to determine what will actually be in an interview.

Luckily, project manager interview questions tend to be fairly predictable. Today, we will cover basic, intermediate, and advanced interview questions for project managers while also providing important interview tips.

Project Management Interview Questions and Answers

Project managers wear many hats, wrangle a lot of people, and need to track a multitude of goals within (often extensive) constraints. You have to be well-organized, detail-oriented, and confident as a project manager. 

Project management interview questions and answers can give you insights into how a project management interview is likely to go — while also testing your knowledge of the field. We've compiled some of the most common project management interview questions you're likely to face.

Basic Project Management Interview Questions

An interviewer may ask these basic PM interview questions for entry-level positions. If you’re heading into your first project management role, brush up on these questions first.

1. What does a project manager do?

Project management is the process of achieving goals through resource management. Projects are by nature temporary and are undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically revenue or performance-related. A project manager is in charge of overseeing and propelling the project forward.

2. What are the key elements of a project?

The key elements are the triple constraint: scope, time, and cost. You may have also heard this as good, fast, and cheap. 

key elements of a project

3. What are a few different types of projects?

There are many different types of projects, but some common ones include:

  • IT projects
  • Construction projects
  • Marketing campaigns
  • New product development

Anything that has a fixed endpoint can be considered a project. Consider the projects that you've worked on. This question is generally asked to determine whether you understand the difference between a project, program, or process.

4. What is the difference between a program and a project?

Programs differ from projects as they frequently don't have deadlines. A program can be made of projects managed together to achieve a common goal. For example, a company might manage all of its marketing campaigns as a single program.

5. What is the difference between processes and projects?

A project has a defined beginning and end, while a business process is an ongoing activity. Business processes are often managed by business process management software, while projects are typically managed manually.

6. What are the benefits of using a project management methodology?

A project management methodology refers to something like waterfall, agile, or Kanban. There are many benefits of using a project management methodology, including:

  • Standardization
  • Improved communication
  • Greater efficiency
  • Increased likelihood of success

Talk about how project management methodologies have helped you become more organized and confident — and which methodologies you’re experienced with and prefer.

7. What is the difference between a waterfall model and an agile model?

agile vs waterfall model

The waterfall model is a traditional, linear approach to project management, while the agile model is a more flexible approach that emphasizes iteration and constant improvement. Today, the waterfall model is generally deprecated, and nearly all companies use agile. But some industries like manufacturing still use waterfall.

Read more: Agile vs Waterfall

8. What are the different phases of a project?

The different phases of a project are:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Monitoring
  • Closing

Don't forget closing! Closing may not be an active part of the project, but it underscores any need for the organization to change its processes in the future.

9. What is a project charter?

A project charter is a document that defines the goals, objectives, and scope of a project. The project manager creates the charter during the initiation phase.

10. What is stakeholder analysis?

A stakeholder analysis is a process of identifying and assessing the stakeholders of a project. This helps you understand their needs and expectations and develop a plan for managing them throughout the project.

11. What is a work breakdown structure or WBS?

A work breakdown structure is a tool used to break down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Breaking work down in this way creates achievable milestones without becoming overwhelmed.

12. What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a bar chart that shows each task’s start and end dates of each task in a project. It's a popular project management tool, as it provides a clear overview of the project timeline.

13. What is a critical path?

The critical path is the longest path through a project and represents the minimum amount of time necessary to complete the project. A delay to a critical path delays the project as a whole.

14. What are the skills required to be a project manager?

Project managers require a hefty mix of soft skills and tech skills. Some of the most important ones include:

  • Leadership
  • Organizational 
  • Communication 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Time management 

Many of the skills required of a project manager are "soft skills" or people-related skills. But project managers also often need tech skills – at least enough to know what’s possible.

15. What is scope creep?

Scope creep refers to the tendency for the scope of a project to expand over time. It's always dangerous, as it leads to projects going over budget and over time. Project managers must control scope creep.

16. What are the causes of scope creep?

There are many causes of scope creep, but common ones include:

  • Lack of clear objectives
  • Poor communication
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of stakeholder buy-in
  • Inadequate planning

If the stakeholders don't understand or respect the end product adequately, it will lead to scope creep.

17. How can you prevent scope creep?

Often, this depends on the project itself. A few methods include:

  • Being clear about objectives from the start
  • Keeping stakeholders informed and involved
  • Defining roles and responsibilities clearly
  • Creating a detailed project plan
  • Monitoring progress and making changes as needed

A project manager must always be on top of scope creep, but not so much that they can't be flexible when necessary. Talk about a time when you had to manage scope creep in the past.

Intermediate Project Management Interview Questions

Congratulations! You've been a project manager for a few years now, and you should be able to answer these intermediate project manager questions. As you answer these questions, try to incorporate direct anecdotes of your prior experience.

18. How do you manage stakeholder expectations?

Stakeholder management requires similar considerations as managing scope creep: 

  • Being clear about objectives from the start
  • Keeping stakeholders informed and involved
  • Defining roles and responsibilities clearly
  • Creating a detailed project plan

The more involved a stakeholder is, the more likely they are to have (reasonable) expectations. They need to understand the project before understanding what is or isn’t possible.

19. How do you create a project schedule?

Schedule creation depends on your software. But you can typically create a schedule by walking through the following steps:

  • Identifying the tasks that need to be done
  • Sequencing the tasks
  • Estimating the time needed for each task
  • Assigning resources to each task

A project schedule is a critical tool for managing a project and should be established early during the planning stages.

20. How do you create a project budget?

Project managers must set the budget for each project you work on. Often, this is based on practicality and how much the organization needs the project completed.

Project budgeting involves:

  • Identifying the costs of each task
  • Estimating the time needed for each task
  • Assigning resources to each task

But you have to consider external factors, too, such as the funding that’s actually available.

21. How do you monitor and control a project?

Monitoring a project is a common way for a project manager to maintain control over the project. You can monitor a project by: 

  • Creating a project schedule and budget
  • Monitoring progress against the schedule and budget
  • Making changes as needed

Of course, a project isn’t always on schedule. A project manager must also be able to adjust. What happened last time a project went off the rails for you?

22. What are the different types of risks that can impact a project?

Most risks fall under these categories: 

  • Scope creep
  • Budget overruns
  • Schedule delays
  • Quality issues

Think about times when a project encountered these risks. How had you prepared for them?

23. How do you deal with conflict in a project?

Conflict is uncomfortable for many people. For project managers, conflict can be the most difficult part of the job. Effectively deal with conflict within a project by:

  • Identifying the source of the conflict
  • Communicating with all parties involved
  • Working towards a resolution that is acceptable to all parties

A project manager isn’t a miracle worker. Sometimes, a conflict may need to be resolved by stakeholders before the project can progress.

24. What is change management, and why is it important in a project?

Change management is the process of managing changes to the project. It is important because it helps to ensure that changes are made in a controlled and safe manner. Good change management mitigates risk and reduces scope creep.

25. What is earned value management, and how is it used in projects?

Earned value management is a technique used to measure progress in a project. It is based on the principle that the value of a project is the sum of the values of all the tasks that have been completed. Understandably, revenue-generating activities lend themselves more readily to this process. Not all projects can undergo earned value management.

Advanced Project Management Interview Questions

At this stage of your career, you're an experienced project manager. You haven’t seen it all, but you’ve seen a lot. Your interview will be tilted toward asking you questions about your personal experiences, challenges, and triumphs.

26. What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a project manager?

Think about the hardest project you ever had to complete. What made it so difficult? What did you do to address that difficulty? Do you feel like you handled it the right way? Be honest about anything learned; would you handle the project differently today?

27. What project made you proudest as a project manager?

Take some time to highlight one of your accomplishments. Think about the last project you nailed, a project that you believe you did great on. It may be a project that had a lot of challenges or had a lot that went wrong; you’re judging your merit as a project manager, not the project itself.

28. What project management suites do you have experience with?

Look into the project management system the company uses. Is it MS Project? Monday? Trello? Taskworld? Asana? There are dozens on the market, and it can be overwhelming. Review their project management solution (if there’s a free trial), but don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have experience in a specific one. Instead, say something like, “I’ve never used Basecamp, but I have used Trello.”

29. What is the most important lesson that you've learned as a project manager?

Most project managers have that one project that went awry immediately or fantastic from start to finish. Think about your most momentous projects and what they taught you. Don’t be afraid to talk about mistakes as long as you can show how you learned from them.

Project Manager Scenario-Based Interview Questions and Answers

Sometimes, you'll be walked through specific scenarios during your interview. A project management certification or lesson path is a great way to prepare for these. Here are a few example scenarios.

Scenario 1: Creating a Schedule

You are a project manager for an organization planning to roll out a new product. The product launch date is set for six months from now. You have been asked to create a project schedule for the product launch.

What would you do?

Answer: Create a project charter outlining objectives, timelines, risks, and deliverables for the project. Once the charter is approved, create a breakdown structure of the workflow and a project schedule. Use the risk chart to create an extensive risk management plan to mitigate risks that may impact the project. Write up a communication plan to ensure stakeholders are kept up to date.

Scenario 2: Dealing With Change Management

You are a project manager on a project halfway through its milestones. A key stakeholder requests you add major changes that would delay the rollout. However, other stakeholders also believe that these changes are essential to the project.

What would you do?

Answer: A project manager must be able to integrate changes into a plan. It’s not scope creep if all stakeholders desire the changes. However, this will mean that the project will take longer or be more expensive. Determine what these changes would necessitate and acquire approvals to change the project.

Scenario 3: Managing Conflict With Stakeholders

You are a project manager in the early stages of risk assessment and project planning. Two key stakeholders fundamentally disagree on the features the products need.

What would you do?

Answer: A project manager answers to stakeholders and guides them but cannot ultimately make decisions for them. Create simulations for each stakeholder's opinion and ask them to reach a consensus. Give clear deadlines as to when they must make these decisions.

Tips for Your Next Project Manager Interview

Studying the above project management questions is a great start. Here are some more tips to brush up for your next interview:

  • Get a project management certification.
  • Use project management software to get hands-on experience.
  • Join a professional organization, such as the Project Management Institute (PMI).
  • Stay up to date on industry news and trends.
  • Read books and articles on project management topics.

Project management is an exciting field that is always changing. Frequently, those in project management have worked in their industry for some time. So, since each industry is different, your preparation may be different.

Conclusion: Win Your Next Project Management Interview

By preparing for questions about your experience, technical skills, and problem-solving ability, you'll be on your way to impressing interviewers and landing the project manager job you've always wanted. But don't forget that practice makes perfect. Review these project manager interview questions and try to schedule mock interviews with family and friends leading up to build your confidence and help you relax.

Before your next interview:

Project Manager FAQs

How Do I Prepare for a Project Manager Interview?

In addition to studying common interview questions, project managers should consider getting certified. A project management certification will walk you through many scenarios discussed during the interviews.

What Questions Can be Asked for a Project Manager Interview?

Interviewers will likely ask about your experience with project management software and methodologies. Be prepared to discuss your experience managing projects from start to finish.

What Are the 3 Things a Project Manager Needs to Succeed?

A project manager needs to be organized, have strong problem-solving skills, and communicate with stakeholders effectively. Project managers should also have a firm understanding of project management principles and software.

What Would the Main 5 Tasks of a Project Manager Be?

The main tasks of a project manager are to initiate, plan, execute, monitor and control, and close a project. These activities are also known as the project management life cycle’s stages.

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye has been a full stack developer for two decades, specializing in web application design and development. For the last eight years, she has worked as a news and feature writer focusing on technology and finance, with bylines in Udemy, SVG, and The Gamer. View all posts by the Author

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