On this site you will find the most common interview questions and answers which are used by recruitment agencies and hiring companies in order to find out if you are the right person for the job.
To each questions, I’ve provided some background information on why a particular question is being asked. This will help you understand what your interview partner is hoping to hear from you.
For demonstration purpose, I’m using a Project Manager as an example, looking for a project management job. You can easily change or modify the answer to suit your expertise, knowledge and skill.
1. Interview Questions and Answers: Tell me about yourself:
This is one of the most common questions to start the interview. Make sure you have prepared an answer in advance which outlines your skills, knowledge and experience. This will help you to market and to “sell” your skills. Your interview partner is after information on how you can add value to the company. Try to conclude your answer with a question in order to get the initial discussion going.
I’m an experienced Project Manager with a record of successful project delivery. I’m efficient and highly organised. This enables me to be as productive as possible on the job.
At my last company X, I was involved in the development of a new online insurance product. As a Project Manager I was responsible and accountable for a budget of $1m, my project team was 20 members strong. The project needed to be delivered on a tight timeline due to legislative changes.
I’ve delivered this project within the 10-month deadline and under budget. The company sold 2000 products within the first 2 month. I’d like to discuss how I might be able to do something similar for your company.
2. Interview Questions and Answers: Why do you want to work for our company?
This is an important question, as the future employer wants to know if you really want to work here or if you are just applying for any job. Interviewers want to hire people who are like-minded and want to work for the same company. Therefore be passionate. Demonstrate that you have done your research on the company beforehand (for example on Google, LinkedIn). Can you show your interview partner that you can add value to the company?
I’m really interested in working for your company.
I‘m familiar with some of the people who work for you; or I have conducted web research and found / believe that the products / services are impressive and very interesting. Your company is leading the market and was ranked highly at the “Choice of Employee of the year”. From my understanding this company has a very dynamic, very competitive, and fast business culture. And your company has the reputation for hiring top talents.
I do believe my skill set would fit very well with your job requirements and I’m sure I can help you to be more productive and efficient in your project delivery.
3. Interview Questions and Answers: Why do you want to leave your company? / Why have you left your company?
There are three rules with this question: keep it simple, honest and positive. Good reasons for leaving your job or company can be:
- Career growth
- Your company is restructuring
- Moving or finding a job closer to home
- Looking for new challenge
If you are in a situation where you are or were unemployed for a time– mention the reason. Always frame the answer positively and make sure your “time off” has some learning activities involved.
Example for career growth:
I had a fabulous time at company X.
I started out in the Project Manager area. I have been promoted several times, developed new skills and formalised my Project Management skills. After 6 years, I feel that it is time to look for a new challenge and I’m using this as an opportunity to grow and learn. I’m very selective where I go with my next move because it is important move where I can grow as a professional and enhance my skills.
I’m looking for an opportunity to take all the skills and experiences that I have learned at (company X) and apply this in a new environment where I can make a real difference to the particular organisation.
Example for company restructure:
I was made redundant due to a company restructure in May. After some consideration I decided to turn this situation into an opportunity for my personal and professional growth.
I fulfilled my childhood dream traveling through Europe and to experience and learn about foreign cultures. Since I’m back, I’ve completed several Project Manager educational courses online in the area of financial management in order to brush up my skills and joined the “Professional Project Management Group” here in Brisbane to grow my business network.
I’m looking forward to use my experience in a new environment where I can make a real difference.
4. Interview Questions and Answers: Tell me about your strength?
Describe your skills and experience here. Provide three or four statements and back them up with examples. Employers normally like to see examples in the area of:
- Great communicator
- Team player / team leader
- Motivated and determined
- Using consultative approach
- Mentored and coached teams
My key strengths are: great communicator, good team leader, hardworking and motivated to achieve my goals. In addition, I have a strong knowledge of IT systems and have managed projects for over 6 years.
All those strength have been developed over the last years. I started at company X with small projects in the area of XX. Not all projects were easy to manage, and I did make mistakes in the beginning – especially when it came to managing staff. But I learned quickly and improved my project management skills over the last couple of years. Now, I’m at the point where I manage large and complex projects, with development sites in India and China.
This enabled my last company to simplify their environment and saved $400.000 in the first 8 months.
5. Interview Questions and Answers: Tell me what motivates you?
This is a psychological question. The interviewer wants to know if you think more about short-term or long-term goals. Below you will find two possible answers to this question.
I like to be involved in constant changes and like to be involved in ‘new things’ like new process developments, new product development, further improvements to processes and methodologies. [Change is the only constant, and I have the urge to be involved].
As a Project Manager I’m heavily involved in implementing new ideas and projects and see them deployed and realized. I want to use my Project Manager skills and talent in order to work on exciting and challenging projects in order to realise the companies goals.
I am motivated by the challenge of implementing projects ahead of schedule and by managing teams that achieved their goals.
My career is important to me. I’m really into developing myself. I want to get into senior management level and I want to take on more responsibilities.
I’m taking on an “Executive Leadership course for Project Managers” to work at a more strategic and senior level; that’s what motivates me.
This will help me grow and achieve my personal goals and help the company to reach their targets.
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6. Interview Questions and Answers: Can you please tell me why we should hire you?
This is a value proposition. How can you add value to the company? Make sure you have read the job description and know what they are looking for. This is now what you need to mention. If they mentioned that you need to be “Excellent in Stakeholder Management”, then you need to use and provide an example here. In general – people will hire you for the following reasons:
- You do the job well
- You fit into the company culture
- You are passionate about your job
Based on my past projects and experiences I do believe that I can add and bring value to your company.
In the job description you highlighted that you are looking for someone with the following skills: list now three of the requirements in the job description and provide examples to each, to show that you have this experience they are looking for.
You mentioned that you are looking for someone with “Excellent Stakeholder Management” skills, “Experiences in Agile” and “has a record of successful project delivery”.
At my previous company, agile was the project management standard. I was responsible for a $2m projects – delivering a new online banking product by the end of the year. I had to deal with various stakeholder. We were running in a major problem as the product, we just developed, didn’t comply to regulatory standards. It was a very challenging situation. Further describe a situation….
I do believe that my skills and experience will meet your expectations and will complement your team to deliver the required results.
7. Interview Questions and Answers: Can you please tell me how you will contribute to this company?
The best way to answer this is to give example of what you have achieved in the past and to relate this to the future. Relate your abilities to the employer’s goals. You will want to let your interviewer partner know that you have the right skills necessary to do the job they are hiring for.
I’m an experienced Project Manager who worked for X number of years in the industry. I’m familiar with different project management methodologies and processes.
I’ve delivered many successful projects in the past like Project X, Project Y– which were very complex in nature and provided the expected benefits to companies I’ve worked for. I’ve also trained and mentored others in the Project Manager discipline up-grading their capability.
I do believe that my knowledge and skills will greatly improve the quality and the delivery of your projects.
8. Interview Questions and Answers: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Your interview partner wants to know if you have clear goals in life. In reality, most people have no idea what they will do in 5 years’ time. You can answer this question in two ways:
- You want to become an expert in your field and would like to stay in the area: Advance from being a Project Manager to become a Senior Project Manager.
- Or you want to leave your area – moving from a Project Manager position to a senior management position.
Statement for becoming an expert:
I want to become an expert in the Project Management area.
Example for becoming an expert:
In 5 years’ time, I see myself progressing in the Project Management area. Taking on larger and more complex projects and learning new skills to the benefit of (the company). I find this advertised Project Management job extremely interesting and motivating.
Benefit of becoming an expert:
I am willing to invest my next 5 years gaining further experience on the job and towards professional advancement. To sum it up – I want to be an expert in project management
Statement for moving:
In five years’ time I see myself in a senior management position.
Example for moving:
Having more responsibilities, coaching other employees and managing teams. I am interested in pursuing my career based on (this company’s) goals.
Benefit for moving:
I’m planning to acquire further qualification in my field (e.g. MBA), which will assist me in this endeavor.
9. Interview Questions and Answers: Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you dealt with it?
Here your interview partner wants to see how you acted and behaved under a certain situation in the past in order to predict on how you are likely to handle a similar situation in the future.
For Project Manager’s it is quite common to work under heavy workload – especially when it comes to the delivery of the project.
When I was working on the Project X, one of my key staff members fell ill for some time. I had to distribute his workload within the team. We worked hard for long hours, in order to cover for this person. We caught up every morning for short meetings– to discuss and to re-prioritise the upcoming work for the day.
Despite having one resource less on the project, we implemented the project successfully. This was mainly due to the teams’ contribution in taking over extra work, re-prioritisation and team updates each morning.
10. Interview Questions and Answers: How do you manage difficult people or a problem with an employee reporting to you?
This question will test your people management and leadership skills. When managing difficult people, it is important that you make sure their goals and objectives are measurable, specific, quantifiable and in writing for accountability. Failing to do so, will not improve the situation.
When dealing with difficult people it is important to document everything to establish facts. In a few cases the only option is to terminate their employment, but it may not be necessary; instead in most cases I try to provide a plan for improvement.
On one of the larger programs, I was dealing with a Project Financial Analyst who didn’t communicate well with Project Managers. Her communication style was very direct – forcefully instructing them on how to provide the requested financial data. This didn’t go down well and complaints arose. In order to have a fact based conversation with the Analyst; I started documenting each issue related to the situation. Rather than criticising her forceful attitude, I provided examples on how to communicate her requests in a milder manner, while still getting the required results. We worked out a plan, which included mentoring and training in order to overcome these issues. The plan was monitored on a regular basis.
The Financial Analyst started to change her communication style to a more consultative approach. She started listening to the Project Managers first and assisted them with their financial problems – instead of telling them what to do. The entire change and performance management process took several months, and required a lot of energy from my side, but in the end we accomplished a good working relationship.
11. Interview Questions and Answers: Can you describe a situation where you had a conflict in your team? How did you handle it?
This question will test your leadership and conflict resolution skills. The researcher Thomas Kilmann has proposed five different ways of addressing conflict, which results in different outcomes:
- Competing: power oriented mode in which you try to win
- Accommodating: unassertive and cooperative. Opposite of competing, the individual neglects his / her own concern
- Avoiding: unassertive and uncooperative – not dealing with the conflict (postponing an issue to a later time or withdrawing from a situation)
- Collaborating: is both assertive and cooperative – opposite from avoiding. It involves an attempt to work with others to find a solution. A win-win solution for both parties.
- Compromising: find a mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties
When answering this question, make sure you do not “blame” or “bad mouth” somebody. In general – the best possible outcome for both parties is the “Collaborating” resolution, but it depends on the situation you are in.
When addressing conflict situations I have found that open collaboration is the most effective form of addressing it.
Please refer to example given in question 10
12. Interview Questions and Answers: You’ve been appointed as a Project Manager to a project where the team morale is low. What do you do to uplift it?
This question probes your team building and engagement skills. Activities that generally uplift the team spirit are:
- Praise wherever you can (it costs nothing)
- Never criticise or correct – this is the biggest de-motivator – always talk about possible solutions to problems
- Give small recognitions such as movie tickets, dinner vouchers etc.
- Celebrate occasions such as birthdays and make social contact – Friday late afternoon meetings, common lunch every 4 weeks
- Be open and communicate both success and failure
Sometimes project teams can be affected from poor team morale due to causes which are outside a Project Managers control.
Once, I was working on a project where team morale was very low due to the restructuring of the organisation, which included several redundancies of staff members. Though I was not able to do anything about the restructure, I encouraged the team to be open with their communication and listened to their concerns. I praised people wherever I could and made sure that people didn’t work long hours over extended periods. I organised lunch and learn sessions on Fridays where we exchanged experiences and promoted things that worked well.
We established team camaraderie, which uplifted the mood and helped us to focus on our project and on our people rather than on the environment, which we were not able to influence or control.
13. Interview Questions and Answers: How do you handle pressure and stress?
Everybody gets stressed. The interviewer would like to know on how you deal with it. Stress is generally good for you; as long as you know how to manage it. Recovery phases between periods of stress are key and vital for achieving a good and sustainable performance at work and in your life. When answering this question, make sure you highlight your recovery phases. For example–taking regular timeout, leaving the office during lunch and performing regular exercise like having a run in the park.
As a Project Manager you experience many stressful situations, some of them you can influence where as others are beyond your control.
When I notice that a stressful situation starts impacting my performance, I close my eyes, take a couple of deep breaths to detach myself from the situation. I then review the activities that need to be done and possibly re-prioritise or re-scope them. When I work long hours, I make sure that I have regular breaks, get up from my desk and walk around to get a new perspective.
In general I try to go to the gym on a regular basis in order to be fit in life and at work.
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14. Interview Questions and Answers: Can you tell me what do you do when project priorities constantly change?
In Project Management you have the “iron triangle” which outlines the relationship of: scope, cost and time. If you change one site of the triangle e.g. re-prioritising scope than this will affect time and cost. The interviewer would like to know on how you would handle such a situation.
Re-prioritising scope of a project has always an impact on time and / or cost. Therefore, it is essential to analyse the change and it’s impact beforehand.
At project x we had one stakeholder who consistently changed his mind on how we should develop the new online-shopping application. First he wanted to include videos and forums where customers could exchange ideas. Later on, he changed his mind including a delivery service. Each of the changes we analysed and provided an impact analysis on cost and time and its benefits to the stakeholders. Some changes were adapted where as others were rejected.
The project got delivered to the new scope at a higher cost. Though the additional business benefits of providing the delivery service capability have outweigh the additional costs.
15. Interview Questions and Answers: What have you learned from your mistakes?
This is a behaviour interview question.
Everybody has made mistakes – the key is to see, acknowledge and learn quickly from them. This will form the development of your experience. Senior Project Managers get hired because of their experience and knowledge, which they have gained over the years. If you can openly admit to have made mistakes in the past than this will viewed positively as someone with integrity and character.
I have made mistakes in the past and I believe the key to it is to admit them and to learn from them
A few years ago I was leading a project where I had to make a decision terminating the contract of one of the project team members. I was not aware that this person had a very close relationship to our CEO. This person was taken off the project but was offered a very senior position in the company instead. It did cause a lot of distraction and trust issues in the project team and with the stakeholder. I shouldn’t have reacted so quickly, trying to get this person away from my project – instead I should have given this person some tasks where she would have little stakeholder contact and impact on the project.
My lesson learned from this is: Don’t make quick decisions on the spot without evaluating the impact.
16. Interview Questions and Answers: How do you set and manage expectations (with customers, your managers and your team)?
Expectations are generally unstated but are critical to the success of your project. For example,your customer wants to be involved in your project – “in all the details”, “not at all”, “wants the project done – regardless on the quality” or “wants to set an example”. The success often is not related on how good you executed the contract (Statement of Work) – rather than how good you fulfilled your customers’ expectations. Setting expectation of customers, team members and managers is therefore critical to the role of a PM. It will establish trust and credibility. The best way to do this is to communicate frequently and to set expectations. Monitor these expectations by asking probing questions. If the expectations differ from yours, you need to find the basis for it and correct your course of action.
I believe that good expectation management is a key to a project success.
When starting out with my projects I make sure to have informal meetings with my customer / manager and team members to understand their expectations. This helps me to better understand on how to deliver the project. On one project, I had a customer who didn’t get involved into the project – he just wanted me “to do it” as quickly as possible – on a different occasion I had a customer who wanted to have daily updates and wanted to be included in every decision. From the outside, both projects would have looked the same but different treatments were required in order to complete them successfully and to make the end customer happy.
Sometimes it’s not the end goal on what you’ve delivered, but more the journey on how you delivered it and how you engaged your stakeholders and managed expectations.
17. Interview Questions and Answers: Describe the four phases of team building and how do you use it as an advantage on your project?
The four phases of team development (according to Bruce Tuckman) are:
- Forming: Project team get to know each other and establish objectives clearly.
- Storming: Characterized by conflicts and competition between team members. In order to move to the next stage team member need to be focusing on solution
- Norming: Team members actively acknowledge ideas and contribution. A team starts to form
- Performing: A team has been established and performs well.
- Adjourning: This is the fifth stage when teams break up after a finite length of time. This includes recognising team members and saying goodbye
The four stages of team development are: Forming, storming, Norming, performing – with a fifth stage called adjourning where the team will be released.
When I’m leading a project I’m using the above framework in order to develop a high performing team. In the forming stage, I try to have a project kick off meeting which is not only work related. It will be a small celebration, where socialisation will happen and where people will get to know each other. In the storming phase, people might have some anxiety about the project goals and possible it’s realisation. Some team members start questioning roles and responsibility. In this phase I‘m supporting team members and share my vision and goals of the project. If conflicts arise I make sure that they are fact based and solution oriented. In the norming stage, the team slowly comes together and my leadership will change to a more to participant’s style. The fourth stage is the performing stage where the team performs well together. In this stage I normally have some breathing space and can delegate more activities and focus for example on future work or on some analysis work. The last stage – which sometime is mentioned, is called adjourning where the project will be closed and released into a BAU state. Generally we have a closing event like a dinner where we acknowledge team performance and say good-bye to the team members.
I found that this framework provides guidance in developing a high performing project team, which will work well and achieve the project goals.
18. Interview Questions and Answers: Can you please describe with which methodologies (or process) you are familiar with?
A project methodology is a process on how projects will be delivered. Common methodologies are PRINCE 2, PMBOK, Agile Project Management (like Scrum) or a combination of Process-based management (like CMMI) methodologies. Apart from the obvious – which methodology have you worked with – your answer will offer insight whether you are flexible in your methodology and can adapt easily to a new process or you are keen in implementing your preferred methodology (which might not be desired).
Over the last couple of years I’ve worked with different methodologies.
The company X I’m currently working for has a customised version of agile. The project lifecycle is split in phases and approval – including funding – that will be released once the required activities and mandatory artefacts have been completed in the current phase. Earlier I was working on a Government project, which used PRINCE 2 for project delivery.
Regardless which project methodology the company has, I’m quite flexible in terms of methodology and approach. I’m good at organising and believe I have good communication skills, which can be applied to any methodology.
19. Interview Questions and Answers: What project management software have you used? Can you describe your experience?
There are literally 100’s of different software products on the market. Please check the following link for Project Management Software. When asked this question, name the tools you are familiar with and you’ve worked in the past. Generally MS Project and Excel are the ones that are commonly used. But in the agile world Jira and Greenhopper are frequently in demand.
The software tools I’m familiar with are MS Project, Excel and Jira.
I used MS Projects mainly on projects following a waterfall or PRINCE 2 methodology as these tools are well aligned for these processes. I’ve planned and executed my projects, which included activities, dependencies, resources and budget information. The tool was very strong in areas of monitoring and executing tasks from a project management perspective. In projects, which are more aligned to the agile methodology, I’ve used Greenhopper and Jira. Both of these tools support collaboration and can be used to monitor team performance and project progress.
I believe that I’m tool savvy and that I can learn any tool quickly. Do you mind me asking which tool you are using? Do you have any preferences?
20. Interview Questions and Answers: Describe the most complex project you have managed from start to finish?
This question is focusing on your experience. The more complex and larger a project is the more formality is normally around it. Start explaining the project first in terms of: purpose and objective, scope, complexity [e.g. working with new technology, number of resources, budget and timeline] and the key challenge you needed to overcome.
One of the more complex assignments I was involved with was a new software implementation project where I had the role as Project Manager.
The insurance Company X bought automated testing tool software in order to improve the quality of their software releases. My role was to implement this tool in the IT department. At that time, testing of software was done manually with little or no documentation. The developed software suffered from quality issues with several defects, resulting in many customer complaints. The project scope was
- to install and configure the tool for 20 testers and developers
- provide training on the tool
- facilitate workshop on new usage models
- develop new procedures and process around test management
- provide ongoing consulting and support to manage the change
I had some challenges to overcome, for example the automated software couldn’t recognize some of the objects we used in our programming language and some change management challenges with the teams. Some of the “older” people in the team did not want to learn or touch an automated testing tool. We agreed that those testers would focus on the management and planning of the tests – rather than on the test script development and execution. The project itself took 6 months to implement and had a budget of $300K.
Once we had implemented our project we were able to see the dramatic benefits. With the new testing software we were able to run tests overnight, saving time and improving the quality of the software. The team could test more and better in the available time, with a positive impact on customer satisfaction.