In the many years I have spent working as part of Project Management Offices, IT shops, and now consulting, I have found that no two Project Managers are the same. Professional background, education and approach run the gamut as Project Managers can be born or bred. Equally mystifying is the challenge of hiring project managers – especially those that are just getting started. So how do you assess entry level Project Managers that are looking to get their feet wet? Have a conversation! Outside of questions around cultural and team fit, below are my top 5 entry level PM interview questions and the responses I tend to look for.
Describe your project management experience.
Look for responses that demonstrate an understanding of what it means to manage the delivery of something from start to finish. This could be a school project, planned event, initiative at a part-time job, or even something done for a family member. Focus on their approach to planning, how they met challenges, and reflection on what could have improved.
What qualities do you possess that will make you a good project manager?
When you’re just starting out, there is a lot of faking it until you make it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’ll want to get a good understanding on what behaviors your candidate is more apt to emulate. Do they think good project managers are hard-nosed and obstinate, or flexible and agreeable? While this example may be extreme, it will give you a better sense of how this individual will fit into your team, as well as your delivery methodology.
What are some things that you would not like for your job to include?
There are lots of tasks that people do as part of their jobs that aren’t necessarily their favorite. If asked this question during an interview, I would likely reveal that I strongly dislike data entry. If pressed more, I would further explain that I am not fond of repetitive tasks in general. While it may seem inconsequential, it’s important to understand what tasks will immediately sap your candidate of energy. If this is something expected as part of their job responsibilities, it likely is not a good fit.
What would you do if you knew that a project you were managing would not be able to make a deadline based upon the current schedule?
Transparency, professionalism, planning for the new delivery date, and reflection on what could have gone better are paramount. Look for someone just starting out to minimally get the first two (transparency and professionalism). It’s important to communicate that a milestone will be missed in a clear and considerate fashion. Those who have some project management experience, should be able to get number three. If they list all four, send them my way.
What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision?
Analyzing options and identifying the best past forward with limited information, time or technical knowledge are all part of being a Project Manager. It’s important that candidates demonstrate a propensity for systematic identification and evaluation of options. Dart throwing is not an acceptable decision making methodology.
What questions do you typically ask when interviewing Project Managers? I would love to hear your thoughts below!