Project managers (PMs) are often the unsung heroes of every company. They relentlessly work in the background, negotiate with stakeholders, collect feedback, and empower their teams to do their best work.
Part people person, part analytical thinker, a good project manager combines strategic analysis with strong organizational and interpersonal skills to make work happen within the set timeframes and budgets.
Experienced project managers receive great compensation, often north of six figures per year. According to Glassdoor, project managers earn a median $83,694 salary in the US, plus $10-$12K extra in various perks. Senior IT project managers, employed by tech firms, often earn way more — above $150K in base salary plus stocks and perks.
The best part? The demand for PMs is growing fast. By 2027, the industry will add extra 22 million jobs globally. So if you are looking to change careers or advance further up on your career path, the timing can’t be better.
Refresh your PM resume and start preparing for a project management interview!
How Do I Pass a Project Manager Interview?
To successfully pass a project management interview you have to demonstrate strong administrative and organizational skills, as well as your core competencies in the field. You want to convince the employer that you have the knowledge, skills, and experience to lead their project successfully throughout its entire lifecycle and achieve their goals.
Highlight the following abilities during your project management interview:
- Knowledge of project management methodologies — Agile, SAFe, Scrum, Prince2, etc.
- Familiarity with PM tools — Asana, JIRA, Confluence, Monday, Notion, etc.
- Task prioritization, work breakdown structures, backlog grooming
- Project estimation, budgeting, and risk management
- Timeline estimation and time management
- Team management, coaching, retention, and motivation
- Strong analytical abilities and conceptual skills
- Mental resilience and emotional intelligence
9 Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers
Project managers are employed in many industries — from agriculture to software development. Therefore, you’d be probed with a somewhat different set of project manager interview questions each time.
That being said: most PM interviews happen in several stages.
First, you may have a general interview with a member of the PMO and HR staff. In this case, you should prepare to answer some common interview questions about your background, main skills, personal qualities, and career aspirations.
Next, you’d be invited to the second interview. This can be a behavioral interview with more emphasis on your soft skills and approaches to management. Or a more technical interview with scenario-based questions or case studies you’d be given time to solve.
In this guide, we cover general and behavioral project management interview questions (and answers).
General Interview Questions For a Project Manager
Some variation of these questions will likely come up during the first interview round.
1. In Your Opinion, What Makes a Good Project Manager?
The interviewer wants to know your philosophy of project management. Depending on your answer, it will be obvious whether you are more metrics- or process-driven. You should try to ‘guess’ which approach this company favors and style your answer accordingly.
For example, if you apply for a PM role in a furniture manufacturing company, you can respond this way:
“I believe a good project manager always keeps an eye on the supply chain data and makes dynamic adjustments to the project plans, based on the market conditions. Such a person also has solid experience in vendor management, risk profile analysis, and budget management”.
2. Why Should We Hire You as a Project Manager?
Use this question as a prompt to advertise your strengths and most marketable skills. But do so in the context of the company. In your answer, you should clearly show how you’ll deliver value for this particular employer.
“I know that Acme Inc has been dealing with ongoing disruptions and your latest product release was already delayed. In my previous role, I have put a delayed project back on track and reduced the time-to-market from estimated 12 months to 6.5 months by increasing the project budget only by 15%.”
Need more tips? Check our guide to answering the “why should we hire you?” interview question.
3. What Was Your Most Successful Project Up to Date?
- Situation: Set the scene
- Task: Explain the job
- Action: Say what you did
- Result: Summarize the results
Here’s how a project manager in the printing industry might answer this question:
“Our company received a big government order for producing 20 different types of printed assets – each in different specs. The client’s timeline was 3 weeks including shipping to multiple locations across the country. Our printing facility had a backlog of orders, so this was a tight ask. We also had to procure special paper for 5 types of assets from an out-of-state supplier. The client accepted no possibility of delays.
As a PM, I’ve managed to locate a new supplier, that offered faster shipping. At the same time, I’ve prioritized other printing jobs to release extra capacities for this order (without delaying projects for other customers). Finally, I’ve also located a new shipping partner to ensure rapid delivery. We’ve delivered all materials two days ahead of the deadline, much to the agency’s delight.”
4. Do You Have Experience with Managing Remote Teams?
Remote work is now the norm for many industries. So many employers look for PMs who are comfortable with leading fully remote or distributed teams. If that’s something you did, briefly explain your approaches. If not, mention that you understand the best practices and should be able to adapt quickly.
Here’s a sample answer for a junior project manager:
“My past workplace had distributed teams, rather than fully remote ones. But given that I’ve managed field workers successfully in the past, I should be effectively cope with managing a fully remote team. I’m personally a fan of asynchronous communication and prioritize writing over casual chit-chats. Plus, I’m an expert Notion and Asana user”.
5. What’s Your Approach to Task Prioritization?
The main goal of a project manager is to ensure smooth work progress. Since you’d be responsible for making project plans, setting milestones, and creating individual tasks, the employer wants to understand how you usually deal with conflicting priorities.
Give them a quick walkthrough in your answer.
“I’m a certified Agile PM specialist, so I naturally favor the MoSCoW task prioritization method and the Kano Model. Though I also use opportunity scoring and stack ranking techniques when these fit better.”
6. What Are Your Weaknesses as a Project Manager?
This is a somewhat tricky project management interview question. The employer wants to understand if you can objectively speak of your shortcomings and identify further opportunities for professional development.
The best way to answer this question is by addressing your weaker area. Then counter it with a statement about your desire to get better at this. For example:
“I’m still a beginner at Scrum — as I just started leading the team ceremonies back in March 2020 for the first time. But I’m currently working towards getting my certification from Scrum Alliance.”
For extra samples, check our general guide to answering the “what are your weaknesses?” interview question.
Project Manager Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers
Since project managers need to have strong interpersonal skills, be ready to answer a set of behavioral interview questions.
Here are some common ones.
1. You’re Facing a Budget Overrun. What Types of Escalation Paths Would You Use?
Budgeting is always a sensitive matter. Everyone wants to keep the costs low and the outputs high, but that’s rarely the case. Focus your answer on explaining how you usually escalate money matters to other stakeholders.
“When pressed with a budget-related bottleneck, I first document the issue — and break down the root cause, plus resulting risks. Then I make a short memo with several budgeting scenarios and implications for the project and escalate it over to the finance team and key project sponsors. Oftentimes, we settle the matter during a follow-up meeting.”
2. Did You Ever Face an Unrealistic Project Timeline? How Did You Handle the Matter?
Similar to budgets, time also runs short on various projects. The problem is that temporary stalls can lead to major bottlenecks and ‘idle time’ in block units. Likewise, unfeasible timelines often result in a rushed job and subsequent costly reworks,
You should demonstrate in your response that you are capable of breaking the ‘hard news’ to stakeholders and negotiating better timelines.
“The product office pushed for a 3-month time-to-market for a new account feature. Based on my past estimates of the team’s performance, similar tasks required at least 4 months. Also, we had one of the developers taking 3-weeks off at that time and no replacement on rotation. I’ve made a short memo on feasible timelines and provided estimations for each planned task. Then summarized why this project can be completed only in 4.5 months.”
3. How Do You Establish Good Rapport with Team Members?
Team management presents a big bulk of the project manager’s job. Moreover, new hires need extra time to ‘settle in’ and earn recognition from the team. In your answer, briefly explain how you introduce yourself to new teams and what you do to organically ‘fit in’ and develop amicable relationships.
“During the first week, I like hosting an introductory team meeting where I explain my background, management philosophy, and crack a couple of dad jokes. I also have a running “how to best work with me” guide, which I share with all team members and encourage everyone to send me a similar one. During the month, I also host 1:1s with each team member to get to know them personally and learn about how they prefer to be managed.”
Even More Behavioral Project Management Interview Questions to Practice!
- One of your team members is underperforming. How will you address the issue?
- Did you ever perform a rescue mission for a side-tracked project?
- How do you handle unreasonable requests from project sponsors?
- What is your approach to handling scope creep?
- Can you provide a walkthrough of your approach to doing project post-mortems?
- There’s a conflict between the team members. How would you intervene?
- Did you ever have to fire a low-performing team member? How did you handle the conversation?
- Your team needs to meet an important deadline and work overtime. How will you break the news?
- How do you ensure that all the project deliverables meet customer expectations?
Conclusion: What Questions Should I Ask in an Interview for a Project Manager?
Don’t forget that a job interview is a two-way conversation! So prepare your own set of questions to ask at the end of the conversation.
Here are several questions to ask at the end of your PM interview:
- What type of PM tools do you use?
- Which team KPIs do you typically use?
- What type of support should I expect from other stakeholders?
- What’s your average project failure rate?
- How does this project fit with other company goals?
- What are the biggest challenges I may encounter in this role?
For even more options, check our guide to closing a job interview like a pro!