Over the last few months I’ve had many phone and in-person interviews for project management jobs. They have been with a variety of companies covering many project types (though primarily software development and IT functions.)
I’d like to share some questions I’ve been consistently asked during these interviews with this group. I may not be qualified to give much advice on how to ANSWER them (disclosure: I’m still interviewing! So, grain of salt.) However, I CAN shed a little light on what questions you can expect as an applicant to mid to senior level PM positions.
Now… imagine you have arrived at the interview with your folio of crisp resumes, references, and work examples… you do have all that stuff, right? You are ushered to the conference room, where you confidently shake hands and greet your interviewer(s.) You sit down, exhale… and we’re off!
“So, TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF…” (Have something short and sweet here. There is a large group of interviewers that like to challenge (ahem, torture) you by starting with this open-ended question.)
“WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING since your last job?” (If you’ve been out of work more than a month, be ready for this question. Hint: “Watching the History Channel” is a bad answer.)
“WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR in a new job?” (This should work with your answer to the similar question, “What interests you about this company?” Both answers can be used to express your goals and show the homework you’ve done on the job.)
“I see you worked at Acme, Inc. for 5 years. WHAT TYPES OF PROJECTS did you manage?” (Prepare example projects from your past that you can speak to in moderate detail for this question. Your projects are your portfolio.)
“WHY DID YOU LEAVE Acme, Inc.?” (Just the facts and move on. Shoot no arrows, raise no eyebrows. They are figuring out if they want to work with you and/or if you are a criminal.)
“WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT?” (This would be a good place to focus on something that helped the company bottom line. Leave off your cool “Glee Club” accomplishments.)
“Tell me about a PROJECT THAT FAILED.” (If they asked the “achievement” question above, you can be sure that this one is coming next.)
“WHAT WAS THE TYPICAL SIZE AND BUDGET of your projects? How did you manage budgets?” (Make sure you have high, low and average examples. Estimate based on resource and other costs if you don’t have exact numbers.)
“WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU WOULD DO when assigned a new project?” (I’ve gotten this question, to my surprise, many times. While it may depend on the project, it’s best to cite something specific from your methodology of choice.)
“What SPECIFIC STEPS AND TECHNOLOGIES did you use on a typical project?” (This is a drill-down question customized to the job requirement details. If ITIL was mentioned in the reqs, for example, be ready to speak some ITIL detail here!)
“TELL ME WHY YOU’D BE A GREAT FIT for this position.” (This can be asked a number of ways, but the gist of it is this… why are you a match for not only the job, but with the company and clients with whom you’ll be working.)
“WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE for us?” (I usually have a LOT of questions. However, I’m learning to trim what I ask to the time left and how glassed-over interviewer’s eyes may be. If you earn a second interview, you can ask questions later.)
Surprisingly, some common questions I expected like “What is your greatest weakness?” have not been asked. Also, I have rarely been asked about any jobs prior my last two. I may be yearning to talk about my Peace Corps experience… but they don’t have time, or don’t care!
There are a lot of qualified PM’s and job opportunities out there. Interviews are happening every day. So, I’d like to know… WHAT COMMON QUESTIONS HAVE YOU BEEN ASKED? Let’s help each other prepare for the next time one of us is sitting across that table.