Project Manager Interview Questions

by Josh

I’ve been laid off 5 times.


Project Management Career Coaching
It’s so much more than just interview questions!

I’ve been through resume and interview classes and courses, have interviewed over 200 people for positions, and interviewed for over 50 positions myself in my career.

I’m not a theorist with this.  I’ve got a lot of experience with interviewing.  More than most I think. I put all that and much more into my PM Career Coaching newsletter, which you should sign up for now to the right.

For management and project management, here are some of my favorite questions to ask.  I prefer open-ended questions, and I EXPECT to hear specific examples that illustrate the candidate’s experience.

  • Tell us about your experience in managing different projects and how this can contribute to our position.
  • How do you handle non-productive team members?
  • How do you motivate team members who are burned out, or bored?
  • What have you learned from your failures?
  • Give me an example of a win-win situation you have negotiated.
  • Tell me about a tough decision you had to make.
  • Describe how you recently managed a diverse project team towards a common goal.
  • Describe the most complex project you have managed from start to finish.
  • How do you handle team members who come to you with their personal problems?
  • Give me an example of a stressful situation you have been in. How did you handle it?
  • What are your career goals? How do you see this job affecting your goals?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What do you believe qualifies you for this position?

If you want coaching from me for new project managers to get started in their career (including interview help), I invite you to check out the online training course I put together for you.

I call it “Get Ahead In Your Project Management Career (And Do It Right)

    Leave a Comment

    { 14 comments… read them below or add one }

    Andrew Meyer July 30, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Actually, my favorite question involves two parts. I like to find something major that happened in their personal life, like getting married. My second question is whether they put a project schedule and project plan etc. together for their wedding?

    I’ve never yet had someone say that they put together a project plan for their wedding, trip, house sale etc. My follow on question is “Why?” There are multiple parties involved who need to know what is happening and multiple deadlines that have to be met, isn’t that just like a project? If project management is so helpful and they rave about how useful it is at work, why don’t they use it personally?

    A question I’d love to know the answer too.


    Donna Fitzgerald July 31, 2009 at 12:17 am

    They don’t use it because most personal projects can be carried in your head, What that number is might vary by individual but I generally assume it’s something under 75 tasks (my personal questimate of how many pages of an MSP plan I can carry in my head). I’m also guessing that for many the answer is the same as mine was for my wedding, I was up to my eyeballs with my own project so my fiance and I hired a wedding planner to manage it for us (best money I’ve ever spent). I do know one woman who has her entire life mapped out in MS project but I have to admit that I wondered if she’d possibly taken a good idea too far.


    Andrew Meyer August 6, 2009 at 4:46 pm


    that is an excellent answer to the direct question, but it doesn’t answer the spirit of the question – if the tools are so good, why don’t people use them in areas where they have personal choice. Doctors don’t forget their medical training when they get the flu, lawyers don’t forget their legal training giving advice to friend, plumbers don’t skip using the basics when their own sink clogs up.

    In any of these situations, one doesn’t have to use full open heart surgery to treat the flu, but the concepts are still used.

    Shouldn’t PM methodologies be flexible enough that lightweight elements can be used planning a camping trip, more detailed elements be used for a wedding and something more complete for buying a house?

    If something is only used when someone is paying money, is it really the right tool?


    Donna Fitzgerald August 16, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    You are really asking the right question and I’m afraid the answer to your question is no I’m not sure any of the “tools” are really lightweight enough to use for most personal projects. Where I think you might be just a tiny bit off the mark is that most PMs actually do use PM practices as a part of their daily life. The ability to sequence tasks and minimize risk and watch for expansions of scope are all things I know I do on any personal project (without the need for tools).

    This is a truly great discussion — thanks for raising the topic


    Sheila October 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Planning my wedding vs planning a project at work. Well, the tools used for PM at work would be perfectly suited for personal use, however, why would I want to feel that my personal life be managed at quite the same granularity, or as if I was accounting, or accountable for every little particular? Isn’t there something to be said for not coming home and ‘working’ again? it is like the car mechanic who’s personal vehicle is in disrepair: he/she works on cars all day and surely does not want to come home and start in on more “work.” Besides, “the best layed plans of men and mice…”


    Josh October 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Great point Sheila. My wife and I use kanban at home…but that is only for the ‘work’ we have to do. It’s not to organize or plan our lives by. With 3 children and lots of activities going on, it’s really helpful for us to make sure we are making the most of our time and get to spend more free time with our family.


    Sonja April 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Actually, I did–project plan, schedule, procurement plan, risks (we were married in a hot air balloon, so weather was a major source of risk), opportunities (found coupons for free winetasting at a NICE winery after our landing) cost baseline (stuck to it–$5k, INCLUDING the honeymoon). And wouldn’t you know it, the weather gods were so afraid of my detail planning, they decided to cooperate!

    Of course, everyone else thought that this was *way too geeky* for a bride. Everyone else who hadn’t known me for a long long time, that is.


    Kendra Siemonsma August 5, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Recently I ask for an example of the project management work products that the interviewee either created and/or used; ie schedule, management plans, This helps get a better understanding of the true project management experience and knowledge that the candidate has.


    Josh Nankivel August 5, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Absolutely. This is a great point Kendra.

    Make sure you have them talk you through the artifacts, and even give it to you ahead of time so you can ask some questions that will validate their experience and give you some helpful information about how they work.


    Ali Norman December 1, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I think that people use project management in their proffesional life and not their private life because their proffesional life MUST be in order and have deadlines or they wont have a proffesional life long; but their private life can be winged (meaning that they can do things at the spare of the moment) and everything will be alright.


    Randy Tangco March 25, 2011 at 5:57 am

    I find this topic very interesting specially when life application is concerned. My two cents are these:

    1. A PM who does this professionally may be involve in many projects at work that he does not use it outwardly anymore in his personal life.
    2. There may be other PMs who continue to apply project management even outside of work and this pretty much does not get you out of work to rest. You may just be extending your work into your personal life.
    3. In my case, I don’t apply the formal PM protocols in my life but I apply the PM principles whenever is necessary.

    All the above above statements are subject to individual perspective of the reader.


    Bill bradley July 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I think of it as engrained in a PM’s personality. I do use PM methods in my personal life where they apply. Moving from Arizona to Colorado I put together a WBS, project schedule, risk analysis, action item list and budget forecast. Small projects like changing the oil in my vehicles I dont make formal plans but I follow the process in my head- risk, oil spills on the garage floor, messy garage floor, oil stains on the carpet, upset wife, unhappy life, I mitigate by having extra rags close by.

    Using the tools makes the outcome more successful so I use them where I can.


    Carolyn October 4, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Thanks Josh, for the interview questions. I know your on-line course will benefit me greately. One question. How do you determine which skills from you past will be a value to the company you are interviewing with. I have had a similar question asked in an interview.


    Josh October 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    By knowing the company well. Networking and research are the best ways to do this. If you search this blog for ‘connecting with your target organizations’ or networking in general or take the career coaching course at there is a lot more detail available on these topics.


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