20 Project Management Interview Questions to Prepare For

Your guide to impressing hiring managers.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch


Project management is an exciting and incredibly challenging career path, and job opportunities abound in many different industries around the globe. Whether you decided to become a project manager while in school, or you worked your way up through other roles in your field, landing a PM job requires an impressive set of skills and experience.

Constructing the perfect résumé will hopefully land you an interview with your chosen company, but your work doesn’t end there. Proper preparation before the interview will assure you’ve got all the right answers and are confident in presenting them.

To help you test yourself, we’ve put together a helpful list of 20 project manager interview questions and answers!

1. “Can you tell us a bit about your background?”

This is one of the most common interview questions out there, no matter what job you’re applying for.

Prepare a response ahead of time, focusing on highlights like any degrees, previous employment and important career accomplishments. Pick the elements of your experience that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for, like managing projects in different industries or successfully tackling an assignment that required coordinating 50 people from 6 different departments.

Open-ended queries like these can tempt you to overshare. They’ve seen your résumé, so you don’t need to go over every single job you’ve had since high school. Employers are typically looking for more of a personal angle on this question, so touch on why you got into this field, where you learned the most and why you’re so excited about working for this company.

2. “What would you say are the most important project manager skills, and why?”

Becoming a successful project manager requires many important abilities like communication, time management and leadership skills. You may also choose to discuss skills related to the industry you’re applying to, like graphic design, coding or marketing.

While the detail of your response is more important than choosing the “correct” skill, you might want to first address the big picture of project management.

Interview expert Richard McMunn suggests discussing planning and execution as the primary project management skills. Having a proper plan in place and being able to execute each step of that plan is the only way to get the project done by the deadline and within budget.

3. “How would you describe your communication style?”

With so many moving parts to a project, it’s no surprise that this is a commonly asked project manager interview question. While effective communication can be valuable in every job, being able to communicate clearly and effectively is essential for completing a project on time and up to standard.

You’ll want to explain your communication style and why it’s successful. For example: “When communicating with staff, I prefer to be direct and get straight to the point. It saves time when working on a tight deadline and helps eliminate confusion on goals and assignments.”

Depending on who you’ll interact with in your role, you may want to elaborate on how you tailor your style — offering a more relaxed, big-picture approach to clients and more authoritative, detailed communication to team members.

4. “When you receive a new project, how do you begin?”

It’s one thing to talk about skills, work style and your résumé, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate you’ll know what to do when you get handed your first project.

The interviewers want to know what your immediate plan of action is, like who you’ll consult with first and what processes you’ll put into place. Any company and industry research you did during your job search can assist you in being more specific in your response, including correct department names and important managers.

Your answer should appeal to your potential employer here. The first job with any project should be to fully comprehend the task in hand, then move onto devising a plan on tackling the task itself.

5. “Describe how you motivate your team to meet goals and deadlines.”

The ways you motivate team members is often similar to the ways you motivate yourself at work. This can include breaking up large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones, asking for input and feedback, and taking regular breaks to de-stress during intense work.

As you discuss your motivational techniques, remember that you may have to coordinate with a variety of people as a project manager, including departments and executives, that you have no authority over in the hierarchy of things.

To address that issue, show your interviewers that you’re willing to do your share of the work on a project. Be ready with an example of how you shared tasks and collaborated with others on the project, taking their ideas, workload and concerns into account.

6. “How have you dealt with a team member that is underperforming on the project?”

This is a common project manager interview question, because planning and organizing can only be successful if you can manage all the people involved. On some projects, you may not even get to choose your own team, but even if you do land the best people for the assignment, there’s inevitably always someone who is not pulling their weight.

You should already have experience dealing with a difficult employee, so explain your process with examples from your previous work.

Be sure to address how you evaluate “underperforming”. Do they consistently miss task deadlines? Do the quality checks uncover repeated mistakes in their work? Are they missing project meetings or ignoring emails? Your prospective employers will want to see what you value in employee performance, as well as how you deal with any teamwork issues that affect the project.

7. “Tell us about your most challenging project and what you learned from it.”

This is one of the most common behavioral questions you’ll be asked in a project manager interview. Your prospective employer may also frame this as a question about a time you failed, or the interview panel might present you with a difficult scenario they want you to solve. No one expects every project to go smoothly, so don’t worry if this question has a more negative angle to it.

The best way to tackle this question is to employ the STAR method to craft your answer: briefly describe the Situation, explain the Task you were assigned, talk about what Actions you took to complete that task, and arrive at the Results. The ultimate goal is to illustrate to the interviewer how you approached problems, collaborated with your team, used creative thinking, controlled stress and learned from your mistakes.

If possible, choose a project with unforeseeable problems, like weather-related supply chain issues. Avoid putting too much blame on other team members or complaining about critical stakeholders. The bulk of your answer should be about what you learned to do better moving forward.

8. “What project management tools do you use, and why?”

Technology is an integral part of most jobs these days, and being knowledgeable about the array of tools available is essential to acing any interview.

Whatever your preference is for project management tools like Asana, Trello or Basecamp, be ready to talk about any specific software mentioned in the job listing. Address both strengths and weaknesses of the tools you’ve worked with.

Explain how these technical tools are beneficial to the business. This includes tracking progress, improving communication, and allowing easy collaboration between staff regardless of their location.

9. “How many bottles of shampoo are used in hotels around the world?”

Okay, so this may not be one of the most common project manager interview questions… But it is an actual question reported on Glassdoor!

While it may seem strange to be asked about something so irrelevant to the job listing, this type of weird interview question is commonly used to test your approach to a problem. The exact answer is irrelevant. Just start explaining your process, like what data you would need, how you would find it and your potential calculations.

It’s a good idea to practice answering these types of problem-solving queries ahead of time, especially if you’re applying for a project management job in a technical field.

10. “What is the most difficult aspect of project management?”

Be careful with this question. Like many of the tougher queries interviewers will throw at you, there’s a potential trap in how you respond. While “dealing with unreasonable client” or “having an unproductive team” might be honest responses, to your prospective employers, these answers alone may look like management failings on your part.

The best way to answer this question is to weave in a proven solution. If you have a lot of experience with getting conflicting instructions from two different bosses, for example, give an example of how you resolved that issue. Consider this sample answer:

“While developing a new email newsletter campaign for the company, my manager instructed me to collaborate regularly with marketing to make sure our messaging and timing coordinated with other campaigns. On my first attempt, the marketing director informed me they were way too busy with other projects and to show her the finished newsletter before it went out.

“I was scheduled to meet my manager that afternoon for an update, so I asked the marketing director if she could join us to discuss the issue briefly. She agreed, and it only took a few minutes to establish a regular timetable for checking in with marketing that made both her and my manager happy.”

11. “How do you prioritize tasks?”

Without excellent prioritization skills, there can be no effective project planning. Hiring managers know this, of course, and they want to ensure that you’re also aware of just how crucial prioritization is in project management.

As far as juggling multiple projects at once is concerned, project managers must consider how each project aligns with overall business goals, what the consequences would be if a project were not completed on time, and what their team’s resource capability is like. Thinking about project dependency is also vital in this process; sometimes, you can’t start working on a project before another is complete.

Overall, it’s important to convey in your answer that prioritization is an ongoing process, not one that you carry out once and then forget about. Circumstances can change at any point, so monitoring and adjusting your approach as needed is essential.

12. “How do you handle team conflicts?”

Knowing how to resolve conflicts between team members — whether they include you or not — is an important part of the job. That’s because workplace conflict can take up significant chunks of time, causing lost paid hours to pile up, while also being capable of affecting people’s performance.

Valerie Dansereau, who has over 20 years’ experience in corporate America, shares the following advice in Peaceful Leaders Academy article: try to resolve conflicts as quickly as possible, and learn to identify signs of brewing conflict, so you may diffuse situations before they escalate. As they say, after all, prevention is better than cure!

13. “What was your most successful project?”

“Success” can mean different things to different people.

Before you begin to form your answer, consider what the job listing requirements were for this position, so you know what points to emphasize. For example, if the keyword “adaptability” appeared a few times in the requirements, pick a project to talk about that will allow you to showcase how you navigated unforeseen challenges successfully.

Overall, your answer should be one that allows you to demonstrate various strengths, however, such as your proactivity, time management and leadership ability. Mention any lessons learned at the end, and be sure to talk about important success metrics and the impact of the project on the organization or its stakeholders, such as revenue generation.

The way you answer this question will indicate to the hiring manager how well you can handle any potential future projects, should you be offered the position.

14. “Have you managed remote teams?”

Though remote jobs are on a steady decline across the US, companies within certain sectors, such as the tech industry, continue to hire significant numbers of remote employees. Demonstrating confidence in managing a remote project team can, therefore, set you apart from other candidates, especially in some sectors.

Like when answering any job interview question, honesty is the best policy. If you haven’t managed a remote team before, let the hiring manager know — but be sure to add some sort of insight to your response, indicating that, despite the lack of hands-on experience, you still know how you would approach the situation.

For example, you could talk about some additional challenges that working in a remote setting might pose, such as having team members work across different time zones. Then, talk about how you would navigate these.

15. “What is RAID?”

RAID stands for risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies, four words that are essential to bear in mind before you’ve started to work on a project.

By carrying out a RAID analysis, and identifying potential events and issues that might negatively impact your project’s results in advance, you can come up with a plan of action that will allow you to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Acknowledging the importance of RAID analysis in your answer can convey vital qualities and soft skills such as proactivity and the ability to work methodically.

16. “How do you form a team?”

Forming a strong project team does require you to think about your colleagues carefully, but it’s not the first step in the process. To pick the most suitable people, you need to have a crystal-clear objective, or project scope, in mind.

Once you’ve defined the desired features, functions and characteristics of your project, you’ll be able to identify the project member roles you’ll need to fill. Once these roles (and the accompanying responsibilities of each) are clear, you can begin considering people’s strengths and experience, as well as their availability and how well (or not!) they’re able to collaborate with the rest of your prospective team.

All in all, successful project scheduling and project team creation depend on your ability to meticulously consider everything down to the last detail.

17. “What is project management?”

Sometimes, hiring managers like to throw unexpected interview questions at candidates. Though these can be challenging ones such as brainteasers, they may also come in the form of extremely obvious questions — ones that are so self-explanatory you don’t see them coming.

Still, defining a concept that your entire professional life revolves around may not be as easy as you would expect!

Though technically correct, an answer like “It is the process of managing projects” is not what the hiring manager is expecting. Instead, try and get a bit more creative — “It is the process of orchestrating smooth collaboration between various team members, fine tuning your approach as you go along,” for example.

18. “Define gold plating.”

Though well-intentioned, gold plating is considered poor practice in project management. To answer this question, begin by defining gold plating (ie: the process of adding extra features to your project which weren’t part of your agreed upon deliverables) and then explaining how it can backfire.

Even if the client ends up being pleasantly surprised with the final result, you’re still straying from the approved plan and potentially increasing costs, risks and delays. Plus, there’s always the chance that they won’t appreciate what you’ve done, and letting them down with unauthorized changes isn’t going to reflect favorably on you.

All in all, gold plating should be avoided — no exceptions.

19. “What risks can affect a project?”

As you’ve probably witnessed over the course of your career, many things can go wrong in project management. Instead of just listing a few potential risks in your response, however, you may also want to briefly mention some solutions for minimizing the likelihood of each one occurring.

For example, if you mention scope creep, you can talk about why it happens (not defining the project scope effectively at the beginning) to show that you’re knowledgeable about your craft. By doing this, you’re also hinting at the solution.

20. “Why should we hire you?”

What the hiring manager is expecting to hear is that you’ve understood their requirements for this position and are able to meet them. Before you answer, bring to mind what was on the job listing, such as particular project management methodologies, types of projects, project management software, or a certain number of years in the industry.

Talk about the most relevant skills you possess, as well as your professional achievements and project management experience — but don’t stop there. To win extra “points”, so to speak, touch upon the topic of company culture. Indeed, employers don’t just hire for skills and qualifications; they care about personality, too, as they’ll want their new joiners to fit in as much as possible with their existing teams.

Therefore, acknowledge their company values and mission and explain how your own beliefs or personal qualities render you a strong candidate.

Final thoughts

While it’s impossible to know every question you might get asked in a project manager interview, preparing for these commonly asked queries will help you evaluate all your project manager skills and experience. Practicing your responses will also help you tackle any question that gets thrown your way with enough confidence, detail and relevance to impress your prospective employers.

What questions have you been asked when applying for a project management position? Which were the toughest? Join the discussion below and let us know!

This article is a partial update of an earlier version originally published on March 26, 2020, and contains contributions by Valerie David. In the update, we added 10 more question examples and reviewed the existing content.