Company projects are becoming increasingly complex. That's why the ability of a manager to handle both the big picture and the tiny yet vital details of projects is essential to a company's long-term success. An interview can help reveal whether your candidate has this crucial capability.
That's why when you're interviewing a project manager, it pays to ask the right questions. Doing this also maximizes the chances the candidate will be a good fit for the position, your company, and your culture. That way, you won't waste thousands of dollars in hiring costs and incur considerable psychological angst when you need to terminate the person several months later.
Here are the 8 questions you might want to ask:
Tell me about a favorite project you've managed and what you enjoyed most about it.
Asking this question might tell you which kind of projects the candidate excels at. This could help you decide where they fit in the organizational scheme of things, ensuring that you utilize their talents in the best possible way.
It also could reveal how much passion they have for being a project manager. Passionate project managers are incredibly excited about what they do. That's why they typically don't allow obstacles to get in the way of a project's successful completion.
"I loved helping to implement innovative new project management software at my last job. Although the project was intricate almost beyond belief, my team was ultimately successful in getting it off the ground. It was so exciting to watch as the program helped the enterprise seamlessly coordinate schedules across all departments. That helped us to predict, with uncanny accuracy, when initiatives would be completed."
How do you set project goals? How do you monitor progress with these goals?
The ability to set organizational goals is a crucial skill every project manager should have. A project is unlikely to get effectively completed if it doesn't have clear objectives. Without goals, a team could flounder, losing valuable time in the process.
Usually, it's a project manager's job to establish these goals and monitor progress towards their completion.
"I always closely adhere to the 'SMART' framework when creating objectives for a company I work for. This helps the team and me to formulate the kind of goals that are not only achievable but can inspire an entire organization. I elicit the input of every team member when setting goals. That's because doing so helps ensure the all-important buy-in you'll need when trying to get employees on board with corporate objectives. I monitor progress by checking every day where the team is at. This helps keep it moving in the right direction."
How do you deal with team conflict?
This question allows the respondent to showcase their approach to conflict resolution.
Like it or not, conflict is going to rear its ugly head on any team. One of the responsibilities of a project manager is to help ensure that messy difficulties get resolved quickly and efficiently so they don't demoralize the rest of the employees.
"Whenever I'm faced with a conflict as a project manager, I first try to limit the interactions between the two parties so I can identify the root cause. I have a conversation with each individual to better understand why there's a bone of contention between them.
Then, I'll facilitate a meeting with the individuals that's hyper-focused on problem-solving. This way, they can talk about the underlying issues to help reach a solution that's acceptable to both."
What communication style do you usually use?
Being an exceptional communicator is probably one of the most crucial skills a project manager can have. Without good communication, a project manager could fail to cultivate rapport with team members. Poor affinity with others is often why employees lack a commitment to organizational objectives.
However, individuals who are successful in a project manager's role know how to adapt their communication style to fit the situation. That's because different circumstances often require different communication styles. The candidate's response should reflect that they're willing and able to shift their communication strategy when needed.
"Excellent communication abilities are essential when it comes to being a project manager. However, the style needs to vary, depending on the situation. For example, during a meeting, I'm more laissez-faire, sitting back as I facilitate collaboration between team members. On the other hand, I'm more direct when two employees are experiencing interpersonal hostility. In short, I adopt whichever communication style is most appropriate to the situation."
How do you ensure that projects are on schedule to meet deadlines?
The answer to this question can help reassure that the prospective employee can deliver a project on time and within budget. Of course, obstacles have a nasty habit of unexpectedly popping up when team members are trying to meet tight deadlines.
However, good project managers have strategies for dealing with unforeseen blips. A well-thought-out answer to this question will describe these strategies in detail.
"Before a project can be completed on time, everyone needs to understand exactly what needs to be done. That's why I first make sure the team understands all the moving parts of the project. This gives them a sense of its scope and where their efforts fit in. Then, I create a detailed schedule the team can follow to ensure the deadline is met. I check in frequently with everyone, giving people a chance to brainstorm about ways to eliminate the roadblocks that inevitably arise."
Tell me about a recent challenge and how you overcame it.
Every project manager regularly encounters headache-inducing challenges of every imaginable variety. That's why an experienced candidate should have little difficulty recalling a situation that reveals their unique approach to solving problems.
"The CEO asked me to do a comprehensive redesign of our corporate website. However, there were a lot of bitter exchanges between members of the engineering and design teams about how to best go about doing that. I facilitated a meeting where everyone was allowed to express their passionately-held ideas. By using my well-honed ability to ensure everyone's voice was heard, we reached a consensus after several hours. In the end, the redesign got completed in a way that was satisfactory to everyone."
What are the three most important skills effective project managers should have?
You probably already have some pretty firm opinions about which competencies make for a successful project manager. However, allow the applicant to tell you what they think is crucial. Who knows—the applicant might bring up things you never even considered, thus broadening your managerial awareness.
"Because project managers spend over 90% of their time interacting with team members, they need to have exceptional communication skills. Unclear and sloppy communication can lead to costly inefficiencies and missed deadlines.
A project manager also needs to be a skilled negotiator because disagreements among team members arise with alarming regularity. The project manager needs to resolve disputes in a way that's satisfactory to all parties so that employees can continue to work harmoniously together.
Lastly, a project manager should have good time management skills. That means they need to be proficient at juggling multiple schedules and anticipating roadblocks before they pop up. Having these competencies in their operational toolbox increases the chances of delivering successful projects."
How do you handle underperforming team members?
Team members who aren't performing at their best can have a demoralizing effect on others. That's why it's crucial to address performance deficits ASAP. However, project managers committed to their team's success should do all they can to help struggling employees instead of firing them at the first sign of trouble.
"An employee I supervise was having difficulty grasping the intricacies of a software program the company was using to streamline the sales process. This was a bit perplexing because the guy usually was a whiz at mastering technological challenges.
A few colleagues thought I should fire the guy ASAP. However, instead of reactively doing this, I assigned a team member who had an innate talent for teaching others to sit down with the person for three hours a week for four weeks.
At the end of the allotted time, the team member had an excellent grasp of the software. As it turned out, he started a drug regimen that caused minor cognitive impairment. The degradation in mental functioning didn't interfere with his regular duties. However, it did prevent him from learning a computer program that was a bit more complicated than your average software."
Here's how to hire your next project manager
If you're looking to hire a project manager, you can always do it yourself. You can also enlist the experts at Hunt Club to do it for you.
Our pool of over five million candidates and proprietary recruiting technology helps ensure you get the top-tier talent you need to fuel company growth.