Scenario based (technical) questions for project managers – examples
Please note that these are example situations, and you may face different ones in your job interview, depending on the type of projects you will manage in your new job. However, the attitudes and way of thinking you should present remain the same, and that’s exactly what you can learn from the sample answers below. Enjoy!
1st scenario based question
Question: Your goal is to open a new branch of a company in Paris, and to start the company operations in three months from now. You are responsible for the project and for meeting the deadline. Define the main steps you will take in this project.
Answer: As a first step you should evaluate the resources and time-frame. Do not hesitate to ask the interviewers about the budget for the project, since it is an important number to know. Then you should define the main steps you would take in such a project, project milestones, and how you’d proceed from reaching one milestone to reaching another one (Gantt chart).
Elaborate on your answer with a list of potential threats and challenges you may face while trying to reach your goal. Try to present your ideas in a clear and easy to understand way. Show the interviewers that you are aware of all variables (time, HR, money, etc), and that you can consider the project in complexity. The goal is to show them that you can think independently, and plan your steps from the very first moment of getting the project, to the successful completion of it.
2nd scenario based question
Question: Imagine that you were responsible for deployment of a complex ERP solution on client’s side. But you were behind the schedule, because the designers had not completed their work on time. How would you proceed?
Answer: You can say that you would allocate more resources to the team of designers, to ensure they would complete their work as quickly as possible, so other people could proceed with their tasks in the project. You can also say that you would consider replacing the head of the design team, or even outsource the designing process, to ensure you’d meet the principal goals of the project.
The main thing is to show your flexibility. Some problems do arise in every single project we manage, and unexpected things do happen. Show your interviewers that you are ready to re-evaluate your plans, and take all necessary measures to ensure you will eventually reach the goal of the project. The exact question may differ (depending on the projects you will manage in your new job), but the attitude you should present remains the same…
* Do not forget to check also: How to overcome interview nerves – a simple guide on how to get rid of interview anxiety.
3rd scenario based question
Question: You should recruit two scientists in India. You have never been to the country, and you have no connections in place. You should arrange visa for the scientists and try to make them interested in working in an international team of researchers that is based at one of the universities in the United States. How would you proceed?
Answer: You can tell the interviewers that you would engage other people to work with you on the project, people who have knowledge of the Indian market, people who have some connections in the country.
From this point, you can start talking about the recruitment process, which means locating the right candidates, making an initial connection with them, presenting the opportunity, interviewing them, evaluating their skills and personality, and eventually inviting the shortlisted candidates for the final interviews in the States (or any other recruitment process you’d suggest for this particular project).
Your main goal is again to show us that you have some experience in the business, that you are ready to plan steps you would take to achieve certain goal, even though you have never worked on a similar project before…
Special Tip: You can download a full list of questions (without answers) in a one-page long PDF document, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
Technical questions depend on the projects you will manage, behavioral questions do not
We tried to outline some scenarios. However, the exact scenario-based questions you will get in your interview depend on the position you try to secure, on the projects you will manage in your new job. It can be deployment of big IT solutions, it can be recruitment projects, or it be anything else–both big and small.
The situation differs with behavioral questions (questions that examine your attitude to various work-related situations). These questions will be similar in every managerial interview, because people deal with similar situations in work, regardless of their exact position. Everyone experiences some conflicts with colleagues, or situation when they have to meet a tight deadline. All of us experience setbacks, achieve goals, or face conflict of personal and professional interest. Let’s have a look at few of these questions right now.
Behavioral question you can get in your project manager interview
Question: Describe a last time when you achieved a big goal in your work, or personal life.
Answer: Try to consider this question from a perspective of project management. Consider your big goal a final milestone. Tell the interviewers how you proceeded, step by step, turning your dream to reality.
Big things are never easy to achieve. You can narrate the problems you faced, and challenges you had to overcome, in the process of reaching your final goal. Show us that you have goals, and that you know how to plan your way to achieving your goals. Your attitude matters more than the particular situation you narrate in your answer.
Question: Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues.
Answer: Project managers do not work alone, and the people you will work with won’t always agree with everything you say. You should try to show your interviewers a few things with your answer.
- Firstly, that you count with experiencing conflicts, that you know that conflict situations belong to every single workplace, unless we work alone.
- Secondly, that you know how to address the conflicts with your colleagues, and how to get the best out of each conflict (in a constructive way).
- Last but not least, you should show us (describing the conflict situation you experienced before) that conflicts do not affect you negatively in your job, and that you do your best to ensure they won’t affect your colleagues either.
Needless to say, you should speak about the conflict that you eventually managed to solve.
Question: Describe a difficult decision you had to make in your professional career. How did making this decision affect you?
Answer: This is a common question in all levels of managerial interviews. The most difficult decisions (in work) are typically related to the people we manage. To dismiss a colleague, or to relocate someone we like, is not an easy thing to do for anyone (unless they have no feelings for other people and do not care for the well-being of the folks they manage–which will hopefully never happen to you).
Show the interviewers that you won’t let your emotions, or your personal preferences and wishes, to interfere with your decisions in work. On the other hand, however, you can say that you consider each difficult situation carefully, as well as the impact your decision may have on each person and on the project. And just then you decide…
In an ideal case you should talk about the situation when you made a difficult decision, and explain how it eventually helped the company you worked for.
Other behavioral questions you may deal with in your project management interview
- Tell us about the most successful project you’ve ever worked on.
- Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline with one of the projects you managed.
- Describe a situation when you had to motivate someone in work.
- Tell us about a time when you were overwhelmed with work.
- Talk about a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
- Describe a time when you experienced a conflict of your personal and professional interests. How did you eventually solved this situation?
- Tell us about a time when you used logic to solve a problem.
- Recall a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. How did you eventually overcome that?
- Describe a time when you have effectively resolved another person’s request. What was the situation and what kinds of information did you gather to help assist in resolving their request?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle this delicate situation?
- Have you ever worked on a project that was a failure?
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Conclusion and next steps
Project manager is one of the most exciting jobs you can have in any company. And one of the toughest to get in an interview.
You will deal with many difficult behavioral and scenario based questions. What’s more, you’ll compete for the job with several other skilled applicants. It can be five but also twenty, depending on the popularity of the company, and the salary offer.
In order to succeed, you should spend enough time researching about your prospective employer. What projects they focus on, their methodology of project management (for example agile methodology), but also their core value and what they try to achieve with their activities.
Learn as much as you can about them, and try to prepare for the behavioral questions from my list. I hope you will manage to do it, and wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- Leadership interview questions – Every good project manager has decent leadership skills. Learn more about the questions the interviewers will use to asses your level of leadership.
- Salary negotiation tips – You will have some negotiation power in your project manager interview. Learn how to get the most of it.
How to dress for an interview – Unsure about your choice of clothes? We will help you to make a good decision.