18 of the Best Project Manager Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Did you know the average U.S. company spends nearly $4,000 to hire a new employee and can take up to 52 days to fill a position? That’s on top of the 90+ days it takes to onboard a project manager.

If you’re wondering how to find the perfect project manager among a sea of applicants, the answer lies in systemizing your hiring process, from how you vet potential candidates to what questions you ask in your screening process.

Build an efficient hiring system

The most important thing you can do to save time on your hiring process is to start by building a system with repeatable processes you and your team can use. Contrary to what most recruiters will tell you, you don’t need a complex ATS system unless you are hiring hundreds of new people each year.

You can build your own system on top of your project management software. In fact, I recommend using a process-oriented project management software.

Inside your project management software, you can create processes for each step of the hiring process, including:

  • How to write a project management job ad
  • Where to post the job ad online
  • Conducting the initial form screening
  • What interview questions to ask (and what to look for in candidates’ responses)
  • Creating and evaluating a test project
  • Scheduling the kickoff call
  • How to write the offer letter

What Questions Should You Ask a Project Manager?

The questions you ask during the interview process can ensure a candidate fits both the criteria of the job and the culture of your organization. Likewise, the answers the candidates provide can reveal any potential red flags or differences in workflow.

While it is always best to make the interview feel conversational instead of like an interrogation, here are some sample questions you can use to get the conversation rolling with project manager candidates.

1. What’s an important skill for a project manager to succeed?

There’s no “right” answer to this question — most project managers will typically reply with leadership skills, communication skills, or even time management skills. What’s more important is their justification for their answer, such as why they believe time management is key to a streamlined workflow.

2. What’s your leadership style?

There are several leadership styles, all with their respective pros and cons. Ideally, your candidate should be a coach or a visionary, helping to lead their team to success. You may want to steer clear of self-proclaimed autocratic or authoritarian leaders who focus almost entirely on results and efficiency.

3. What’s your communication style?

A project manager must be an effective communicator. Different groups, such as stakeholders, vendors, and team members, will require a slightly different approach. A candidate’s answer should clearly define the caveats in these various relationships.

4. What’s your biggest weakness?

The answers to this question vary wildly, but beware of a candidate who responds, “I don’t have any weaknesses.” This could be a red flag that the candidate lacks humility and self-awareness.

Likewise, another red flag answer is, “I’m a perfectionist.” A project manager with a perfectionist mindset can seriously derail both the team and the timeline.

5. What metrics do you use to monitor if a project is going smoothly?

Your ideal project manager should be able to self-monitor the progress of a project and have the hindsight to immediately step in once benchmarks set in the planning phase have been missed. You want a candidate to take responsibility and jump in without having to be asked or micromanaged.

6. If a project is not adhering to schedule, what do you do to get it back on track?

How can the applicant get the project back on time without jeopardizing any individual team members or stakeholders? Consider a lack of practical specifics, a major red flag. The right candidate should detail specific actions they would take to resolve the situation, such as, “First, I would prioritize. I would list everything I was expected to do in the project and look at which tasks are dependent on another. These would be of the highest priority because if they’re neglected, I will hold up other team members.”

7. Work from home has become the new normal post-COVID-19. Describe your approach for managing a remote team?

Remote workforces call for different management techniques than in-person teams. If an applicant replies, “It’s not that different,” or “My skills will carry over fine,” that’s cause to question the working relationship.

Alternatively, if a project manager has managed a distributed or remote team in the past and can clearly communicate their methodology, communication style, and how they allocate resources in a remote environment, that’s the sign of a great candidate.

8. How do you manage team members that aren’t working to their full potential?

A capable project manager must nip underperformance in the bud, lest it impacts the entire team. The dream candidate should have a multi-step process in place for locating weak links and addressing them as soon as possible. In this case, it might be helpful to act out a scenario to see what the applicant would say and how they would deliver the message.

9. Describe a time when you were overwhelmed or stressed out at work. How did you work through it?

The difference between a good and great project manager is self-awareness. If a candidate replies, “I don’t get overwhelmed” or “You don’t have to worry about me underperforming,” chances are, you will need to worry about them down the line.

10. What is your strategy for prioritizing tasks?

Prioritization is key in project management. An applicant should have a clear strategy in place to prioritize, such as identifying tasks that are dependent on another or placing more time-consuming tasks first.

11. How do you work with clients and stakeholders?

Part of a project manager’s duties is communicating with stakeholders or executives who hold a position of authority. A candidate must be able to pivot their communication style between stakeholders, sponsors, and customers to ensure a smooth workflow.

12. Do you seek help outside of the project team?

As part of self-awareness, an efficient project manager realizes that sometimes, they may need to tap into help from outside their immediate team. If a candidate responds that they do not ask for help, this stubbornness can be a red flag.

13. What’s your approach to delegating projects and tasks?

Delegation is at the heart of project management. You want a candidate to share examples of how they’ve successfully delegated work in the past.

In addition, if an applicant says they’re a perfectionist or would rather complete tasks themselves instead of delegating, this isn’t a sign of a hard worker—it’s an indication that the candidate in question will likely become a bottleneck in projects.

14. Describe a time in the last year where you made a mistake.

Don’t accept answers like, “I’ve never made a mistake.” That’s a lie.

The best candidates will admit to their mistake and follow-up with details of how they rectified the situation.

15. Describe a challenging project you worked on and how did you manage it?

Same as the question above, the ideal applicant should answer this question openly and honestly. Keep an ear out for respondents who keep the emphasis in first-person, indicating the steps they took themselves to manage the situation. If their answer indicates they pushed the issue onto other team members or blamed anyone, take that as a major red flag.

16. If the client isn’t happy with the result and does not accept the product, what would you as a project manager do?

Rejection happens. The right project manager should be able to take failure in stride and should immediately seek out opportunities to improve the situation. They should return to the initial client expectations to measure which aspect of the deliverable is off-target and how to fix it. Most importantly, they should never shift the blame.

17. Why should we hire you?

This question is a chance for the applicant to share why they are a good match for your company culture or team goals. A great response is going to show they’ve done their homework and want to work for your company and not just any company.

18. Do you have any questions for me?

Lastly, this question turns tables and allows them to interview you. The biggest red flag is a candidate who has no questions for you because it demonstrates they didn’t care enough to do even 10 minutes of research on your company. Most candidates come up with a couple of decent questions with a 10-minute search of your website and Linkedin profile.

Pro Tip: Pay attention to the quality of the questions the candidate asks. For example, if the only questions a candidate asks are about salary expectations and the company’s vacation policy, that’s a red flag. However, if they ask a question about what their role might be like or inter-team dynamics, that’s a great question.

In sum, the hiring process for finding top-notch project managers can be long-winded, but finding the ideal applicant is worth it. By systemizing your hiring process and asking targeted questions, you can find the perfect project manager for your team.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author

Website: Jessica Malnik's Blog

Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on ProcessKit, The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and many other sites.