When you’re preparing to interview for a project manager job, it’s important to know what types of questions you’re likely to get and how to respond to them. Whether you’re applying for a full-time position or pitching your services as an independent consultant, your answers to these questions will not only determine whether you get the job but also your potential for success as a project manager.
This is a favorite question among interviewers because it forces the applicant to choose one of the many skills required of a project manager. While there is technically no single right answer to this question, you need to be aware of what your answer reveals about you, your experience and your focus as a project manager.
Your answer to this question should be what you feel is your greatest strength as a project manager, and you should be prepared to explain how you plan to apply that skill to the project(s) in question. While you may want to tailor your answer based on the project or company, most interviewers will have a favorable view of project managers who cite solid team-building skills, flexibility or a proven ability to keep projects on schedule.
When answering this question, it’s good to highlight techniques that you’ve used successfully in the past and identify the tools and support you expect your employer to provide. However, it’s also important to show that you understand the challenges inherent to that particular company and project. The interviewer may be looking to see if you’ll take a one-size-fits-all approach to your project manager duties, or if you’ve given some thought to the demands of a particular job.
Because of this, a generic answer is likely to fall short. Most interviewers don’t want to hear that a prospective project manager will apply the same framework to every problem; they want to know that the person they hire will take the unique nature of each project into account. To give a well-considered answer, it’s a good idea to respond with some questions of your own. For example, find out who your project sponsor will be, what support you’ll receive from the various departments involved in the project and what recourse you’ll have if shifting priorities impact resource allocation.
This means that you’ll have to do some quick thinking on your feet to process the interviewer’s answers and address how they will impact your approach to the project. The key is to demonstrate that you’ll ask the right questions at the outset rather than make broad statements that suggest you would take the same approach to any project manager job.
In asking a question like this, interviewers are really trying to find out what kind of a leader you are. They want to know if you understand the diverse skills and competencies that are required to bring a project to completion. Will you seek out people just like yourself, or are you prepared to work with many different personalities? Can you inspire and motivate everyone from senior executives to hourly support staff? Your answer should show that you recognize it takes many individual contributors with different strengths and capabilities to complete a project. A successful project manager doesn’t have to be good at everything; he or she just needs to know how to assemble and manage a team with expertise in a wide variety of areas.
Check out what advice these project managers have to offer.
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While it’s a good idea to practice your answers to these questions, you need to make sure your résumé has what it takes to land an interview in the first place. Employers generally look for project manager candidates with some combination of experience, education and expertise. To that end, relevant training and certification will give you a competitive edge.
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