Is This You?
- Are you in a leadership role at a successful business? Whether you’re the CEO, Operational Manager, HR Lead, or a hiring manager, you know that good project management is critical for your company’s success.
- Your company relies on projects, and the key to its future lies in the project management skills of your team. Your current staff has been managing projects, but they’re stretched thin, and you’ve hit a limit.
- To expand your business, you need more project managers. These individuals won’t just oversee projects; they’ll handle the entire project lifecycle, from start to delivery.
Ideally, those new PMs should step in to bring much-needed structure and organization to your project approach, laying the foundation for maintaining high-quality project execution as your team grows.
But here’s the challenge:
You might be grappling with the challenge of pinpointing the exact qualities to seek in Project Management candidates.
Sure, you know there are some basic skills a project manager should have – like making schedules, leading project kick-offs, keeping track of tasks, and reminding the team about deadlines.
But these skills seem pretty standard, and almost anyone can list them on their resume.
So, you start searching for interview questions on Google:
But the questions you come across are not hitting the mark.
– How would you describe your leadership style?
– What tools do you use to manage your projects?
– Do you use a risk register?
There are several problems with these questions:
The questions invite candidates to fabricate stories instead of providing solid proof of their real skills.
For instance, they might tell an impressive tale about their leadership approach, using fancy terms they’ve picked up from business literature – and elaborating on the advantages of this managerial style.
But to what extent does this truly reflect their interactions with team members?
Other questions get too caught up in the formal or technical side of the job.
For instance, asking, “Do you use a Risk Register?” might only reveal that a candidate uses one. However, it won’t shed light on their critical thinking abilities or the depth of their experience, which could enable them to identify risks that less experienced project managers might miss. In short, this question doesn’t provide much valuable insight.
Finally, here’s the common problem with many questions you find online:
How can you tell what’s a great, good, or not-so-great answer?
Most websites that talk about hiring project managers don’t explain this part.
So, what’s the plan?
One thing is for sure: You can’t take the risk of bringing in the wrong folks. There’s too much on the line!
Project Managers carry a load of responsibility, and if you make the wrong hire, the fallout can be significant:
A poorly managed project might lead to revenue loss or even a financial setback, jeopardizing the entire business.
Unsatisfied clients can quickly tarnish your company’s reputation, potentially driving away new business opportunities.
A botched project can wreak havoc within your organization, causing massive disruptions.
These are just a few of the typical problems that bad project managers can unleash.
Curious To Learn About Some Real-Life Tales of Hiring Fiascos Involving Project Managers?
The needy client: To rescue an ongoing project, an external Project Manager is hired. However, the PMP-certified Senior Project Manager lacks empathy and doesn’t know how to handle the needy client. During an executive meeting, tensions reach a breaking point when the Project Manager suddenly accuses the sponsor of bullying. This unexpected confrontation leaves the client in shock and deals a severe blow to the relationship with the company. Following the incident, the client requests an immediate replacement for the Project Manager. The consequences are costly, with the company estimating a loss of at least $250,000 in future revenue as a direct result of this unfortunate event.
The Robot PM: A new Senior Rollout Manager joins the team with high hopes, but it doesn’t take long before he loses the respect of the team. He seems disinterested in their work and rarely bothers with face-to-face interactions. Instead, he sees his primary job as sending reminders to his team (“Hey, what’s the status of XYZ task?”). He also frequently ignores valuable feedback from his Subject Matter Experts. For the team, this is a clear signal that the PM doesn’t grasp the details of their work. After managing to complete one project relatively successfully (thanks mostly to the team’s efforts), the PM finds himself shown the door. The reason? A lack of cultural fit. The result? The company spent a good three months on training and onboarding this Project Manager, only to end up right back where they started.
The Micromanager: My brother-in-law worked under a teamlead who was a typical micromanager. He would review every piece of work down to the last detail. My brother-in-law, a smart engineer with 15 years of experience, did not like at all being treated like a beginner. He felt trapped and upset because the manager didn’t believe in his ideas or experience. The workplace was stressful, and everyone felt nervous. Because of this, the project took longer than expected, and they couldn’t meet the deadlines. The team wasn’t happy, and some important team members left the company after the project was done.
These are actual instances where project leaders couldn’t fulfill even the most fundamental requirements. Strangely enough, each of them had impressive resumes – extensive project management experience, an MBA, PMP certification, and more.
But enough about these negative examples for the moment. Let’s shift our focus and discuss what makes an ideal candidate for a Project Manager position.
I have spoken to a lot of company founders and hiring managers, and their expectations of a PM candidate are largely the same.
Have a look if their hiring criteria also reflect your expectations:
Does This Match Your Ideal Profile for a Project Manager Candidate?
Requirement: Strong Communicator
Good communication is the cornerstone of a successful project: Team members know exactly what needs to be done. The project manager is aware of problems and jumps in when needed. The customer knows the status of a project. The challenge: People don’t talk enough, and miscommunication and misunderstandings are the norm. That’s why you need project managers who actively shape communication. They must be top communicators who can collaborate effectively with people at all levels – from ordinary workers to middle management and right up to the CEO. They can empathize with their counterpart. They communicate as precisely as a knife. They are not afraid to discuss difficult topics or ask “stupid” questions. They constantly seek truth – with the goal of keeping the project on track.
Remember, being a great communicator is a rare skill. So, when selecting your project manager, look for people who are passionate about communication and steer clear of those who struggle in group settings or leave you confused.
Requirement: You have faith in the candidate’s ability to represent your organization
Your project managers are the face of your department and your organization. How they come across in different settings ultimately determines your reputation. Hire strong personalities who share your values, and you’ll reputation will rise. Hire weak personalities and your reputation will be tarnished.
Thus, look for candidates who share your values, who have good manners and who show the right demeanor in challenging situations. Hire people you feel will make great ambassadors for your team, your organization, your vision!
Some skills to look for:
- They’ll collaborate gracefully even with the most demanding clients.
- They always remain tactful and open-minded even when facing criticism.
- They can share feedback without hurting anybody’s feelings, and without being called ‘aggressive’ or ‘arrogant’.
- They can resolve conflicts without burning any bridges.
- They’ll negotiate timelines, budgets and responsibilities without pissing anybody off.
- They’ll collaborate well with the team member known as ‘a tough nut.’
Requirement: The candidate shows genuine enthusiasm about your business and wants to be part of your team
A project manager candidate who not only enjoys motivating team members but also genuinely likes your business and wants to be part of your team is likely to do better and stick around during tough times. Highly motivated candidates can also make the whole team happier with their positive and go-getter attitude.
Imagine you had to pick between two candidates: Candidate A has lots of experience in project management but doesn’t seem too excited about our field, and candidate B, who doesn’t have much project management experience but is very excited about your company and wants to join sooner rather than later. In this case, I would definitely choose motivation over skills! That’s because we can teach project management skills to anyone, but you can’t make someone be excited and motivated.
Requirement: The Candidate Is A Real Team Player
Your team is your greatest asset. The success of your company relies heavily on their hard work and teamwork. Protect this valuable asset by making smart hiring choices.
For Project Managers, cultural fit is crucial. They have a big impact both internally and externally. You need PMs who align with your values, inspire high standards in quality, teamwork, and ethics, and support your strategy.
Don’t hire a Project Manager whose history and attitude don’t align with your values and workplace culture. The risk of them damaging team morale and harming your business is too great. Choose wisely.
Requirement: The Candidate Is A True Problem-Solver
The Project Manager candidate must be willing and capable of holding team members and stakeholders accountable. Meeting this duty requires an unwavering focus on the end goal and incredible stamina to cope with the setbacks and roadblocks faced in most projects of any meaningful size: Resource constraints, technical hiccups, change requests, the inertial of larger organizations and other unforeseen events, just to name a few.
A candidate meeting this criterion is a true problem-solver who enjoys solving problems others think cannot be solved. He or she confronts conflict with a positive attitude and is capable of negotiating agreements that support the achievement of the set targets without harming relationships with project stakeholders.
One thing I didn’t list here was domain knowledge. Surely you may want people who are familiar with your industry or field of work, but that should be obvious.
Now you probably ask yourself:
How do I find out whether a candidate actually meets those criteria?
What questions should I ask during the interview?
I am here to help you.
As a former Senior Project Manager with ten years in the field, I know how the aforementioned qualities show in a person’s work history, their attitude as well as their way of talking and thinking.
Those qualities can be assessed effectively with the right questions.
To spare you the effort of coming up with good questions yourself, I have created the Project Manager Selection Guide, which includes 40+ unique interview questions along with comments to help you evaluate candidates’ answers.
You can learn more about the Guide here:
The Project Manager Selection Guide
Effectively gauge candidates' communication, leadership and other skills – with the interview questions from the Project Manager Selection Guide
The Project Manager Selection Guide is a digital product built to help thriving businesses hire their first project managers with confidence. The guide provides a unique set of interview questions (found nowhere else) designed to help you spot the top performers among candidates, the people who are truly committed and capable of implementing your vision for the company.
Benefit: You’ll be able to lead better and more focused interviews, and you’ll be able to base your hiring decision on proven criteria instead of just relying on gut feeling.
The guide includes the following material:
Unique interview questions to spot top talent
The guide includes over 40 unique interview questions that enable you to quickly and effectively gauge a project manager candidate’s relevant skills for project management as well as their general attitude. The questions not only help you filter out the top-performers among candidates. The fact that they are being asked challenging and unconventional questions also creates a favorable impression of your company, showing that you are only looking for the best candidates.
The included interview questions are geared towards assessing these skills:
- conflict resolution
- general project management & organizational skills
- attention to detail
- continuous learning
- honesty & integrity
- cultural fit
For each category, I have included multiple questions in order to give you some choice on the questions to ask. Some skill groups such as leadership or communication should be given more weight in the candidate’s assessment because they are absolutely essential for the role. That’s why you will find more questions targeting those skill groups.
All of the questions are designed to evoke deep and revelatory answers from the candidate, which usually provide a wealth of additional useful details and insights about the candidate’s intelligence, leadership skills and communication style.
- Can you share a strategy you’ve used successfully to build trust with stakeholders who initially opposed your idea?
- Choose a specific project you have managed and talk about its importance to the business.
- Did you ever have to deal with a team member who was not willing to cooperate? What actions did you take?
- Can you share a specific instance where a client provided you with feedback that had a profound impact on your approach as a Project Manager? Tell us how it influenced the way you work.
- What would you consider your greatest accomplishment at work, or one of the greatest?
- What skills do you hope to improve in this job?
- How do you plan your day?
Included: 40+ unique interview questions with detailed comments!
Response Assessment Guide
For each interview question, you will find an answer assessment guide. It will help you qualify a candidate’s answer without requiring detailed knowledge of project management. The answer assessment matrix includes remarks by which you can see if the answer is excellent or weak.
Your Questions Answered
What is the Project Manager Selection Guide?
The Project Manager Selection Guide is a collection of interview questions to help you effectively assess candidates for project management positions. The questions focus first and foremost on candidates’ soft skills, such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, conflict resolution and other essential skills we should not ignore when hiring project managers. On top of that, I have included questions for assessing candidates’ grasp of key project management and organizational techniques.
What skills do the interview questions focus on?
The questions focus on the following areas: leadership, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, conflict resolution, general project management & organizational skills, attention to detail, continuous learning, creativity, honesty & integrity, cultural fit, motivation, proactivity
What format does the guide come in?
The guide comes as a PDF file, readable with any PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.
What if I discover the guide does not meet my needs?
No problem. You can request a refund within 30 days after your purchase. Just send me a note.
I have a question about the guide. How can I reach you?
Happy to help. Send me a note via the contact form.
Ask your question here!
Hi, I'm Adrian Neumeyer
I’m a former Senior IT Project Manager with over 10 years of project management experience, I’m also the creator of Tactical Project Manager, the leading website dedicated to project management with over 100’000 monthly readers. I’ve traveled the path from Project Assistant to Senior Project Manager, gaining valuable insights along the way. I’ve closely observed the daily workings of other project managers and learned firsthand which qualities can make or break a project’s success. I’ve been involved in numerous candidate interviews, refining my understanding of what makes an exceptional project manager. Furthermore, I’ve played a pivotal role in establishing a robust project management framework, including a PMO, within my organization. Connect with me on LinkedIn.
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I’m committed to providing you with the best resources for hiring and training project managers. If you feel the guide is not what you need, I am happy to return your investment within 30 days after your purchase. Just drop me a note.
Get the Project Manager Selection Guide
- Designed by a Senior Project Manager with over 10 years of working experience in the field
- Assess leadership, communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, attention to detail and other essential skills
- Assess cultural match and motivation
- With response assessment guide
- 50-page PDF readable on any computer
- 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied
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- Contact form for support/questions