Seven Questions Project Manager's should ask at an Interview
The discussion during the Project Management interview should be fluid and not a situation where the interviewer speaks for the majority of the interview and then you only speak toward the end. As the interviewer is speaking to you, ask questions immediately when something is unclear to you or comment if you want to show you have experience in what they just said. Do so in a way that is polite and won't cut off the interviewer.
When you get to the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any more questions. There may be questions you still have that were not answered during the interview. Below are 7 questions you need to ask the interviewer before leaving the project management interview in no particular order.
What methodology is used to manage projects?
Normally, on the project description, the methodology used to manage projects (Waterfall, Agile, Lean, etc) will be listed. Or, the hiring manager will volunteer this information during the course of an interview.
If this is not the case, find out what methodology is leveraged and what tools are used. For example, if Agile is leveraged, ask whether Confluence is used as the communication medium and if JIRA is used to manage story boards.
Once you find out, make a statement that demonstrates that you have this experience.
Is the senior leadership in alignment with the overall program objectives?
When the portfolio of projects is generated and approved for a calendar year, senior management should be signing off and in alignment. This shows that they understand how this project portfolio fits into the overall corporate strategy.
If the hiring manager has not answered this question effectively, the PMO could still be immature and in the process of gaining senior leadership support. This may not be a bad thing as the PMO may eventually gain senior leadership support. It becomes a bad thing if there is a disconnect between the PMO and senior leadership.
What types of project performance metrics are tracked for projects?
Here, you want to understand how your projects will be measured for performance. For example, your cost estimation skills will be measured against the Cost Performance Index (CPI). Your project schedule will be tracked against the Schedule Performance Index (SPI).
In regards to budgeting, the variance between your project costs and budget will be tracked. In some organizations, for example, a variance of more than 10% automatically puts your project in RED.
Make sure you understand what metrics will be leveraged and the frequency with which they are reviewed.
What is the first project I'll be assigned to and where are the project resources located?
Ask this question to gain insight to the focus of the projects you'll be working on. For example, if you want your career to focus more on Software as a Service (SaaS) implementations but the project you'll be assigned to deals with decommissioning servers and a focus on infrastructure, this may be a mismatch.
Listen to the answer to this question carefully as you'll need to be honest with yourself. What types of projects do you want to manage to further your career?
Also, understand where the project resources will be located. If the bulk of the resources are located in India or the rest of Asia, it is likely that you'll have early morning meetings before 9am if you're located in the United States.
What are the growth or training opportunities for me to enhance my PM career?
Part of being a Project Manager is that you're always learning. It's not just learning about project management topics or a new technology. It's learning about Leadership, Motivation, and other human aspects of the job.
It's an added bonus if the employer has training opportunities available so that you can consistently improve your toolkit. Companies should be investing in their employees so they can eventually become higher performers.
Is this role probationary to start?
For full-time roles, the employer may sometimes hire on a 3-month probationary period. During this time, you may be terminated for any reason depending on the contract wording. If this is the case for this role, you want to walk in with a sense of urgency.
It's good to ask about this at the interview because you may not know about the 3-month probationary period until you're at the point where you're signing off on the offer acceptance documentation.
What are your personal expectations for this role? (If this person is the hiring manager)
Ask this question if the interviewer is the hiring manager. Yes, the expectation of the role was discussed but maybe the manager has expectations as it relates to: communications style, office hours, approaching them with questions, etc.
For example, you may work for someone who doesn't want to be bothered unless there's an emergency. This question helps you get a feel for what it will be like working for this manager.
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