Top Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers

The role of a project manager involves initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve goals and meet client requirements. The PMP (Project Management Professional) is one of the most sought-after qualifications in today's corporate sector. Naturally, the interview is an integral part of the process to select the right candidate for the post.

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What is PMP?

The Project Management Professional is an internationally recognised certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). You need to have the essential educational skill and experience as a project manager to be eligible to take up the exam, following which you would have the interview. This blog gives an idea of the types of questions to expect in a PMP interview. 

Top 20 PMP Interview Question

1. Why did you choose PMP certification?

This question is likely to be one of the first you will be asked. It is a way to gauge your dedication and enthusiasm in becoming a project manager and to ensure you weren't lured just by the hype and benefits of being a Project Manager(PM). Be authentic in your reply; this question carries a lot of value. 

2. How do you communicate with your team?

Communication is an essential tool that brings together colleagues, clients and other stakeholders. The interviewer is checking if you are a good motivator for your team, a good negotiator with sponsors and clients and, in general, if you can use language effectively. 

3. What is the difference between a project and a program? 

A project is a mission to create a unique product or solution, and a program is a group of interrelated projects usually managed together. A project has well-defined start and end points, but a program has a broad scope that can change with time constraints and client requirements. 

4. What is the Pareto principle/analysis? 

It is a technical question, so it's best to keep your answer short and to the point and only elaborate if needed. The Pareto principle is a statistical theory which states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. You can enhance your answer by explaining an instance when you used this in a particular project. 

5. What are the best practices you have used to develop excellent customer relationships? 

This question is to analyse how well you and your team can deliver. It is preferable to give clear examples of instances and methods used when your team has impressed the customer and what your role exactly was in that project. 

Of course, if the interviewer wanted to probe a bit more, he/she could specifically ask you to elaborate on a situation where customer expectations were not met. Make sure you are honest while answering this, but project the failure as a lesson learnt rather than a bad experience.

6. How would you define your leadership style?

While you can get descriptive in this answer, usually, leadership styles are of four types:

  1. Supportive: allows discussions and allows the team to have the final say
  2. Coaching: allows discussions but has the final say
  3. Delegate: giving full freedom to your team/subordinates
  4. Directing: authoritative behaviour; not open to discussions

7. What methodologies do you commonly use in your projects? 

Questions related to the projects you've done are to investigate your technical knowledge as a Project Manager. If you have used methods which are also used by the interviewer(s) in their line of work - like Agile, Kanban, Lean Manufacturing or Just In Time (JIT) Manufacturing - you are at an advantage. Answer this question with specific examples as well.

8. Define a project management life cycle. 

It is a series of various activities that are necessary for achieving the project objectives. They are divided into four phases: 

  1. Initiation: Initial scope is defined
  2. Planning: a detailed plan is created
  3. Execution: The actual processes, including reviews and tracking of potential problems
  4. Closure: Finalising all the activities and signing off the project

9. What are things that should be included in the scope statement? 

The scope statement has no set format; it depends on the type of project. Broadly, it should contain information about the product of the project, goals and objectives, requirements, deliverables, assumptions and constraints. 

10. Elaborate what you know about the triple constraint triangle?

This triangle is also known as the "Project management Triangle". This principle says that the quality of work is constrained by three key factors: cost/budget, time and scope. As a PM, you have the freedom to toggle the constraints to maximise quality, i.e. you might choose to increase quality and finish the project sooner but with more funding. 

11. Explain what you know about the principle of "Six Thinking Hats"? 

The idea behind this concept is to deliberately make the human brain think in different angles about a project or problem. It is beneficial to you as a PM, especially when you have discussions with your group about an issue. The hats symbolise the following qualities: 

  1. White - Facts
  2. Yellow - Optimistic thinking
  3. Black - Judgement, difficulties, dangers
  4. Red - Feelings and intuition
  5. Green - Creativity
  6. Blue - Thinking process

12. What is the purpose of a fishbone diagram?

The fishbone diagram or Ishikawa diagram is a graphical way to represent cause-and-effect relationships, especially in the context of identifying reasons for the failure of something.  

13. What do you understand by "Six Sigma"?

Six Sigma is a methodology for eliminating defects whereby organisations improve their business processes. A six sigma process divides the fraction of a normal distribution within six standard deviations with the mean of all opportunities to produce a part is statistically free from defects. 

14. What are the DMAIC and the DMACV methodologies? 

Both of these are methodologies that six sigma projects have to follow. 

DMAIC stands for:

D - Define the System

M - Measure key aspects

A - Analyse the data

I - Improve the current process 

C - Control the future state processes 

DMADV stands for: 

D - Define design goals 

M - Measure and identify CTQs (characteristics that are Critical To Quality)

A - Analyse to design alternatives 

D - Design an improved alternative

V - Verify the design 

15. What is the PDCA cycle?

PDCA is a management method used to improve processes continuously. The acronym expands as plan-do-check-adjust or plan-do-check-act. 

Plan: establish objectives 

Do: execute the plan 

Check: evaluate the data and results 

Adjust/Act: improve the process based on the "check" and "do" steps 

16. What does the acronym RAID mean in the context of project management? 

RAID stands for:

Risks: Potential problems a project can face resulting in a deviation from the original plan 

Assumptions: The details you believe to be true about the project

Issues: Various roadblocks your project can face, which can cause delays in delivery 

Dependencies: The data that your project is dependent on for completion

17. What is a risk analysis matrix?

The risk analysis matrix helps you rank your risks based on the likelihood (the probability an event occurs) and impact (how parameters like quality, budget, schedule etc. get affected). Likelihood and impact are rated from level 1 to level 5, where 1 signifies zero probability and no consequence, while 5 signifies absolute risk and severe damage to the project.  

18. What does the principle of the theory of constraints state? 

E.M. Goldratt introduced the concept of the theory of constraints (TOC) in his book "The Goal". It states that any manageable system is limited in achieving its goals by a small number of limitations. The aim is then to identify the constraint(s) and resolve them to improve the full process. Constraints can be internal (equipment, people or policies) or external. 

19. What is Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)?

CCPM is a method developed from the theory of constraints. It emphasises the resources needed to finish projects, i.e. people, equipment and space. In this method, start times are usually kept flexible to distribute the workload evenly. CCPM also uses "buffers" (project buffers, feeding buffers, resource buffers) to remove any uncertainty associated with the project. 

20. What is the critical path method (CPM)?

Critical Path Method/Analysis is a scheduling algorithm for project tasks. A critical path is the one with the longest stretch of dependent activities from start to finish. CPM analysis tools allow us to select the desired endpoint in a project and identify its most extended series of dependent operations. Note that this is different from critical chain because here it is assumed that all resources are available at any point in time. 

To summarise

That was an overview of some questions that you should expect in a PMP interview. It is essential to brush up on technical terms, the different methodologies and also be thorough with your own work experience and projects to give the best impression in the interview. It is also essential to provide proper articulation and substantiation to any answer you provide. It is imperative to project self-confidence and be sure of one's abilities before going for an interview.

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