Main image of article Find the Ideal Tech Project Manager With These Interview Questions

Finding the ideal project manager is no small feat given the combination of experience and traits necessary for the role. A solid list of common interview questions for project managers can be invaluable for identifying the right candidate, so we've compiled a list that both covers enough areas and enables the best candidates to excel.

Project managers guide and oversee projects from start to finish, with some subsequent follow-up often required too. A broad skill set, familiarity with the products with which they work, knowledge of relevant tech stacks and fantastic interpersonal skills ensure they can deliver every time while continuing to develop their team. They may also have certifications like Certified Project Manager (IAPM), CompTIA Pro+ or Certified ScrumMaster.

Their daily tasks can vary quite a bit, but likely involve a lot of communication, both with their own team and external stakeholders. Regular meetings, monitoring progress, mitigating risks, dealing with sudden problems and staying on top of documentation are all going to be dispersed across their work days. Increasingly, they may also use AI tools to help them organise tasks and optimise schedules. Knowledge of these new tools, plus the technologies related to the project, are important knowledge areas.

In this article, you'll find the top project manager interview questions to help you identify the right person for the job.

1. What Made You Decide To Become a Project Manager?

Why You Should Ask This Question

Motivation is key to long-term success. Someone who's genuinely passionate about project management and the tech sector is more likely to put in the time and effort to complete projects successfully. They're also more likely to stay with the company long term.

What to Expect From the Candidate

Personality traits are quite telling. Motivated project managers often like to solve problems, work collaboratively and take on leadership roles. Being organized, having good time management skills and deriving satisfaction by successfully completing projects are other positive signs. Problem solving and organisation are also key skills for technical roles.

2. What Excites You About This Role?

Why You Should Ask This Question

The point of this question is to find out how invested the candidate is in getting the job. It can show whether they've done sufficient research on the company and the role.

What to Expect From the Candidate

If the candidate is able to convincingly align their experience and qualifications with the job requirements, it indicates they've invested time in preparing and demonstrates their seriousness about getting the job. Demonstrating familiarity with the company's products and their uses is also a good sign.

3. Describe Your Communication and Management Style

Why You Should Ask This Question

Communication and management are integral skills for project managers, as is self-awareness. The candidate's answer may indicate their effectiveness as a leader.

What to Expect From the Candidate

This is a demonstrative exercise. If they answer clearly and in an organized manner, then you know they're a good communicator. In terms of management style, the ideal answer should be one that closely aligns with the company's culture.

4. Tell Me About Your Experience Managing Projects From Start To Finish

Why You Should Ask This Question

A capable project manager should be able to describe the project life cycle using real-world examples. Even if they're interviewing for their first project management role, experience in similar roles should enable them to give a clear description.

What to Expect From the Candidate

Look for answers that are thorough and include real examples from prior experience. The candidate should be able to describe their involvement in projects and how their actions led to positive results. Prioritise examples involving similar products, companies or the tech sector in general.

5. What Project Management Methodologies Are You Most Familiar With?

Why You Should Ask This Question

Effective project managers should be familiar with multiple project management approaches. This indicates their breadth of experience and ability to adapt based on a specific project's challenges.

What to Expect From the Candidate

Key examples include the Waterfall, Scrum and Agile methodologies. Look for answers that detail the pros and cons of each as they pertain to your company's products and the tech sector more broadly. It's acceptable for the candidate to express a justifiable preference for one approach but not to the exclusion or dismissal of others. 

6. Describe a Time When You Had To Manage a Challenging Project. How Did You Handle It?

Why You Should Ask This Question

Projects rarely reach completion without obstacles. An experienced project manager will have encountered many challenges and know how to deal with them. The aim of this question is to assess their problem-solving skills and ability to make effective decisions.

What to Expect From the Candidate

A good answer will include a real-life example where they encountered a challenge, whether the issue was interpersonal or technical. Look for an answer that demonstrates their ability to assess a situation, identify obstacles and take action. Traits to look for include calmness under pressure, adaptability and strong communication.

7. How Do You Motivate and Lead Project Teams?

Why You Should Ask This Question

The purpose of this skills-based question is to determine how effective the candidate is at managing others, a key aspect of which is team motivation. Being empathic and communicative are good traits to look for.

What to Expect From the Candidate

The candidate should be able to give at least one example from their leadership experience, preferably involving the sorts of roles you expect them to work with, whether they're programmers, engineers or otherwise. It could be building a cohesive team from scratch or helping a dysfunctional one work together. Look for conflict resolution skills, impartiality and problem-solving abilities in their answer.

8. Tell Me About a Time When You Had To Manage Conflict Within a Team

Why You Should Ask This Question

Project managers require strong conflict management skills. Maintaining team harmony during difficult times is vital to the continued performance of any team, in addition to general interpersonal skills.

What to Expect From the Candidate

Look for compelling examples where the candidate encountered a challenge, identified its cause and took action to resolve it. Skills such as arbitration, problem-solving and communication are key.

9. Describe a Time a Project Didn't Go as Planned. How Did You Get it Back on Track?

Why You Should Ask This Question

Dealing with the unexpected is almost inevitable in project management, making the ability to navigate these challenges an integral part of the role. This question assesses the candidate's adaptability, problem-solving skills and decision making.

What to Expect From the Candidate

A good answer includes a clear example where the candidate describes why something went wrong. Next is an account of their analytical and decision-making skills, followed by a successful outcome due to their proactive approach. The more similar the example is to the challenges of your company, the better.

10. How Do You Handle Changes in Scope or Timeline?

Why You Should Ask This Question

Changes in scope or timeline can catch some project managers off guard. Dealing with changes requires strong analytical and decision-making abilities.

What to Expect From the Candidate

The candidate should describe an effective process for evaluating issues and identifying the best way forward. Stakeholder communication, adaptability and sound judgment are key details to look for. A relevant example or two can further support their answer, especially if they're relevant to the tech sector, such as shifts in specifications or deployment delays.

Things To Remember When Interviewing Project Managers

Look for soft skills like conflict resolution, communication, organisation and leadership. These are different than technical skills that involve specific knowledge of tools or processes. For a project manager (PM), technical skills might include project management software proficiency, budgeting, scheduling, risk management, and industry-specific knowledge.

While technical skills are important for a PM, many of them can be learned or transferred from other roles. The right personality traits, or soft skills, are often what make a successful PM. These skills enable effective collaboration, decision-making, and problem-solving, which are critical in managing projects and teams effectively.

Outside of soft skills, you should also:

  • Prioritise candidates with broad experience that's related to your company's products or the tech sector.
  • Keep an eye out for a good track record, involving both project success and ongoing improvement.
  • Take advantage of their answers to ask follow up questions for more detail.
  • Ensure they understand the importance of balancing internal and external stakeholder needs.
  • Look for candidates who demonstrate an understanding of the principles of frameworks like scrum and agile.

When it comes to finding a project manager, it pays to be thorough. While this list of top interview questions for project managers isn't exhaustive, you can use these as a starting point to help you identify capable project managers who can reliably produce successful outcomes.