23 Questions to Ask When Recruiting a Project Manager

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dhaughey
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If you are interviewing for a project manager any time soon, here are 23 questions you can choose from that examine project management experience:
  1. What are the necessary steps to successful project management?
  2. How do you plan for a project?
  3. What is important to consider when planning a (your type of project)?
  4. What are things that you have found to be low priority when planning for (your type of project)?
  5. What distinguishes a project from routine operations?
  6. What are the three constraints on a project?
  7. What are the five control components of a project?
  8. What qualifications are required to be an effective project manager?
  9. What experience have you had in project management?
  10. Name five signs that indicate your project may fail.
  11. Tell us about a project in which you participated and your role in that project.
  12. When you are assigned a project, what steps do you take to complete the project?
  13. As you begin your assignment as a project manager, you quickly realise the corporate sponsor for the project no longer supports the project. What will you do?
  14. Your three month project is about to exceed the projected budget after the first month. What steps will you take to address the potential cost overrun?
  15. Tell us about a successful project in which you participated and how you contributed to the success of that project.
  16. You are given the assignment of project manager and the team members have already been identified. To increase the effectiveness of your project team, what steps will you take?
  17. You have been assigned as the project manager for a team comprised of new employees just out of college and "entry-level" consulting staff. What steps can you take to insure the project is completed against a very tight time deadline?
  18. What is a "project milestone"?
  19. What is "project float"
  20. Your project is beginning to exceed budget and to fall behind schedule due to almost daily user change orders and increasing conflicts in user requirements. How will you address the user issues?
  21. You've encountered a delay on an early phase of your project. What actions can you take to counter the delay? Which actions will have the most effect on the result?
  22. Describe what you did in a difficult project environment to get the job done on time and on budget.
  23. What actions are required for successful executive sponsorship of a project?
satisfactionuk
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I think that there is no point in conducting what is in effect a Project Management exam on prospective candidates; if they hold the relevant qualifications that should be a good enough indication that they are technically competent to carry out a project. This also includes experience in the use of the project management packages that my company uses.

What I would want to know is:
How many similar types of projects to the one that I have in mind have they completed successfully and what evidence do they have of this.

How many similar projects have they completed that went into exception and had not realised the full expectations that were set out in the project brief. In their opinion what were the major obstacles that they had to overcome in bringing those project to completion.

Given a pre-prepared outline business case, what in their opinion would be the major threats and obstacles to the projects successful outcome. What sort of timescale and cost would they expect to complete the project (ball park figures).

I would be looking to their interpersonal skills and ask them how they would pre-select their team and how they would keep them motivated throughout the project. How they would go about trouble shooting and managing conflicts with examples of say, late delivery of work packages, people with their own agendas, diehards who verbally say they are on board but not fully motivated, suppliers not delivering on time etc.

Managing by exception is a nice idea but in real life does not mean not knowing about the jobs you are asking other people to perform, so I would want to know what practical business experience the candidate has in relation to the business skills required to complete the project. After all s/he may not have to do the job but has to be able to talk intelligently with other members of the project team, understand to some degree their professional jargon and also gain their trust and respect.

I would finally put a pen on the table and ask them to sell it to me, if they cant sell the benefits of a pen, how are they going to sell the idea of the benefits of the project to the team members.

I would be looking at the person to try and find out if s/he is too timid or brash, does s/he come across as a bullshitter or arrogant, is /she going to be a plodder or is a live wire that will rub people up the wrong way. What I would like to see is a quietly confident person who has a good grounding in business skills and is motivated with an air of professionalism about them that shows a high level of leadership skills.
Stephan Toth
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dhaughey
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Rather than the exam style questions, you could explore Leadership Potential with some questions like these:
  1. How do you handle non-productive team members?
  2. How do you motivate team members who are burned out, or bored?
  3. How do you handle team members who come to you with their personal problems?
  4. What are your career goals? How do you see this job affecting your goals?
  5. Explain how you operate inter-departmentally.
  6. Tell me how you would react to a situation where there was more than one-way to accomplish the same task, and there were very strong feelings by others on each position.
  7. Consider that you are in a diverse environment, out of your comfort zone. How would you rate your situational leadership style?
  8. Give me an example of your leadership involvement where teamwork played an important role.
satisfactionuk
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lol, its getting there dhaughey, not a bad list.

What about scrapping the formal interview room all together as the desk in between the interviewers and candidate’s forms not only a physical barrier but also a mental one too. What about having a dedicated interview room much on the lines of a normal sitting room with nice furniture and comfortable chairs, tea, coffee and cake served on bone china instead of out of a thick catering cups or worse still plastic.

What about greeting the candidate warmly and kindly and spending time to get them to relax and open up and talk to you about themselves, their hopes, dreams goals in life and of why they want to work for your company. How about gently teasing the information need out of them from your list without actually having your list to work from (use experience instead).

Ridiculous or even grow up we live in the real world you might say. But consider this, don’t you want to instil a sense of pride and quality into your candidates perception of your company from the word go. Don’t you want to breed an attitude of attention to the smallest detail being the foundation for future performance; and if so, isn’t the presentation of the first interview a critical step in this process.

In one hour under the above conditions you will find out more about the real personal qualities, attitudes and abilities of the candidate than you could ever hope to achieve in a sterile interview room situation.

The only arguments against this would be, "Oh it takes far too much time, it cost too much or we have a hundred candidates to go through". However, this is a load of bull, you are considering taking on a person for a responsible position, you probably want him or her to stay with your firm for a good many years if not decades and of course you are selling him or her the quality of your firm in order to get him to buy into it.

In today’s business environment, you have sterile people carrying out sterile interviews in a sterile environment that is more like an inquisition that an invitation to join a progressive companies ‘friendly team’. Then on top of this the company expects the person to be totally loyal and committed and to give them their all.

I personally do not work with or for people I don't like and have had several of these sterile interviews throughout my working life and even though they appeared to be keen to employ me, half way through through the interview I have smiled at them and politely said "from what I have seen in this interview so far, I wouldn’t work for you for double the money" and packed up my documents and bid them good bye.

Good customer service is ok, total customer care is fine, a hundred percent customer satisfaction just means your doing what you said you would do, but providing an awesome customer service is what makes your firm different from the rest.

The only question is, can you provide an awesome customer services from the the customers perspective if you have an uncaring, mediocre, demanding or even hostile attitude towards other members of your company?

Satisfying the internal customer is of paramount importance along the long journey to delighting the paying customer.

Stephan Toth
Bobby Lin
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I especially like questions #11 and #15 if you are looking for a project manager with successful experience.

Asking the right questions is important to evaluate your candidates. Not only will you know if they give the wrong answer, but they may fumble or try to weasel out of answering certain questions which are both red flags.

Also, one way to organize these thoughts is through a recruitment video. You can get a lot more exposure that way and can engage potential applicants with the questions on screen.
stonesfan
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Having been involved in recruitment, a fundamental we always look for is, "are they going to fit into our team". Can I share an office with this person without my blood pressure going through the roof!

We've often waived certain job requirements or failure to answer every question correctly if they show desire and a willingness to grow with us. Where they are short, we can fill the gaps in for them. That way it is likely to keep them motivated as they increase their knowledge within our organisation.

Would like to think PM roles are similar? A great thread for someone likely to be facing their first PM related interview in the near future.
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