Sunday, September 23, 2012

On Interviewing Project Managers - Notes to Self

The following post is based on my experience Interviewing people for Project Manager / Program Manager positions, primarily in the IT Software Industry. 

Pre interview stage

Job Description (JD)I believe that when you are asked to interview some one for a position, you should always start with asking for the JD. In its absence, you must insist on a JD and spend some time with the JD.

Another key thing is to ensure that the JD is shared with the interviewee in advance. This will ensure that lot of time is saved for all.

Screening the resume and preparing for the discussionOne of the pre requisite is to go through the resume of the person and take down notes. My rule of thumb is that a minimum of 15-minutes' quality time should be spent with the resume. This gives lot of insights into the person, his career and his areas of expertise.

Interviewing one on one vs interviewing as part of a teamInterviewing along with another person (we call it hunting in pairs)is also a good idea as the person who is not talking can play the role of an observer effectively

Structuring the actual Interview
Start with explaining about the organization and the role.
Then move on to the usual ' tell me about yourself'. This is more of an ice breaker, to ensure that the person feels at home and is relaxed.
Then move on to questions on the following. The areas to be covered need not strictly covered in this order, but i ensure that these are covered in alignment with the interview flow.
  • Projects executed - largest team size, SDLC phases handled, number of concurrent projects handled.
  • Projects that went bad and how it was retrieved.
  • Failed projects and lessons learnt on how not to do things
  • Challenges faced 
  • Risks and issues managed
  • Types of contracts and proposals worked
  • Customer management - geographies managed, Challenges faced and how it was overcome, with actual scenarios.
  • Problem Solving: How they approach a problem. I ask them a generic question like figuring out the length of roads in their state/country and see how they approach the problem.
  • People management - number of direct reports, team structure, challenges faced and how it was overcome with scenarios ( this is a key area and i usually try to figure out on how they solicit feedback, manage political situations, cross/cultural issues, and other personnel related concerns). 
  • Hands on: Where ever applicable, the person has to respond to queries relating it to their real life experience and not just talk theory
  • Estimation techniques like Use Case points and others
  • SDLC methodologies like   agile
  • Project management tools and proficiency - the idea is to check how well the person has understood the fundamental concepts, through the usage of the tool.
  • Certifications like PMP - why the person did the certification and what he/she learnt out of it.
  • Business Knowledge. - This is a key area since the project manager is expected to know the business he/she has worked/is working in. I try to cover the domains worked, the projects, their understanding on how it contributes to the project's customer  goals
  • Planning and budgeting- Depending on their experience and the JD, this is an area that i touch upon. This is more relevant for product management companies where the Project manager/program manager is a part of Project Management Office (PMO)
I close the conversation with ' do you have any questions to ask?' and answer the questions if any.
Interviewing a potential candidate is as much about selling the organization as it is about checking if the candidate is a right fit for the position and organization. I always remember this in mind, when i interview people for a position :-)

Post Interview
We need to ensure that feedback from the interview is shared properly, in the correct format.

Hope you find this notes useful. if there are any other areas that need to be covered, please let me know through the comments section.

Related Post:  An Integrated List of Predictors for Project Managers

*image - found on net


  1. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important.I cant believe your not more popular because some of the points are really valuable.
    engineering project

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. This post is extremely helpful for me. I am going for an interview of project manager post. Your article helps me to gather more knowledge about project management.

  3. Thank yo so much for sharing your learnning and experience on Project manager Interview.

  4. Tks very much for your post.

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