You are on page 1of 26

Because most projects involve new ideas and learning (even a project to build ho

uses or flats may involve new materials or unusual soil conditions or there may
be new initiative for tenant selection or co-ownership schemes) project manageme
nt has evolved a discipline to manage the new and unusual. Its objective is to:
o define the project
o reduce it to a set of manageable tasks
o obtain appropriate and necessary resources
o build a team or teams to perform the project work
o plan the work and allocate the resources to the tasks
o monitor and control the work
o report progress to senior management and/or the project sponsor
o close down the project when completed
o review it to ensure the lessons are learnt and widely understood.

Typically a project manager will be nominated to lead a project and will be expe
cted to be fully accountable for meeting its objectives. The project manager wil
l be the leader of the project team and will be responsible for ensuring the fol
lowing are completed in a timely way:-
* Gaining approval for the project aim and terms of reference
* Selecting and leading the team and setting individual objectives
* Ensuring a feasibility study is complete
* Ensuring that the project is planned in appropriate detail
* Allocating and monitoring the work and cost
* Motivating the team
* Reporting progress back to the organisation
* Helping the team to solve project problems
* Achieve, through the team, the goals
* Reviewing and closing down
Milestone Planning
Milestone planning is used to show the major steps that are needed to reach the
goal on time. When several tasks have been completed the milestone is reached. I
t is often used at senior manager reviews.
What are Milestones? Why are they called Milestones?
Imagine you are walking along the road and you see a milestone that says 20 mile
s to London so you keep walking and later you see one that says 10 miles to Lond
on. Now you know that you are going in the right direction and you have made som
e progress. That is the principle of project milestones. For example, if the pro
ject is to build a house then completing each significant chunk of work could be
considered a milestone on the road to building the house. For example the miles
tones might be:-
* Planning permission granted
* Foundations laid
* Walls constructed
* Roof built
* Fixtures, fittings and services completed
* Garden landscaped
* House inspected and approved
* House sold
For simple projects, a milestone plan may be the only plan required.
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 interdepartmentally.
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 ea
ch 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 im
portant role.
9. Tell me about a situation where your loyalty was challenged. What did you do?
10. In what types of situations is it best to abandon loyalty to your manager?
11. In today s business environment, when is loyalty to your manager particularly
12. Why are you interested in this position?
13. Describe what you think it would be like to do this job every day.
14. What do you believe qualifies you for this position?
15. What have you learned from your failures?
16. Of your previous jobs, which one did you enjoy the most? What did you like t
he most/least? Why? What was your major accomplishment? What was your biggest fr
17. Tell me about special projects or training you have had that would be releva
nt to this job.
18. What are some things that you would not like your job to include?
19. What are your current work plans? Why are you thinking about leaving your pr
esent job?
20. Describe an ideal job for you.
21. What would you do if you found out that a contractor was in a conflict of in
terest situation?
22. If I were to contact your former employee, what would he say about your deci
sion-making abilities?
23. Give me an example of a win-win situation you have negotiated.
24. Tell me about your verbal and written communication ability. How well do you
represent yourself to others? What makes you think so?
25. Give me an example of a stressful situation you have been in. How well did y
ou handle it? If you had to do it over again, would you do it differently? How d
o you deal with stress, pressure, and unreasonable demands?
26. Tell me about a tough decision you had to make?
27. Describe what you did at your work place yesterday.
28. How would you solve the following technical problem? (Describe a typical sce
nario that could occur in the new position.)
29. What strengths did you bring to your last position?
30. Describe how those contributions impacted results?
31. What are the necessary steps to successful project management?
32. How do you plan for a project?
33. What is important to consider when planning a (your type of project)?
34. What are things that you have found to be low priority when planning for (yo
ur type of project)?
35. What distinguishes a project from routine operations?
36. What are the three constraints on a project?
37. What are the five control components of a project?
38. What qualifications are required to be an effective project manager?
39. What experience have you had in project management?
40. Name five signs that indicate your project may fail.
41. Tell us about a project in which you participated and your role in that proj
42. When you are assigned a project, what steps do you take to complete the proj
43. As you begin your assignment as a project manager, you quickly realise that
the corporate sponsor for the project no longer supports the project. What will
you do?
44. Your three month project is about to exceed the projected budget after the f
irst month. What steps will you take to address the potential cost overrun?
45. Tell us about a successful project in which you participated and how you con
tributed to the success of that project.
46. You are given the assignment of project manager and the team members have al
ready been identified. To increase the effectiveness of your project team, what
steps will you take?
47. You have been assigned as the project manager for a team comprised of new em
ployees just out of college and entry-level consulting staff. What steps can you t
ake to insure that the project is completed against a very tight time deadline?
48. What is a project milestone ?
49. What is project float ?
50. Your project is beginning to exceed budget and to fall behind schedule due t
o almost daily user change orders and increasing conflicts in user requirements.
How will you address the user issues?
51. 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 r
52. Describe what you did in a difficult project environment to get the job done
on time and on budget.
53. What actions are required for successful executive sponsorship of a project?
54. How did you get your last project?
55. What were your specific responsibilities?
56. What did you like about the project and dislike about the project?
57. What did you learn from the project?
58. Tell me about a time when you ran into any difficult situations. How did you
handle them?
59. Tell me about the types of interaction you had with other employees.
60. Tell me of an accomplishment you are particularly proud of and what it entai
61. Do you have people from your past consulting services who would provide a pr
ofessional reference?
62. What other similar consulting or independent contractor services have you re
63. Discuss how you would envision working as an independent contractor or consu
ltant for us.
64. What conflicting responsibilities will you have?
65. What would be your specific goals for this new role as a consultant or indep
endent contractor?
66. What experience do you have that you think will be helpful?
67. This assignment will require a lot of [describe]. Will that be a problem for
68. This assignment will require interacting with [describe the types of people]
. What experience do you have working with such people?
69. What would you like to get from this new assignment?
70. What are two common but major obstacles for a project like this? What would
you do in the face of these obstacles to keep your team on schedule?
71. What is project charter? What are the elements in a project charter?
72. Which document will you refere for future decisions?
73. How will you define scope?
74. What is the output of scope definition process?
75. What is quality management?
76. Do you inspect or plan for quality ?
77. What is EVM? how will you use it in managing projects?
78. What is a project? and what is program?
79. What are project selection methods?
80. Which tool would you use to define, manage and control projects?
81. What is risk management and how will you plan risk response?
82. What are outputs of project closure?
83. What are the methods used for project estimation?
84. What methods have you used for estimation?
85. How would you start a project?
86. If you were to deliver a project to a customer, and timely delivery depended
upon a sub-supplier, how would you manage the supplier? What contractual agreem
ents would you put in place?
87. In this field (the field you are interviewing for), what are three criticall
y important things you must do well as a project manager in order for the projec
t to succeed?
88. What metrics would you expect to use to determine the on-going success of yo
ur project?
89. How are your soft skills? Can you sell the project to a team?
90. You have a team member who is not meeting his commitments, what do you do?
91. Companies have historically looked at technical skills, but more and more bu
siness managers are realizing that not have people skills tend to cripple projects
92. How many projects you handled in the past? Deadlines met? On time/ within bu
dget? Obstacles you had to overcome?
93. Do you understand milestones, interdependencies? Resource allocation?
94. Do you know what Project Software the new company uses and is there training
for it?
95. Tell me about yourself. (To avoid rambling or becoming flustered, plan your
96. What are your strengths? (Make an exhaustive list and review it exhaustively
before the interview.)
97. What are your weaknesses? (What you say here can and will be used against yo
98. How would your current (or last) boss describe you?
99. What were your boss s responsibilities? (Interviewers sometimes ask this quest
ion to prevent you from having the chance to claim that you did your boss s job. B
e ready for it!)
100. What s your opinion of them? (Never criticize your past or present boss in an
interview. It just makes you look bad!)
Give me an example of how you used your leadership skills to help your project t
eam meet a difficult challenge.
An effective project manager needs to lead though setting goals and using the ri
ght methods to guide and influence the project team towards goal attainment. Goo
d leaders enable team members to feel they have a real stake in the project and
encourage them to participate in problem-solving and decision-making.
When answering project manager interview questions about leadership show how you
understand the need to communicate and consult but are also aware that lots of
talking and procrastination achieves nothing without deciding and taking action.
Effective project managers lead by example and are open and honest about the cha
llenges they face. They recognize the important of collective team effort in ach
ieving the desired results. They are able to identify and use the strengths of e
ach team member and allocate roles and responsibilities accordingly.
This empowers team members to respond to the challenges that arise. Those that e
xcel as project managers keep the project team motivated to give of their best t
o meet these challenges. They understand the appropriate management style to use
with each team member at the different stages of team development. They know ho
w to best utilize the competencies of the team and each team member to deal with
challenges and problems.
Describe a time when your communication and interpersonal skills helped in deali
ng with difficult clients or team members.
After leadership, the ability to communicate effectively with people at all leve
ls is regarded as the second most important project manager skill. Good project
management requires clear communication about objectives, roles, responsibilitie
s, performance, expectations and feedback. The project manager should be able to
effectively influence and persuade clients and the team to ensure success. Expl
icit guidelines and expectations should be communicated to accomplish results.
project manager interview questions
When answering this question it is important to show how you are able to adapt y
our style of communication to the person you are dealing with. Empathy, understa
nding and self-awareness all play a role in doing this. The ability to communica
te with different individuals on various levels with diverse project interests i
s important for successful project management. Every project team and every proj
ect is different, you must be able to adjust your style to their needs.
Included in communication skills is the ability to be enthusiastic about the sha
red goals and vision. Enthusiastic project managers are committed to their goals
and express this through optimistic and confident communication.

Give an example of a win-win situation you negotiated

In all projects there are a number of stakeholders who all see their concerns an
d issues as the most important. Effective project management means responding by
finding the best solutions that address the issues without compromising the oth
er stakeholders or the overall project.
In your answer show how you are able to communicate essential information and wo
rkable alternatives in a way that gains acceptance. Your ability to understand t
he position of the other person and to focus on solutions rather than problems i
s key to effective negotiation on a project.
What was the most stressful aspect of your last project and how did you deal wit
h it?
Very few projects stay on schedule, under budget and with no major problems. The
ability to handle stressful situations is key to successful project management.
Limited resources and time, changing demands and new circumstances all result i
n stress on the project manager.
Show how you are able to stay calm under pressure and plan to reduce stress focu
sing on aspects such as your people management, technology management, risk mana
gement and expectation management.
Tell me about a situation during a recent project when you had to adapt and mana
ge change
Show that you can adjust effectively to meet changing demands and tasks. An effe
ctive project manager can quickly assess a new situation and adapt to it. The ch
ange management process is critical to the success of a project.
Each change needs to be properly defined, considered and approved before it is i
mplemented. Focus on developing a plan for change that addresses change on both
a process level and on a people level. Careful and well thought-out preparation
of the stakeholders for change and the ability to overcome resistance are key to
successful change management. Your answer should emphasize your ability to plan
properly and thoroughly for change.
Questions That Examine Leadership Potential
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 interdepartmentally.
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 ea
ch 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 im
portant role.
Questions That Examine Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
9. Why are you interested in this position?
10. Describe what you think it would be like to do this job every day.
11. What do you believe qualifies you for this position?
12. What have you learned from your failures?
13. Of your previous jobs, which one did you enjoy the most? What did you like t
he most/least? Why? What was your major accomplishment? What was your biggest fr
14. Tell me about special projects or training you have had that would be releva
nt to this job.
15. What are some things that you would not like your job to include?
16. What are your current work plans? Why are you thinking about leaving your pr
esent job?
17. Describe an ideal job for you.
Questions That Examine Judgment
18. What would you do if you found out that a contractor was in a conflict of in
terest situation?
19. If I were to contact your former employee, what would he say about your deci
sion-making abilities?
20. Give me an example of a win-win situation you have negotiated.
21. Tell me about your verbal and written communication ability. How well do you
represent yourself to others? What makes you think so?
22. Give me an example of a stressful situation you have been in. How well did y
ou handle it? If you had to do it over again, would you do it differently? How d
o you deal with stress, pressure, and unreasonable demands?
23. Tell me about a tough decision you had to make?
Questions That Examine Experience
24. Describe what you did at your work place yesterday.
25. How would you solve the following technical problem? (Describe a typical sce
nario that could occur in the new position.)
26. What strengths did you bring to your last position?
27. Describe how those contributions impacted results?
Linda Zaval, PMP, is the author of "The Project Manager's Toolkit" and President
of 20/20 Solutions, Inc. an Oregon based project management consulting company.
Ms. Zaval can be reached at

What is a project?
The term project seems to be a buzzword that means a lot of different things
to different people. Anything, for example, from a secretary's "project" to cle
an out an old filing cabinet to an engineer's "project" to create a multi-millio
n dollar facility. Even these extremes have one thing in common: the application
of work or effort to create a new situation or product, where "product" is used
in its broadest sense. So a project can be any undertaking with a definite star
ting point and one or more defined objectives the completion of which spell out
the end of the project. It should be added that for one reason or another most p
rojects are restricted by limits imposed on resources (effort, equipment and mat
erials) time and money.
back to question page2. Why do I need project management?
Another way of asking this question is "What if I don't bother with project
management?" The fact is, all projects demand some degree of attention to make t
hem happen. Even the secretary needs to deliberately plan to set aside some time
to clean out that filing cabinet, otherwise the job will never get done! Believ
e it or not exactly the same holds true no matter what the size of the project.
Indeed, the bigger the project the more difficult it is to get it started.
But most projects also require some degree of coordination of resources, and
unless this is carefully planned either things will be done in the wrong order
or there will be constant conflict and crisis. All of which will ultimately cons
ume a lot more resources, time and money than necessary.
back to question page3. Why do projects need planning?
A fundamental of managing projects is first to plan and then to accomplish.
Of course, good project management is a lot more complex as we shall see shortly
. In the simplest of terms, if you do not know where you are going you neither k
now how to get there nor even when you have arrived! Moreover, it doesn't really
matter which road you take nor how long it takes to get there.
So a good project plan is like a route map the destination is clearly spelle
d out and the best way to get there is chosen before starting.
back to question page4. What level of project management do I need?
This is a difficult question to answer because it very much depends on the s
ize, duration and technical complexity of the project, as well as how many peopl
e are involved. Some projects have been successfully run by a project manager "k
eeping it all in his head". That may be fine, but when the project manager falls
sick so does the project! If you are managing a project for someone else (your
client) then at a very minimum you should plan on ways and means to track the de
finition of the client's requirements and/or assumptions made, the standard of q
uality agreed upon that will serve the client's purpose, the time available for
completion, and the budget for the work.
As projects increase in size and complexity, increasingly sophisticated syst
ems and procedures are available to track each of these core functions. On even
larger projects it may well be necessary to have trained and dedicated staff att
ending to each function separately.
back to question page5. If I am empowered, why do I need project management?
If you have been empowered it probably (or should) mean that you have been g
iven the authority and responsibility to undertake the work necessary without co
nstant surveillance and supervisory intervention. It should also mean that you h
ave been given a coherent and articulated vision of the thing to be achieved and
, subject to appropriate reporting (accountability), you are left to get on with
the job. If you are the only person involved in the work then all you have to w
orry about is your own time and resources required to accomplish the task at han
d. To do a job well, even that takes personal training and mental discipline.
As soon as others are involved, they are entitled to the same consideration
and to share the empowerment process. It means building a committed and coordina
ted team environment, which is one of the key elements of good project managemen
t successfully managing and coordinating human resources.
The manager who believes that it is their prerogative alone to organize, dir
ect and control the entire project is doomed to poor results. Empowered people w
ork more enthusiastically, respond faster, take a pride in their work and the re
sults show up in the timeliness and quality of the product.
On the other side of the coin, your own empowerment means nothing if those f
rom whom you will need support for the project have not been properly informed,
especially in a matrix type of environment as most organizations really are. So
check it out. If anyone is not aware of your new authority and responsibility, g
o back and ask for the situation to be clarified.
back to question page6. Is that all there is to project management?
That is by no means all. There are many aspects to good project management t
hat require attention. In summary these may be identified as the management of s
cope, quality, time cost, risk, human resources, contract/procurement and commun
Each of these eight functional areas, as they are called, will require caref
ul integration. In addition, a successful project is not only one which meets it
s objectives on paper but is also seen to be successful. In other words it satis
fies the customers. The eight functions together with the considerations of inte
gration and stakeholder satisfaction are the ten attributes of effective project
back to question page7. If I only have a small project, do I really need to bo
ther with all of that?
In any project of any size, each of these ten attributes requires some degre
e of attention. However, the extent of that attention will vary according to the
nature and content of the project in question. If you want to reap the satisfac
tion and recognition of the successful project manager, consider them all! So le
t's look at each in turn.
back to question page8. How important are the stakeholders?
The most important stakeholder, of course, is your client or customer. Howev
er, that may be more than one person the sponsor and the user, for example. But
there can also be many other stakeholders as in the case of environmentally sens
itive or publicly exposed projects. Such situations require special management a
ttention. Even in a simple project, such as introducing an administrative change
, there will likely be people who are indirectly affected and who should be cons
back to question page9. How do I get started?
At one and the same time this step is perhaps the most important and least u
nderstood of all the steps in the project management process. Whole books have b
een written on this topic alone, yet there are a few basic guidelines which are
1. Make sure you know who is your primary client, to whom you will be rep
orting on project progress, and from whom you will be receiving direction as the
project process evolves.
2. Make sure that you understand your client's goals and objectives and t
hat you will be able to document them in increasing detail as part of developing
a project plan which you will eventually be able to execute.
3. Make sure you understand the context of the project Why is it being do
ne? Why now? What are the implications and consequently the risks that will be f
aced? Do the delivery date and budget look realistic? What are the tangible and
intangible benefits? Does it look like the project is worth doing at all? In sho
rt, will it be successful?
4. Document all of this and, together with any assumptions that you may h
ave to make, obtain your client's concurrence. You may well be faced with some h
ard negotiating to do, but in the end you will have an initiation document which
, once approved by the appropriate funding authority, will be your project manda
te to proceed and give you the best chance for success.
With this out of the way, you are now off and running and the next steps wil
l be to build a project team, develop a project plan and identify the additional
information and resources required for the project.
back to question page10. What is a successful project?
Since every project has an element of newness about it there will be risks a
nd difficulties to be surmounted. These require decisions and possibly trade-off
s between competing project objectives such as cost and time, but in the last an
alysis, the successful project is one which satisfies the client and the stakeho
lders, and is seen to do so in its most important dimension, quality. Quality is
defined as conformance to requirements.
back to question page11. How do I get my project organized?
Every project that involves more than one person requires a project team to
get the work done. Without doubt, building a motivated project team will be your
primary and most critical task, because the success of the project will rely he
avily on choosing the right team members and gaining their commitment to the pro
ject's objectives. If possible, assembling the project team and dividing the pro
ject's scope into manageable pieces (developing a work breakdown structure) shou
ld go hand in hand. In this way, help and ideas are obtained in developing the p
roject plan and, as the skills required to execute the project plan become appar
ent, so can additional people resources be identified and recruited as necessary
Politically, it will be prudent to utilize the abilities of permanently assi
gned staff to fulfil these requirements but if there are required skills that ar
e not available, then other sources must be identified and pursued. Many texts h
ave been written on identifying suitable team members, securing their commitment
and maintaining their motivation, subjects which are beyond the scope of this p
resentation. Nevertheless, this part of a project manager's job is probably the
most time consuming and, as stated earlier, the most critical. It may also be th
e most difficult and makes the difference between the effective and the ineffect
ive manager. Remember, projects are built by people!
back to question page12. What is a project plan and what does it involve?
A well integrated project plan is the primary tool for effective coordinatio
n of the work and for tracking and steering progress by appropriate initiatives.
It's the key document as a basis of reference. It's like a project bible and is
sometimes called the project brief. A project brief may also be required to obt
ain other approvals such as client commitment to the details, and funding to pro
ceed into subsequent phases of the project-life-span.
A good project brief will set out the goals, objectives and scope of the pro
ject (its deliverables), how these are to be achieved (technical content), quali
ty (technical standards), any supplementary approvals that may be required (regu
latory), design outlines (sketches and block diagrams), the component parts (bre
akdown structure), who will be responsible for what (team responsibilities), seq
uence and timing (logic network and schedule), required budget (supporting cost
estimate), resources required for implementation (human and material), other res
ources (space, existing assets, external interfacing), financial considerations
(economics and cash flow projections), justification (the impacts and alternativ
es), and areas of uncertainty (risk), contingency and control plans.
Goals and objectives, by the way, are sometimes used interchangeably but rea
lly a goal is an overview statement while an objective is one of the components
or stepping stones of which the goal is comprised
back to question page13. What is a project life span (cycle)?
If a project is well organized, it will progress logically through several p
hases. There are four standard phases to a typical project. The first two "conce
pt" and "development" involve planning, that is to say, identifying the concept
and then developing this concept and the plan to accomplish it as we have discus
sed. This usually leads to a formal submission of the plan (project brief) at wh
ich a go or no-go decision is given on the basis of the plan. If approved, this
leads to the second two phases which are the accomplishment phases of implementi
ng and finishing. As the names imply, this means converting ideas on paper to re
ality and getting the job finished and turned over to the customer.
Of course, different people in different project environments use different
names but the principles are the same. Also, projects in different fields may re
quire the four standard phases to be broken down further into stages such as sep
arate feasibility studies; detailed design and working drawings; procurement; co
nstruction; training, commissioning and transfer.
back to question page14. How much time should planning take?
Times taken for individual projects vary considerably often due to circumsta
nces beyond the project manager's control, such as changes in market demand or e
conomic conditions. However, studies have shown that good planning for projects
in new surroundings takes roughly the same amount of time as that required for i
mplementation. Ten months of conceptual development and planning is not unreason
able for a project that will take ten months to construct. On the other hand, pl
anning for a well orchestrated plant maintenance shut-down may take several time
s as long as the shut-down itself.
back to question page15. What value does project management add?
This is very difficult to answer in traditional accounting terms because the
real value is in the quality of the end results and the avoidance of unnecessar
y delays and costs. In short, stakeholder and customer satisfaction. It's like t
aking out insurance, no one argues about taking out the right amount of insuranc
e. No one should argue about doing the right amount of project management.
Remember that Murphy, that good old proponent of humorous laws, has said "A
poorly run project will take three times as long and cost three times as much as
a well run project..." However, he also added "compared to a well run project w
hich only takes twice as long and costs twice as much." For our financial accoun
ting friends, that's a 50% saving right there!
back to question page16. Why do projects always seem to take longer than expec
Typically this is because it is relatively easy to assign time allowances to
all the activities that have been thought of, but it is the ones that have not
been thought of that take the extra time. However, there is also a tendency to b
e optimistic otherwise the project might not get approved, or "tight schedules"
are a means to keep the pressure on the project team. Many delays arise from thi
ngs that are necessary but were overlooked in preparing the plan. Even more dela
ys are due to risks that were either not fully appreciated or disregarded during
planning. The biggest and most damaging delay invariably stems from failing to
start promptly the whole project or one or more of its major activities.
back to question page17. What if I need more time?
A competent and professional project manager is always up front with the spo
nsor or senior management. The meeting may be uncomfortable but rest assured it
will be a lot worse if the situation is left to deteriorate. Besides, there may
well be more options for improving the situation available to the sponsor than t
o the project manager.
back to question page18. Why do projects always seem to cost more than expecte
Generally this seems to stem from three causes. The first may simply be an o
verly optimistic cost estimate. Occasionally under-estimating is politically mot
ivated to ensure project approval. Secondly, any schedule delays inevitably tran
slate into added costs for someone. Thirdly, because most people have difficulty
in fully understanding plans and specifications, when the sponsor or the users
see the physical results of the project they then seek changes which cost signif
icantly more to implement than they would have, had they been made at the planni
ng stage.
back to question page19. How do I best control cost?
Many people think that they are controlling cost when they approve invoices
or sign cheques. In reality, the cost is already long since committed at this st
age whether payment is made or not. Cost must be controlled at the planning stag
e. It costs little to make changes to the plans at this stage but the impact on
the final cost can be quite significant. Therefore it is essential to establish
realistic cost estimating for every component of the project before it is commit
ted to implementation.
It must also be realized that project costs that are already committed or ex
pended are sunk costs and cannot be controlled further. Only future uncommitted
costs can be affected and therefore controlled. Consequently, the primary focus
of all project management cost reports should be on estimates of future costs, a
nd hence on the total cost-to-complete of each component of the work.
back to question page20. What if I need more money?
The same applies here as in Question 17. However, the options that are open
will depend on how far the project has already advanced. Generally there are two
options. The first is to seek and obtain more project funding. The second is to
reduce the scope of the project. Theoretically, a third option is to reduce the
quality of some of the components of the project. However, this is not recommen
ded as the impacts are usually marginal at best and at worst may lead to signifi
cantly greater costs during the subsequent life of the product.
More innovative and frequently very successful is to develop an alternative
and more cost-effective solution to one or more of the project's objectives. The
re are techniques for doing this, such as value analysis, a technique which usua
lly involves broad and expert consultations.
back to question page21. Can surprises be reduced?
Yes, definitely! By their very nature, projects are uncertain business and u
ncertainty can lead to both risk and opportunities. Consequently, a very importa
nt part of a project manager's job is management of risk (Risk Management). The
idea is to move potential uncertainties away from risk (i.e. adverse time and co
st implications) and towards opportunity (that will enhance the project and make
it more successful). To do this, potential risks must first be identified and p
referably grouped in some way, analysed and then appropriate defensive responses
initiated such as workarounds, or insurance. Failing that, prepare contingency
plans as a precaution.
back to question page22. What is a task manager?
Terminology in the project business is very confusing. Different people and
different organizations use different names to mean different things in differen
t circumstances and there is no well established set of standard definitions. Ge
nerally there is a hierarchical set of words which run from top to bottom as fol
lows: Program, Project, Function, Process, Activity and Task. Interestingly, alt
hough the leader of any one of these may have different names, the management co
ncepts involved are virtually identical. Moreover, the role of the leader of a p
articular task may be just as important to the overall success of a project as a
nother apparently higher up the chain.
back to question page23. How do I get resources?
We must presume that the requisite planning as discussed in Question 12 has
been completed and the resulting plan approved for implementation. In that case,
the required resources needed for the project must be secured by means of commi
tments. If the resources concerned are people from within the organization then
a release must be obtained for some or all of their time to be contributed to th
e project. Equally, it will be necessary to get their willing participation in (
i.e. commitment to) the project.
If the resources in question are of the material kind it may be necessary to
procure them by negotiating internal agreements, obtaining approval for the iss
ue of purchase orders, or by following established procedures to enter into agre
ements and contracts. Such contracts then represent legal and financial obligati
ons of the project and ultimately of the sponsoring organization.
back to question page24. How do I organize and apply resources?
The first and most important step in the implementation phase is to re-visit
the project plan (or the project brief) and to make sure that it is still up-to
-date. No doubt new information or a better understanding of the project will no
w be available. In any case, the plan will most likely require further detail, a
nd one of the best ways of getting people started and organized is to have them
review their part of the work (work package) and to set about coordinating it wi
th each of the other parts.
In this way a comprehensive and detailed plan can be built up by a team of p
eople who each understand their participation and responsibility and are committ
ed to the success of the project. Each party must then be instructed by the proj
ect manager to proceed as agreed and to apply their particular resources accordi
back to question page25. What do project managers do?
First of all a project manager must take responsibility for leading the proj
ect effort towards the stated and agreed upon goals and objectives of the projec
t. He or she must also have a very clear idea of what constitutes the successful
conclusion of the project and work towards that end.
Along the way, the project manager has a number of duties to fulfill such as
helping the sponsor to understand the details of the project where changes (sco
pe changes) may be required, planning and contingency planning, scheduling, comm
unication (technical and project public relations) progress reporting, coordinat
ion and supervision. All of this must be carried out as necessary to ensure the
proper and efficient execution of the work by all those involved.
back to question page26. What communication do I need?
Communication is perhaps one of the most important functions of a project ma
nager and yet sometimes the least understood. Without people there is no activit
y, but without communication there is no action! Consequently, communication mus
t be relevant, reliable and timely. It must inform in both technical and non-tec
hnical terms and above all, it must be concise and understandable to avoid mista
kes and waste of time.
back to question page27. Where can I get help?
There are many sources of help such as books, educational programs, active s
ocieties and the Internet. But why not just pick up the phone and talk to your n
earest project management association? They will be pleased to offer guidance an
d maybe even to participate.

Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated
your coping skills (stress tolerance)
The interviewer wants to know whether you are able to perform under pressure and
cope with difficult situations. Show that you can stay calm under pressure and
are able to plan to reduce stress.
sample interview question
"I worked for a manager who used to yell at me when he was under pressure to mee
t deadlines. (Situation)
I got upset the first couple of times and then I decided to talk to him about it
. I empathized with the stress he was under and suggested that he communicated h
is expectations clearly to me on a daily basis so that I knew exactly when he ne
eded something and I could also give him feedback on progress. We arranged an ea
rly morning feedback meeting every day. (Action)
This helped as we were able to sort out issues immediately and anticipate likely
problems." (Result)
Here is a behavioral question that explores the candidate's resilience.
Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback from your manager or su
pervisor. How did you handle this?(resilience)
The interviewer is looking at your ability to handle disappointment and rejectio
n. Show how you handle criticism whilst maintaining enthusiasm and performance.
"I had worked hard on a presentation to a potential customer. My boss told me th
at he was disappointed in the quality of the information I presented and that th
e customer had not been impressed. (Situation)
I was surprised as I felt I had prepared well but I asked my boss to go through
the presentation with me again and explain exactly what the problems were. He po
inted out outdatedinformation and I realized that I had not used the most recent
financial information in my preparation. I researched the updated information a
nd asked if I could rework things and prepare a new proposal for the customer. H
e agreed. Once I had sent the proposal I followed up with the customer to ask if
he had any queries or wanted to discuss anything with me. (Action)
We didn't get that particular contract but the company has asked us to submit a
proposal for some other business." (Result)
Tell me about a time you had to quickly adjust your work priorities to meet chan
ging demands (Adaptability)
In this sample interview question the interviewer wants to know if you can effec
tively perform in different environments and with different tasks, people and re
sponsibilities. Show that you can adjust your actions to meet changing demands a
nd tasks.
"I was in the middle of drawing up my departmental budget when I was asked to pu
t together a costing for a big project we were tendering for. (Situation)
I made an outline of the information I needed immediately for the costing and as
signed a portion to each of my staff. I spent the next couple of days drawing up
schedules of the tasks that needed to be carried out to complete the costing an
d meeting with staff members to brief them and get feedback. I was then able to
re focus on completing the budget on time. (Action)
The costing was completed on time, each staff member really contributed and I di
dn't miss my budget deadline". (Result)
Describe a time that you demonstrated the ability to be an effective team member
(team work)
This behavioral interview question is looking at your ability to build relations
hips and contribute to team success. Show how you worked effectively with the te
am, put team goals ahead of your own goals and made a valued contribution to the
team output.

" I was transferred to a new department and a new team at my last company. The t
eam members were not welcoming and displayed this by not including me in discuss
ions and communications. (Situation)
I asked each team member to meet individually and informally with me to discuss
their expectations of me as part of their team. I was able to explain that I und
erstood their reluctance to trust and accept me straight off but that I wanted t
o contribute positively.
We discussed team objectives, individual roles and working styles and started to
develop a rapport with each other. I made sure that I asked for their advice an
d feedback initially and gradually I earned their trust. (Action)
The team learned to be more flexible in their approach to new staff members and
I learned that one has to earn trust and acceptance. Our team works really cohes
ively towards its goals now." (Result)
Another of the common interview questions that comes up in behavioral interviews
explores your leadership skills.
Tell me how you went about setting the goals for your department and gaining com
mitment from your staff (leadership)
The interviewer wants to know how you lead through goals, vision and values and
how you use appropriate methods to guide staff towards goal accomplishment. Show
how you are able to set goals and influence your staff to achieve them.
"I needed to set the departmental objectives for the next six months. (Situation
I referred to the company's vision and goals for the next two years to decide wh
ich activities and tasks my department should concentrate on. I clearly communic
ated the relationship between our department goals and the company's goals to my
staff and explained which activities would best result in achieving these goals
. (Action)

"The staff really benefited from having a clear idea of the company vision and h
ow we could contribute to achieving this. Understanding the big picture meant th
ey were able to see how each of them were an essential part of the company's suc
cess and this motivated them towards goal attainment." (Result)
Describe a situation when you negotiated with others in your organization to rea
ch agreement (negotiation skills)
The interviewer is exploring your ability to communicate information or alternat
ives in a manner that gains agreement and acceptance. Show how you are able to l
ook at the position of others, present alternatives and reach an agreement that
is positive for both parties.
"My manager presented me with an unreasonable deadline to complete a project. (S
I asked him how he had determined the deadline. He said that it was based on his
deadline to present the project to the CEO. I outlined every step that needed t
o be taken to complete the project and how long each step would realistically ta
ke. We discussed possible ways of reducing these time frames. I suggested alloca
ting more resources to the project. He asked me to put together a project propos
al that covered what we had discussed and he would use this to negotiate with th
e CEO for a more realistic time line. (Action)
We were able to settle on a plan that worked for both of us." (Result)
Use these sample answers for questions that come up time and again in behavioral
interviews to help formulate your own behavioral examples.
Describe what you do to control mistakes in your work (attention to detail)
In asking this behavioral interview question the interviewer wants to know if yo
u are able to accurately complete your tasks with close attention to all aspects
of your work.
Show that you are concerned with maintaining accuracy and check your work for er
In my last position I had to make all the travel arrangements for my manager. (S
I listened carefully, noted down what she needed and then read it back to her to
confirm that I had it right. I would also follow up with a detailed email to ch
eck again.
Once I had made the arrangements I would set up a time to give her feedback and
check I had everything she needed.
I then followed this up with an email with all the confirmed details. (Action)
This was time-consuming for both of us but it meant that no errors were made in
the arrangements. It would have been more frustrating and costly not to have mad
e such thorough checks" (Result)
Tell me about a time that you were not satisfied with your work performance. Wha
t did you do about it? (Work Standards)
All interview questions around work performance are designed to explore whether
you set high standards for yourself and strive to meet these standards. What do
you consider to be a "high standard"? Show how you attempt to attain high perfor
mance standards and correct substandard performance.
"My performance review rating was lower than I had expected or wanted. (Situatio
I met with my manager to establish a plan of action for improvement and set very
specific targets to be met on a monthly basis. I worked hard to meet these targ
ets and constantly monitored my performance. I also asked for regular feedback a
bout my performance. (Action)
After six months, my boss conducted another review and my rating was much higher
." (Result)
Describe a situation in which you had to schedule your activities to meet an obj
ective (planning and organizing)
all interview questions
The interviewer is exploring your ability to set objectives and schedule and pri
oritize your activities appropriately. Show how you are able to establish a cour
se of action, allocate resources accordingly and plan tasks to reach objectives.
"I had to complete a training report every month. This involved collating and pr
esenting a large amount of information. (Situation)
I scheduled all the data collecting tasks. Each department was given a monthly d
eadline to submit information to me and I scheduled reminders to be sent out bef
ore the deadline. I set aside a time in my diary each month to collate all thein
formation and check it. Then I allocated time for drawing up and presenting the
report. (Action)
This worked well and I always comfortably met my deadline." (Result)
Describe a difficult problem you had to sort out in your last job (Problem-solvi
behavioral interview questions
This behavior based interviewing question is designed to explore your ability to
identify, analyze and solve problems.
Show how you are able to gather and organize the necessary information and ident
ify the best solution.
Here is a sample behavioral interview answer that you can use as a guide to deve
lop your own good answer.
"We were getting a lot of complaints about late deliveries. (Situation)
I met with the staff involved in the customer delivery department and discovered
that the problem seemed to be with the stock coming through on time.
I investigated and found that requests for new inventory were not been processed
fast enough. The backlog was in the orders department as they were not followin
g up adequately with the suppliers. A system for regular follow up was quickly i
mplemented. (Action)
This sorted out the stock problems and the delivery staff were able to meet thei
r deadlines." (Result)
Describe a new idea or suggestion that you made to your supervisor recently (ini
The interviewer wants to know if you are proactive and able to generate workable
ideas. Show how you are a self-starter who will take action beyond what is aske
d of you.
behavioral interview questions
" I work in orders and the company was launching a new product. The sales team h
ad in-depth training on it but we had none. (Situation)
I suggested that the orders department should also receive the training so that
we would understand what was being ordered and be able to answer any questions i
f necessary. It was agreed we would all undergo a short version of the training.
This meant that we could deal professionally with the orders and it also motivat
ed us, feeling part of the launch excitement." (Result)
Tell me about a time that you had to use your judgment and make a decision in yo
ur previous job (judgment/decision-making)
The interviewer is exploring your ability to make logical decisions and take act
ion. Show how you consider all the relevant facts, weigh up the alternatives and
commit to the most appropriate action.
"I was responsible for ordering office supplies for the company. (Situation)
The company always ordered a month's supply at a time to keep inventory costs lo
w. I had to decide whether to keep doing this or buy six month's supply and get
a discount for ordering such a big volume and escape possible future price incre
ases. I did some research and worked out we could reduce our costs by buying for
six months, especially since the amount we used remained practically unchanged
month on month. (Action)
I was right, the prices went up quite a bit during those six months." (Result)
What management style have you found to be most effective?
The interviewer is evaluating your ability to adapt your management style to dif
ferent people and circumstances. Describe how you are able to employ different m
anagement styles and interpersonal skills to get the best out of the situation.
Give reasons why you use a particular management style in a certain situation an
d why it works. For example:
"I find that it is not effective to use only one type of management style, I hav
e to adapt according to the individual I am dealing with and the situation. For
example with inexperienced employees I use a management style that involves a hi
gh level of task instruction and close supervision. I find this effective becaus
e the employee needs to be secure that they know exactly what to do and how to d
o it. They also require constant support to build their confidence. For a more e
xperienced employee who is comfortable with the work, I delegate the task and ex
pect them to come to me for help if they need it. This demonstrates my trust in
their ability to do the job on their own."
Work-force diversity has important implications. Managers need to be able to rec
ognize employee differences and respond to those differences in ways that ensure
effective working relationships. Management interview questions will include:
What type of people do you work with most effectively?
This is basically asking what type of employees do you get on with and what type
of employees do you find it difficult to work with.
management interview questions
This is an important question because it again evaluates the flexibility of your
management style. Are you able to communicate and interact effectively with a v
ariety of individuals? Are you able to establish good working relationships with
a diverse group of employees?
"I work well with people who are hardworking, competent and confident of their a
bilities. Obviously I have had to manage people who do not fall into this catego
ry. When this happens I set myself the challenge of developing the employee and
helping them to use their skills to their fullest potential. My goal is to suppo
rt them towards competence and confidence through guidance, direction and mentor
What aspect of your management style would you like to change?
No-one is the perfect manager so denying that you have any areas for improvement
shows a lack of self-awareness and insight. Focus on an aspect of your manageme
nt style that you're working to improve. Describe the steps you're taking and gi
ve evidence on your progress.
"I have been trying not to give my employees the answers when they ask for help
with a problem. They need to learn how to come up with the solutions themselves
and I need to guide and facilitate this process. I have read up on how to do thi
s and have put these facilitation skills into practice.
For example, I allocate however much time is needed to sit down with the employe
e and work through the problem. We discuss it, I give my view of the situation a
nd then ask the employee to go away and think about the best solution."
The manager's relationship with his or her employees is determined by the manage
ment style employed. This relationship, because of the current economic downturn
and downsizing, is more vulnerable than ever before. Expect tough management in
terview questions that explore your ability to handle diverse employees and chan
ging work situations. Prepare insightful interview answers that highlight your a
bility to effectively do this.

Competency - Communication Skills

All jobs involve some form of communication. Expect to be asked questions that e
xplore this competency or ability in your job interview.
Give me an example from your previous job where you had to rely on information g
iven to you verbally to complete a task.
Your listening skills are under the spotlight here. Your situational example sho
uld include the following - the ability to actively listen, ask questions to cla
rify, rephrase the information back to the sender to ensure accuracy, successful
completion of the task.
Give me an example of a complex process or task you had to explain to another pe
rson or group of people.
Are you able to effectively express yourself verbally? Include the ability to ad
apt your level of communication (words and terminology) to the target audience,
actively listen to questions and requests for more information, check for unders
tanding by asking for feedback.
Tell me about a challenging writing assignment or important report you had to pr
epare recently.
Your situational or behavioral example should demonstrate an ability to clearly
express your ideas in writing. Include how you can gather, organize and present
data in a logical and concise manner in a style appropriate to the target reader
situational interview questions
Competency - Interpersonal Skills
Most jobs require interaction with other people - colleagues, customers, manager
s etc. Prepare for situational interview questions that explore your interperson
al effectiveness.
We have all had to work with someone who is difficult to get along with. Give me
an example of when this happened to you and how you handled it.
How sensitive, empathetic and flexible are you? Your example should show how you
are able to select the right approach to the situation or individual. Acknowled
ge differences and display empathy to others. Focus on the situation not the per
son. Anticipate reactions and prepare to deal with them.
Tell me about a situation when a colleague was less cooperative than you needed
or wanted.
Provide an example that demonstrates your use of an appropriate interpersonal st
yle to gain commitment, to ask for help and encourage involvement. Show how you
used open communication and built self-esteem to get cooperation.
Tell me about two of your colleagues/customers/employees who are very different
to each other. How do you interact with each one?
Demonstrate your ability to adapt your behavior to meet the demands of each indi
vidual. How you are able to determine the best way to approach each individual?
Describe a situation when you had to persuade someone recently to accept an idea
This focuses on your persuasiveness and ability to build rapport with others. Ho
w did you select the right approach for the situation? How did you go about esta
blishing rapport with others? How did you demonstrate the benefits of your idea
or plan and show them what's in it for them?
situational interveiw questions
Competency - Decision Making Skills and Judgment
Every employee is required to make decisions as part of their job. Situational i
nterview questions will explore your ability to use your judgment to make the ri
ght decisions.
Tell me about a good decision you made recently at work.
Your example should show how you gather all the necessary information to make a
decision. How you consider available resources and possible outcomes before maki
ng your decision.
Tell me about a recent problem you faced at work and how you found the best solu
How did you go about analyzing the problem before considering possible solutions
. Describe how you weighed the pros and cons of each option before deciding on t
he best solution.
Tell me about a mistake you made at work and how you dealt with it.
The ability to recognize and acknowledge one's mistakes is a sign of maturity an
d self-growth. Your example needs to demonstrate how you used your judgment to r
eview the situation and evaluate information to determine why it happened and wh
at measures you put in place to prevent it from occurring again.
What recent innovation have you made at work that had a positive outcome?
The focus is on how you used your initiative to generate ideas for improvement a
nd develop new approaches. How did you evaluate what needed to be changed, how d
id you decide on which changes to make and how to implement them ?
View more situational interview questions and excellent sample answers for these
competencies by clicking on the table below.
How would your co-workers describe you?
The interviewer wants to find out if you have a good understanding of how you ar
e perceived and how your behavior impacts on others. Your answer should demonstr
ate an objective view of your strengths and areas for improvement in terms of te
amwork and your interpersonal skills.
top interview questions
In your job interview answer describe the good points and perceptions but also d
iscuss one or two areas that you are aware need attention.
Emphasize what you have done to improve on these areas. This makes your answer b
oth real and insightful.
When you refer to the positive characteristics, support your answer with a quote
or paraphrase from one or two of your colleagues.
For example, "I know they considered me to be hard working. In fact, the other t
eam members often thanked me for the extra hours I put in."
Then move on to the areas for improvement.
"I know that I was initially considered intolerant if I felt they were not putti
ng in the same amount of effort as I was. I realized it was better to encourage
them to meet our deadlines by offering help where needed. This has worked much b
etter for all of us."
Use work-relevant words like good communicator, reliable, decisive, resilient, e
nergetic, team member when answering top interview questions like this.

What motivates you in your job?

This is a personal trait, there is no right or wrong answer.
top interview questions
However, you need to prepare for this job interview question and note down some
specific examples. It is often difficult to verbalize your motivation properly i
n the stressful context of a job interview.
Other interview questions will determine whether you have the skills for the job
- can you do the job. With this question the interviewer is exploring whether y
ou will be a good motivational fit with the job opportunity - will you want to d
o this job?
What does motivate you will depend on your background and work experiences, but
try to make your motivation relevant to what this job can provide.For example if
the job is a fairly isolated one do not give "working with other people" as a m
otivation! You can use this preparation as an opportunity to think about whether
this position is really suitable for you in terms of motivational fit.
Here are some sample answers to top interview questions about your motivation to
help you prepare your own answers:
"I am motivated by the challenge of difficult tasks and projects.My previous man
ager gave me more and more responsibility as I proved myself, I found this very
"It is important for me to meet the customers needs. I give them the best servic
e and when I exceed their expectations or get positive feedback it motivates me.
"I like to know that I am growing as an employee. Learning and using new skills
is a big motivator for me."
There are many different motivators.
Challenge, achievement, recognition, learning opportunities, increased responsib
ility, coaching or mentoring others, team involvement and interaction, task comp
lexity and variety are all possible answers to top interview questions about mot
What interests you most in this job?
Common Interview Questions & Answers including "What are your strengths and weak
nesses?", "Why do you want this job?" and "Why should we employ you?"
How do you define success in your job?
The best way to handle this job interview question is to provide an accepted def
inition of success and then support this with good examples of your success. One
of the well-accepted definitions of success is goal attainment. Achieving a cha
llenging goal or set of goals would be considered success by most people.
It is important to relate your job interview answer in some way to the position
you are interviewing for. Measurable and specific examples of success are more c
You can use this sample answer to help prepare your own interview answer for thi
s question.
"Success means the achievement of a challenging and measurable goal that I have
set for myself or that has been delegated to me. In my previous position I had s
pecific sales targets to meet every quarter. I set myself the goal of been up on
my monthly targets by 5 percent. I managed to exceed my quarterly targets by 8
percent on average. That, for me, was success!"
Describe your ideal job
The key to how to answer interview questions about your dream or ideal job is th
at your response should be in line with the characteristics of the job and compa
ny you are interviewing with.
Answering this question requires you to consider your strengths and weaknesses,
what you have liked and disliked about your current and previous jobs, and what
your career ambitions are.
A more general answer will help ensure a fit with the vacant position.
For example:
"My ideal job is one where my knowledge and skills are put to good use.
A job where I will learn and grow as a person and an employee and where I am giv
en challenges that test my potential."
You can also take this approach.
"I believe a job is what you make of it. Each position and company has unique ch
aracteristics that give meaning and value to that job. If you work hard and make
the most of the opportunities given, you will find job satisfaction.
I am enthusiastic about a position that allows me to learn and grow and to make
a positive and meaningful contribution."
How do you handle conflict?
The interviewer wants to know how you react to conflict and how you manage it. T
ry to focus your job interview answer on the behavioral process that you use to
resolve the conflict. Don't direct your answer at how difficult you boss or co-w
orkers are and how hard it is to work with them. This portrays you as someone wh
o does not get on easily with other people and employers want someone who gets o
n well with others.
Use your interview answer to highlight your interpersonal skills, your maturity
and your ability to stay calm in the face of difficulty.
For example: "Everyone has to deal with conflict at some point. I have found tha
t when there is conflict it helps to try and put yourself in the other person's
shoes and understand their perspective. It is important to ask questions and lis
ten to their point of view. If you know what their interpretation of the situati
on is, then it is easier to work out a solution.For example.... ( give a specifi
c example of a conflict situation and how you dealt with it)."
Emphasize the techniques you use to diffuse conflict such understanding the othe
r person's position, asking questions to find out the cause of the conflict, not
conveying blame and not becoming too emotional. Demonstrate your ability to wor
k collaboratively to reach an acceptable resolution.
Here is another of those standard interview questions that is exploring a number
of aspects at once.
What has been the most difficult situation you have had to face?
This job interview question is trying to determine two things - what your defini
tion of difficult is and how you approach challenges and problems.
void discussing difficult situations that were directly caused by you. Make sure
it is a situation that most people would consider difficult or tough.
Think of specific problems that tested your skills and abilities and had positiv
e outcomes. Highlight the way you analyzed the situation, the skills you used to
professionally deal with it and what your particular contribution to resolving
it was. Always try to end on a positive note
Examples of difficult situations include having to discipline an employee, unrea
sonable goals and deadlines, unreasonable customers and clients, adapting to cha
nge and facing unethical work practices.
Job skills that should be highlighted include common sense, perseverance, diplom
acy, maturity, stress management and assessment skills.
For example: "I have faced a number of difficult situations, but the one that co
mes to mind now is ...... ( describe the situation). I was able to deal with it
by assessing the situation, determining the possible different approaches and de
ciding on the most effective one. I had to remain unemotional and objective and
focused on a solution."
Preparing your answers to job interview questions like these sets you up for int
erview success. Click on the table above to view more standard interview questio
ns and good sample answers.

Q: How can I trust a team member with inadequate skills?

This question comes to us from a project manager who would like to remain anonym
One problem I find difficult to handle is what to do when people repeatedly do no
t deliver. If I criticize them, I am likely to lose their support and upset my c
ustomer. I have tried to coach them, praise them when possible, and thank them w
hen work is completed on time, etc.
I also try to distribute the work according to abilities, but some members abiliti
es are so poor, I know there is a good chance the work will not be done in an ac
ceptable way. So far, I just kind of ignore these people and try to find someone
who can do the work. Sometimes, I have to do the work myself.
How should you work with people who consistently have shown that they cannot deli
ver on schedule?
A: Evaluate what kind of help the team member needs
In many respects, project managers may find it easier to deal with the process s
ide of project management, including creating your workplan, managing issues, an
d risk. Your situation is more challenging because it deals with the other side
of project management managing, motivating, and leading people.
People are unique, and a solution for one person does not necessarily work with
someone else. You must also account for team dynamics, where people may behave d
ifferently because of a group culture than they might behave individually.
I recommend you look at a number of possible causes of poor performance. Think a
bout these areas separately for each person on the team where performance is a p
Do team members need a mentor or training?
Sometimes, people do not deliver up to expectations because they do not have the
right skills to do the job. For instance, you assign a person to complete the a
nalysis for a new set of reports, but they are not sure how to ask the correct q
uestions or frame a discussion with the customers. People who are late deliverin
g code may be struggling trying to understand why they are getting logic errors.
A related question is whether they have the correct level of training. They may
have the basics, but do they need to understand advanced concepts?
If anyone falls into this category, you need to decide whether they could do the
work with the right training. Training could mean a class, computer-based train
ing, or even pairing them up with someone more experienced. If they do not have
the right skills and can t be easily trained, then the question becomes whether th
ey can be replaced with someone with a better skill set for your project.
Reassigning the employee is another option. Is there a productive role that the
person can play given their set of skills and experience?
Make the expectations clear
Do the team members understand your expectations? For instance, sometimes when a
team member misses a deadline, they may come back and say that they did not thi
nk the work was due at that time. Or, instead of completing three programs on a
certain date, they may have thought they were only required to complete one.
The project manager needs to evaluate what people say when they do not fulfill e
xpectations. If there is confusion, change the system of accountability. For ins
tance, require written confirmation that the person understands the expectations
for deliverables and due dates. Or discuss assignments and status as a team so
that each person confirms their current assignments and due dates.
Address barriers to performance
Another area to consider is whether there are any business or personal factors t
hat could explain performance problems. For instance, some people on the team co
uld be distracted if your company is in the process of being purchased. Another
member of your team may show a lack of motivation because they are worrying abou
t a spouse who is ill. If you can find a cause, it will give you the chance to r
espond, or at least acknowledge the problem. Perhaps the human resources departm
ent could assist you by providing information and resources to the employee.
Change the project
Even though you have a people issue, you can also use process experience to help
mitigate the problems you are encountering.
For instance, if people are missing significant delivery dates, then you will pr
obably be at risk of watching your project fall behind schedule. In that case, y
ou can utilize risk management to consider alternatives with your team and your
customer on how to get back on track. If dates have to slip, then you have an is
sue. Raise this to your team and customer and get their feedback on how the prob
lem can be resolved.
If people are delivering late because they are doing more work than was assigned
, you may have a scope change process that needs to be addressed. If people are
not delivering the right level of quality, you may need to use quality managemen
t to set guidelines for the acceptable level of quality and what deliverables sh
ould look like.
Document all of these items in your status reports and status meetings to ensure
the customer knows what the problems are and can participate in finding solutio
ns. This is important to manage expectations. You don t have to be personal; just
use the processes.
For instance, if the dates start to slip, let the customer know the deadlines th
at are being missed on the project plan. You don t have to say that anyone is a po
or performer just state that dates are being missed and that you are looking for w
ays to correct the situation.
Consider terminating the employee
Some team members may not be willing to do the job, or they may not be able to d
o the work regardless of the training and support you provide. If you feel you a
re at this point, you need to get the human resources department involved. They
will give guidance about what types of remedies are available and acceptable wit
hin your company.
In many organizations, this strategy could lead to a period of documenting perfo
rmance expectations and results, putting a person on a formal performance plan,
and ultimately a reassignment, or termination, if necessary. (For more informati
on, read "How to fire an employee.")
Some project managers would rather take on additional work than fire an employee
. But if you ve exhausted all other options and the employee continues to perform
poorly, you should meet with human resources to consider pursuing a formal disci
plinary procedure that may lead to termination.
Project management veteran Tom Mochal is director of internal development at a s
oftware company in Atlanta. Most recently, he worked for the Coca-Cola Company,
where he was responsible for deploying, training, and coaching the IS division o
n project-management and life-cycle skills. He's also worked for Eastman Kodak a
nd Cap Gemini America and has developed a project management methodology called
We can t guarantee that Tom will answer every letter, but he will read all of his
mail and respond to the e-mails that will benefit the most TechRepublic members.
Send us your questions, and we ll forward them to Tom.
# How many projects you handled in the past? Deadlines met? On time/ within budg
et? Obstacles you had to overcome?
# Do you understand milestones, interdependencies? Resource allocation?
# Do you know what Project Software they use and is there training for it?
# Tell me about yourself. (To avoid rambling or becoming flustered, plan your an
# What are your strengths? (Make an exhaustive list and review it exhaustively b
efore the interview.)
# What are your weaknesses?(What you say here can and will be used against you!)
# How would your current (or last) boss describe you?*
# What were your boss's responsibilities? (Interviewers sometimes ask this quest
ion to prevent you from having the chance to claim that you did your boss's job.
Be ready for it!)
# What's your opinion of them? (Never criticize your past or present boss in an
interview. It just makes you look bad!)
# How would your co-workers or subordinates describe you professionally?* (Remem
ber, now is not the time for modesty! Brag a little bit.)
# Why do you want to work for us?
# Why do you want to leave your present employer?
# Why should we hire you over the other finalists?
# What qualities or talents would you bring to the job?*
# Tell me about your accomplishments.
# What is your most important contribution to your last (or current) employer?
# How do you perform under deadline pressure? Give me an example.
# How do you react to criticism? (You try to learn from it, of course!)
# Describe a conflict or disagreement at work in which you were involved. How wa
s it resolved?
# What are two of the biggest problems you've encountered at your job and how di
d you overcome them?
# Think of a major crisis you've faced at work and explain how you handled it.
# Give me an example of a risk that you took at your job (past or present) and h
ow it turned out.
# What's your managerial style like?
# Have you ever hired employees; and, if so, have they lived up to your expectat
# What type of performance problems have you encountered in people who report to
you, and how did you motivate them to improve?
# Describe a typical day at your present (or last) job.
# What do you see yourself doing five years from n Disclaimer: Contents are not
reviewed for correctness and are not endorsed or recommended by or a
ny vendor.