Guest Article, published with permission from Progile

Project Managers are increasingly being held to higher standards for delivering quality projects that successfully meet business objectives. Projects that are completed on time and within budget, but doesn’t meet the objectives can be compared to a “Ferrari without an engine”.

The Project Management Institute reports, $122 million is wasted for every $1 billion invested due to poor project performance, just within the US. A similar study done by Harvard Business Review states one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of almost 70 percent. 

Top executives are starting to recognize that the skilled and effective project managers cannot only influence projects success but can also strengthen Project Owners reputation within the organization.

However, finding that effective PM, one who can gel well with your organization, have deep domain expertise and the right level of experience can be tedious and challenging. 

To make hiring effective for our clients, at PROGILE we utilize the 10 interview ideas below to craft questions for every position we work on. The interview question ideas help us separate effective Project Experts from the effective ones. 

1. Do they understand that Project management is about people management? 

A project is not just about scope, deliverables, paperwork, and budget, it’s about relationships. Business stakeholders are people, IT execs are people, project teams are people. An effective IT Project Manager needs to be able to get along with everyone and navigate around various personalities to get things done. In order to gauge your candidates’ people skills, ask questions similar to below

– How do you deal with difficult stakeholders?

– Provide an example of how you handled an under-performing team member. 

– How do you deal with team members with extreme emotions at work? 

2. Ask about industry knowledge and experience. 

For most cases, it is recommended to hire your project manager from same industry and project background. It makes for a better fit, requires shorter ramp-up time, and ultimately increases project success. Without the similar experiences and background; project owners spend more time on knowledge transfer and may need to get involved more during the execution. In addition, up to date industry knowledge and expertise also displays that the PM you are hiring is a continuous learner and proactive in nature. To find out about their industry knowledge, ask questions similar to below?

– Where do you generally get your industry related news from? 

– Have you read the recent article on (your industry topic)?

– What was the last book you read on Project Management? 

3. Communication is #1 for any Project Manager. 

At Progile, communication is probably the most important factor we check on. PMs need to communicate vertically and horizontally. It is important to understand how they communicate with various stakeholders on a periodic basis to get things done. To get a good read on their communication skills, ask questions like.

– How do you establish a communication plan?  

– What type of information do you include in a steering committee meeting? 

– How do you conduct your weekly status calls? 

4. Get a feel for the candidate’s integrity. 

It is important that the project manager stays with the project from start to finish. When a PM leaves halfway in the projects, it can add extra stress on the project sponsor and add major risks to the project success. It is also important to know that the Project Manager shows up every day on time, prepared and ready to work. To get a read on their integrity level,  it is important to understand if they take great pride in their work? Is getting the job done well is a top priority? The questions below tend to reveal their integrity level.

– Are you currently employed, if so, what is making you look?

– If they are unemployed, what did you love about your last job and what did you think could be improved? 

– Look for their commitment level outside of work, what are your hobbies outside of work and how long have you been doing that for? 

5. Discuss the ways the Project Manager has worked to develop others on the team. 

In a way, a Project Manager must be a teacher, someone who coaches team members to do well, do better, innovate, and work to their best ability. Not all members of a team will perform at the same level, it is important that the Project Manager realizes this fact and works with the functional manager to grow underperforming members. Questions similar to below will help you understand their ability to influence and grow team members. 

– What is your process of addressing under-forming team members?

– Have you mentored and train anyone in project management in the past? 

6. Do they understand the project end-to-end? 

Do they have enough technical knowledge or past project experiences to tackle the challenges in various phases? For large projects like ERP implementations or infrastructure upgrade, it is important to bring on project managers with battle scars. Who is experienced in handling risk and issues associated with those projects? To get a feel for their understanding of a project end-to-end, ask questions like? 

– What were the major deliverables for the last project? 

– What were some “unique” challenges they face that were exclusive to the project?

7. Does the Project manager have a focus on goals? 

The end result determines the method and means. A goal-oriented focus to get things done right and quickly is important for PMs. Does your PM have the ability to drive timeline or are they driven by the team? Ask questions like

– How do you escalate an issue? 

– How do you log risks and mitigate them? 

– Provide an example of when a project was derailed and how did you bring it back on track? 

8. Talk about managing time and making priorities. 

Some tasks and segments of the project are going to take priority over others. Make sure your candidate is able to make that determination. Also, often non-critical tasks become a part of the critical path. Learn about their insights of how they manage tasks that can become a critical path item. 

– How do you build a Work Breakdown Structure?  

– How do you measure the completion of critical path items?

– What do you consider a critical path item? 

9. How do they work with managers higher up the chain? 

In some ways, a great Project Manager has to be a politician, who can work with the governing body all well as constituents. They need to have the ability to communicate upward and influence stakeholders accordingly. To get a read on their ability to communicate with stakeholders, ask them questions like,


– How do they deal with difficult stakeholders?

– Ask for an example of when they had to get two conflicting stakeholders on the same page. 

10. How did the applicant improve the project management process at their current or last job? 

This will give you an insight into what the candidate values most. Project managers need to continuously adapt to new environments. Their ability to quickly assess an environment and improve existing processes will provide an overview of their proactivity. 


– Have you ever been involved in creating Project Management templates? 

– In your last projects, what would you have done better? 

– Tell me a time when you thought that a project process could be improved? 

– What is your thought on continuous improvement?

One final note, for in-person interviews, request project managers to bring a sample of their status report and ask them to go over it with you. That will give you a real life understanding about the quality of their work. 


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Progile - Project Management Consulting

Progile - Project Management Consulting

Jagan Deb

Located in Silicon Valley, CA, Progile has a proven track record for success and versatility; we have provided IT Project Managers, Program Directors, Scrum Masters and other project management consultants to both clients and implementation partners throughout the nation. Our resource managers utilize a 360 perspective combined with their Project Management knowledge to understand client’s project goals and objectives. Using this knowledge, our Search Team strikes with precision to identify consultants suitable for every project.

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