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Questions to Ask in the Project Management Interview

I have worked in Project Management for over a decade and in a variety of different organizations. While most organizations value the PMP ® Certification, as is evident in the many jobs descriptions where this is a “Preferred Qualification”, not all organizations prescribe to the PMBOK guidelines/framework.

In some organizations, due to extremely aggressive timelines, the project may already be in progress and the charter (which defines the scope) and or budget have not been finalized. There are also scenarios where scope creep occurs frequently due to the lack of ability to say no to the customer and project management insight into the level of effort that is received, but not considered in determining the timeline once a customer or senior leadership has a certain deadline in mind.

Project Management is a discipline and if you are like me, you were drawn to Project Management because of the process, order, and structure it provides. There is no better feeling than adding Project Management structure and organization to help an organization reach its goals. However, it can be disheartening when the skills you have acquired and honed to be a Project Management Professional are not valued. Even worse, it can lead to burnout.

I want to help mitigate the risk (see what I did there) of your joining an organization, department, or group that does not value the project management discipline and help you identify a role/organization that does.

Here are some questions to ask during the project management interview so you can determine whether a role within that organization will be a fit for you.


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Questions and Insights


1.       Do you have a centralized PMO?

If the organization has dedicated resources to building a Project Management Office, then there will be some standard practices and processes in place to promote organization, standardization, governance, and guidance for all projects. They should also provide access to deliverable and report templates. Feel free to ask more questions about the PMO so you can understand how you will be supported by the organization during your employment.


2.       How are projects approved?

There needs to be a formal approval process for projects, so the Project Manager is not inundated with too many projects. Whether you are using Agile or Waterfall methodology, managing projects takes thought and planning.


3.       What is the change management process?

Issues with changes typically arise more with Waterfall projects because with Agile projects, only certain amounts of features can be added within a sprint. If you are in a Waterfall environment and internal or external customers are frequently asking for more, there needs to be a formal process in place to assess the change requested and the impact on the project to determine if it can be completed. This way your team members aren’t overworked, or your timeline is not derailed by additional requests.


4.       What authority do Project Managers have in this organization?

Project managers are problem solvers, strategists, communicators, and much more. In some organizations, the role is more focused on administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings, taking notes, and creating status reports. While that is a component of project management, that is not the entirety of the role. Asking about the authority the Project Managers have within the organization can help you identify whether their expectations of the role and yours are aligned.


5.      How do you support your Project Manager when they have difficult clients?

Having formal processes in place to manage the project can help with difficult clients. However, there are times when the Project Manager may need support in enforcing those processes. Asking this question can help you determine whether your perspective manager will give in to client requests or if they will support you in enforcing processes and procedures.


Keep these questions in mind during your next interview. The Project Management role in the right organization can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Now you have more tools to get you to the right fit.