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Author: Carmen Kesho

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.

Shake up Your Stand-up

Standups are a cornerstone of Agile project management. As a Project Manager, conducting stand-ups provides a daily communication touch point with your team that allows you to build rapport while gaining a deeper understanding of each individual team member. However, after you have worked with your team for a while and established a good sprint cadence and team dynamic, the standup may lose its flare and, in some cases, its necessity.


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If your stand-ups are getting stale, try a few of these tricks to freshen your stand-ups:

  1. Have a Standup or Two Via Slack. Post-Covid, we are inundated with virtual meetings. While the daily stand-up is meant to align all team members and get the day started with a common goal in mind, that 15 minutes may slow your team down if they are in the zone and want to complete a task. Try having the team write their updates at the start of their day and share them in a slack group chat. Chime in to help remove blockers as needed. Pro tip: Send out a template with the questions and ask for the responses by a certain time daily.
  2. Reduce Frequency. If team members are working on higher pointed tasks with multiple components, there may not be a daily update. Depending on the end of your sprint, try incorporating a no standup Friday.
  3. Celebrate Wins. While the “What did I do yesterday? What will I do today? What blockers are impacting me?” format is riveting, it may get a bit monotonous. Incorporate some time to celebrate wins during the standup. Pro tip: Name someone King/Queen of developers for a day when they complete a complex feature.
  4. Incorporate Team Feedback. A team member may want to pass along some nuggets of wisdom they acquired from working on a feature, another team member might want to share a helpful article or tutorial. Again, to keep to the true nature of the standup, it needs to be concise and contribute to the completion of tasks and the betterment of the team’s performance. Sharing knowledge helps attain both of those goals.
  5. Stand-up and Move. If you are working on-site and can meet with your team in person, have a walking stand-up. Walk with the team to get coffee or around the courtyard at your office space. If walking won’t work, get a stress ball, and pass it around as the team is talking through updates. Movement will help get everyone’s energy flowing and help the momentum for the day.
  6. Finish with a Bang. You could equate the standup for a project team to a huddle before a basketball or football game. It sets the tone for what you are about to accomplish for the day. End the standup with a team chant, special handshake, or a theme song. “Eye of the Tiger” comes to mind. Try whatever gets the people going and sets the day on a positive and motivational tone.

Every person is different, and teams are made of people, so tailor these tips to your team. If you don’t see something that will work for your team, consider this a challenge to motivate you to develop more ideas of how you can shake up your stand-up.