Preparing for a manager interview in the engineering industry is something that many experienced candidates go through on their career journey. Whether you’ve got a lot of experience leading teams of developers and engineers in your industry, or you’re looking for a role that will give you more responsibility, project manager roles are available in a range of different sectors, including electronic embedded systems.
Knowing how to prepare for a project manager interview can make a big difference in your success in applying for new roles, and researching project management interview questions and answers is a key part of this. You’re likely to be asked more than just ‘Why do you want to be a project manager’ and having a rough idea of what you might be asked and some answers prepared can help you feel more confident.
In this article, we share advice on what’s expected in a project manager role, some interview tips for project manager positions, and common project management interview questions and answers.
What is a Project Manager?
Project managers are a vital part of every company, no matter the size or the industry. They are responsible for overseeing projects from start to finish, managing the people involved and the resources required to produce a finished product or service offering.
A project manager may not have the same level of technical knowledge or experience as others in their team, but they will have excellent people management skills and organisational abilities. They will plan out all the necessary stages of project development, delegate tasks, provide feedback and monitor progress so that everyone involved stays on task and within deadlines.
Along with managing the people in a project team, project managers also keep clients, senior management and relevant stakeholders updated on progress and communicate any feedback or requests to the team. They are responsible for keeping track of everything happening in a project and being able to relay this back to other people who are involved or impacted.
Project managers are required in almost every industry, including engineering and software development. For projects like embedded software development or embedded device design, a project manager will coordinate a team of engineers and developers to produce a viable product, providing direction, highlighting priorities and managing time and budget effectively.
In the electronic embedded systems sector, a project manager might also be referred to as a project lead. It’s a role that shouldn’t be confused with a technical lead or lead engineer, as these require more practical experience and less interpersonal skills.
What Does a Project Manager Do?
Project managers are required to carry out the same kinds of tasks no matter the industry they belong to or the nature of the project they’re working on. Specific roles and contracts might outline particular responsibilities, and some engineering project managers may be required to get more involved in practical tasks, but in general project manager responsibilities revolve around overseeing a project’s progress.
Below are examples of what a project manager does in their role.
- Liaising with clients or stakeholders to understand the project brief
- Creating a project plan outlining the necessary development stages
- Selecting relevant organisational models and frameworks to help guide the project process
- Identifying any safety or quality standards that need to be referenced
- Completing a project risk assessment to highlight potential challenges and put preventative measures in place
- Delegating tasks and choosing employees to contribute to each stage of the project
- Outlining roles and responsibilities for all involved employees
- Selecting methods of measuring progress to ensure straightforward project monitoring and reporting
- Communicating the project plan to team members and overseeing the launch
- Monitoring individual progress to ensure the project stays on track
- Providing support and guidance when challenges or setbacks occur
- Managing budget and resources to avoid waste or debt
Project Manager Interview Questions
When you’re interviewing for a project manager role, there are a range of typical project manager interview questions that you’re likely to be asked alongside more specific ones about the particular position you’re applying for. In this section, we share some of these project management interview questions and explain how best to answer them.
What was the biggest or most challenging project you managed?
This is a classic question that is often asked in interviews for management or leadership roles, asking the candidate to talk about a significant project from their past. This is a great opportunity to talk about your most impressive project or a time when you overcame a lot of adversity to get a project over the line.
When answering this question, touch on why the project was challenging or particularly large, and then focus on how you approached this to overcome it. It can also be useful to finish your answer by sharing what you learned and how you applied these learnings to other work that followed.
How do you prioritise tasks in a project?
Prioritisation is an important skill for a project manager, so you may be asked about how you approach it in your interview. These kinds of project manager job interview questions are trying to get a good idea of how a candidate approaches responsibilities like prioritisation and are best answered by using an example to illustrate your response. Explain the process you go through when deciding on priorities, and then think of an example to demonstrate this.
Have you ever failed in a project? Do you have any experience in handling failures?
The majority of job interviews want candidates to talk about a time when they have failed, as this demonstrates resilience and self-awareness, which are both traits that are very valuable in an employee. When you’re talking about a time you failed in a project, it’s important to be honest whilst also avoiding dwelling on the negatives too much.
Use the opportunity to talk about a previous failure to highlight how you bounced back from it and what you learned. This shows the interviewer that you’re not defeated by challenges and also that you learn from your mistakes, which they’ll be looking out for.
What do you consider to be the most difficult aspect of project management?
In your interview, you’ll likely be asked to give some project manager job interview answers that demonstrate your experience in the role and your understanding of what it involves. This question is testing your knowledge of the responsibilities of a project manager and also seeking more insight into what you personally struggle with. Make sure to include details of how you manage or overcome this difficulty in your answer to assure the interviewer that you’re aware of your weaknesses but don’t let them limit you.
How do you monitor projects to see if it is going on track?
Similar to asking about prioritisation, this question asks you to explain your approach to monitoring project progress. It can be useful to include an example here, but also make sure that you explain why you’ve chosen this approach and the benefits that it offers.
How do you motivate your project team?
A lot of project manager interview questions will gauge your ability to work with other people and successfully lead them, and motivation is an important part of this. This question allows you to talk about your overall approach to project management and people management and is often best illustrated with an example of how you’ve motivated a team in the past and why this was successful.
What do you think are the main causes of project failure?
This question is a way of assessing a project manager’s experience and their understanding of aspects of project management. You should talk about common aspects or challenges in a project that can lead to failure, and then make sure to mention how you would or have navigated these to avoid failing.
How do you deal with underperforming project team members?
Project manager scenario-based interview questions and answers like this one are not only used to assess a candidate’s experience but also to get an idea of how they’d cope in the role they’re applying for. In this scenario, you need to explain how you’d handle a team member who wasn’t pulling their weight or delivering work that was up to scratch, and may be given more specific information based on the company you’re working for.
If you have an example from a previous role that you can draw on here, that’s great, but you can also just explain how you’d hypothetically approach the situation. The interviewer will be looking at your people management skills as well as your professionalism, so it’s worth explaining the reasoning behind the actions you suggest.
How would those you have worked with previously describe you?
One of the common questions for a project manager interview asks candidates to describe themselves from a colleague’s perspective. There’s the potential to answer arrogantly or predictably here, so it’s a useful question to prepare for so you’re not caught off guard.
You want to focus on positive traits here that demonstrate your unique strengths as a project manager. Aim to come across as self-aware without being overly self-righteous.
Describe a time when you encountered an unexpected roadblock. How did you keep the project on track?
This is another experience-based question that an interviewer will use to get a better idea of how you’ve overcome challenges in the past. You should talk about a meaningful example of when you’ve come up against a challenge in a previous role and explain the circumstances that led to this.
Focus on the process you went through to find a solution in your answer, and then the impact that this had on the remainder of the project.
How would you encourage collaboration within a team?
Team management interview questions are common when you’re being interviewed for project manager roles, as they help the interviewer to better understand how you work with others and what your approach is to be in a leadership role. In this question, it’s useful to come up with an example to illustrate your point, whether this is based on a real-life experience or a hypothetical scenario.
Advice for Clients
When you’re organising interviews for a project manager role, an important thing to consider throughout the recruitment process is the nature of the projects that this new employee will be working on, and any necessary technical experience they need. Project managers in the engineering industry tend to have more practical and specific knowledge than others in the role, but if you’re going to need a project manager with specific embedded systems experience for example, you need to highlight this from the outset.
A key aspect of project management roles is people skills, which can be difficult to gauge in a one-on-one interview. Therefore, a good way to assess a candidate’s suitability alongside interview questions for a project manager is to get them to interact informally with current employees before or after an interview, either as they’re waiting beforehand or as part of an opportunity to ask questions to someone working at your organisation.
Advice for Candidates
One of the best project manager interview tips that we can share in this article is about preparing plenty of examples to talk about. Reading up on common project manager interview questions is very useful, but your answers will be better if you can draw on relevant examples to support your points. It’s worth writing yourself a list of scenarios and previous projects so that you have a bank of evidence to draw on.
In any job interview, you should also treat this as an opportunity to figure out whether this company will be a good fit for you. Beforehand, prepare a couple of questions to ask in a project manager interview that clarifies aspects of the role and your suitability, such as details of salary and progression or examples of upcoming projects.
Most interviewers end a conversation by asking whether you have anything else you want to talk about, so having a couple of questions to ask during an interview for a project manager will avoid a pause at this point in the interview and help you to appear more engaged.
Being prepared for a project manager interview is a big advantage for candidates, as it can help you feel more confident and ensure that you answer questions honestly and naturally, showing your real personality to the interviewer. There will usually be some questions in an interview that you’re not prepared for or which you need some time to think of an answer for, but having a rough idea of what you might be asked can be a real benefit.
If you’re preparing for project manager interviews in the engineering industry, or are thinking about applying for project manager roles, KO2 is a specialist electronic and embedded systems recruitment agency that can help. Take a look at our current project manager roles or get in touch to speak to the team about how we can support your job search.