Tips for Interviewing a Project Manager Candidate

Recruiting is often a painful and drawn out process. It is further compounded if you don’t wind up selecting the right candidate. When hiring for a project management position there are certain qualities you must look for beyond the technical. Here are some tips for evaluating project management candidates.

Personality Assessment & Culture Fit

This is probably the biggest make-or-break when interviewing a candidate. So much of a project manager’s role is about fitting in with the culture of the organization and having the right style of personality to mesh with the team and company. When interviewing your candidate, try to extract points about their personality with questions such as “How do you spend your off-time?” or what their outside interests are besides work. Use some open-ended questions to get the candidate to describe what their ideal organization looks like that they feel they would have the most success.

Assess Ability to Persist Among Challenges

One of the greatest strengths a project manager can possess is the ability to forge ahead and lead their teams in the face of adversity. It’s easy for a candidate to say the right things to a canned interview question but a technique that has often been useful is to push the candidate a little bit during the interview process and give a small sense of discomfort and see how they respond. By challenging the candidate, perhaps with a series of difficult questions at once you can see how they respond. Do they tense up and go off track? Do they remain calm and focused? So much can be gained by pushing the candidate and seeing how they respond.

Evaluate Commitment to Success

The sole job of the project manager is to deliver the project successfully. Part of your recruitment needs to focus on how committed the candidate is going to be. Are they going to keep pushing? Will they push their teams to success? How driven are they? Along the same lines of challenging questions, you need to gear some questions toward gauging what their commitment level is? Are they work-to-rule types who shut down at 5pm? Are they going to do whatever they can (within reason of course) to get the job done right? Questions such as “what is your picture of a successful project” often give me a good view inside their perspective on how motivated they are.

Evaluating project manager candidates is a very difficult thing. Project management can be 49% art and 51% science (or the other way around) on any given day. So much of being a good project manager comes from having the right attitude. Plan your interview questions carefully and ensure that you can get a good read on your candidate before making the final decision.

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