Behavioral Interview Questions for Project Managers
Every detail matters when it comes to successfully completing a project.
But what about when it comes to your career?
If you’re looking for a new role, you need to be just as prepared and meticulous in your approach – especially when it comes to behavioral interview questions. Interviews focus on your technical skills and experience, and many hiring managers are including behavioral interview questions to delve deeper into how you think, react and work under pressure.
This type of question is designed to assess whether you would be a good cultural fit and have a compatible attitude for the job.
Let’s look at how these questions might be incorporated into an interview. Whether you are a hiring manager wanting some example questions to use with candidates, or a job seeker looking for work, preparing ahead of time will help you excel on interview day.
What is a behavioral interview?
The behavioral portion of an interview can seem a little daunting at first. Once you understand what they’re all about, they can actually be quite helpful in showing how a candidate would react to certain situations in a work setting.
Behavioral interview questions are those that ask you to describe how you have acted in the past in specific situations. The idea behind them is that your past behavior is the best predictor of your future behavior.
If an interviewer asks a behavioral question, they’re really trying to get a sense of how the candidate would handle themself if they were in that situation. As a candidate, you get the option to draw on past experience to say how you acted and what you would do differently.
Some common behavioral interview questions for project managers include:
- Tell me about a time when you had to manage a difficult or challenging project.
- Can you describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client?
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond to get a project completed. What happened and what did you do?
- Can you think of a time when you had to manage a team through a difficult situation or complicated change?
Behavioral interview questions are difficult to answer without preparation. It can feel like you are being put on the spot and asked to come up with examples. If you prepare responses to common questions, you can use your best examples.
And, who knows, you might even learn something about yourself in the process!
Why do employers use behavioral interviews?
When it comes to interviewing candidates for a job, employers want to get as much information as possible about how the person would fit with the role and the existing team. But in an interview situation, you don’t have a lot of time to get to know someone.
Behavioral questions are designed to help the manager get a better understanding of how the candidate has responded to situations that are likely to come up again in the role. It’s also a way of respectfully challenging the information on the application form or resume. If the candidate says they have spent time working in an earned value management environment, they should be able to answer questions like:
- Can you think of a time where you had to explain earned value reports to a key stakeholder?
- Tell me about a time where the data integrity of the earned value management system was questioned. How did you handle that?
- Can you tell me about a time where earned value management data helped shape a decision?
The response to these scenario-based questions will help a hiring manager probe how involved the candidate has been in the work and what their communication skills are like when faced with difficult messaging.
Preparing for a behavioral interview as a project manager
No matter what type of behavioral interview questions employers ask, it is important for candidates to be prepared to answer them. And you only get ready to face the questions by putting in some time in advance, considering the questions that are most relevant to the competencies, job description and person specification.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your behavioral interview as a candidate, so you can ace it and get the job you want.
1. Do your research
Before your interview, take some time to research the company and the position you’re applying for. Try to understand the company’s culture and what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Review the job description and come up with some specific examples of how your skills and experience match the job requirements.
2. Know your resume inside and out
How long ago did you have that construction project management job? Refresh your memory and be prepared to talk about specific projects you’ve worked on. Remind yourself what your role was in each one so you can draw on the most appropriate examples.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Have a friend or family member ask you some of the most common behavioral interview questions. Practice choosing an appropriate example from your prepared notes and talking through the situation, what you did and how it turned out.
This will help you get comfortable with the format and give you a chance to think about how you want to answer each of the questions you are anticipating.
4. Be yourself!
At the end of the day, the best way to make a good impression is to be yourself. The interviewer wants to get to know you and see if you’re a good fit for the company. If you pretend to be something that you are not, it’s possible you’ll end up unhappy in the role.
Employers want to make the right hiring decisions because it is time-consuming and expensive to recruit. Bringing experienced contract staff on to the team for short term projects is a way round having to go through the hiring process, but sometimes the only option is to get a permanent person to join the team. After the effort of recruitment, you want to feel that the new starter is going to both be capable of doing the work and will enjoy the job.
There is no guaranteed formula for success but preparing ahead of time to ask and answer behavioral interview questions is a great way to make the most of the conversation between candidate and manager.