Depending on the processes used by the hiring company, you may need to be familiar with DMAIC and DMADV.
- Define the problem and the project goals
- Measure in detail the various aspects of the current process
- Analyze data to, among other things, find the root defects in a process
- Improve the process
- Control how the process is done in the future
- Define the project goals
- Measure critical components of the process and the product capabilities
- Analyze the data and develop various designs for the process, eventually picking the best one
- Design and test details of the process
- Verify the design by running simulations and a pilot program, and then handing over the process to the client
Discuss your level of knowledge regarding these two primary Six Sigma Methodologies. These methodologies are generally carried out by Six Sigma Green, Black and Master Black Belts. So, if you are not immersed in Six Sigma, this question may not apply to you.
Construction PM Interview Questions
We use DMAIC for improving business processes, and DMADV for creating new processes, products, and services. What do these acronyms stand for?
Depending on the processes used by the hiring company, you may need to be familiar with DMAIC and DMADV.
"I have earned my Six Sigma Green Belt and have plans to earn my Black Belt in the next year. During these studies, I did learn about both DMADV and DMAIC. I understand that DMAIC is used to improve business processes by defining the problem and project goals. Then, measuring in detail the various aspects of the current process. Next, analyzing data to find the core defects in a process. Then, improve the process and control how we approach the process in the future. With DMADV, we can create new processes by defining the project goals then measuring critical components of the process and the product capabilities. Next, we analyze the data and develop various designs for the process, eventually picking the best one. The next step is to design and test details of the process then verify the design by running simulations. As a Construction PM, I find the use of DMAIC to be more prominent."
"At this stage in my career, I am not fully immersed in Six Sigma methodologies. I do understand that DMAIC is for improving business processes, and DMADV is for creating new processes, products, and services. I am certainly open to putting in the weeks of work to earn my Six Sigma belts and will go as far as this certification as your organization would like to see. I certainly see the value in mastering this top-down methodology."
What sources do you turn to when staying up-to-date on the rules, regulations, and quality standards of the construction industry?
A Construction Project Manager should put considerable effort into ensuring they are up to date on construction safety, training materials, regulatory changes, and quality standards. This knowledge is vital for a PM to have so they can plan accordingly while also training construction laborers, and others, on best practices. Show the interviewer that you lean on reputable resources, being sure to express your enthusiasm for being in-the-know.
"I lean on a few strong resources, including The Associated General Contractors of America, Builder Magazine, and the blog by Building Design + Construction. These sources provide me with a wealth of information, giving me an edge and ensuring I stay on top of the latest trends and news."
"Right now, my favorite resource is Procore's Continuing Education Site. This site provides a lot of valuable coursework from industry leaders related to construction education. I also plan to subscribe to updates from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and keep membership with The AGC of America. Do you have any recommendations to help me continually grow my knowledge base as a PM?"
How many team members do you have experience managing? Include their job titles and the extent of your leadership involvement.
The interviewer would like to know more about the level of responsibility you are accustomed to having. Start with the largest group you have managed, even if it is not from your most recent position. If you are unsure of the responsibility level in this new role, ask the interviewer how many people you would be handling. If there is a significant uptick in this role, from what you are used to, then you should be prepared to overcome the potential objection of not having enough leadership experience.
"In previous roles, I have managed up to 40 direct reports. In my current role, I have a team of 29, which includes a couple of junior project managers, many laborers, a small accounting team, and one administrative assistant. The job description mentions that this project management role includes up to 40 direct reports, 20 temporary associates, and a variety of subcontractors. I am more than capable of managing that volume successfully."
"As a recent graduate ready to kick-off my career, my management experience comes from leading group projects in school. The largest group project I have led was in Environmental Science for Sustainability. Our group consisted of twelve students, and the final project was worth 40% of our grade. The stakes were high, and I managed a variety of personalities with varying levels of interest when it came to cooperation. The project was a big success in the end, and I believe it's because it was well tracked and organized from the start. With that said, I am eager to gain more knowledge in team leadership within a workplace environment. Could you share with me the team size in this particular role?"
We prefer to hire a Construction Project Manager with a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture, Engineering, Construction Management, or another related field. Walk me through your education, and the core coursework that is relevant to this job.
Bring your education to life by discussing the degree you obtained, your top coursework, what studies you believe will be most relevant to the job, and any awards, accolades, or scholarships you may have earned along the way. It will be imperative that you show how your educational background and strengths will ensure your success in this Construction Project Management role.
"In 2008, I completed my Bachelor's Degree in Construction Project Management. I took a wide range of coursework, including Structures, Technical Mathematics, Physics, Cost Estimation, and Surveying. I was proud to enter this degree on a full scholarship due to exceptional grades in High School. Where I shine and believe that I can be of great assistance to your company, is in my mathematical skills. I keep close budgets and can easily and accurately estimate project costs because of my technical and mathematical mindset. I also completed my PMP designation, and I look forward to putting my proven project management skills to work."
"I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Construction Engineering, where I learned a great deal about analyzing and estimating costs and planning complex construction projects. I studied construction equipment, materials, and information systems. I graduated in the top 5% and am eager to take this newfound knowledge and bring it to work for your organization."
What stage of project management do you feel you are the strongest?
The hiring authority would like to see where your strengths are when it comes to different stages of project management. In a typical project, the steps may include:
- Project scope/definition
- Project initiation
Of course, as a project manager, especially if you are an experienced one, you will have strengths in each area. However, you may find that you have stand-out advantages in one or two specific areas of project management. Speak about your most considerable skills, and close off your answer by mentioning exactly how your most significant strengths will be an asset to the company, should you be the successful candidate.
"Although I have vast experience in all stages of a construction project, I believe my greatest skills are in the project definition stage. I am strong in setting reasonable project goals, outlining objectives, the scope of work, identifying potential risks, and then budgeting around that information. I understand that your organization takes extra care in the definition stage, which ensures that projects go off the rails less frequently. As an avid planner, it seems that my strengths and this company's approach would be a strong match."
"Between my Bachelor's Degree in Construction Project Management and my recently obtained PMP certification, I feel confident in my knowledge base of all project stages. With that said, where I excelled the most in school and during my internship was with project monitoring and control. In school, I received top marks in Project Delivery Systems and Project Organization and Supervision. I understand the importance of regularly reporting issues, continually assessing risks, and closely monitoring progress. Rest assured, should I be hired as your next Construction PM, I will make sure that projects are delivered as expected."
Do you have experience managing outsourced resources, such as temporary employees or subcontractors?
In the construction industry, outsourced resources could include back-office functions like accounting and payroll, and other resources that are routine and relatively predictable. Outsourcing can also include field roles or bringing in temporary employees through a staffing agency, or subcontractors that can provide specialized work. Discuss your experience with outsourced resources, being clear on your involvement with it comes to management-related tasks.
"For many years now, I have outsourced human resources when it comes to highly specialized subcontractors. I bring in around fifteen subcontractors per year, acting as their direct manager. I believe the key to successfully managing these outsources resources is to fully integrate everyone into one team, ensuring enthusiastic contribution and project success."
"Being new to my career, I am still awaiting the opportunity to work with outsourced resources, temp laborers, and subcontractors. My instinct tells me that it would be imperative to integrate everyone into one team, ensuring project buy-in from everyone at all levels, from the very start. Do you bring on many outsourced resources on your projects?"
What is the most significant error you have made on a project? How did you address the issue and repair the situation?
Costly errors can occur on construction projects. As a project manager, errors will not always be avoidable, no matter how diligent you are. Some of the more common mistakes on a construction project might be assigning or delegating the wrong people to different phases of a project, seeing a project fail due to a shortfall of resources, or lack of clarity when it comes to project vision and alignment during the initial kick-off. Discuss an error or oversight made during your career, and what you did to repair the situation.
"The most significant error I have made was earlier on in my career when I did not spend enough time properly building the budget and estimate on a hotel project. Not only did I underestimate the project budget by 15%, but I also underestimated the timeline of the project by two weeks. What I did wrong was I failed to get expert advice, which I should have done, considering it was my first hotel project. Also, I did not take a bottom-up, budgeting approach. Luckily I was able to communicate the issue with the client quickly, and there was no damage done to our working partnership. In the end, I learned to lean on others for answers and to use a better approach to budgeting so that I could come up with more reasonable estimates."
"Being new to my career, most of my experience is playing a support role to a senior project manager. Through this experience, I quickly became aware that most mistakes happen from lack of planning, estimates that are not accurate from the start, and budgets going awry. I will avoid these issues by utilizing the right talent, asking for expert help when needed, and fully exploring the capabilities of the project management software available to me. Proper use of software can significantly reduce risk. For instance, I could receive alerts if any part of the project needs special attention."
The Construction Project Manager is a critical role in our organization. How can we motivate you as a leader, keeping you engaged in the job?
Construction Project Managers hold a crucial role as they plan and oversee a wide range of construction projects from start to finish. Construction PMs look after a projects' budget, work alongside subcontractors, ensure the keeping of regulations, and govern the obtaining of proper permits.
With such a busy and task-filled schedule, it's no doubt that even the most poised project manager can be in danger of feeling unmotivated and disengaged now and then. The hiring company wants to know how they can be an encouragement to you, in turn.
You should be able to identify and express what keeps you showing up, working hard, and supporting your team. Your motivation may be that the idea of success and achievement drives you. Perhaps you are working towards career advancement. Take some time to think about what truly motivates you.
"What motivates me is the potential to continue to grow with a company and take on more responsibilities and larger projects. I value recognition, especially when it plays a role in taking my career to the next level. I value a company that appreciates me and all of its employees. Loyalty is rare these days, and it's something I truly value."
"Being new to my construction project management career, it's important that I get started on the right foot. What will motivate me the most is joining a company that is ethical and strives to do the right thing, creating an impeccable project. I am at my best when I am supported by those who have good intentions, high standards, and a strong work ethic."
When change occurs in the workplace, it can create new problems. Do you see these as inconvenient problems, or opportunities to learn?
As a Project Manager, you already know that when a change occurs in the workplace, problems often arise due to new implementations and procedures or unforeseen kinks that need smoothing. Do you approach these problems positively, or do you resist the change? Talk to the interviewer about how you adapt to issues that cause change. If you have work experience, try answering this question using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
"Change is inevitable when you work in the construction industry, as there are multiple moving parts. Also, with a blend of permanent employees, temporary staff, and subcontractors, even the most skilled PM cannot control everyone's actions in a day. Recently I had a major shift in my team and, overnight, went from being completely staffed to reassessing our temporary staffing strategy due to multiple no-shows. I saw this as an opportunity to stretch outside of my comfort zone. I found a new temporary staffing agency that could provide a greater number of reliable laborers at an even lower rate than I was previously budgeting. In the end, I saw this situation as a blessing because it caused me to revisit my temp labor spend, saving me nearly $15K by the end of the project. I embrace unexpected changes and certainly view them as learning opportunities."
"Being new to my PM career, I plan to approach every day and situation as an opportunity to learn and grow, even if it's uncomfortable. I believe there's something valuable to take away from any situation that involves change, so I remain adaptable. I am capable of pivoting when needed and maintain focus through unexpected challenges."
What do you believe are the core duties of a Construction Project Manager?
Depending on the size of the company to which you are applying, your responsibilities may vary. The interviewer wants to ensure that you have a proper understanding of the expectations in this role. When crafting your response, be sure to include many details from the original job description.
"I have been working as a Construction Project Manager for over 15 years now and, although the tasks I perform can have a wide range, there are a few responsibilities which are at the core of what I do. These tasks include overseeing construction projects from beginning to end while estimating costs and managing the budget. As a Construction PM, I carefully track inventory, materials, tools equipment, and working hours. I regularly craft and submit reports on the projects' status while communicating with key stakeholders. Another large part of my role is to ensure compliance with safety regulations and building codes and gain the right permits. I provide clear communication with subcontractors, engineers, architects, and key team members of the project team while also negotiating with vendors to gain the best possible pricing on supplies and materials. Much of what I do is around communicating expectations and progress."
"I have carefully studied the job description for this role, ensuring that I compete for this job with a full understanding of what it will take to succeed. From my understanding, the core duties of this Construction PM role are to ensure the meeting of critical deadlines. I am to hire contractors, construction laborers, and delegate responsibilities to them. I am to keep frequent communication with project stakeholders and handle any issues or risks that come up during the project span. I will also spend a great deal of time conducting site checks, ensuring quality standards, and that we achieve project milestones on time."
Have you ever experienced conflict on the job? If so, how was it handled?
The hiring company wants to see that, as a highly visible leader in their organization, you bring self-awareness, maturity, and professionalism. While you do not always have to agree with everyone, the interviewer wants to see that you respond appropriately in the face of conflict. The key to successfully answering this question is to impress upon the interviewer that you are a respectful professional who treats others fairly. If you are newer to your career, you can draw from a post-secondary example (perhaps you had a conflict with a professor or on a team project).
"My first foreman was a challenging person. His expectations were often unreasonable and would come with little explanation. I worked with him for two years and left when I knew I was no longer benefitting from his leadership. I was pretty green and did not feel I had the years behind me to openly challenge his working style. I did keep my head down for the most part, but the benefit came to me at a later time when I took on my first leadership role. I knew what I did not want to be like; thus, the experience helped to shape my communication style as a Construction Project Manager."
"I have disagreed with fellow students during various group projects, but there have only been a couple of times where it has become a true conflict. One instance that comes to mind was regarding the distribution of work when a new group project was assigned. The group leader created a meeting schedule that conflicted with most of the team members' other commitments. This schedule was a problem because it was obvious the group would struggle with keeping in timely communication. I laid out the reasons why this schedule would not work. Although the group leader had little empathy for anyone else's' commitments, in the end, we identified other times that we could meet, keeping everyone's project schedule's more achievable."
What project management methodology do you most prefer; Waterfall, Agile, or Scrum? Explain your reasoning.
When answering this question, you will want to show that you have a solid understanding of the differences between Waterfall, Agile, and Scum. The more directly you can explain these project management methodologies, the better your expertise will shine. Show your knowledge and demonstrate your preference. You must show a balance in your response by respecting all approaches, not speaking negatively about any other PM approaches.
"My clear preference in methodologies, when it comes to project management in construction would be Waterfall. Waterfall project management is the most commonly used technique in construction; therefore, I am most familiar with it. It is more traditional being milestone focused and systematic. I find Waterfall to be best for projects that are highly sequential by nature. I find Agile great for breaking down project tasks that may not fit so stringently into Waterfall. Agile also opens the door to conversations around continual improvement. With Scrum being ideal for very small teams, I have not had much exposure to its use. It's a 'short sprint' approach, making it generally unsuitable for long-term projects in the construction industry. Could you share with me the project management methodology preferred within this company?"
"While earning my degree in Construction Project Management, I learned a good deal about many methodologies, including Waterfall and Agile. I did not touch on Scrum too much because, although it is agile, it's also best for teams of 10 or less. I will develop a stronger preference as I build my experience as a Construction PM; however, right now, I believe Waterfall is more commonly used in the construction industry as it's highly structured and systematic. I look forward to learning these organizations' preferred approach to running projects."
How comfortable are you performing duties related to negotiation and conflict resolution? Give an example of a time when you resolved an issue in the workplace.
Much of your role as a Construction PM will be to negotiate rates, timelines, project vision, and contracts. When deadlines and budgets are tight, with many opinions involved and a lot of moving parts, conflict can arise. Show the interviewer that you are not one to back down from a critical negotiation or potentially damaging conflict. Use an example from your recent work history. If you are new to your career, you can discuss a time from your post-secondary experience.
"I have been involved in numerous negotiations and conflicts, and am very comfortable in my skills within this area. I am sure to listen more than I talk, and I frame the conversation positively. One example of my resolution skills in action was when I came across a significant difference in project vision between the client and the engineering and architecture firm. Everyone was working towards the same goal of making the client happy; however, some of the clients' desires could not occur in a way that worked within their budget. I carefully communicated the disconnect between vision and budget, leading the client to increase their budget by $200K. In the end, we all landed on the same page, and we were able to deliver the clients' vision to a tee."
"I understand that a successful construction project comes from teamwork, clear communication, and a shared vision. For this reason, I need to be strong in conflict resolution and leading workable negotiations. In university, we had many successful group projects and the odd group project that was not as team-oriented as I would have liked. During a structural engineering project, our group didn't work efficiently due to personality differences. Some chose to be independent and not act as team players, which made the work a lot harder than it needed to be. Overall, this slowed down the flow of the project. I decided to address the communication problems and differences in personality. I stated that we needed to overcome our differences for the benefit of the project and our overall grade. Once I framed the situation in a way that benefitted everyone, they all agreed to set aside their differences, finishing the project faster and more efficiently than it started."
If you notice that a project is off track, what action steps do you take to course correct?
A project running off track can be incredibly frustrating for any project manager. The interviewer wants to know what you do, in these instances, to course correct and move the project to successful completion. Take the hiring authority through the steps you take, showing that you have confidence in your decisions. If you are new to your career, base your answer on a hypothetical situation.
"If I notice that a project is going off track, I first uncover the core of the 'why' before jumping into action to fix the situation. Reacting too quickly can add to the initial problem if we miss the critical step of root-cause analysis. Information gathering is helpful for a team to continue working together while also developing systems for future situations where the issue could happen again. Once I have the accurate information, I can then move forward to reprioritize and restructure tasks."
"If I noticed that a project was running off track, I would first discover the core of the issue and then reassess my resources. Next, I would ensure that I had assigned the best people to the right tasks. This assessment may mean that I have to redelegate. I would also identify which team members could be more hands-on with critical activities. I would focus on competency and what I could do to move forward, rather than dwell on the setback."
Do you consider yourself someone direct and forthright with others?
As a Construction Project Manager, you will need to be direct and lead your team to project completion. The hiring authority wants to see that you do not leave people hanging when it comes to answering questions, providing direction on a project, or offering necessary feedback. Talk to the interviewer about a time when you were candid with a coworker, customer, or superior, ensuring that they had the direct information that they needed from you.
"Yes, I do consider myself to be direct with others. The most professional and respectful thing to do is to get to the point in a considerate way. I never sugar coat a situation; however, I do assume that everyone had the best of intentions. One example of my being direct is when one of my employees delivers a project report with errors. I will approach them and say, 'There are errors in your report. Are you able to fix these by the end of the day?' By doing so, I point out the issue while being transparent and direct on what the deadlines are for resubmission. As the person leading a project to the finish line, I must be clear on expectations every step of the way."
"I believe that part of being direct is sticking to the facts when discussing a workplace situation. If there is a concern with my work, I would appreciate my supervisor approaching me promptly while outlining what needs repair. As a recent university graduate, I had many opportunities to be direct and give feedback to fellow students during group projects. I would state where I saw the issue and then offered up clear recommendations on how we could fix the situation before the assignments' due date."
A Construction Project Manager must be an agile problem solver. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great problem solver?
Construction projects often have tight targets, and missing a cutoff can be very costly. How do you react when your team misses a deadline?
As a Construction Project Manager, what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of leading your current team?
Highlight your top leadership qualities for me, and how they benefit you as a Construction Project Manager.
On a scale of 1-10, with ten being exceptional, how strong is your knowledge of construction materials and equipment?
Have you obtained your PMP or an equivalent certification? If you have not, is this type of certification of interest to you?
Do you have any formal Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma training? If not, are you open to exploring options towards Six Sigma Certification?
What construction project management software do you prefer to use?
How do you go about assessing your team members' strengths and delegating work to each member of your project team?
How do you ensure the budgetary health of a construction project?
In your opinion, what are the most prominent signs that a project is off track?
Briefly describe your project management style and how you feel it will benefit our organization, should we hire you.
Have you ever worked on a project that spanned the course of a few years?
What gives you the most satisfaction working as a PM in the construction industry?
How do you explain complicated construction or engineering concepts to someone who may not understand?