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Scenario Based Project Manager Interview Questions

To help you prepare for your Scenario Based Project Manager interview, here are 25 interview questions and answer examples.

Scenario Based Project Manager was written by and updated on September 5th, 2021. Learn more here.

Question 1 of 25

A project manager has left and their project is now in your hands. How do you handle this transition?

How to Answer

Taking over a project that's already off the ground is a unique challenge especially if you don't get a chance to get a download from the previous project manager. If you have experienced this, highlight the main problems you had to solve and the time it took to get comfortable. If you have never experienced this, you will want to list concrete steps in getting the most up-to-date information, and team members you plan to reach out to. A successful answer will focus on moving the project along.

Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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25 Scenario Based Project Manager Interview Questions & Answers

  • Adaptability

    1. A project manager has left and their project is now in your hands. How do you handle this transition?

      How to Answer

      Taking over a project that's already off the ground is a unique challenge especially if you don't get a chance to get a download from the previous project manager. If you have experienced this, highlight the main problems you had to solve and the time it took to get comfortable. If you have never experienced this, you will want to list concrete steps in getting the most up-to-date information, and team members you plan to reach out to. A successful answer will focus on moving the project along.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

      1st Answer Example

      "When I applied at ABC agency, I knew that I would be managing a campaign already in progress. By then, the PM had already been gone for weeks. My first step was to connect with the business development strategist who scoped and closed the contract with the client. I needed to understand the contract, billables, and the client's goals. Next, I reviewed the project tracker and other documentation to understand the targets, deadlines, and manage the team moving forward. Lastly, I met with the team for introductions and clearly asserted myself as the project manager. In about two weeks, I was pretty confident about being the main point of contact."

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

  • Communication

    2. After a few project meetings, you're finding that there aren't any concrete steps from stakeholders, just a lot of ideas. How will you manage execution?

      How to Answer

      It's the PM's job to paint a realistic picture of the project's needs and requirements. With this question, the interviewer is gauging your ability to devise an implementation plan amidst a sea of ideas. To answer this question successfully, outline how you would trim down to the essentials without discouraging stakeholders from sharing their ideas. Ultimately you will want to demonstrate how you can come out with an actionable plan.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

      1st Answer Example

      "My first step would be to meet with each stakeholder. In these meetings, I will use a whiteboard to visualize the plan and list deliverables. I'll ask for specific steps, owners, and targets to complete each deliverable. Let's say the plan is to build a relationship with small business owners in the state. So, if the first task is to obtain a list of small business owners, then we need to identify to whom we assign the research and create the criteria for entry. Then, we need to set a target date for getting this list together. After that, we can establish a target percentage of businesses to contact. In my experience, visualizing a project plan with all the requirements and time involved will force the bad ideas out. Each stakeholder will realize which actions align with the goal, and which are not."

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

  • Communication

    3. What is your communication style? Cite an example of how it helped move a project along.

      How to Answer

      The project manager is the glue that holds the project together. Depending on the industry and the nature of projects, your communication effectiveness will play a major role in keeping team members informed and accountable throughout the process. Show the interviewer that you can adapt the way you communicate with team members based on the needs of the project. Provide an example or examples in which you used effective communication to resolve an issue or manage risk.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

      1st Answer Example

      "I like to over-communicate to ensure that nothing gets lost in the fold. For example, after sending post-meeting action items through email, I will assign tasks through the project tracker with clear notes. Then, I will continue to reach out to the task owners for real-time updates. Once, I had a team member whose deliverable was due in a day but was unresponsive. I sent a note through the project tracker and followed up through email, but still couldn't get a hold of them. I decided to call their personal phone and found out they lost their internet connection for the day and wouldn't be able to make the deadline. I made the call to re-assign to another team member immediately."

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

      Community Answer

      "As a project manager communication is one of the most important skills. Effective communication is vital to making a project successful. There are 4 communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. The type of communication style would depend on the situation. For example in the past I was working on a project where two employees had a constant conflict, it got to the point where it was affecting the project as they were taking more time arguing than working. I am very keen on ensuring that a project is delivered on time. What I did was use my assertive communication skills and told them to get it together and make a decision to get along else I am going to remove one of them from the team."

      Written by an Anonymous User

      Marcie Wilmot

      Our Professional Interview Coach
      Marcie Wilmot Reviewed the Above Answer

      Nice! It sounds like you're very familiar with the different styles of communication, and you recognize the importance of communication in project management. It's great that you provided an example that shows how you effectively used one of those styles. What ended up happening? Did those arguing team members respond well to your method of communication? Also, consider describing how you communicate in general outside of the style types you mention (for example, directly, clearly, in a friendly manner, firm when needed, etc.) Good job!

  • Communication

    4. During on-boarding at a new company, you find out that the project management office strictly adheres to a specific methodology. However, you think a different approach will fit your first project better. What do you do?

      How to Answer

      This question is aimed to assess your negotiation skills. To effectively answer this, show that you can present facts to support your case. The interviewer will also expect you to outline a tangible plan to ensure clients or stakeholders that you have the project's best interest in mind. On the technical side, you're also being assessed on your knowledge of project management methodologies, so craft your answer with accurate terms.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Competency

    5. You have been tasked to manage market expansion into a completely new location. What are your first steps?

      How to Answer

      The two main considerations in starting a project are resources and timeline. When crafting your answer, cover these two items first, and then you can talk about defining the project milestones. The interviewer will look for your expertise in project scoping. Drawing on previous experience can help make your answers more realistic.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Competency

    6. You're managing the launch and implementation of a new operational process for the entire business. You're told to focus on doing things right, versus doing things fast. How will you oversee quality in your plan?

      How to Answer

      Quality assurance is paramount to the success of a project, especially in this scenario in which the project ultimately impacts the way the business is run. To successfully answer this question, provide examples of quality management throughout your project plan. For this role, the interviewer is looking for someone who can ensure that project deliverables meet the standards established at the beginning of the project. Assure the interviewer that you are knowledgeable in setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Competency

    7. You're reviewing bids for a building's new wing. You find that the most competent firm is also the most expensive. In fact, hiring them would take the project over the budget. Would you persuade leadership to hire them? Why or why not?

      How to Answer

      Going over budget is something inevitable for some projects. In your answer, stress how you would ensure that your budget projection is realistic and that you have a contingency plan, whether you choose to persuade your superiors or not. An effective answer would also clearly outline the reasons you think your choice of contractor is the best for the job.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Conflict

    8. It's your first hour at work and you're bombarded with heated emails between your client and one of your colleagues. It looks like the client is expecting a deliverable that's outside of the contract. How would you proceed?

      How to Answer

      If the PM role involves client relationship management, conflicts between the client and your internal team will be inevitable. The interviewer wants to know whether you can stick to facts while resolving the conflict, and not be overcome by emotion. Show that you have the skill to uphold your company's interest without losing the client's confidence.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Conflict

    9. Two project team members are not seeing eye to eye on a decision point. How will you handle the conflict to keep the project on track?

      How to Answer

      As a project manager, you are expected to keep the team on track. As with any activity that involves teamwork, differing opinions could get in the way. When positioning your answer, clearly express that you can mediate when conflict arises before it can impact the project's success. Cite an example of a time when you had to mediate between team members. Include ways in which you were able to respond calmly and objectively.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Customer Service

    10. The client or project sponsor is unhappy with the initial outcome of the project. How will you move forward and keep their confidence in you as the project manager?

      How to Answer

      As a project manager, you are expected to keep your external and internal customers satisfied. In your answer, you should be able to demonstrate a certain level of care for your customer's satisfaction and a willingness to address their needs. The interviewer will want to hear how you can keep the client or project sponsor happy while sticking to facts and keeping within the constraints of the project, such as budget limitations and schedule.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Diligence

    11. You're given a chance to pick a failed project and do it over. Walk me through your plan for success.

      How to Answer

      There is a multitude of reasons a project fails. In this question, the interviewer is assessing your ability to remove yourself from a situation to analyze it thoroughly. When positioning your response, think about how you would remain objective in your analysis. A successful answer should illustrate that you don't take failure personally and can instead focus on self-improvement.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Diligence

    12. Your project is slated to have three phases over three years. Each phase will have the same milestones, just different locations. Stakeholders are likely to change. How will you ensure consistency across three phases?

      How to Answer

      In this example, consistency will rely heavily on a repeatable process. In this question, your competence in documenting processes is being assessed. Assure the interviewer that you understand the importance of process documentation, specifically process mapping. You will want to identify the parts of a process map and provide other process documentation examples as required.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Leadership

    13. Your team is starting to lose confidence. How do you show them that you have their back?

      How to Answer

      With this question, the interviewer is assessing your leadership and motivational skills. As with any other issue that arises in a project, you are expected to analyze the root cause of the problem. An effective answer will demonstrate how well you can gather the necessary information from the team. In your answer, demonstrate how you can motivate your team by providing specific examples of actions that will boost their morale.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Management

    14. Team member A is waiting for a deliverable from team member B. After following up with team member B, they still miss their deadline. What are your next steps?

      How to Answer

      Project management requires working with a variety of personalities while overseeing a lot of moving parts. By asking this question, the interviewer is assessing your ability to juggle between task management and people management. To successfully answer this question, show how well you can empathize with task owners while keeping the end goal in mind.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Management

    15. Can you give an example of a successful project kickoff meeting?

      How to Answer

      The success of a project hinges a lot on how it begins, and the project manager is responsible for meeting facilitation throughout the project lifecycle. The interviewer will want to hear that you can prepare a solid agenda. Depending on the industry and project goals, kickoffs generally cover an introduction, a high-level discussion of project logistics, and how the team will measure the project's success. Further, you should consider adding key takeaways as the final part of the meeting. For extra points, you may want to describe a positive tone and atmosphere when facilitating the meeting.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Problem Solving

    16. At the beginning of a project, you missed a major stakeholder in the project plan. Now, the project is well underway and you have to catch them up. How do you ensure they get involved?

      How to Answer

      Identifying the right stakeholders and engaging them is crucial for project success. However, there are stakeholders that may not be obvious until you are further down in the process.

      The interviewer would like to determine that you can inspire confidence in your stakeholders. Discuss how you would engage the newly identified stakeholder and how you plan to get their commitment. A noteworthy answer will also show that you plan to follow through after the initial conversation.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Problem Solving

    17. Tell me about the most notable risk you have identified in a project?

      How to Answer

      Risk management is a vital skill in project management. The interviewer will want to learn about how well you can identify risks ahead of time, and use your resources to mitigate these risks. In positioning your response, recall at least one instance and explain why you think it shows your competence in risk management.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Problem Solving

    18. You're halfway through a project and notice that you definitely missed a significant milestone. You realize you will probably need to rework the entire project. How do you proceed?

      How to Answer

      This question aims to assess your accountability and your ability to make quick decisions. In your answer, emphasize your desire to move forward and not dwell on the time you can't get back. A successful answer demonstrates a level of self-awareness. More importantly, it should also list realistic, achievable steps you would take to avoid further delay and mitigate any negative impact on the project.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Problem Solving

    19. It's three days before launch and your co-worker announces that they aren't able to deliver, and in fact have not worked on their last few deliverables. What would you do?

      How to Answer

      Project delays can be caused by a variety of factors. The interviewer will want to hear a concrete plan to solve the issue at hand in order to avoid further delays. When crafting your response, be specific in your next steps. An effective answer will directly address the root cause.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Scenario Based

    20. You're working on a confidential project. There's a task that can only be completed by an employee who isn't allowed to learn about the details of the project. What will you do to complete the task?

      How to Answer

      A project may be sensitive due to its foreseen impact on the company's workforce, or it may be kept confidential to protect the company's competitive position in the market.

      An effective answer will address how well you can manage the communication flow throughout the project's lifecycle by facilitating information with varying levels of sensitivity. A mature project manager should be able to get information without alluding to one specific project. The interviewer will want to hear your step-by-step plan in speaking with the employee.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Scenario Based

    21. The project you're assigned to has undefined target metrics. Explain how you would proceed and how your plan will benefit the project.

      How to Answer

      A project's success should be measured in definite terms. In positioning your reply, think about why target metrics are important to you and to your internal and external clients. Cite examples of success measures that you have either initiated or implemented. Finally, explain how hitting these target metrics positively impacts the project.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Scenario Based

    22. You're currently handling two top-priority projects that are likely to be extended. Another one has just been assigned, and it will definitely require a lot of time and attention. How do you approach the situation?

      How to Answer

      High-pressure situations are common in project management. In your reply, demonstrate that you have the organizational skills and professionalism to stay composed in this type of environment. The interviewer will want to hear how you plan to decrease the pressure on yourself. People have different ways of dealing with this, but the result should be to ultimately keep the pressure from impacting the projects negatively.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Teamwork

    23. A team member has just told you that they are not 100% satisfied with their deliverable and will need another week to complete. How would you handle this situation?

      How to Answer

      In project management, perfection is the enemy of completion. By asking this question, the interviewer is finding out your ability to negotiate with team members when the project timeline starts to get compromised. Provide concrete examples of how you would reason with the team member without coming off as bureaucratic.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Teamwork

    24. You're managing the marketing and sales project for a new product. It's now two months before launch, and you have yet to see a prototype from the development team. How do you proceed?

      How to Answer

      This is an example of a project that's part of a larger program, which means you will need to work with other project managers. By asking this question, the interviewer is testing your ability to see how well you work with other teams, while effectively managing your own team. Understanding what you can and cannot control will spell the difference between failure and success. A successful answer will address your previous experience communicating with other team members and the know-how and experience to get a project back on track.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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  • Time Management

    25. After completing your standard employee on-boarding at a new role, you find out that you won't be assigned a project for another two weeks. What do you do with your time?

      How to Answer

      The interviewer wants to find out where your priorities lie. Assure the interviewer that you understand how every company is different and therefore, you may need to learn a lot of new systems and processes before you can take on a project. Telling the interviewer what you would want to learn and your reasons for wanting to learn will show that them your project management competence, but also your willingness to learn.

      Written by M Cheryl Harkins on September 5th, 2021

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