Testing a candidate’s knowledge of hard or soft skills provides limited benefit to the hiring process. If they have the letters “, PMP” or “, PRINCE2” after their names, they can very likely talk the talk even if they’ve never walked the walk.
You could pose situational questions to gain some insights into how they think, but just because they answer the question to your satisfaction doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will actually behave according to what they said if a similar situation were to occur for real. Don’t feel discouraged as conducting such interviews is still critical, but you might want to go beyond assessing technical knowledge or posing generic scenarios.
Let me share five of my favorite questions when interviewing candidates for full time project manager roles.
What’s been your biggest project management failure, what did you learn from that, and how did you apply those learnings to a future project?
This question is a triple threat. It assesses the self-awareness and humility of the candidate, their ability to dust themselves off and identify some lessons, and checks whether they truly learn those lessons.
How do you stay current in the project management profession?
There’s no single right answer, but if a candidate has been neglecting their personal development this doesn’t inspire confidence. Also, if their only lever for personal development has been formal training, this reflects superficiality as some of the best opportunities to grow come through experiential or relationship-based development activities. You will also have the opportunity to understand if they are giving back to the profession through volunteering, writing, presenting or mentoring others.
What made you decide to become a project manager?
Again, no right answer, but it provides insights into the candidate’s career goals. Is project management a stepping stone to something else or is it a long-term destination?
What do you consider when deciding how you are going to manage a given project?
This question tests the candidate’s ability to profile a project and the context in which it will be delivered as well as their awareness of complexity and delivery process tailoring.
What questions do you have for me?
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers” – Voltaire
So what are your favorite questions when you’ve been in a similar situation? Feel free to add them in the comments below!