13 Basic Conceptual Interview Questions for Project Managers

Spread the love

Hello everybody! Welcome to the article on basic conceptual interview questions for project managers from dopidia. Like any other position, conceptual questions form an important part of a project manager interview.

Also, in today’s article, let’s see some conceptual questions based on Project planning and execution, monitoring and control, quality management, Performance Management, risk management, etc. All topics that are very important from the project management point of view.

The article is packed with useful information you need to crack your interview for a project management position in any sector. If you’re really serious about making it through, ensure that you read the complete article without skipping any parts of it. Ready? Fantastic! Let’s start!

Question #1 : What is a project Charter? Which elements does it include?

A project Charter is an official document that acknowledges the existence of a project in an organization. It provides its project manager the authority to begin working on that project. This document works as a reference throughout the complete life cycle of the project. A project Charter contains details like Project’s goal, viability, stakeholders, requirements, constraints, milestones, cost, deliverables, communication channels, return on investment, risks involved, etc.

Signing a Charter formally authorizes the project manager to use the organization’s resources and execute the project. So that’s something very simple and easy to explain what a project Charter is. I really hope it helps.

Question #2 : What factors do you consider when conducting the feasibility study for a new project?

A feasibility study tells a project manager clearly if it is worth spending your time, efforts, and resources on a particular project or not. So while carrying out a feasibility study, you try to look at a project from various angles like if there’s a demand for that particular product or service in the market or not, who are the competitors, how can you have an edge over them, is the project financially viable or not, what are the expectations in terms of initial investment, operating expenses, return on investment, etc.

Do you have the required technology and skills available with you or not? If not, can you acquire them at what cost? Are there any legal implications of this project, which means can it meet the compliances or not?

Then, can you have a continuous flow of required resources including the raw material, skills, technology, everything required to complete the project on time? And finally, are there any risks involved at any stage of this Project Life Cycle?

Having an answer to all these questions helps you make the right choices, pick up the right projects, and have a backup plan in case you hit the wall. That’s why thinking about the feasibility of a project is very, very important.

Question #3 : What is a work breakdown structure?

A work breakdown structure (WBS), many times referred to as WBS, is a project management tool that decomposes a large project into smaller pieces that can be completed step by step, leading to the completion of the whole project. Now, this WBS can be deliverable-based or phase-based depending upon the project.

If you look at a WBS, you’ll see that it has a level structure and it would always look to you like a tree following the 100% rule at each level. This means that level one represents the 100% of the project. Each level below it breaks down the project into smaller tasks but always represents 100% of the project.

The main advantages of having a WBS

  • It breaks down a large project into smaller achievable and measurable tasks.
  • It provides a roadmap to different teams working on the project.
  • It helps you measure how much of the project has been completed and recognize that you have achieved a milestone at this moment. And that is why WBS is very, very important for any project manager.

Question #4 : Tell us something about project scope.

Project scope is a way to set boundaries on your project. Before you begin to work on a project, you want to clearly understand what your project will do and, more importantly, not do. This understanding ensures that you stay focused and are able to deliver your project within the agreed time frame and budget without having to overwork or compromise on the quality.

Having a project scope that has been agreed upon by all the stakeholders ensures that all the parties are on the same page and have the same expectations and understanding of the project. A well-written project scope clearly outlines things like projects objectives, resources including Human Resources, Capital, time, etc., any constraints, deliverables with clear timelines, things that are out of the scope of this project, if anything needs to be changed, how it should allow for a change control process also.

what happens if you don’t have a project scope in place?

What this does is it makes your project cope haywire and the project scope creep. This means that in the middle of the project, you would start doing things that you had actually not planned for, pushing the timeline and budget of the project while burning out your team.

Question #5 : What are the most common challenges you’ve experienced during project management?

To answer this question, you can say some of the most common challenges project managers face during a project are: scope creep, poor communication, poor budgeting and unrealistic deadlines, skill and technological gaps, insufficient risk analysis, stakeholder disengagement, lack of accountability in the team members, uncertainty, etc. Because these are some of the most common problems that projects face…

Related Topics:

1. Smart Answers to 10 Clever Interview Questions

2. Interview Question: What are your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Question #6 : Can you name some common methods used for risk assessment in a project?

To answer this question, you can talk about methods like decision tree method, the bow tie method, the failure modes and effect analysis, the risk matrix, SWIFT analysis (Structured What If Technique), etc. I would highly recommend quickly brushing up your concepts like these before you go to actually face the interview.

Now, when you discuss about risk assessment, there’s a possibility of getting a question on Crawford slip method also. And the question could be: Have you ever heard of the Crawford slip method of identifying risks? To answer this question, you can say…

Question #7 :What is a fishbone diagram?

Now, this fishbone diagram, also called as Ishikawa diagram or cause and effect diagram, is actually a visualization tool that covers all the potential root causes of the problems. Depending upon their nature, the root causes can be grouped into categories like man, machine, method, material, environment, etc. This allows the team members to look into every category and focus on all the causes of a problem.

Question #8 :What do you know about Pareto principle?

Now, this Pareto principle, also called as 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the output can be attributed to 20% of the inputs. This observation applies to project management also. While solving the issues in your project also, you’ll realize that 80% of the errors or problems in your project arise only from a few issues. It could be an [sic] tic line of code, a problematic stakeholder, an uncooperative team leader, or anything else. But there would be just 20% causing the whole 80% problem in your project.

Question #10 : What do you know about decision matrix?

Now, this decision matrix, also called as decision grid or Pugh matrix, is a decision-making tool or method that assesses and prioritizes a list of options for you. Look at the example metrics that I’ve got for you here. A list of weighted criteria is formulated, and each option is assessed against that criteria. The options are listed as rows on a table, and the criteria or the factors as columns. Each of the criteria is assigned a weight, and a total score is calculated for each of these options. And this is how the decision matrix works.

Question #11 : Tell us something about trend analysis.

Now, trend analysis in project management, as the name itself suggests, is a mathematical technique that is used to predict the future happenings based on the historical data that you have. It helps the project managers and other concerned parties understand how various project metrics are evolving over time, which of them could represent potential issues needing attention, and which of them presents an opportunity.

The data that is analyzed depends upon the project and can be related to project schedule adherence, budget variances, resource utilization, task completion rates, etc. This helps the project managers in making informed decisions about the project, and presenting this analysis in the form of a visual report makes it easy to understand for the other non-technical stakeholders also.

Okay, now let’s move on to a very important question for any project manager. The question is…

Question #12 : Explain earned value management.

Earned value management, or EVM, is a very powerful methodology that is used in project management to measure the performance of a project. It integrates schedule, cost, and scope to do this work and works on the basis of planned and actual values. It helps you compare and benchmark the current status against the project baseline, identify critical paths based on the data, and intervene ahead of the time.

Difference Between EVA and EVM

Now, some interviews even ask you the difference between EVA and EVM. So remember this for the sake of additional information. EVA, which you can also call as earned value analysis, is a quantitative technique used to evaluate the project performance by analyzing the schedule and cost variances. And it is just a tool for EVM. EVM in whole is much larger in scope. EVA stops just with a computation portion, but EVM actually uses that data, trend analysis, and forecasting to make the required decisions and take the required actions.

Now, some other terms closely associated with EVM are planned value, actual cost, schedule variance, cost variance, schedule performance index, cost performance index, etc. Expect questions on them also. And the question can be: Tell us something about planned value, actual value, and earned value?

Planned value, Actual value, and Earned value?

  1. Planned value: Plan value or PV is the budgeted cost of scheduled work, which we also refer to as BCWS. This value depends upon the scope of the work in consideration and the point where you are at in the overall schedule. If you try to look at PV mathematically, the formula to calculate this is total project cost multiplied by the percentage of planned work. Suppose your scheduled cost of a 12-month project is $60,000. At the end of 3 months, your planned value will be $60,000 multiplied by 25% because this 3 months is 25% of these 12 months, right? So your PV or the planned value in this case would be $15,000.
  2. Actual value: Actual cost is pretty straightforward. It is also referred to as actual value of the work performed, accounting for all the activities done from the beginning of the project to date or over a specific period of time.
  3. Earned value: Now, moving on to earned value, and this is where the real fun begins. Suppose you plan to complete 45% of the work by a given period of time, but you could actually complete only 35% of the work by then due to various reasons. So what is the budgeted cost of this work that you have performed? Or BCWP? This cost is called as earned value. And if you try to compute it mathematically, the formula is total project cost multiplied by the percentage of actual work done. So what will be the EV for the project that we discussed above? It will be total project cost, that is $60,000, multiplied by how much work has actually been done, 35%. So multiplied by 35%, and this is the value you get.

With all these calculations, what comes into picture is the analysis of the variance.

Here, and your next question can be based on that. And your question can be:

What do you know about schedule variance and cost variance?

Let’s discuss them one by one.

Schedule Variance

Schedule variance, denoted by SV, indicates how much does the project currently diverge from the initially planned schedule. If your SV is negative, it indicates that the project is running behind the schedule. If it is positive, it indicates the project is running ahead of the schedule. And if there is no variance, it just indicates that the project is going as per schedule. If you try to compute it mathematically, SV is equal to EV minus PV. This is what the formula is.

Cost Variance

Cost variance, denoted by CV, indicates the divergence from the initially planned budget. If your CV is negative, it indicates that we are running over the budget. If it is positive, it indicates we are running below the budget or under budget. And if it is zero, it indicates that you are running in tandem with the budget. If we try to calculate it mathematically, the formula is CV is equal to EV minus AC. That is, earned value minus actual cost.

Question #13: Name two key performance indicators you would use to measure the efficiency and performance of a project.

If I were to talk about two performance indicators, I would choose SPI and CPI.

SPI stands for Schedule Performance Index

SPI stands for Schedule Performance Index. It is a metric used to understand how efficiently is the time being utilized in the project. Mathematically, if you try to calculate it, SPI is equal to EV divided by PV. If your SPI is greater than one, it indicates that the project is moving ahead of the schedule. If your SPI is less than one, it means behind the schedule. And if your SPI is equal to one, it means your EV is equal to PV, and that is why the project is running as per the schedule.

CPI refers to Cost Performance Index

CPI refers to Cost Performance Index. This metric is used to measure the cost efficiency of a project. If you try to calculate it mathematically, CPI is equal to EV divided by AC. If your CPI is greater than one, it means your AC is smaller, your denominator is smaller than your numerator. It means the project is spending less than the plan. And if your CPI is less than one, it means your denominator, that is your AC, is larger than your numerator. It means the project is going over the budget for the work done.

Monitoring these indices lets the project managers take proactive decisions and corrective actions. That is why they are very, very important.

Leave a Comment

Share via
Copy link