Tell Me About A Time You Managed An Important Project. How Did You Prepare For It?
If you a job interview coming up for a management position, you will get asked behavioral job interview questions about important management skills such as delegation, communication, problem-solving, and managing important projects.
Interviewers use behavioral interview questions to assess whether or not you have the skills, abilities, and competencies needed for the job. The thought behind behavioral job interview questions is to find out how you performed and behaved in the past to get an idea of how you might perform in the future. This is also the reason why interviewers ask you about managing important projects. They want to know how you approach and deal with challenges in the workplace.
There are also several other questions the interviewer can ask to get more information about your management skills, such as:
- Describe your leadership style and experience.
- Tell me about your experience in taking the lead on important projects or tasks.
- How do you handle conflicts within your team?
In this blog, we discuss why the interviewer is asking questions about managing important projects. Also, we tell you what you should focus on when answering this question. Furthermore, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.
Essential Skills For Managers To Successfully Managing Important Projects
Before we get into why interviewers ask you this question and how you can answer it, it’s important to understand what the essential skills are for managers to successfully manage projects.
It’s possible that interviewers pick a few of these skills and ask you about specific examples of how you successfully used them in a teamwork setting. Therefore, highlight that you possess these skills in your answers to demonstrate that you have successfully managed projects before.
Communication & motivation skills
To manage a project successfully, strong communication and motivation skills are key. The more effective and efficient communication is during a project, the better a project can be managed. This starts on the day of the project kick-off and continues for the entire life span of the project.
It’s important to demonstrate to an interviewer that you understand project leadership. This means that you should give the interviewer examples of times you managed a project and how you communicate about goals, responsibilities, performance, expectations, and feedback.
Interviewers look for candidates with a positive attitude at work to create a healthy work environment. You can demonstrate this by mentioning that simple gestures such as active encouragement and recognizing achievements help you ensure that team members feel valued. A positive vibe in the workplace creates happy and motivated employees.
Projects usually require multiple people on a team working on it, and being able to build successful relationships is essential for success. To establish this, interpersonal skills are needed. Interpersonal skills are also called people skills, soft skills, or emotional intelligence skills. These skills are all related to the way you communicate and interact with people.
Examples of interpersonal skills are teamwork, adaptability, communication, conflict management, empathy, listening, a positive attitude, and negotiation skills. You can demonstrate these skills by listing them on your resume, mentioning them in your cover letter, but most importantly – sharing examples of times you successfully used them during the interview.
If you mentioned skills on your resume and in your cover letter, you can refer to them and provide an example of a time you demonstrated that particular skill in the workplace.
Delegation & organizational skills
Delegation is a critical aspect of managing projects successfully. Project management depends upon delegation and organizational skills to make sure all project requirements are met within the set timeframe.
Interviewers want to hear from you how you approach delegating tasks to members on your team. Your answers should include how you outline to others what’s required and how you make sure you stay in control. In other words, how you set deadlines and milestones to track progress. Furthermore, really go into how and why you delegate tasks.
Organizational skills are required to manage both the short and long-term goals of a project. This also helps to assign the correct members to tasks on a project to work toward a common goal. Ensure that you are able to discuss how you define the projects’ scope, how you track progress, and how you review progress against a project plan and the set deadlines.
Time management & strategic thinking skills
When interviewers ask you about a time you managed an important project, it’s important that you highlight your time management and strategic thinking skills.
Explain how you manage the time of the time spent on the project, the progress made, and the project tasks. Furthermore, walk the interviewer through how you plan, schedule, monitor, and control all the required project activities.
During projects with challenging deadlines, there’s always a chance that you run into problems. It’s likely that the interviewer asks you about how you approach obstacles you encounter along the way.
When discussing your problem-solving skills, it’s essential that you are able to describe a situation in which you successfully used them. Explain how you defined the problem and the causes. Then, walk the interviewer through what actions you took to generate ideas and made a decision before you took action to solve the problem.
Coaching & Mentoring skills
When you manage a project, you also need to play a supportive role for members on your team. As you’re ultimately responsible and probably the most senior level, you have the right work experience, skills, and knowledge, and it’s your job to pass this on and share your skills and abilities with other coworkers.
Demonstrate to the interviewer how you have trained and advised staff to build their confidence, skills, abilities, and experience to help them progress as professionals. Show that you understand that as the project manager, you understand that you are the driving force behind the progression of the members on your team.
Why Interviewers Ask About A Time You Managed An Important Project
The interviewer is interested in how well you can handle managing a project or a challenging situation. Also, they are interested in the way you approach managing projects and how you deal with challenges during the process. They want to know more about your style of management, leadership, communication skills, and problem-solving skills.
The goal of the interviewer is to find out if you possess the skills needed to successfully lead projects and if you can take on the responsibilities of the positions that you’re applying for. It’s, therefore, important for you to demonstrate that you possess the skills and capabilities of taking proper initiatives and actions to successfully manage a project. The best way to do this is not only by saying this but by providing concrete examples of times you actually successfully managed projects.
Interviewers, in general, are interested in your work ethics and your values. This is also the reason that they ask you behavioral job interview questions. These questions are used to uncover your style of working and your strengths and weaknesses. Based on your answers, the interviewers can determine if you have the right skills for the job and if you fit into the company culture.
During the interview, interviewers try to assess if you’re:
How To Answer Job Interview Questions About Managing Important Projects
The key to successfully answering behavioral job interview questions is to prepare thoroughly. As a candidate, it’s important to think of answers to commonly asked job interview questions prior to the interview.
Use real work experience examples of times you managed important projects. It’s smart to connect and highlight the skills in your answers to the competencies and skills that the interviewer is looking for. These are the ones required for the position you’re applying for. The easiest and quickest way to find these is to analyze the job description. Therefore, make sure to prepare strong answers and connect them to the relevant competencies of the job that you’re applying for.
To start preparing your answers to interview questions about managing important projects, it’s smart to write down a list of important projects that you have been involved in. Think of all the projects in your career that really made a difference. Then, behind each project, you write down what the exact goals and objectives were. Also, do not forget to write down your specific role in successfully finishing the project as well.
To finalize, write down what the outcomes of each of the projects were. Now that you have all this information summed up, it’s time to structure your answers in a way that you can use them during the job interview.
STAR Interview Technique For Answering Questions About Managing Important Projects
The most effective way of structuring your answers to behavioral job interview questions is by using the STAR interview technique. This method allows you to answer in a structured manner so that the interviewer can clearly understand all the important aspects that you want to convey.
The STAR interview technique helps you in a simple yet effective way of how you handled specific situations and challenges in the workplace. STAR is an acronym that stands for (S) situation, (T) task, (A) action and (R) result. Below, the steps of the STAR-technique are described in more detail.
When you answer the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the specific project and challenges you and your team were facing. Also, make sure to provide relevant details. When the interviewer asks you questions about managing important projects, make sure that you provide all the details necessary for them to understand what the project entailed.
After you describe the situation, talk about your specific responsibilities and what your role was in your team. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task during that specific teamwork situation.
Then, talk about the actions you took to make sure you managed the project professionally. Provide the interviewer with a step by step description of what actions you took.
Finally, talk about the outcomes of your and your team’s actions. Make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Here you answer questions such as What happened? And What results did you get? Also, provide the interviewer with information about what you learned from the situation.
Make sure to focus on positive results and positive learning experiences. This indicates that you are able to reflect on situations and have self-knowledge.
Mistakes To Avoid When Answering Questions About Managing Important Projects
Just like there are important things to focus on, there are interview mistakes you should avoid.
General mistakes that you should avoid when answering questions about managing important projects
- Failing to prepare the right way
- Not researching the interviewers
- Wearing the wrong outfit
- Not being punctual
Mistakes related to answering job interview questions about managing important projects
- Don’t ramble. This is easy to do when you’re proud of your accomplishment but avoid it. Keep your story concise and clear, and only provide the necessary details to answer the interviewer’s question.
- Don’t go into the interview without being able to provide clear example situations, especially to behavioral job interview questions.
- Failing to emphasize your contribution to the success of a project.
Sample Questions & Answers About Managing Important Projects
If possible, select a project that you have worked on recently to use in your answers. Below an example of an answer is given to a job interview question about managing an important project.
Remember, your goal is to make the best impression as possible when explaining how you manage important projects. If possible, try to quantify your results when you mention example situations and always share the outcome of the project.
Question & Answer 1: ‘Tell me about a time you managed an important project.’
‘I’ve been involved in several important projects in my previous job as manager of the sales department. One time I was asked to set up a project team to work on a sales presentation to convince a new client to use our services. The pressure was on because it was a 5-year deal and a multi-million dollar contract that was at stake. For the company as well as for me personally, this was a big deal. As this deal would mean a lot for the company in terms of turnover increase, I understood that failure was not an option because it was a unique opportunity.
I gathered a team of the most experienced employees and selected them based on their individual qualities and strengths to make sure to balance the team out. Together with the team, a planning document was set up, and goals and milestones were determined. After that, I delegated tasks based on the knowledge and experience levels of each team member. Also, I hired a project manager to carefully monitor the progress on a day to day basis and report to me on the milestone progress.
Because I distributed the responsibilities according to experience and knowledge levels, everyone on the team was aware of their responsibilities and the importance of the project. The team delivered everything on time without requiring intense oversight. We finished our sales presentation ahead of the deadline and were able to provide the client with everything he asked for. The client told us that he was impressed by our efforts, and we landed the contract, which was the largest contract closed in that year. This was a great achievement for the team as it was an effort that could not have been made without the people on it.’
Question & Answer 2: ‘Tell me about a time you had to resolve a conflict in your team during an important project.’
‘My experiences lead me to believe that every conflict is different and should be resolved in a way that fits the situation. There’s no one size fits all solution to conflicts within a team. The main thing that I focus on is understanding the root of the problem so that I can take further actions and resolve the conflict in the most efficient and effective way possible.
For example, in one of my most recent projects, there occurred a situation where a conflict arose between a software developer and a UX designer about the best way to approach the next A/B test phase. Even though the software developer had been with the organization longer, the UX designer had far more experience in successful A/B testing. However, the developer had been working on the project since kick-off, and since they both had great ideas, I scheduled a meeting with both of them to discuss both sides and work our way towards the test method to go with.
At the end of the meeting, everybody agreed to adopt the strategy of the UX designer while incorporating some of the ideas of the developer. Furthermore, the developer would be more involved in the tests to ensure all set targets would be met.’
Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic