I teach a project management (PM) course for a local university, and students often inquire about pursuing PM as a career. Their common questions are:

  • How did you get your first PM job?
  • What is your best PM interview question?
  • What are the top skills a PM must have?
  • How important is PMP certification in your job?

I thought it would be interesting to hear what my colleagues had to say about each of these points. Thanks to the folks at #PMChat, I was able to get answers quickly via Twitter. This is the list of interview participants and their Twitter names. I encourage you to follow them, as each person provides their own unique view on the world of PM. (I provided one answer to the discussion to get the ball rolling. If you’re interested, you can follow me on Twitter @andymaker.)

How did you get your first PM job?

  • Met with every manager in the building and asked about junior PM opportunities. (@andymakar)
  • Doing a tech job, and someone asked me for a plan. Then they expected me to follow it. (@grandunifiedpm)
  • Spinning my process design, IT audit experience and convincing someone to hire me! (@peoplepm)
  • I worked up from a developer to a Senior Dev and QA coordinator. A lot of the tasks were similar to PM. Got a job and took it. (@dwrichy)
  • By accident! Boss noticed I had a talent for concept-to-completion projects and saw a need for that in our organization. (@PersimmonGroup)
  • Came up through the ranks in IT projects…analyst, architect, team lead, PM. Got the 1st PM gig when someone else quit. (@klkaz)
  • I did a very tedious task without being asked, saved money and a lot of time in the end…I was the new PM 🙂 (@rkelly976)
  • Working a tech job just started documenting plans and processes using a framework and submitting to manager. (@ITKevinW)
  • Natural progression from Sr Developer to Team Lead to PM (@EdmontonPM)
  • I fell into my first PM role — opportunity came and I took it. Was previously a developer -> tech lead/architect. (@BenFerris)
  • Got PM certification through my job and use it on the job, but job is technically not a PM job. (@JCTAlexander)
  • Fell into it…self-taught most of the way, taking on progressively larger projects (@rkelly976)
  • it came as part of my daily Job. ONE day you are a programmer, next a Team Leader, Project Leader, Project manager… (@irivera)
  • Sometimes the PM path lies through content or business rather than tech. (@dwrichy)
  • It sounds like people who “fall” into PM were first recognized for willingness to step outside their job desc. to add value. (@PersimmonGroup)

What is your best PM interview question?

  • When can you start? 🙂 (@ITKevinW)
  • What value to believe the PM should add to the organization? (@rkelly976)
  • Tell me about a project where you knew there was no way you could pull it off but you did, and how? (@BenFerris)
  • What is the difference between a Project Manager and Project Leader? (@rkelly976)
  • Explain how you deal with ambiguity and missing information in a project. (@grandunifiedpm)
  • We like to ask people about their experiences, and dig deep into how they’ve actually solved problems before. (@PersimmonGroup)
  • What do you do when team members don’t cooperate? (@ITKevinW)
  • What is the role of methodology and tools in the PM space? (@rkelly976)
  • Tough to pick one, but I like behavioral interviews in general. And always ask about a project failure. (@klkaz)
  • Tell us about an experience when you had to resolve conflict. What was the nature of it and how did you deal with it? (@dwrichy)
  • Tell me about a project failure. What type of techniques you used to keep it from falling off the rails? (@califgirl232)
  • Then we ask “what if” questions to see how they respond to the unexpected: What if that hadn’t worked? What would you have done? (@PersimmonGroup)
  • Good PM interview questions are more experiential. Need to demonstrate HOW you have managed, not just give good answers. (@dwrichy)
  • How do you keep your team aligned to project goals? (@pickles_david)
  • Tell us about how you managed a difficult personality on your project team. (@dwrichy)
  • Tell me about links between WBS, Schedule, Estimates and plan… (@grandunifiedpm)
  • How do you deal with people and conflict? (@irivera)
  • Talk about a project failure. If they say they never had any…questionable! (@KellySolutions)
  • What will you do in your first week as PM of this project? (@EdmontonPM)
  • I have asked to see some of their actual project documentation…plans, communications, risk, etc. (@rkelly976)
  • What will you expect from a project sponsor? (@grandunifiedpm)
  • Is there a phrase that would be your vision for this project – Get ‘er done, Team-driven development, Command & Control, etc? (@EdmontonPM)
  • Do you see yourself as a taskmaster, or a delivery consultant? (@grandunifiedpm)

What are the top skills a PM must have?

  • Communication, Conflict resolution, Analysis. (@dwrichy)
  • Leadership, organized personality and communication (@SaMoRaAli)
  • Negotiation, Facilitation & Analytic thinking (@klkaz)
  • Imagination, empathy, organization. (@grandunifiedpm)
  • Communication, Leadership, Enthusiasm (@BenFerris)
  • Communication, negotiation, inspiration (@EdmontonPM)
  • Communication, conflict management, team building. (@califgirl232)
  • Communication skills (written, oral, presentation), Organization, leadership (ITKevinW)
  • Customer Focus, Business Sense, People Skills (@pickles_david)
  • A PM should be disciplined, but flexible in the face of changing circumstances and competing priorities. (@PersimmonGroup)

How important is PMP certification in your job?

  • Useful – talked about study groups, offered to coach & develop staff to improve delivery. (@grandunifiedpm)
  • We value the PMP, but it is one of several more important factors we look at when hiring. (@PersimmonGroup)
  • Not at all. (@peoplepm)
  • It was a Life changer. New opportunities, better salary, new friends. (@irivera)
  • I can’t join a company now without having the certificate and before it a diploma for PMP but the knowledge will great for me. (@SaMoRaAli)
  • I don’t have it – not an obstacle until looking for new opportunities – certifications seem to carry more weight with some than experience. (@pickles_david)
  • added value for job search (@vkmuthu)
  • Getting my PMP designation was not critical at all; the value’s been more intrinsic to me/my knowledge. (@klkaz)
  • It was important in the transition from content PM to joining the tech PMO at my company. A big career boost. (@dwrichy)
  • PMP is of limited benefit in UK. PRINCE2 opens more doors. Also Agile PMP is gaining traction. (@PPMpractitioner)

If you have additional questions, feel free to send them a tweet or join us for another #PMChat on Fridays at 12:00 Noon EST. Thanks to everyone who replied to my PM questions via Twitter.

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