Hello readers and welcome back to our project management career series. This series is focused on helping you prepare for a change of job or an interview either as a project manager or a project team member.
In our project management career series, we already successfully explored the following areas:
- Project management career series – Introduction
- Project management career series – Scope management
- Project management career series – Time management
- Project management career series – Quality management
- Project management career series – Cost management
In this article, we will explore probable project management questions that could arise from the human resource knowledge area during an interview for the position of a project manager. As usual, we will provide practical ways to answer these questions.
PMP Training – Resources (Intense)
Human resource management involves the organizing, managing, leading and coordinating of project team members in order to effectively carryout the activities required to complete a project. The project team consists of people having various skills that are required in fulfilling a part of a project. They are assigned roles based on their skill in order to meet the project requirements.
Human resources is the most important resource in a project organization. This is because humans are emotional beings and have the capacity to reason as well. They are also in charge of coordinating other resources to achieve the desired project results. While they are the most important resource, they are also the most difficult to manage and coordinate. Naturally, humans hate to be controlled and often need to justify why they do what they do. They have their own opinions and would naturally react when they feel oppressed or ill-treated.
An effective project manager is a leader and knows how to properly manage his or her team to achieve project goals. Project organizations look for a combination of technical, management and leadership skills to ensure that you can successfully manage both the project and the project team.
The following are prospective project human resource management related questions you can expect during a project management interview.
Q: You have one qualified data analyst in your organization and are coordinating four projects, which require his input. How do you deal with the situation?
A: The data analyst is a scarce resource and should be treated as one. It is your responsibility as project managers to ensure the use of proper resource planning and resource leveling when scheduling resources. A proper resource schedule would ensure that the data analyst is available on all projects at the time required. The resource planning takes into consideration project deadlines, urgency and strategic alliances of the project and organizational goals when assigning resources to a project.
Q: What is the function of the responsibility assignment matrix?
A: The responsibility assignment is also known as the RACI (Responsibility, Accounted, Consulted and Informed) matrix. It is a graphical representation used in describing the participation by various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a project or business process. It is particularly relevant in large projects and projects with a lot of cross-functional relationships. It reduces chaos by clearly detailing who is accountable for what role in fulfilling the project deliverables.
Q: Explain the team building process
A: The team building process consists of activities set up to make team members work together in a more productive and effective manner. It builds trust and establishes good working relationships among team members. There are five activities in the team building process, which are:
- Forming – The team is formed; team members learn about the project objectives and their roles. Team members at this stage are often independent and do not relate properly with each other.
- Storming – Team members address the work and suggest ideas and opinions about ways of implementing it. Team members often argue and have different opinions at this phase.
- Norming – Team begins to work together, understand themselves better and support the team rather than self.
- Performing – Team work as an organized unit. They understand themselves and project related issues are resolved with ease.
- Adjourning – The team completes the project that brought them together and moves on to other projects or phases. This generally occurs as part of the close phase or close project process.
Q: Soft skills are important in building an effective project team. Explain.
A: Soft skills are also referred to as interpersonal skills. They are used in combination with the technical and conceptual skills when managing projects and are very important when dealing with humans. Soft skills include:
- Leadership skills – There are various leadership theories existing out there and not all of them are applicable to all projects. Based on the type and phase of the project, it is important for a project manager to determine which leadership skills to apply and when to apply it.
- Decision making skills – Making decisions when it comes to human resource management requires more than technical skills. The project manager should realize that his decisions affects his team members and they would likely react if they are not satisfied with the mode decision reached by their manager.
- Motivating skills – This skill is required in convincing and providing team members with a reason to do what you want them to do.
Q: What are the advantages of colocation?
A: Colocation is when all or most of the project team members are in the same physical location to enhance their ability to perform as a team. It improves the relationship among team members.
Q: Over the years, rewards and recognition has been a great way of promoting desired behavior. Can you give an example of how this can be badly done?
A: Just like the question stated, reward and recognition is a good way of motivating team members, but it can also demotivate them when not properly carried out. Some examples of when it is badly done included:
- Recognizing a team member for a collective team effort. This would naturally demotivate other team members who worked to be a part of the project success.
- Some reward when not properly implemented causes unhealthy competition among project team members.
Q: What criteria would you use when acquiring your project team?
A: There are lots of factors to be considered when selecting a project team depending on the nature of the project. The following are general factors that should be taken into consideration:
- Availability – Ensure the team member is available to work on the project within the time period needed. If the prospective team member is not available, plan a substitute to avoid disappointment and project failure.
- Cost – It is necessary to analyze the cost implication of adding a team member vis-à-vis the project cost estimate.
- Experience – Does the team member have the required experience to discharge his/her duties effectively?
- Ability – Verify that the team member has the required competencies that is needed to complete the project.
- Knowledge – Ensure the team member has knowledge of project environment, dealing with clients or handling similar projects.
- Skills – What relevant skills relating to the project does the team member have?
- Attitude – What is the attitude of the member? Does he/she easily bond with others and work well in team situations?
- International factors – Consider the geographical location, time, language and ethics of the team member.
Q: Explain the conflict management techniques.
A: Conflict and disagreements are bound to occur in any project especially at the forming stage of the project team. There are five conflict management techniques that are generally used in resolving conflicts. These are: (1) withdraw / Avoid, (2) Smooth / Accommodate, (3) Compromise / Reconcile, (4) Force / Direct, (5) Collaborate / Problem solve. To understand more about conflict resolution, check our article on conflict resolution technique here.
Q: The human resource manager is recruiting for the position of a technical analyst and you discovered that the two people hired are his relations. What would you do?
A: It is not impossible that there might have been favoritism, but first of all you have to verify the recruitment process adapted by the human resources manager. Are his relations the most qualified people? What is the organizational policy on employing relatives? Which other people are qualified for the role? Do the employed relatives have the capacity to function in the said role and strengthen the project team? The aim here is to ensure that the most qualified personnel are employed for the position. If any form of favoritism is discovered in the process, the human resource personal should be confronted with the fact then reported to the senior management.
Q: Why would you carry out a project performance appraisal?
A: A performance appraisal is carried out to determine the effectiveness of the team’s developmental strategies towards fulfilling the projects goals. It checks for factors such as:
- Improvement in the skill set of individual team members
- Improvement in working relationship of the project team
- Project performance in relation to cost
- Project performance with respect to budget
Hope you have learned a thing or two going through this article. Once again, we cannot remind ourselves that these questions are generic and cut across various fields and industries. As a prospective employee, it is your duty to research the industry before attending an interview. Do expect industry-related questions and give relevant examples when answering them.
In our next article we will talk about how to answer project risk management questions in interviews.
That’s all we have for today and once again thank you for reading. Do not forget to drop your thoughts and questions in the comments section.