Hello readers and welcome back to our project management series. Today, we will continue with our “Project Management Career” series, which focuses on helping you prepare for a change of job or an interview either as a project manager or a project tram member.

In our previous articles, we explored the generic project management terminologies and questions that can be asked in an interview situation and probable project scope management interview. Today, we will discuss project management interview questions that could arise from the project management knowledge area. This article will provide practical ways to answer these questions.

Project time management

Time is a very important resource and is sometimes classified as the most valuable one. All project deliverables have a time constraint and every project organization understands the importance of time in project management and wants to hire a project manager who is going to help them meet the ever-demanding schedule of their projects.

Time management is the act of planning and controlling the amount of time spent on an activity. Project time management, on the other hand, is the ability to ensure the successful completion of a project within the time constraint.

PMP Training – Resources (Intense)

Below are general project time management related questions that you are likely to come across during your interview as a project manager.

Q: Explain the critical path and when is an activity considered to be critical?

A: A critical path is the longest sequence of activities, which must be completed for the project to be completed. It is also referred to as the path with zero float. An activity is considered critical when it is on the critical path. Note: A delay on any activity on the critical path would lead to an overall delay in the project.

Q: What is crashing and fast tracking? When are they used?

A: Crashing and fast tracking are project management tools used when a project is falling behind schedule.

  • Crashing – this is when additional resources are allocated to activities on the critical path making it possible to complete the activity and the overall project at an earlier time. Note: There is no deed crashing an activity that is not on the critical path, as it doesn’t affect the duration of the project.
  • Fast tracking – this is reviewing the activity relationship to look for activities that can be done simultaneously. When fast tracking, the risk of the project increases and the project manager should be on the lookout for risk triggers. If properly carried out, it reduces the duration of the project.

Q: What is the function of the milestone list?

A: A milestone list is a document that lists all significant and important points, deadlines and events in a project. It is used to keep track of the project’s schedule and is an easy way of communicating with senior management as it shows what activities should have been completed on a particular date.

Q: You have been appointed as the project manager of an ongoing project that is running late on schedule. What would you do?

A: Once it has been confirmed that the project is running late on schedule, the first thing to do is to identify the reason the project is running late. This would help in determining the next action to take.

One probable reason why a project might be falling behind schedule includes: Scope creep, lack of client support, lack of skilled workers, technical issues or sheer negligence.

After the cause has been identified, the following steps can be taken to meet up with the deadline:

  • Crashing – adding more resources or doing overtime
  • Fast tracking – performing activities in parallel
  • Changing the project scope
  • Extend deadline
  • Ensuring sponsor commitment to project

Time wasted can never be regained. Since time is one of the triple constrain, for the schedule to be back on track there would be a trade off on one or both of the other constrain which are cost and scope.

Q: Explain the various dependency relationships in a project.

A: There are four main types of dependency relationships that can exist between two activities in a project. These are the:

  • Finish to start – this is the most common type of relationship where a successor activity cannot begin until the predecessor activity is completed. Example, the roof of a building cannot start until the walls are completed.
  • Finish to finish – This is a relationship where the successor activity cannot finish unless the predecessor activity finishes. Example, editing a document cannot finish until writing it finishes.
  • Start to start – Here, the successor activity cannot start unless the predecessor activity starts. Example, leveling of concrete cannot begin until pouring of concrete begins.
  • Start to finish – This is a relationship where the successor activity cannot be completed until the predecessor activity begins. An example is the start of the day security guard signals the end of the night security guard.
    Note: The start to finish is always the most confusing concept of all.

Q: What is the function of a precedence network diagram (PDM)?

A: this is a tool used in scheduling activities in the project management plan. It is also known as the project network diagram and gives a visual representation of the relationship between activities in a project. The functions of the PDM are:

  • Visual communication of project flow
  • It identifies activity dependencies
  • It identifies the critical path / activities
  • Visual representation helps in identifying missing activities

Q: What is bottom-up estimating?

A: Bottom-up estimating is a project technique used in calculating project schedule or cost. It makes use of the activities work breakdown structure by summing up the estimates of the individual activities in the work breakdown structure in order to determine the total time or cost of a project. It is fairly accurate as it sums up all the work packages. It is; however, more accurate for projects with a smaller scope.

Q: Differentiate between analogous estimating, parametric estimating and three-point estimating.

A: this simply means explain the three estimating methods above.

  • Analogous estimating – this is a means of estimating the cost or time of an activity based on historical data of pervious similar activities. This is the least accurate form of estimating, but is very useful when only little information is known about a project.
  • Parametric estimating – this uses an algorithm to calculate duration and cost based on historical data and project parameters (meters, feet). This is more accurate because it makes use of scales. For example, it takes 10 weeks to finish 3msq of roof, and it would take 30 weeks to finish 9msq.
  • Three-point estimating – this is the most accurate of the duration and cost estimating techniques as it factors in risk. The estimated time (te) is calculated by finding an average of the most likely time ™, optimistic time (to) and pessimistic time (tp) using the formula:
    te = (to +4tm +tp) / 6

Q: What is resource leveling and does it have any advantage?

A: This is a project management technique that is used to allocate resources efficiently across the duration of the project in order to avoid possible resource conflict that might arise from over allocation or under allocation of resource. Resource leveling has the following advantages:

  • It prevents over allocation or under allocation of resources
  • It ensures resources are available when needed
  • It helps in controlling the budget over a particular period of time (rather than doing a lot of work at a particular point in the project, it can be shared evenly throughout the project lifecycle)
  • It reduces the risk factor of the project

Q: There has just been an increase in scope in a project you are handling. Time is an important factor that cannot be changed. What would you do?

A: In answering this, remember the three constrain of a project, which are time, cost, and scope. From the question, time cannot be increased, and the scope has been increased. This leaves us completing more scope in little time.

Since time is of the essence, what we need to do is crash or fast track the project. We should; however, bear in mind that crashing or fast tracking a project would both increase the cost and risk of the project.

Conclusion

Hope you have learned a thing or two going through this article. Once again, let us remind ourselves that these questions are generic and cut across various fields and industries. As a prospective employee, always 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 quality 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.

REFERENCES

  1. Project management body of knowledge (PMBOK)
  2. Wikipedia