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 have 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 – Cost management
  • Project management career series – Human resource management
  • Project management career series – Risk resource management

Today, we will discuss the project communication management and we will explore probable interview questions that could arise from the communication management knowledge area during a project management interview. As usual, we will also provide practical ways of answering these questions.

Meeting with stakeholders, project bidding, negotiation, problem solving, interviews, marketing, etc. are all phases of a project that requires effective communication as on of the skills for success. The importance of effective communication in determining the success of a project can never be overemphasized, as the average project manager is known to spend about 90 percent of his/her time communicating.

Communication goes beyond written and oral. It also includes nonverbal communication, which is the use of body language. The use of nonverbal communication is very popular in organizations and might sometimes contradict what a person is saying. It also reflects emotions, mood and state of a mind of a team member, which might affect the way in which your team member goes about carrying out their duties. It is our responsibility as project managers to understand all communication methods and to respond accordingly.

In line with our career series, the following are prospective project communication management questions that you can expect during a project management interview.

Q: A project has 24 people working on it. What effect does adding another team member to the project have on communication?

Answer – The primary challenge with adding another team member to a project is an increase in the number of communication channels, which makes the project communication more complex to manage. A communication channel is calculated using a formula N(N-1)/2 where “N” is the number of people working on the project. For 24 people, there would be 276 communication channels while an additional team member would increase that number to 300. That’s a sizable increase and would create the need for a more effective communication management system. Twenty-four more communication channels are also likely to increase the amount of conflict on the project and errors that could result from communication errors.

Q: What factors would you consider when selecting the communication method / technology you would require on a project?

Answer – According to PMBOK, the following factors are to be considered before deciding on the communication method to use for a project

  • Urgency of the need for information – This varies from project to project and there is a need to consider it before selecting the communication technology to be used. Always treat every project uniquely.
  • Technology availability – What technology is readily available and accessible for all stakeholders. The availability of technology would naturally vary across project teams and project locations.
  • Ease of use – How convenient is it for the project team members and the stakeholders to adapt and use the technology
  • Project environment – Is the project environment a face-to-face one or a virtual one? Do all project team members speak the same languages and are there other factors such as culture, environment and background that can affect the project communication? These and many more questions should be answered before selecting the communication method.
  • Sensitivity and confidentiality of information – How sensitive is the nature of information that needs to be communicated? Is there a need to keep the information confidential or not?

Q: Why is feedback an important aspect of the communication model?

Answer – Communication is effective only when the recipient(s) understands the information the exact way the sender intends them to be. Feedback is important in communication, as it is the only means of confirming if the receiver understands and agrees with the information as intended by the sender. Analysis of feedback from the audience also helps in evaluating the effectiveness of our communication.

Q: In what situation would you advice us to use to push communication over the pull communication?

Answer – This means discuss both push and pull communication and explain the characteristics of push communication and when it should be used.

  • Push communication – This is a communication type that ensures information is sent to specific receivers who needs to receive the information. Popular examples of this communication type includes emails, letters, memos, voice mails, etc.
  • Pull communication – This is used for large volume information and large audiences. When using pull communications, recipient would usually access the information at his or her own discretion. Common examples includes tutorial sites, Internet sites, lesson learned database, etc.

From the definition, you can understand and describe situations when push communication has an advantage over pull communication. An example is during direct / target marketing, where organizations try to reach individual customers with information specific for them.

Q: You are working on a project similar to a project you have previously worked on. You are using the same members but in a different environment. You have applied the same communication strategy you previously used, but its not working. What could have been wrong?

Answer – Question can be rephrased as “taking all other factors as constant, what is the effect of the project environment on communication?”

The project environment has a lot of influence on the communication method that would be adapted for a project. What technology is available in the geographical location of the project and how effective are they? While Internet communication (emails, Skype, etc.) might be readily available in some environments, poor Internet connection might make the use of phone calls the best form of communication in another environment. Are there any government regulations or restrictions about communication in the country and what effect would they have on project communication? While the project team members and project criteria might remain the same, the project environment plays an important role in determining the effectiveness of project communication.

Q: Communication management goes beyond your immediate team member, but should focus on all stakeholders. Why is it important to involve other stakeholders when planning communication?

Answer – It is the duty of any project manager to ensure that the project stakeholders’ expectations are fulfilled. Project stakeholders have various levels of power and expectations over a project and it is important to manage communication with them in order to understand and meet their expectations. Different information is also derived from different stakeholders, for example shareholders focuses on profit and organizational growth while communication with consumers would focus on product feedback and customer satisfaction.

Q: How do you deal with noise during communication?

Answer – Noise is anything that influences the effective interpretation of message sent during communication. Noise could be as a result of disruption in sound signal, barriers arising from the various stages of communication, wrong choice of medium, communication surrounding, etc. Noise can be dealt with by:

  • Avoiding ambiguity
  • Preempting and avoiding personal barriers
  • Plan the message (content)
  • Craft the message
  • Ensure proper delivery of message
  • Listen for feedback

Q: The relationship between two departmental heads has gone sour and is affecting the project performance. As the project management, what steps would you take to ensure your project is back on track?

Answer – This question focuses on conflict resolution. Communication skills is one of the major skills involved in conflict resolution, thus it is not unusual to find questions crossing these two areas. Conflicts are bound to occur in any organization and it is sometimes important for conflicts to occur before there can be progress in a project. Conflicts should be monitored and never be allowed to get personal as they can influence the project in a negative way. Conflict management focuses on understanding the root cause of the problem and using the right technique in resolving the problem. For detailed information on conflict resolution, see our article on effective conflict resolution techniques here

Conclusion

The questions above are technical project communication management questions that cut across the various industries. While questions might be framed towards a particular industry or sector, the principles behind answering the questions remains the same.

Before any interview, always be prepared. Stay relaxed, listen carefully and understand the question you are being asked. If you missed a part of the question or do not understand, feel free to ask your interviewer. Remember, the aim is to provide the right answer to the question asked and answering the wrong question is a step towards failure already.

Let us remind ourselves that success in an interview also goes beyond having a good technical knowledge of the subject matter alone. Always think about the following – What are your strengths and weaknesses? What unique character do you have that should give you an advantage over other applicants? How do you present yourself? What soft skills do you possess, etc. These and more are analyzed together with your technical knowledge in order to determine the best candidate.

Once again, thank you for reading. Hope you have learned some valuable techniques for your project management interview preparation. If you have any questions or suggestions, do leave us a message in the comment box below.