Hello readers and welcome back to our project management career series. This series is geared towards helping you prepare for a change of job or an interview either as a project manager or as a project team member.

In our project management career series, we already explored the following areas:

  • Project management career series – Introduction
  • Project management career series – Scope management
  • Project management career series – Time management

Today, we will be exploring the project management interview questions that could arise from the project quality management knowledge area. As usual, this article will also be providing practical ways to answer these questions.

Project Quality Management

Project quality management is a continuous process that runs across the project. It aims to ensure that the products or services of a project organization are consistent, effective and efficient with respect to the objective for which they were set to achieve.

Quality management is all about meeting and exceeding stakeholders’ expectations while conforming to project requirements.

We often look at quality from a myopic view of the product and services rendered alone. Quality management is more than correcting and maintaining mistakes, it is also about preventing and avoiding. Quality management thus focuses on the process involved in achieving the product/services as well as the product of the project itself.

While it is unlikely for you to be directly asked to define quality in an interview, it is very important to know what it is. According to the International Organization for Standardization, quality is defined as “the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on it is ability to satisfy stated or implied needs” where the stated and implied needs are the objective the project must achieve.

It is also defined as “conformance to requirement” and “fit for use,” which means a product or service can be said to be quality when it has met the product objectives and can also serve the function for which it was created.

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

Q. Differentiate between quality and grade.

Answer – This is a very common interview question and you should expect it especially when applying for the role of a quality control manager.

  • Quality – This is the degree to which a product or result meets the requirements of the customer or end user. It is also defined as “conformance for requirement” and “fit for use.”
  • Grade – This is “a category assigned to products that have the same functional use but different technical characteristics.” Grade has to deal with features of a product.

The use of examples is also a great way of answering this question. For example, a Nokia 3310 mobile phone (calling and texting alone) might be of low grade but high quality, while an iPhone can be of high grade and high quality.

While it is perfectly acceptable for a product to be low grade and high quality, low quality on any product grade should never be tolerated.

Q. Based on the agreement at the internal stakeholders meeting, you were asked to purchase 50 pieces of Blackberry mobile phones for your team members. At the store, the sales personnel advised you to purchase iPhones instead because they had better quality. Moreover, the price is within your budget. What would you do?

Answer – You should buy the Blackberry smartphones. Quality is all about meeting stakeholders’ and end users’ requirements.

Note – The sales person is actually confusing quality with grade. This has been explained above. Do not be tempted to call the purchase department to advice them on getting an iPhone. This is a wrong call.

Q. Explain the cost of quality.

Answer – The cost of quality is the cost associated with not doing things right the first time, i.e. NOT creating a quality product or service. Cost of quality has two main components, which are:

  • Cost of conformance – This is the total cost associated with ensuring a product is of good quality. This includes cost of training, process improvement, quality assurance, quality control and ensuring standards, among others.
  • Cost of non-conformance – This is also referred to as the cost of failure. It is the cost associated with not meeting the quality requirement of a project. This cost can also be divided into two, which are the internal and external cost of failure.
    • Internal cost of failure: Examples are scrap, rework, re-inspection, and retesting.
    • External cost of failure: Examples are warranty claims, customer returns, and product recall.

Q. The Ishikawa diagram and Pareto’s diagram are some of the most important tools in project quality management. How do they work?

Answer

  • The Ishikawa diagram – This is also known as the cause and effect or fish bone diagram. It is used in analyzing a problem statement in order to discover the root cause of a problem. It keeps asking the question “why” until an actionable cause can be attached to the problem.
  • Pareto’s Diagram – This is in line with Pareto’s Principle or 80–20 rule. It is the use of charts (bar chart or histogram) to recognize the few (20%) sources that are responsible for causing most of the problems (80%) in the project or organization.

Q. Explain precision and accuracy in relation to quality management.

Answer – Although these terms are often used interchangeably during quality measurement, they are far from being synonymous.

  • Precision – Precision is the measure of exactness. This means the values of repeated measurement are consistent. This does not necessarily mean they are close to the target measurement.
  • Accuracy – This is the measure of correctness. It refers to how close the measured values are to the targeted value.

The diagram below can help you understand precision and accuracy better.

Note – Precise measurements are not necessarily accurate, while accurate measurements are not necessarily precise. It is your work as a project manager to determine the level of precision and accuracy for every project.

Q. What is benchmarking and why is it used?

Answer – Benchmarking is the process of evaluating one’s business processes and performances against recognized industry leaders and best practices. It is used by organizations that need to keep ahead of competition and best industry practices. Since the world is now a global village, it allows a project organization the ability to judge themselves against competitors using a standard scale.

Q. What is the difference between quality control and quality assurance?

Answer – These two terminologies are often mistaken for each other:

  • Quality Assurance – This is focused on the process that produces the product. It is the set of activities that ensures the quality of the process that produces the product with the aim of preventing defects.
  • Quality control – This is a set of activities that ensures that the product meets the specified quality. This focuses on the finished product and identifies defects before the product is released.

Q. Why is process analysis important in quality management?

Answer – Quality management is more than identifying defective products, it is also about preventing and avoiding defects in the first place, hence a reason to focus on the process that produces the product. Process analysis a tool that helps in making a business process more efficient, thus reducing the amount of mistakes in the process.

Q. Why do you need to be very proactive as a project manager?

Answer – This is a very broad question and requires tactics in answering. A project manager should be proactive so that he/she is not caught unaware by the output of the project he/she is managing. A good project manager should always focus on the long-term as opposed to being reactive to the moment because they understand that their actions today can influence the output tomorrow.

Q. You have just been appointed as the project manager of an organization and you are told the quality of the project is below standard. What is the first thing you would do as a new project manager?

Answer – This is a tricky question as there are literarily a million and one things that could be done. The question is specific on the first thing you would do.

As a good project manager, before making any change or recommendation, the first thing is to identify the objectives of the project, the quality benchmark and the quality metrics used for the project. All these information are contained in the project management plan (Quality management is a part of the project management plan). Once the information is derived, it is measured vis-à-vis the quality of the product; the project manager can then decide the next step of action.

Conclusion

The article above has just identified a list of probable interview questions that you could face regarding quality management when you attend a project management interview. As usual, we would like to highlight that these questions have been framed in a generic form so that it can be adapted to whatever industry you work in. Expect to see industry-related, case-related and abstract questions during an interview. The idea is to analyze and understand the questions before answering.

Also, preparing for interviews is serious business and we should always handle it as such. Never go for an interview unprepared. Sometimes while preparing, we often neglect little details such as researching on the organization we applied to, what industry they belong to and what characteristics they look for in their employees. Being technically sound is definitely important but passing an interview is more than just acing its technical aspect.

Once again, thank you for reading and do not forget to share and drop a comment below.