Construction project management roles are in high demand, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 8% growth in employment opportunities from 2019 to 2029. As one of the construction industry’s highest-paying job titles, however, it can still be quite challenging to receive an offer.
For those in construction HR roles, the difficulty lies in figuring out whether a candidate is actually qualified to manage your projects.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few common construction project manager interview questions to help you better prepare, no matter which side of the table you’re on.
How to become a construction project manager: Overview
Before we look at construction project manager interview questions, let’s discuss what it takes to even get to the interview stage.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, successful construction project managers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. The largest firms often prefer candidates who also have extensive experience in other construction roles (i.e. masonry, carpentry, and other subcontractor roles).
Construction project manager duties
Knowledge of a construction project manager’s duties will also help you better understand the common interview questions so let’s take a brief look.
As we discussed in this article, construction project managers have a very large number of responsibilities that full under seven general areas of focus:
- high-level project management
- cost management
- time management
- quality management
- contract administration
- safety management
- team management (including hiring and firing workers)
Construction project managers are involved at virtually every stage of a given project, ensuring the work is going according to plan. They use specialized tools and strategies to achieve this purpose and also have a working knowledge of best practices in fields such as business, finance, and contract law.
Common construction project manager interview questions
Moving onto the meat and potatoes of this article, let’s look at a few common construction project manager interview questions.
1. What career path led you to your current role?
Successful construction project managers (particularly those at large companies, as mentioned earlier) typically have lots of experience working in various construction roles. As such, smart interviewers often ask this question to gauge whether the candidate has the level of expertise required to fulfill a construction project manager’s responsibilities.
2. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on?
Whether the candidate has previously been a project manager for a construction company or not, this question will reveal their work history. Interviewers can use it to evaluate whether the candidate will adequately fill skill gaps or if they’ll need to be extensively retrained.
3. What tools do you use to organize construction tasks?
Task management is an essential part of any construction project manager’s duties. Consequently, it’s normal for interviewers to inquire about which project management tools the candidate has used (along with any follow up questions about each tool’s function as needed).
This question can also help interviewers gauge whether the candidate’s expertise in regards to project management tools aligns with the company’s tech stack.
Check out this article for a list of industry-standard construction resource scheduling programs and an explanation of how they’re used.
Follow-up question: Which tool(s) do you prefer using?
This question can help interviewers figure out the candidate’s thought process and management style. Their specific reasoning for preferring one software over another can say a lot about them. A candidate preferring Software A “because it’s easier to use,” for instance, suggests they value efficiency. Preferring a tool simply because it’s what they’ve always used, meanwhile, might suggest they haven’t been exposed to anything else (and therefore have limited knowledge) or lack the initiative required to learn new things.
4. How would you regain control of a project that’s gone off-course?
For starters, this question will give the candidate an opportunity to explain what they deem to be “off course” when it comes to construction project management. Meaningful answers might include not just time delays but also cost overruns and substantial deviations from the outlined project scope.
Of course, this question will also give the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate their problem-solving skills. The most successful answers will include real-world examples of times the candidate got an off-course project back on track.
5. How do you handle job-site conflicts?
Given that construction projects place dozens (sometimes even hundreds) of people in high-stress environments, conflict is inevitable.
This question is open-ended enough that it gives candidates some leeway to reveal what sorts of conflicts they consider noteworthy. As with the previous question, it also gives them a chance to provide real-world examples of conflicts they resolved on job-sites.
Common scenarios interviewers might look for include resource theft (including materials and time) and insubordination.
It’s worth highlighting that candidates who claim to have never experienced conflict aren’t necessarily doing themselves any favors. In the eyes of an interviewer, someone who never experiences conflict may be too passive (or too much of a pushover) for a role like construction project management.
6. What is your leadership style?
As with the other construction project manager interview questions we’ve discussed so far, a candidate’s answer to this will reveal multiple things.
For starters, a candidate’s answer will reveal whether they’re reflective and mature enough to actually weigh the pros and cons of various leadership styles. If a candidate has no idea how to appropriately describe their leadership style, for example, this might suggest the answer is no.
Of course, the candidate’s answer to this question should also reveal their leadership style and help the interviewer gauge whether they’re a right fit for the company’s culture.
7. How do you keep subordinates motivated?
Construction projects can be arduous, filled with back-breaking work and long early-morning drives to job sites. Consequently, keeping workers motivated is an important aspect of a construction project manager’s tasks. A candidate’s answer to this question will reveal their people management skills and whether they’re actually pleasant to work with.
8. What does your decision-making process look like when sorting through subcontractor proposals?
As part of a construction project manager’s tasks, they’ll likely be involved in the bidding process. It’s important, therefore, that candidates be up to date on the best practices and regulations for managing subcontractor bids. Some interviewers may also like to see familiarity with popular bidding platforms (i.e. those we discussed in this list).
9. Describe a challenging project and how you handled it
This question is popular because a candidate’s answer will reveal what they consider to be challenging. If handling similar projects would be a regular part of the manager’s role, the interviewer will want to see that they’ve taken strides towards becoming more confident in this area.
We hope this article has helped you understand some of the common questions construction project managers face during interviews. These questions are all carefully chosen to determine whether the candidate has what it takes to thrive as a project manager at the company they’ve applied to.
For more articles related to construction project management (including roles and what they entail), visit our blog here.