Construction Project Manager Interview Questions
Construction project managers oversee every aspect of a construction project and supervise teams of skilled and unskilled workers on the job site. The manager will also maintain a close relationship with clients, ensuring the client’s needs are met and being ready to advise them as needed about requested work and change orders. The project manager also needs to be well connected with vendors, subcontractors, and architects to coordinate project workflows and collaborations between all parties involved.
Construction project managers will be responsible for:
- Working with clients to ensure clear goals for a project
- Coordinating the procurement of proper construction supplies
- Working with subcontractors to ensure a well-staffed work crew
- Working with architects to make sure the work crew has a clear view of the work that needs to be done
- Managing a work crew in a respectful and efficient manner
- Ensuring an efficient work schedule is followed
- Instituting proper risk-management policies
- Creating and negotiating subcontractor contracts with external vendors in order to reach profitable agreements
- Managing project finances including profitability and cash flow
- Leading strategic planning and project submittal, request for information, and change order processes
Construction project managers need to come from a construction background and have a working knowledge of all skills needed in the construction process. A construction project manager will:
- Have experience interpreting blueprints
- Have hands-on management experience in construction
- Have adequate interpersonal skills for working with all parties involved in the project
- Be knowledgeable of safety standards and practices as well as building permits
- Be able to calculate cost estimates for clients
- Have knowledge of proper construction supplies and methods
- Be able to work independently and solve problems
- Be a positive team player who can coordinate and motivate multiple parties
A construction project manager will have a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering (or a related field of study) and several years of construction experience in a lesser role. Managers may have drafting experience and training and should have experience with managing budgets as well. Many companies require a minimum of three years in a project management or property management role.
Salaries for Construction Project Managers range between $80K and $132K with the median being $106K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a construction project manager include:
- Degrees (apprenticeship certificate, associate's, bachelor's)
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the supervisor you report to and number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Construction Project Manager Interview Questions
Question: Can you tell me about your journey to becoming a construction project manager?
Explanation: This is an opening question which the interviewer will ask to begin the conversation, learn more about you, and uncover some information they can use for other questions during the interview.
Example: “My path to becoming a construction project manager started when I was still in high school and worked summers as a laborer on construction projects. The work was hard, and I was assigned the worst jobs, but I loved being outside, building things, and working with a team of professionals. I continued to work construction during my years at college when I studied project management. Once I graduated, I was able to find a job as an assistant project manager. I learned a great deal from my supervisor and eventually was able to start managing projects of my own."
Question: What is your method for building a team for a project?
Explanation: This is an operational question. Interviewers will ask operational questions to understand how you go about doing this job. The best way to answer operational questions is directly and concisely.
Example: “When putting together a team for a project, I review the requirements for the job and the type of workers it will require. I then put together the teams based on their trades, skills, and experience with this type of work. Once all of the teams are formed, I then assign supervisors based on the size of the team and the amount of work to be performed. Finally, I add any administrative personnel needed to manage the project.”
Question: What is your experience managing complex budgets on a large building project?
Explanation: This is another operational question. The interviewer wants to ensure you have the experience necessary to manage the budgets of large construction projects. Make sure to keep your answer direct and to the point and anticipate a follow-up question.
Example: “As a construction project manager, I have a great deal of experience managing project budgets. I use a variety of tools, including spreadsheets, accounting programs, and pert charts to accomplish this. One method I’ve adopted is establishing a budget goal which is 10% less than the budget I have been assigned. This provides me with a cushion for any overages and keeps me focused on completing the project under budget.”
Question: What steps do you take when a worker disregards your instructions about their assignment on a project?
Explanation: This is a behavioral question. Behavioral questions present a scenario that is likely to occur for this type of position and then asks how you would react to it. The best way to respond to behavioral questions is by using the STAR framework. You state the Situation, describe the Task you need to accomplish, discuss the Actions you would take, and then talk about the Results you anticipate achieving.
Example: “If I were to encounter a situation in which a worker disregarded my instructions, I would take the necessary steps to bring them into line and accept the assignment. First, I would sit down with them to gain an understanding of why they didn’t want to do the work I assigned them. Then I would describe the overall objective of the project, their role, and why they needed to do the work they have been assigned. I would answer any questions they may have but would be persistent in requiring them to do the work. I would anticipate that once they understood the job, they would accept the assignment, and we would move on.”
Question: How would you react if you witnessed one of your workers not using the required safety equipment on a job?
Explanation: Safety is critical on any construction project. Safety issues can impact the project’s progress, costs, and eventual completion. Ensuring safety is maintained on the job site is one of the critical responsibilities of a construction project manager. Since this is another behavioral question, make sure you use the STAR framework to structure your answer.
Example: “If I witnessed one of the workers not following safety protocols on a project, the first thing I would do would be to stop the work. I would restate the importance of the safety equipment and ask them why they weren’t following procedures. I would clear up any misunderstandings they may have and reiterate how important it was for them to use the equipment. If they continued to refuse, I would remove them from the job site. However, I believe the majority of workers would comply with the safety rules since they are the ones being protected.”
Question: What are the methods you use to keep a construction project on time and under budget?
Explanation: You may recognize this question because it is similar to the one you were previously asked. Interviewers will ask similar questions throughout the interview to calibrate your answers and make sure you are consistent with your answers. As long as you answer each question truthfully and forthrightly, you should have no problem with this.
Example: “Keeping construction projects on time and under budget is critical in my profession. I do this by first setting reasonable expectations about the schedule and the budget required to complete the work. Once the work begins, I keep track of things using spreadsheets, pert charts, and other software. I conduct periodic meetings with the supervisors and forepersons on the project to understand the progress we’re making and any roadblocks they are encountering. If the project falls behind schedule or begins to go over budget, I take corrective actions to remediate both of these situations.”
Question: How do you keep your construction project teams motivated?
Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is trying to discover your people management and communication skills. Being able to accomplish this is critical for any project manager. When answering this question and describing how you accomplish this, you can also cite examples of how you have done this in the past and the results you achieved.
Example: “Keeping my teams focused and motivated to complete the work on time and under budget is one of the biggest challenges of this role. Individual team members may not have the motivation necessary due to their personalities, on-the-job issues, and even things outside of work that are impacting their lives. Methods I use to motivate my teams include keeping them engaged in all aspects of the project management process, making sure they understand the objective we’re trying to achieve, providing incentives such as financial bonuses, time off, and recognition, and when necessary, disciplining them.”
Question: Can you describe your experience hiring subcontractors or dealing with vendors during a construction project?
Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is trying to understand your qualifications to work with resources not in your direct control. The skills necessary to deal with vendors and subcontractors include management, negotiation, communication, and collaboration. Make sure you include some or all of these in your answer since this is what the interviewer is expecting.
Example: “I have a great deal of experience dealing with both subcontractors and vendors while managing a complex construction project. I have found that treating them as partners and creating an atmosphere of collaboration, open communication, and motivation helps this process go smoothly. My goal is to help them understand that we all have an equal stake in the project and that by working together, we will all succeed.”
Question: Do you have a preference between using company employees or outsourcing the work to contract employees and subcontractors?
Explanation: This is a follow-up to the previous question. As mentioned earlier, you should anticipate follow-up questions any time you provide an answer to the interviewer. Follow-up questions should be answered in the same manner as the original question.
Example: “When working on a construction project, I prefer working with company employees. These are known commodities with whom I’ve previously worked and who I have the most control over. However, I recognize many projects require us to go outside of the company to hire subcontractors and extend our staff with contract labor. When I work with organizations or individuals outside of the company, I take time to get them engaged in the project as if they were part of our company. I create common goals and a win-win relationship with them.”
Question: How would you react if you completed a project per the contractual requirements, but the client is unhappy with the results and refuses to sign off on the project?
Explanation: This is another hypothetical behavioral question. While it is rare, a situation where a customer refuses to sign off on the final project could occur. You should be able to describe the steps you would take if this were to happen. Make sure you use the STAR framework to organize your answer.
Example: “Although I’ve never encountered this during my career, I’m sure it does occasionally happen. If the customer refuses to sign off on the project, I need to get them to understand that we did the project per the requirements. I would seek to understand why they were unsatisfied and address any questions or misconceptions they may have. I would point out that we delivered the project per the specifications. If there were required changes, I’d point out that it would take additional time and money. I would refer back to the contract if they continued to dispute our performance. Hopefully, this would resolve the situation. If not, I would then escalate the issue to senior management who are most likely to take the matter to arbitration or some other form of legal remediation.”
Additional Construction Project Manager Interview Questions
How would you approach overseeing a large project?
How do you prioritize and organize tasks?
How do you go about acquiring proper permits for a project?
How do you approach quality control on a worksite?
What leadership skills do you find most important in this line of work?
Tell us about the last project you were involved with.
How do you handle relationships with clients?
How do you handle relationships with subcontractors?
How do you handle safety issues on a work site?
Give an example of a time you had to reach a compromise with a client.
What type and size of projects have you built?
What are the first steps in planning a construction project?
Which project management tools are you familiar with? Which tools do you prefer, and why?
What actions would you take if a project was falling behind schedule or exceeding the project’s budget?
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