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You come across a job post for a project manager that seems to fit you perfectly. You get into the interview room and everything is going well. And now, the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Do you?
Of course. Asking questions makes you seem interested in the job (you are), but it’s also a gateway into truly understanding the company’s true needs. It’s unlikely to see their biggest pain points listed on the job posting, after all.
If you can clearly identify the situation, it’ll help you prepare long before you ever step through their doors.
Not sure what to ask? Here are five questions to grasp the company’s current standing and see if this project manager position is the right fit for you.
1. How Was Business With The Previous Project Manager?
It’s possible the company never had a project manager position before, especially if they’re a startup. If that’s the case, you’ll be going into this position entirely on your own. You won’t be filling shoes or following the blueprint of a previous manager.
But if they did previously employ a project manager, knowing a few things about their role can beneficial to you. For instance, did they leave the company or move up through a promotion? Depending on the answer, it can give more perspective on the working conditions and values of the company.
The project manager may have also left projects or instructions to jump into the work without hassle. Many projects may be on hold until they fill the position. Understanding their current workload prepares you for the first day as well.
2. If Hired, What Are The Expectations For The First Six Months?
Let’s face it: Most job postings are incredibly generic. Every single one lists an overview of responsibilities and qualities but skips discussions about projects. You can’t learn true problems specific to the company until you’re talking directly with someone who works there. In this case, the interviewer.
Now is the time to ask specific questions and gauge their expectations. It’ll help you align yourself better for the position, while also understanding what they’ll need from you from day one.
3. How Do You Measure Success?
Success is such an ambiguous term. Startups have different definitions of success compared to companies who have been in the game for decades. Simply having the project manager show up can be a success! But usually, the bar isn’t that low.
You already know the generic expectations: Excellent communication, a critical mind, and a “go-getter” who will work hard. Knowing, in detail, how this company values and measures success is necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page.
You and the company could have conflicting ideas about what makes a project manager successful. If neither of you can align to the same vision, you’re both going to have a rough time.
4. What Will Be The Steepest Learning Curve?
Companies are a complex combination of processes and technology. A company may use niche-software to get the job done. But if you’ve never heard of it, learning how to use it will be overwhelming at the beginning. Or maybe how the teams communicate is restrictive in your opinion and limiting how you talk with managers and teams could affect your results.
Unless you ask, you’ll never know. But if you’re alerted to the learning curve early, you’ll have extra time to understand the basics and work your way up from there. It also shows initiative to ask this question and discuss how you’ll step up to learn quickly (if possible).
5. How Does Everyone Manage Their Tasks?
Is it time to clock out? When will you know? As a project manager, you’ll handle many tasks throughout the day. But how do you know when it’s OK to put your coat on and walk out those doors? Do they expect you to take work home for you and work on the weekend?
This may be a company where emails are flying out at all hours of the night. If you don’t respond, what will be the repercussions? Understanding their expectations now can help you decide if the position is a good fit and whether you’ll be able to meet their obligations without issue.