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Top 10 Project Manager interview questions (second part) -- All answers about project tools!

The interview questions asked by Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook recruiters do not really matter: what matters is the knowledge you need to give the right answers to any question! So, stop reading hundredth of interview questions: it is a waste of time. Rather learn the key concepts described in this post and you will be in a much better position the day of the interview. In particular, many questions are are about the tools you would use as a project manager, or you have used in your past projects.

NB: I strongly advise you to read the PMBOK before your PM interview, as it presents all the concepts you need to know about project and program management.

The tools of a project manager depend on the project phases. So, I will first tell you about these phases and then I will cover the tools.

What are the phases of a project?

The five phases of a project are:
  1. the initiation, 
  2. the planning, 
  3. the execution, 
  4. the monitoring / controlling, and 
  5. the closing. 
Some projects do not reach the execution because the project planning shows that the objectives are unrealistic.

In the figure below, you see an iterative project process where the project goes through several rounds of re-specification and execution before closing. For instance, first phase could be a fast track screening that permits to refine the objectives for the second phase of the project. 

Project phases (image from Wikipedia)

The top-8  tools for project management

If you are asked to list the tools you have used in a project, do not answer with the name of the piece of software such as Microsoft Project! The tools used vary for  every phase of a project. Globally, as a project manager, you will use the following tools:
  1. Expert judgment: skills from inside and outside the project team, including consultants, analysts, publications...
  2. Facilitation techniques: brainstorming, meeting management, problem solving...
  3. Project management information system
  4. Meetings
  5. Analytic techniques
  6. Change control tools: to keep track of the modifications requested by the customer and if they are approved or not.
  7. Product analysis
  8. Alternative generation
If the project has complex requirements, you may also need:
  • Interviews, focus groups, workshops
  • Creativity and decision making techniques: brainstorming, voting, mind maps, affinity diagrams, decision matrices
  • Group decision making: unanimity, majority, plurality, dictatorship
  • Surveys, questionnaires, data collection tools
  • Prototypes
  • Benchmarking
  • etc.

All these techniques require some experience to bring full results. To understand their pro and cons,  I advise you to read the PMBOK

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