Tough Interview Question - Describe a time when you managed a project or people

Describe a time when you managed a project or people.

Similar interview questions:
Tell me about your leadership skills.
Have you ever had an opportunity to take the lead on a project or task?
How do you work toward deliverables when you control the resources?
Give me an example of a project or task that you delivered with the help of others.

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is evaluating your leadership competencies. The question is structured in a way that it gives you the option of talking about either people management or project management. The interviewer will likely drill into the details of how you manage people and/or resources under your control to generate the best possible return.

The best approach to answering this question:
If you have not actually managed people or projects, substitute the word “led” for managed. In most cases, even individual contributors have led people and/or projects. Or at least taken a lead role among peers. Select an example where you delivered on time and within budget results. Talk about how you utilized both the people and non-people resources available to you to deliver the expected results.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"Great question. Although I don’t manage people in terms of performance reviews, I am in a lead technical role on my current project. In this role, it’s my responsibility to make sure the project is moving forward efficiently and break down any technical barriers to achieving our goals. Instead of regularly scheduled meetings, I’ve put together informal scrum sessions to help us work through issues together as a team if and when they occur. Let me tell you more about one of our recent scrum sessions and how I led the team to successfully meet its next delivery milestones…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"In my recent internship, I led a small research team in generating some quick user feedback on a new feature we were looking to launch. I had two other interns working with me on the research, so we split the work by global geography. I took the Americas, one intern took EMEA and the other intern took Asia, Australia and Africa. We did initial planning sessions to structure our work, then came back together to combine and roll up the results to our mentors. Our research report was then pushed further up the organization and we were asked to do a similar project for another new mobile feature in beta. I was asked to lead that team as well…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I’m pretty much against management of any type, so no, I haven’t managed anyone or anything. And I really don’t like being managed. I do my best work when I’m left alone so that I can get work done. I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder and asking me for status reports and updates. Just let me listen to my music and get some work done. Leave me alone is the best way to manage me…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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