4 More Tips to Answering Project Management Interview Questions About Metrics

Some of you would like to know how to answer questions about the metrics you can gather and discuss when you look for a job as a project or program manager. Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Separate the quantitative questions from the qualitative questions.

I bet you have qualitative “measures” that you use either by design or by intuition. Here is one of mine.

  1. On a non-agile project, I ask the project team when the think the project will be done, each week or two.
  2. I ask them, “What did you see or hear to make you think the project will meet last week’s date/not meet last week’s date?”

This provides me data about how the team feels. I can probe further or look at risks differently.

Tip 2: Tell the interview what you normally measure and why.

  1. I always measure more than one dimension of the project. I look for trends over time. (See Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management to understand why.)
  2. Some of the trends I measure: changes in requirements over time; defect arrival, closed, and remaining open rates over time; features complete, remaining, and total features over time.

Tip 3. Ask what the interviewer needs as measures.

Ask the interviewer what they normally measure and explain how you get to the same data, especially if you get there in a different way.

Tip 4: Explain what you never measure and why

Everyone has their little bugaboos about project measurements.

  • I don’t like earned value in software, because as soon as you complete a feature you can change it. I don’t find earned value helpful as a way to measure progress. On the other hand, I do want to know about progress. I measure features complete, remaining, and total over time.
  • I cannot remember the last time I measured a burndown of time. Time goes on. (I always measure burnups.) I might measure when the people I need arrive on the project. That’s because late projects never make up time, they get later.
  • I don’t “measure” technical debt. I often measure fault feedback ratio, to make sure the developers are making progress.

I have other measures I can use for projects. I use different, more holistic measurements for programs.

Do you see how what you measure creates a conversation with the interviewer?

If you don’t manage projects the way I do, or you have non-software projects, you won’t answer these questions the same way. That is why it’s impossible for me to provide you the Right Answer to these questions.

See also Interview Questions for Project Managers, Interview Questions for Program Managers4 Tips for Preparing for a Project or Program Manager Interview and 6 Tips to Answering Project Manager and Program Manager Questions.

MYJS_border.150If you are looking for a job, see Manage Your Job Search.

If you are hiring, see Hiring Geeks That Fit.

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  1. Dwayne Phillips

    These are great answers to questions, but it seems to me that the job applicant is teaching the interviewer how to manage projects.

    When does a job interview stop being a job interview and start being a consulting session where the applicant should be paid for teaching the interviewer?

    • johanna

      Dwayne, you raise a very interesting question. I always assume (and that’s not such a great word) that I am providing some information about how I work and the value I can provide. It’s up to me to not allow the interviewer to take advantage of me.

      That is not always easy to do. Maybe I should write some guidance for interviewers.

      • Dwayne Phillips

        I’ve been unemployed for a long time. I increasingly find that in job interviews I am teaching the interviewer how to do their job. They take notes as fast as they can, thank me, and never hire me. I feel cheated, but when you are unemployed you grab at anything you can, so you don’t call them on their little ploys to get what they can from you.


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