Interviewing for an Agile Project Management Job

Now, say you are looking for a job as an agile project manager. Some people might say that's a crazy job. But hang in there with me for a minute. Imagine you have two or three teams, larger than two pizzas might feed. So, you might well need an agile project manager to coordinate the work of these people. Oh, but you say, “Let's do Scrum of Scrums!” Well, what if they are geographically distributed and have managers who are new to agile? You know me. I like Scrum, but I don't like Scrum of Scrums, and Scrum Does Not Fit All Situations.

This is when you need an agile project manager, to make sure you have a product owner who creates great user stories and has a ranked backlog. This is when you need an agile project manager who facilitates the work of the teams, and manages the risks, and makes sure no one falls off the agile bus. Okay, I'm mixing metaphors here, but this is when you need someone to help the teams succeed. No command-and-control. This is a facilitative project manager. (This is why I wrote Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management. Well, and I couldn't help myself!)

You might get questions like I suggested in Interview Questions for Project Managers. But this is where you want to ask questions. Here are some questions you want to ask for this project:

  • “How many project teams is this?” You want to know if this is a project or a program. Size matters.
  • “Where are all the people on this project?” Hey, you're talented, but if some of the people are in one location and others are in another location, you need to know. And, if they are spread out all over the world, you definitely need to know that.
  • “How long has this project been underway?” You want to know if this is a brand new project or not. You might need to ask, “When did this project start,” and see what the answer is.
  • Especially if the project is not new, “What happened to the previous project manager?”
  • “What do you expect for status reports?” If your potential managers expect Gantt charts, you have a ton of education to do. Gantts are never appropriate for agile projects or programs. Ever.
  • “If the project is not new, what are the release criteria?”

For projects in general:

  • “How have you decided on release criteria in the past?” You can turn this into a behavior-description question, “Give me an example of a time when you decided on release criteria for a project,” but since I normally do that with a team, that might be a strange question for a senior manager.
  • “What do you do when you are faced with two or three must-do projects and only enough people to staff one of them?” (Get the project portfolio/multitasking issue on the table right away. You want to know what you can expect.)
  • “How would you like me to inform you of project progress and project risk?” I see this as an open-ended discussion, that will tell you a whole lot about the corporate culture.

Start here, and use the other questions in Ask Questions of the Hiring Manager and the Interview Team and you should be in pretty good shape.

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