4 Traits Employers are Looking for in a Project Manager

Updated: May 10, 2019


Project managers are critical in today’s complex workplace. You’re the compass for the team, keeping everyone on track so your organization can reach its goals. The best part is – project managers are essential in nearly every industry, which opens up many career paths.

Interviewing for a project manager position? Learn the top four traits employers want for this role and how to show you’ve got what it takes!


1. Organized


This trait should come as no surprise. Project managers are responsible for managing tasks, timelines, budgets, and other resources. Unless you’re organized, all these moving parts can quickly get away from you.


Employers want to see that you’re good at processing information quickly, creating logical systems, and keeping everything accessible to the team.


Questions they might ask to see if you’re organized:

  • Tell us about how you approach a new project.

  • How do you prioritize tasks in a project?


How to show them you’re organized:

  • Provide a logical, step-by-step process to show how you take a structured approach (For example, data gathering, meet with project team, etc.).

  • Talk about tools or resources you rely on to keep your projects organized (such as Asana or Smartsheet).

  • Share a story about how you developed a system or guidelines to organize information for yourself or others.


2. Adaptable


You might say the only constant in a project manager’s job is change. In an average day, you’ll have to adapt to a team member who’s not keeping up, a new strategic direction, or budget constraints.

Employers will look for signs that you can manage these frequent changes without getting frustrated or becoming inflexible.


Questions they might ask to see if you’re adaptable:

  • How do you handle competing priorities?

  • Tell us about a time a project went off track and what you did.


How to show them you’re adaptable:

  • Be clear that you expect changes to the project plan, and that you see them as challenges, not problems.

  • Share a story about how you quickly changed course during a project or how you went with the flow when you had no control over the situation.

  • Focus your answers on how you kept an open mind and looked for solutions, not people to blame.


3. Collaborative


As a project manager, your role naturally places you in contact with individuals throughout the organization – often coordinating tasks for people who don’t report to you or who are higher up in the company.


This can be challenging, especially for someone new to the field. Employers want candidates who can be assertive, but also create respectful working relationships.


Questions they might ask to see if you’re a collaborator:

  • How to you encourage positive working relationships?

  • How would you deal with a coworker who’s not helpful or non-responsive?


How to show them you’re a collaborator:

  • Emphasize your active role in keeping communications open and clear.

  • Focus your answers on how you assume the best intentions before taking any action.

  • Share a story that demonstrates how you approached a difficult coworker (or fellow student) in a way that was respectful and empathetic.


4. Great Communicator


As the point person for the project, the members of your team look to you for clear communications that will keep them on track. You’ll need to assign tasks, send reminders, share project resources, and facilitate meetings.


You’ll be communicating through emails, agendas, reports, or discussions on Slack. Employers want to see that your communications – both formal and informal – are clear and purposeful.


Questions they might ask to see if you’re a great communicator:

  • How would you describe your communication style?

  • Tell us about a time you had a misunderstanding at work.


How to show them you’re a great communicator:

  • Talk about being direct and approachable, and how you listen before replying.

  • Point out that different people and generations have communication preferences and you try to take them into account.

  • Share a story about how you learned to be a better communicator through a misunderstanding, like a poorly worded email or an abrupt text message.


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Keep these four traits in mind during your next interview for a project manager position and you’ll make a great impression – and snag the job!

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