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My current role is more on IT operations but there is a lot of overlap between operations and project management. I am looking for a project management role and looking a company that is better fit than my current company, and trying to see if the role is a better fit for learning more project management than my current role.

I will be having an interview for a project manager role. I wanted to see if I am a good fit for the company and role. We all know that those companies have different definitions about project management. How would I know if the company is a better fit for learning more project management? What SPECIFIC questions should I keep in mind to ask the employer?

  • Jus a word of caution: I've held the title of Project Manager, Project Coordinator and Program Manager and I'd be hard pressed to explain the difference. Sometimes even a Product Manager is really expected to be a PjM. Different companies (and even teams) call the same horse by a different name. – Danny Schoemann Feb 29 '16 at 9:27
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To find out information about an organization's take on Project Management and what they can offer you in that space, you can orientate your questions along the following axis (I am not suggesting you ask every single question there, but try to cover each area):

1) Level of organization's project practice:

This will help you understand whether this company can provide you with access to an interesting range of projects. Sample questions:

  • How many projects do you currently have running?
  • How many dedicated Project Managers do you have?
  • What is the average project size (budget, team size, project duration, etc.)?
  • What are the current/upcoming important projects?

2) Projects organization:

This will give you a sense of how the company organizes itself when it comes to projects: the more projectized the organisation, the more chance you have to be in a full-fledged project-driven environment and get support as a Project Manager working there. Sample questions:

  • How are projects typically organized (e.g. who is accountable, who do project resources report to, etc.)? Who do Project Managers report to?
  • Do you have a Project Management Office?
  • Are projects consolidated under program management and portfolio management?
  • Do your projects have strong business sponsorship and representatives involvement (other than IT)?

3) Project methodologies and tools:

This will help you get a sense of how seriously the organization views Project Management, and whether they truly see it as a competency in its own right. The more emphasis on methodologies, harmonized PM processes and tools, the more mature the organization is with PM as an area of expertise. Sample questions:

  • Does your organization have a specific, common PM methodology used across all projects? Which one (eg. PMBOK, PRINCE2, Agile, in-house methodology, etc.)?
  • Do PMs in your organization hold specific PM certifications? Which ones?
  • What PM tools do you use? Are tools used consistently across all projects?

4) Career development for Project Managers:

This will help you understand how much this organization invests in their project managers:

  • Which projects could I expect to work on to start with, with what kind of responsibilities?
  • What type of Project Management training do you provide (in-house training, external courses, etc.)?
  • Do you support PM certification programs?
  • How do you evaluate performance for people working on projects?
  • What is the typical career path for an aspiring Project Manager in your organization?
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Here are a couple that I tend to ask:

  • For a typical project, who approves the budget and who approves expenditures against the budget? This is a good way to see how "projectized" the organization is. I have yet to work at a company where creating and approving the budget completely belongs to a project manager, but if individual expenditures are controlled by functional managers, that can be a red flag to check. I find that if you are having to ask permission to spend pre-approved money from the budget (contractors, special software, etc.), then your actual level of control as a project manager is going to be fairly low and that company is going to be weak-matrix or functional organizations.
  • For a typical project, who is involved in selecting the team? The way that a company approaches assigning a team will show how they handle projects and project management. If only functional managers are involved and all team changes require review by the "real" boss of that person, that also indicates a weak-matrix or functional organization.

In general, if you want to learn more about project management and you enjoy the challenges of project management, aim towards a balanced matrix, strong matrix, or projectized organization. The PMBoK talks about the organizational structures in section 2.4

  • Maybe not directly related to project management, but 3 questions you can add to SBWorks list above are: - If I am hired, what are the three most pressing issues that would need to be resolved? - What would you like done differently by the next person who fills this position? - What major challenges are currently facing the management team? This could also give you a good idea of how the company operates. – NomadAlien Aug 22 '11 at 9:05

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