Project Management

Deadly Questions for The Killer Candidate

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

What is your greatest strength?

What is your most significant development challenge?

Give me an example of a situation where you needed to show leadership.

What was the greatest obstacle that you have faced professionally, and how did you overcome it?

Where do you see yourself being in 5 years?

These are some of the most common questions used in interviews. Unfortunately, these questions--and so many others like them--are behind as many bad hiring decisions as they are good ones. While once they were insightful, they are now almost cliché. Interview candidates know what they're likely to be asked, and they spend a great deal of time thinking about how to answer these questions in just such a way that strengths look good, and weaknesses look even better. How many times have you heard that someone's greatest challenge is that they're just too dedicated to getting things done perfectly? Too committed to the goals to slack off and let something slide? Sorry folks--this is called "spin."

So what questions should we be asking in an interview? What are the things that we can look for that will genuinely help us to make a reasonable hiring decision? What will give us an insight into just how well someone might approach managing a project? Certainly, you'll need to start with the basics…some of which might be those I've already mentioned. But if you really…


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I watched the Indy 500, and I was thinking that if they left earlier they wouldn't have to go so fast.

- Steven Wright