What’s the difference between a Project Manager and a Project Coordinator? Sometimes the only difference is $20,000 in annual salary. If not fifty thousand. Because the borders between managing and coordinating a project often blur, and it can easily happen that a coordinator actually manages the project, while the original project manager simply oversees the work of a coordinator, and earns a hefty salary for doing that. But back to the job of a coordinator.
What you will principally do is coordinating people and resources, communicating with various members of the project team, and ensuring that everything goes according to the plan–the one a manager has designed. In my opinion it’s the same like managing the project… But that’s not important in an interview. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face, and how you should deal with them.
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Why do you want to work as a project coordinator?
Because you have excellent time management and organizational skills. You understand how to move forward, how to address different roadblocks in the project, and how to allocate people and resources effectively. And you can help with motivating the team members.
You are simply a perfect “bride” for an excellent manager who leads the project, and will ensure that all the daily operations in the team take place as they should, with a sole aim to reach the next milestone, to achieve the desired progress and eventually the final goal of the project.
That’s what you want to bring onboard, the job is a perfect match for you. But you are also sure that you will enjoy this type of work, the variety it offers, and the interactions with various team members. That’s what you want to take from the job–what you hope to gain, together with an excellent salary.
Tell us about the most successful project you coordinated.
The word “coordinated” is important, and you should pay attention to coordinating tasks in your answer. That means organizing people, sending reminders, making calls when someone doesn’t show up, ensuring that everyone is aware of their role in a team, etc. Sometimes they can also inquire about the best project you’ve ever worked on.
You can talk about a project from work, school, or even some personal project you had, and coordinated. You might also lead the projects–you were the manager and the coordinator, but in your answer you should focus primarily on the coordinating part. Because that’s what you’ll primarily do in your new job.
How do you plan to handle conflicts with the members of the project team?
Things won’t always go smoothly in your job. One thing is saying to team members what they should do, or work on, and another thing is their acceptance. You will have conflicts, and you won’t necessarily always have the authority. Hence solving conflicts with power of your authority isn’t a good answer to this question.
I suggest you to refer to individual approach to each conflict. You will have a one on one with the employee in question. Without emotions, you will discuss the issue, and ask them to clearly explain why they do not agree with your proposal, with the tasks you chose for them.
Once they express themselves you will try to find a solution. Maybe they just misunderstood something, maybe there is an internal problem in a team. They may feel underrated or overwhelmed. Once you know the issue, you can address it, or at least report on it to someone who can address it…
Speaking about your previous working experience, can you share some examples of situations when you helped your employer to save money, or to increase revenue?
Try to be specific, and mention some numbers in your answer–they lend it credibility in the eyes of the hiring managers. You can talk about any situation. Maybe you found out that people were allocated ineffectively to teams, someone had to work 100 hours a week and others drank coffee in the office.
Once you allocated people more effectively, the productivity improved. Or you did your reporting diligently, and found out about expenses that weren’t really necessary for the completion of the project. Eliminating the expenses you saved money for your employer.
There are many examples and situations you can talk about. Pick something relevant, ideally something that you really did, and explain the interviewers the added value you brought to your former employer.
* May also interest you: Project analyst interview questions.
How do you imagine your role in the meetings of project team members?
As your future job title suggests, you should coordinate the meetings. That primarily means deciding about the schedule for the meetings, and who should participate. Sending emails or remainders to everyone involved, you ensure that people will actually show up.
Then, when the meeting is already in progress, you will ensure that people who should have an opportunity to express their opinion get it. You may monitor the clock, and the number of minutes each person talks, to ensure the meeting won’t drag endlessly and people do some actual work during the day.
You may also distribute some materials in the meeting, make the list of attendees, and basically ensure that the meeting follows the agenda…
How do you make sure you spot early when something doesn’t go according to the plan?
Ensure the hiring managers that you want to keep your eye on daily goals of each employee, and each team. You won’t wait until a weekly meeting when someone expresses the worries that his or her team may fail to meet the deadline.
On the contrary, you will be in daily contact with all team leaders, ensuring that everyone reports any problems with people or material resources immediately, and you can take a a corrective action from your position of a project coordinator. Whether you have a brief one on one with them or prefer email/software reporting is your choice.
In any case, you will try your best to stay on the top of things, to ensure you won’t end up surprised by something you hear in a weekly team meeting. Regular effective communication with the team members is your way of reaching this goal.
Other questions you may face in your project coordinator job interview
- What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your career?
- Give an example of a time when you showed initiative at work.
- Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time you went above and beyond.
- What does quality mean to you?
- What are your salary expectations?
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a project coordinator belongs to tricky job interviews. The job title isn’t entirely obvious, and what you will exactly do can change from one company to another.
What’s more, it’s quite a fancy job title (people are attracted to words “project” and “coordinator”), and many will typically apply. You may face a stern competition in this interview, which makes your situation only more difficult.
They will typically inquire about your attitude to various work related situations (conflict with the project team, most successful project, biggest mistake, etc). These questions aren’t easy to answer, especially for someone who doesn’t have ten years of professional experience under their belt.
Anyway, the best thing you can do is preparing for the questions, and practicing your answers in advance. I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- Project management interview questions
- Salary negotiation tips
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Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
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