11 Killer Interview Questions For Hiring A Project Controller

Interview Questions For Hiring A Project Controller

Hiring for any position is always risky business. There are no guarantees once the interview is over that the winning candidate can actually walk the talk and perform up to your needs.

From a project controls standpoint, are you hiring people that can walk-in and get up and running quickly? Do they know the software inside and out? Are you certain they have the skills and procedural project management & industry knowledge you’re counting on?

Well, we’ve put together 11 killer project controller interview questions that will help you cut to core of your scheduling candidates’ knowledge and skills during the interview.

1. What are the early warning signs you look for when reviewing progress against a schedule?

Good because: Despite many efforts a schedule can quickly spiral out of control and this will determine if they  have a plan to minimize avoidable gaps and delays.

Bad response: “I don’t usually review or analyze the schedule. That’s the PM’s job. I just manage the scheduling content and do what they tell me.”

2. What is a good use of lag on a project?

Good because: Find out if your potential scheduler knows proven best practices in planning and scheduling. Proven best practices across construction discourage any use of lag or lead time on projects.

Bad response: “Curing concrete or letting paint dry.”

3. If given someone else’s schedule, how would you go about analyzing it?


Good because: You’ll discover how your candidate breaks large tasks into manageable pieces and how they deal with abiguity. Are they confident enough to ask for help on the pieces that fall outside their expertise? Do they have a system to follow for analyzing outside schedules? We do.

Bad response: “I would look through the notes in the schedule. This sort of thing is easy.”

4. How do you communicate the monthly schedule analysis?

Good because: A monthly schedule report has different information for different audiences. Can they recognize that not all audiences want to see the same data? Can the candidate analyze and understand the important issues and trouble spots?

Bad response: “I would just print out excel spreadsheets with all of the data.”

5. How would you deal with an incomplete project or one that has missing information?

Good because: This question tells a lot about how they handle missing data and if they would be proactive in filling in the pieces from the team – trying to create a clear plan of action.

Bad response:  “I guess it’s someones job to get me all of the information.”

6. How do you schedule, manage and track Permits, Right of Way and/or Utility Relocation?

Good because: Since these items fall into the “red-tape” of dealing with outside access, you want to find out how they are going to keep these items on track and in constant focus on the schedule. A couple of milestone may not be enough to make sure these items get continued focus.

Bad response: “Isn’t that the manager’s responsibility?”

7. Tell me about your successes in a team environment.

Good because: This will help you work out how they view themselves in the context of a team. New research suggests that most of us can fall into 2 categories – givers and takers. Are they givers? Find out by listening to their language – are they using “me” and “I” or are they talking about their team in terms of “us” and “we”. Do they share the credit or blame someone else for mistakes.

Bad response: “It was all me. I drive the team to reach success in all projects I handle.”

8. What is your approach to delivering bad news so the message won’t destroy your relationships?

Good because: This shows how well they deal with confrontation – unavoidable and common in project environments. Are they thinking about fostering productive relationships or just covering their butts when things go wrong?

Bad response: “If it’s bad news, I usually just send a short email letting management know.”

9. How would you go about winning over a PM that doesn’t take your input into consideration?

Good because:  Relationships stuff again. Are they able to tread lightly and be persuasive? When personalities clash are they able to rise above?

Bad response: “If he doesn’t want to listen to me, that’s his problem.”

10. How would you rate your level of enthusiasm about project controls?

Good because: People who are enthusiastic about their professional are going to uplift the team and help everyone stay optimistic. Having passion for what you do is contagious to those around you.

Bad response: “It’s OK.”

11. How have you improved project controls processes at your previous company?

Good because: Project Controllers don’t necessarily get the chance to influence final project decisions but they do get the opportunity to offer suggestions. This shows if they have ideas and want to expressing them, hopefully making things a bit better for everyone.

Bad response: “I keep my head down and plus, that’s the Manager’s job.”
Many thanks to David Doughty and Corey Smart for their input and feedback on this article.

What interview questions would you add or have asked when conducting an interview to hiring a Project Controller?

training for teams

Michael is an avid project controls blogger and is the Chief Learning Officer here at Plan Academy. Michael has taught 1000s professionals how to use project controls software like Primavera P6 over the past 10 years through his online courses and tutorials. Michael is a member of AACE, the Guild of Project Controls and holds his PMP certification from PMI.