How to answer "Can you tell me about a time when you had to manage a team through a major project or initiative?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why employers ask this

Employers ask this question to gain insight into your leadership style, communication skills, and ability to manage a team towards a common goal. They want to know how you handle difficult situations, delegate tasks, motivate team members, and ultimately ensure the success of a project or initiative.

By asking this question, employers can assess whether you possess the necessary skills and experience to manage a team towards success. They also want to see how your experience aligns with the responsibilities of the position you’re interviewing for.

How to answer the question

When answering this question, it’s important to structure your response using the STAR method:

  • Situation: Describe the project or initiative you were managing and the team you were leading.
  • Task: Explain the specific tasks and responsibilities that were assigned to your team.
  • Action: Detail the actions you took to lead the team towards success, such as delegating tasks, setting timelines, and providing guidance and support for team members.
  • Result: Share the outcome of the project or initiative, including any challenges or obstacles you faced and how you overcame them.

It’s important to highlight your specific contributions and accomplishments as a manager, while also acknowledging the contributions of your team members. Emphasize your ability to effectively communicate, delegate tasks, and motivate your team towards success.

In addition to your specific experience, it’s helpful to relate your answer back to the position you’re interviewing for. Explain how your past experience aligns with the responsibilities of the job and demonstrate your willingness to take on similar challenges if hired.

Sample answers

Good Answer 1:

My team and I were tasked with revamping our company's website to improve user experience and increase traffic. I organized the team, established clear goals and deadlines, and delegated tasks based on each team member's strengths. I also made sure to regularly check in with everyone to ensure we were on track.

The end result was a website that not only looked great but helped our company generate more leads. The success of this project also cemented my ability to effectively manage and motivate a team.

Bad Answer 1:

Uh, I can't really think of a specific example but I'm a good leader and can handle any project or initiative you throw my way.

This answer is bad because it lacks a specific example and comes across as vague and generalized. It's important to have concrete examples of past experiences to showcase your abilities.

Good Answer 2:

In my previous job, my team and I were tasked with coordinating a large fundraising event for a non-profit organization. I broke down the overall project goal into smaller, more manageable tasks and identified team members' strengths to help delegate responsibilities. I also developed a project timeline, which helped us stay on track.

Throughout the project, I held weekly team meetings to ensure there were no roadblocks and maintained open communication with each team member. Despite a few hiccups along the way, the event was a great success and raised a lot of money for the non-profit.

Bad Answer 2:

I've never really managed a team through a major project before, but I have worked independently on a few initiatives. I think I could easily apply those skills to managing a team.

This answer is bad because it doesn't directly address the interviewer's question and doesn't provide a specific example of how the candidate manages a team through a project. It's important to have a concrete example to demonstrate your ability to manage a team.

Good Answer 3:

At my previous job, my team was tasked with implementing a new customer relationship management software. I led the team by creating milestones and goals that were achievable and rewarding. I also held weekly meetings to ensure everyone was on the same page and communicated effectively. By the end of the project, we had successfully implemented the software, which reduced customer complaints by 25 percent and improved employee productivity.

Bad Answer 3:

When I was in college, I had to manage a group project for a marketing class. It wasn't anything major, but it helped me learn how to delegate tasks and communicate effectively.

This answer is bad because it's not recent and doesn't reflect on a professional situation. The interviewer wants to know about a time when you've managed a team through a major project, so it's important to keep your answer professional and relevant to the job you're applying for.

Good Answer 4:

As a project manager, I often lead teams through major construction projects. On one project, we had to build a new hospital wing within a strict timeframe. I ensured that we broke down the project into milestones and assigned clear responsibilities to each team member with a timeline. I held weekly check-ins, where I would discuss any roadblocks and make any necessary adjustments. The last week was especially critical, and I made sure we stayed on target to meet our deadlines. In the end, we finished the project ahead of schedule, which saved us money in the long run.

Bad Answer 4:

I don't have much experience leading teams through large projects. At my previous job, I mostly worked on smaller tasks independently.

This answer is bad because it doesn't provide any relevant example. It's important to think of relevant experiences and provide specific examples of your ability to lead a team through a large project or initiative.

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