The right person in this role can turn your project into a well-oiled machine. The wrong project manager can mean outright failure. There’s a lot at stake, and that’s why it’s important to hire the person who matches your company’s specific needs.

Why project managers are so important

Project manager is a critical role. The person you hire will control how the budget is allocated and how teams work. They’ll be responsible for planning and execution, ensuring that project goals fit into the larger purpose and strategy of your organization. They’ll put in place quality control measures for each phase of the project. The larger the budget and the more stakeholders there are, the more complex a project’s needs become, and the more important this role becomes.

A good PM provides planning, direction, and leadership. Without someone to fill this role, lack of coordination and focus leads to wasted resources, missed deadlines, and poor results.
Tips on finding and hiring the right project manager.

Finding the right project manager can feel like searching for a unicorn. There are so many requirements you wonder if the right person even exists. Take heart! He or she is out there, and these five tips will help you find the best candidate.

1. Plan ahead

Don’t wait until just before a project begins to hire a manager. That’s like waiting until the day before the holiday to do your shopping. With the clock ticking you’ll settle for anything that seems remotely suitable without really thinking about what would be the perfect gift: “Oh look, another vanilla-scented candle…” Your project deserves more than a vanilla-scented candle. Be sure to do a thorough assessment of what this role requires, then leave time to find and interview the best candidates.

2. Know what to look for in a project manager

There are basic project management functions that are the bare minimum for the job, and then there are qualities you need for your specific role.

Job basics:

  • Cost estimation
  • Resources management
  • Risk assessment
  • Quality control
  • Team management

A PM takes all of these factors into account and comes up with a plan to fit all the elements into time and budget constraints.

But that’s really just the starting point. 

In order to coordinate all these elements, the PM must communicate with all levels of stakeholders to discover everyone’s priorities, then continue to facilitate communication at every step along the way.

Depending on your business, you may have technical knowledge requirements on top of all this. Does your project manager need to understand construction, or software engineering? 

Or, you might be tied to a specific methodology that your new PM will be required to follow.

It’s all about balancing priorities. Obviously, a good project manager has strong attributes in many different areas. You’re unlikely to find someone who has 100% of all of them, however, so prioritize these characteristics. 

What’s most important to your company? What education and experience must a candidate have in each area to be considered for the position?

Leadership and decision-making skills

This role requires someone who responds well to the stress of juggling multiple priorities: deadlines, resource management, problem solving, and dealing with people of various levels. Ideally, you want a big-picture thinker who also knows how to get the best out of a team.

Communications skills

It’s impossible to be good at this job without communications skills. There are people behind every project element, so it’s critical to have someone in the role who can communicate well at every level, in every form. 

Business knowledge and strategic thinking

This person understands how the project management role fits into overall business goals and operates with that in mind.

Crisis management

Projects never go exactly as planned, and a good project manager will know how to address problems, whether it’s a blown deadline, an issue with team dynamics, or a budget problem. An expert in crisis resolution knows how to stay calm and make good decisions in any situation.

Team player

A project manager needs to establish trust and cooperation, so can’t be too self-focused. Other people must be the priority, from team members to clients to top-level management.

Results oriented

A good PM implements quality control at every step of the way to ensure the project meets its final goals.

3. Make your job description stand out

To save time and attract the right people to the job, it’s best to be specific about your needs and not simply post a cookie-cutter job description. This means digging in and figuring out exactly which qualifications are most important for this position, then being clear about it.

There are the basic skills for the job which every project management candidate should have, so include those, but then list the qualities that are priorities for your company. Talk about company goals and how they will help meet those goals.

How wide is the scope of the role? Will they be focusing narrowly on teams, budgets, and deadlines, or will they have wider responsibilities such as regular meetings with clients?

Try to paint a picture so that candidates get a sense of your company and what it might be like to work there.

4. Be specific

If you’re fuzzy about expectations then the candidates will be too. Include specific requirements to reduce the number of applicants so you don’t have to wade through a ton of unsuitable prospects to get to the good ones.

Be specific about your needs:

  • Prioritize attributes noted above. 
  • Is there industry-specific knowledge required?
  • Is there a certain methodology your new PM must use? 
  • Do you expect that your hire will pitch in wherever needed, or will they focus only on one particular project? This depends on the size of the project and your organization’s resources.
  • What are the goals to which the new hire must contribute? These include specific projects and business-wide objectives.

5. Be clear about what you can offer

You know that awful feeling you get when you’ve put hours into a task only to realize you’ve gone down the wrong track and have to salvage whatever possible and start over? Don’t let that happen here.

The worst outcome is to hold multiple interviews and find the perfect candidate, only to realize their salary requirements are far beyond what you’re able to pay. 

To avoid this situation, be clear about the salary, benefits, and amenities your company offers early on in the hiring process.

Need some help?

Project manager is a vital role, and if you don’t have experience finding candidates like this, it might be overwhelming. Finding a unicorn is hard work! There is a solution. Outsource it to experienced pros.

Brunel can help you find the best candidates because we’re experts at matching clients with talent. We engage our considerable network to find you the best professionals for your project, and if relocation is necessary, our dedicated team of mobility specialists covers every detail. We’re even able to reach out to people who may be perfect for the job but aren’t actively searching. These “passive candidates” expand the possibilities.

With 45 years of experience in 40 countries, we specialize in finding the very best talent for your company. Find out more about permanent recruitment and contracting solutions.

Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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