Hiring the Right Project Manager


LOS GATOS, CA Feb 5th, 2016 - Ready to hire a project manager? If your company is investing in this critical role, you’ll want to ensure that you hire the best fit for your team and the types of projects that they will be managing. Whether you are hiring for a permanent position or bringing in a contractor, consider this criteria as you prepare for the interview process.

Level of Experience

There are many factors to be considered here. One is recognizing the size and complexity of your projects. For example, if you have a strategic, priority project that has a budget of $2.5M, it would benefit your company to bring in a senior-level project manager with subject matter or industry experience. But if you just need someone to follow up on tasks for small projects – like product or website enhancements - a junior to mid-level project manager would suffice. Keep in mind that there could be someone worth promoting from within your own company. If they are extremely organized, detailed, an effective communicator, have excellent planning and problem solving skills, they could have the potential to be a great project manager!

A good way to identify the level of experience is to simply ask the candidate to explain the most complex project - budget, duration, number of team members - that they have managed. What challenges did they face during the project and how did they mitigate them?


Certifications are a valuable supplement to a project manager’s working experience and a “must have” requirement in many job postings. However, if a candidate does not have ample experience on their resume – be cautious. Just because someone has a certification does not mean that they will be an effective project manager. They may understand the principles of project management, but have they successfully led a team, managed stakeholder expectations and delivered a project on-time and within budget? The last thing you want is a credential holder that cannot manage their own time, let alone a project team.

Including interview questions related to the basic skill set of a project manager will provide what you need to make an informed decision: time management (organized, ability to prioritize and multi-task) and communication and leadership (ability to communicate with all levels within an organization, comfortable leading meetings) are a good start.


If you are hiring a project manager for your software development or IT teams, have you determined the methodology that will be used? For instance, projects that are managed using traditional project management methods are considerably different from the Agile (Scrum) framework. Traditional PMs manage to a project plan with milestone phases, tasks with assigned resources and a fixed end date. An Agile “Scrum Master” is a coach and servant leader that allows the team to self-organize and respond to change rather than following a plan. There are organizations that use Agile/Scrum or traditional project management exclusively or a hybrid of both.

If you are unsure of the right methodology for your organization, a technology consultancy can provide guidance and/or recommendations. If you are already familiar with these particular methodologies, then you are privy to the differences in job descriptions and interview questions.

Environment and Team Fit

Finding someone that is a good fit with the team is critical, but environment should also be taken into consideration. If the candidate is interviewing at a start-up but has only worked for large corporations, they may find the fast-paced, no-structure environment extremely difficult. Same goes for someone who is used to a fast-paced environment where changes are made “on the fly” and priorities shift daily. Working in a structured environment where every change must go through a stringent approval process could be challenging for this candidate as well. Of course, it is possible for a project manager to thrive in both environments, but usually one is preferred over the other.

You could use a standard question like, “describe your ideal work environment”; though you might get a better idea of how they would fit into your environment by including “ability to adapt to change” and “flexibility” questions, especially if the candidate has only worked for companies with a great deal of structure and process.

I hope that these tips are helpful in finding the right project manager for your company! Have you already hired a project manager for your company and, if so, what did you learn from the experience?

About The Author

Veronica Thraen is the Owner and Principal Consultant at Maven Project Management, a technology project management consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona that helps growing organizations put processes and tools in place to keep projects on track for long-term growth and success. Visit Veronica's site at www.mavenprojectmanagement.com .