How to Attract, Interview and Hire: Project Managers

For businesses of any size, there’s always a need for a skilled project manager. These roles require a mix of both technical knowledge and soft skills that take years to fully master. As a result, finding and hiring a candidate that checks all the right boxes isn’t always easy.

Project managers guide projects from the initiation stage, through planning and execution, all the way through monitoring and closing-out. They must be organized, adaptable, and good at solving all kinds of multi-variable problems.

Soft skills are particularly important: Project managers must communicate to higher management and other stakeholders why the project is required, as well as timelines and resource estimates. That requires quite a bit of finesse. Plus, they must direct and manage work during the execution phase and beyond, which can mean handling many kinds of diverse personalities on a team.

Typical Job Posting

While exact details will vary, a typical job posting for a project manager should cover a few basics, including:

  • Setting project strategy and keeping the team aligned toward goal.
  • Maintaining project timelines and activity schedules.
  • Keeping leadership informed of project progress.
  • Ensuring consistency of methods and approach.
  • Serving as an interface between customers, team members, and stakeholders.

In addition, it may be a good idea to include a requirement for working knowledge of Agile, as it is often used by project managers to see projects through completion.

Project management is a rapidly evolving field, and you and your candidates should be aware of the vocabulary and trends. For example, the traditional project-management impulse to adhere to a single methodology has given way in the past few years to hybrid frameworks (if the project demands it).

Education/Training/Certification

There are several certifications that demonstrate competency as a project manager. For example, there’s the ever-popular Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Some organizations also look for project-manager candidates that have an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certificate. 

Other certifications to look for:

  • Certified ScrumMaster
  • Certified Project Manager (IAPM)
  • Master Project Manager (MPM)
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • CompTIA Project+
  • Certified Project Director

Interviewing Project Managers

During a job interview, recruiters and hiring managers should be prepared to ask a candidate for specific examples of previous projects, effective team management, and “big wins.” Throughout these conversations, it’s your job to get to the core of what makes a candidate’s experience and style uniquely beneficial to your team.

During an interview, evaluate the following:

  • How much project complexity the candidate can handle.
  • How they stand up under pressure.
  • How they deal with team members who aren’t pulling their weight.
  • How they manage budgets.
  • How they communicate with senior management.
  • How they create a project plan.
  • How they’ve managed progressively larger teams and projects.

With each question, don’t just look for an answer, but look for experiences and examples that demonstrate both a firm grasp of the technical aspects and soft skills/empathy. Look at how (and if) their experience and methodology match your need.

Closing the Deal

Depending on the company size and industry, the responsibilities and challenges of a project manager will be wide and varied. Put candidates’ nerves at ease by clearly emphasizing the needs and expectations for this role and how they align with their specific goals. Beyond the usual conversations around salary and benefits, spend time discussing topics that specifically resonate with project managers, like the opportunities for upward mobility and professional development.