Hiring people is hard. Finding applicants with the right combination of experience, knowledge, skills and personality is a tall order. Just like the process of project management, if you’re hiring and introduce one wild, unexpected variable into the mix (like hiring Gordon Ramsay as your human resources manager, for example), you risk upending your entire business, and not in a good way.
Hiring a project manager is no different. In fact, finding the right project management consultant might carry even more risk than a typical hire because the success or failure of an entire project or product ultimately rests on the shoulders of this one crucial person. And for many businesses, projects requiring the guidance of a project manager could make or break them.
So how do you get this right? Unfortunately, technology has not yet yielded an algorithm to guarantee the perfect project management consultant every time. Until they do, here are a few questions you should ask before hiring a project manager.
Do you understand the value of project management?
This question seems like a no-brainer, and it is. But you’ve got to make sure a potential project manager understands the strategic business value of excellent project management before engaging their services. A worthwhile candidate will highlight a few of the benefits of project management, which include:
Efficient use of resources
Effective decision making
They should also highlight a few of the critical components of project management and how they plan to harness these factors to their advantage. You’ll want to hear them talk about things like integration management, scope management, cost management, quality management and more.
Are you flexible and willing to adapt?
Every question you ask before hiring a project manager is essential, but this one carries particular weight. The project manager’s ability to be flexible will set the team’s tone and every part of its output.
A competent project management consultant will have a standard process for every job they can specifically tailor to your business’s needs. Their approach should be agile and anticipate change, and when those changes come, they need to manage their reactions to keep the team positive and stress-free.
Flexibility, however, goes beyond a project manager’s ability to adapt and respond. The modern workplace looks a lot different than it did 12 months ago, and getting used to that requires flexibility. In 2021, a project that used to require a full-time project manager on-site may now only need a part-time one working from home. As more and more teams transition to virtual work, the way a project manager has to show up for their job physically has changed dramatically. Quality project manager candidates should accept and embrace those changes.
Can you work effectively with a diverse team?
Working with a diverse team goes hand-in-hand with being flexible because flexibility naturally lends itself to effectively managing a group of different kinds of people. Beyond the demographic differences within your team, your project management consultant should work just as well with a developer as they do with a marketing specialist. They should be able to relate equally to introverts and extroverts. Your team will have many types of experts who each bring their personalities to the table. A project manager worth their salt knows how to keep all of them happy while maximizing the quantity and quality of their output.
This should be a given, but before hiring a project manager, you need to be sure they can manage a team of people of different ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. No two team members are the same, and that’s a good thing!
What industries do you know?
When you’re hiring a project manager, you might think you have to choose someone with expertise in your business sector. That will definitely make certain aspects of their job easier, but don’t let it prevent you from selecting the right project management consultant.
The fact is, the tenants of quality project management remain the same no matter what the industry. If a candidate has really impressed you with their substantial body of work but no experience in your business sector, you should still consider hiring them. Educating them about your business is the easy part; teaching a project manager how to manage a project successfully doesn’t happen overnight.
Are you passionate about the business?
Passion drives performance. Hiring a project management consultant who has a vested interest in your business and genuinely cares about the project’s success or failure is a huge asset. In fact, Entrepreneur magazine named passion as one of the key ingredients for business success.
Like industry knowledge, passion isn’t everything, and an otherwise well-qualified project manager should still be someone you consider.
How do you prefer to communicate?
Before you roll your eyes, this question is much deeper than asking if the applicant prefers text or email (although that’s an important question, too). From the very beginning of your relationship with your project manager, you need to define communications expectations. How frequently do you want to touch base? Will your meetings be open- or closed-door? These are all valid considerations.
But the real question here regards the tone of your communication. Who’s in the driver’s seat? When a problem arises, who’s deciding the final course of action? The goal is to find a project management consultant willing to collaborate with you, not dictate to you.
Are you data-driven?
Data is of the utmost importance in nearly every business decision. Hiring a project manager who places a high value on data should be a priority. Seek someone who not only understands the information but uses it to inform their decisions. A project manager who relies on their own opinions and gut feelings usually needs to control their emotions before managing anything of yours.
Sometimes, data takes projects to places no one expects. And that’s OK! Your project management consultant should follow where the data leads, even if that means changing the plan (flexibility, remember?).
Can you demonstrate ROI?
The goal of every project is a positive return on your investment. Those goals could range from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions in extra revenue, and you need your next project management consultant to be able to prove returns accurately.
Before hiring a project manager, talk about your expectations about calculating and communicating the specific ROI of project elements, tradeoffs, outcomes and more. They should also place a high value on managing the project to improve efficiency and reduce waste to maximize the final ROI. Project management consultants need to discuss ROI metrics with members of the C-suite confidently, so make sure they understand how best to speak with them, too.
Executing a successful project can be an expensive endeavor, and hiring a project manager is an important piece of ensuring project success. You need to make sure you get what you pay for — and then some.
Data is a helpful tool for determining ROI, and a project management consultant who values data should have no problem with proving their ROI. Find a project manager who loves data, and they’ll probably have no problem demonstrating a positive ROI on your investment in them.
Are you a decent human being?
Okay, so this question might not be one you directly ask in the interview, but assessing the project management consultant’s quality as a human being is just as important as every other consideration. You want to work with someone who is trustworthy, values honesty and treats your team members with respect. And not just because they want to execute their contract and make a lot of money successfully, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, getting a straight answer to this question is easier said than done. Checking references is an excellent place to start, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t do a little sleuthing on Google and social media sites to get an accurate picture of who you’re considering.
You should also consider the location of the project management firm. Although the big fish in New York and Silicon Valley offer some of the best project managers in the world, hiring a Pittsburgh project management firm, for example, may be a better bet for your next project.
Hiring a project manager is hard, but it doesn’t have to be! Greenshaw Consulting is a project management firm with all the right answers to these questions and more. Their proven approach to project management has yielded countless success stories. And yours could be next.
Are you considering hiring a project manager for your startup?
We help startups to mid-size businesses get products to market with confidence and speed -- instead of panic and delays. You provide the vision and we’ll work with you to develop the best plan that delivers it and conserves your resources.
Contact Greenshaw Consulting today for a free consultation about how to take your project to the next level.