Anytime an organization chooses to expand, it’s important to carefully consider the interview process, the hiring criteria, the skill set needed, and – of course – how much money you’re willing to spend. I’m sure there are a lot of variables for many other positions, but my concern here is project managers and hiring one is not necessarily a straightforward task.
You can't just come up with a list of questions, hold an interview, and find the right candidate. It’s deeper than that. Why? Because the project manager ends up wearing a lot of hats in his/her role and over the course of their tenure with your company, they’ll represent your organization in many different ways to many different people. It’s critical that you make the right choice.
That said, here’s my list – for today anyway – of five critical things to consider when onboarding a new project manager to your organization:
Does the candidate fit your organization’s culture?
This is a hard one to come to grips with…a hard one to define. I think you just know it. It’s especially critical when you’re bringing a new PM into a small, close-knit organization or a small, newly formed PMO within a larger organization. Anytime that PM is going to be a big fish in a small pond, then there needs to be cohesion with the rest of the staff.
It’s important in larger organizations, but because of the type of ownership felt by staff members in smaller and startup organizations it’s critical that they bond well and work well together. A loose cannon can severely damage the forward progress of a small business.
Does the candidate have the industry experience you need?
This one is obvious, of course. But consider your customers. For example, if you’re a professional services-type organization and you’re looking to expand your offerings and implementations to a new industry, look for a strong candidate who has worked within that industry. It may be more important that the candidate have knowledge of that industry than to have knowledge of your product offering. You may find that it gives you an ‘in’ in the new market you are entering and can help you grow more quickly.
All I’m saying is don’t be bogged down by the present…consider where you’re going, not just where you are.
Is this a stable long-term candidate to invest in?
I have nothing against the job-hopper. I’ve moved around a lot myself so I find that to be a very negative stereotype. Analyze the candidate’s moves closely and discuss it with them. A good hiring manager can listen to an experienced candidate and tell when they really know what they’re talking about. If the moves seem like good moves or entrepreneurial moves, don’t penalize them for those choices. You may want that aggressiveness and innovation on your team. If they seem random, be careful.
Can this candidate control a remote team?
This is critical in today’s economy and in today’s business world. Remote management of projects is a green practice and makes good economic sense. And often companies have skilled resources strewn across the country. But hiring a project manager without remote management experience or who seemingly lacks the aggressiveness and confidence to pull off remote management of a project is a recipe for disaster.
If you’re hiring a touchy-feely project manager, it’s likely not going to work. They’re going to need too much face time to make remote management a viable, successful option. Know their limitations and then make an informed decision.
Will this candidate represent your company appropriately to your customers?
And finally, the biggest one. You send the project manager out to lead engagements in your company’s name. That’s huge. For three, six, twelve or more months they are THE face of your organization. As far as your customer is concerned, they are the ones who either can or can’t get things done. And if they can’t get things done, then your company can’t get things done. Likewise, if they are unprofessional, your company is unprofessional. The customer-facing project manager IS your company.
You need a confident leader to put in front of the customer. Uncertainty will doom a PM and doom a project. And then you’ve lost a potential long-term revenue stream from that customer. Lose enough of those and you lose your business.
These are just five examples of things to closely consider when bringing on a new project manager. There are many others I could list – and may in a follow-up article. I also welcome your thoughts on this subject – I’m sure there are a lot of hiring managers reading this…I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback.