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What to Look for When Hiring a Project Manager

Project managers oversee large projects that can define your organization’s success or failure. Because of this, it’s extremely important to be careful when hiring project managers. You have to trust them to lead their teams to success, manage a budget, and meet deadlines. It takes a special person to be a good project manager.

With that in mind, what should you look for when you’re hiring a project manager? What skills and personality traits will predict success? Here are some things to keep in mind.

The Ability to See the Big Picture

Why do we need project managers in the first place? Because they’re in charge of the big picture. They have to be able to see how each team member fits into the larger scope of the project. They need to maintain that larger vision so their team can focus on the part of the project they do best.

Consider creating a mock project and ask your applicants how they would approach the process. Seeing how each person puts together a plan on the fly can help you understand the way they think.

Motivating and Inspiring Leadership

To finish a project, you need people with technical know-how. You need people who have “hard” skills relevant to the project. But to make a project come together, you need someone with the right “soft” skills to motivate, inspire, lead, and build trust within the team. A good project manager is a true leader, someone who knows how to work well with people without letting emotion drive their actions.

It can be challenging to assess leadership skills in an interview setting, but there are some ways to get an idea of someone’s leadership style. Ask them about their approach to leadership, try to speak with references who worked with them, and take a look at their past projects. This will help you get a better picture of their leadership skills.

Good at Accepting Responsibility

Project managers are under a lot of pressure. They must accept full responsibility for the success or failure of their projects. It’s important to find someone who will accept responsibility and hold themselves accountable, instead of blaming their team members when something goes wrong.

Ask prospective project managers how they handled a mistake or failure in the past. How do they talk about it? Do they pass the blame off or do they accept responsibility? How did they address the problem and make it right? Problem-solving skills are critical for project managers, as almost no project will be completely smooth sailing.

Understands Risk Management

Preventing problems is also a major responsibility of any project manager. While it’s important for project managers to take responsibility for any issues that come up, it’s also important to prevent as many problems as possible during the process.

Someone who understands risk management is a good choice for a project management role. Consider asking applicants how they prevented problems when overseeing a large project in the past. This will also help you understand how they approach large projects and see the big picture.


Enjoys Varied Work

No two projects are alike and project managers must be adaptable in order to meet the challenges of each individual project. Some people thrive in fast-paced work situations, and those tend to be the people who make the best project managers.

Look for people who enjoy variety and always want to learn. A project manager has to wear many hats and they will only be able to keep everything running at once if they’re eager to jump in and learn something new.

Focused on the Needs of Your Organization

Project managers are big-picture thinkers. They should be focused on the needs of the project and the organization. Looking for someone who asks questions and tries to understand how a project fits into the larger organizational goals will help you find the right fit.

At the end of the day, project managers know they have an important role. However, they should be more focused on the project, team, and organizations than their own needs and ego. When looking for a project manager, it’s important to see where they fit into the larger picture — not where they stand out.


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