How to Hire a Great Project Manager

Read time: 8 minutes

How to Hire a Great Project Manager

Finding and retaining top talent is crucial for the success of any agency, but it’s not always easy. If you’ve ever worked with a spectacular project manager, you’ll know they’re worth their weight in gold. They’re on top of every project and budget they’re assigned, performing as the pied piper of creatives. Sometimes they’ll have your agency’s projects running so smoothly that you almost won’t notice that they’re even there. Until they’re not. When it comes time to replace a beloved project manager, you’ll definitely notice their empty desk. Follow these tips for sourcing your next great project manager quickly and effectively.

Know What You Want

Ok, you want a great project manager. Now how do you express that in your listing? Too often, project manager job descriptions sound virtually identical. How many times have you read the following…

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Self-starter
  • Works well within a team

Vague job descriptions like these read like a textbook definition of a project manager, and they’ll open the floodgates for a lot of cultural mismatches. Sure, these are necessary qualities, but your true top performers offer a lot more than generic aptitude for teamwork. What will your project manager spend most of their day doing? What skills matter most? It’s time to consider your big-picture goal for hiring a project manager. Whether you’re looking for someone to inspire trust in your creatives, or angling for a PM with a new working style that will help cut your project budgets down, it’s time to get specific.

Think Outside Your World

Is it imperative that you find someone with experience managing app development, or are you flexible to take on a skilled project planner who is coming from a related industry? The best PMs have a knowledge of their industry that is wide, but about 1 inch deep. They’re able to chat programmer lingo, content calendars and paper specifications, but their true specialties are strategy, planning and people management. If you’re open to allowing for a learning curve within your niche, you may open the door to the perfect candidate.

Know What They Want

It’s important to sell your brand to potential candidates, particularly if your company or agency isn’t widely known. What makes you such a great place to work? Particularly, what makes you a great place for them to grow their career as a project manager? Beyond listing the perks that are becoming common at creative agencies (Beer Friday! Ping pong! Dogs!), talk about what opportunities they’ll receive to better themselves. If you’re offering room to grow into more senior roles, talk about how you’ll help them carve their path. If you’re looking for someone to use the role as a stepping stone in their career, show them what they’ll be able to learn. Part of finding the right fit for your agency and setting yourself up for a long term employee means being upfront about what you are offering. At Function Point we offer an education fund for all of our staff to encourage development of skills and to promote our culture of learning. Setting time and budget aside to invest in your people will keep your A players engaged and sharp.

Consider Peer Interviews

Creative agencies rely heavily on teamwork, but few positions are more team-involved than project managers. This position is ideal for involving a few members of your senior creative team in the interview rather than just HR and upper management. Involving your creatives gives them a chance to voice their opinion on how they prefer to work, plus you’ll be able to witness your future PM in action. Once the search is on and you’re into the interviewing process, refer back to your checklist of things your agency really wants in a project manager. Beyond the technical skills to manage projects, here are the top 3 personality traits we see in the most successful project managers.

Top 3 Project Manager Qualities

Cool in a Crisis

When projects don’t go exactly as planned (a.k.a. most of the time), it’s imperative that you have someone calm and collected around. Whether the challenge is budget or time based, a project manager with excellent chill-vibes helps to laise between accounts management and creatives and smooth out problems.

Ability to Lead

Being a leader is more than just telling people what to do—it means setting a good example, listening, making difficult decisions and even sometimes taking the fall for your team. Sure, you’ll want to consider the type-A colour-coded-agenda candidates, but finding a project manager that can inspire trust and confidence with your creatives is just as important as securing a planning-pro.

Passionate About Their Job

Project managers have one of the most dynamic but stressful roles within an agency. It’s not a position for the faint of heart, and you’ll want to make sure that they chose this career because it’s something they truly love to do. Project management demands a lot of trust and respect from the rest of your team. Once you find the perfect fit, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.