The title of “Project Manager” is one of the most nebulous you’ll hear. It means many things to many people. In the technical world, there are several characteristics that typically provide a great foundation for any variation on the Project Management theme. The overall role of a great Project Manager is to lead an idea from concept to implementation, on time, on budget, and without wreaking havoc in your company. The Project Manager’s style is as important as the hard skills in creating and managing a project plan. You need a good product. Picking the wrong person can spell disaster. Here are certain interview questions you can ask that will help you hone in on the right person:
1. How many concurrent projects do you manage, and of those, what is the size of those projects?
The answer to this question will give you a sense of their ability to juggle multiple initiatives, as well as be a gauge to whether they are handling large, meaty projects, or just little 2-weekers.
2. What’s the nature of the team’s you have managed in terms of size and reporting arrangement?
Did they do matrixed project management, line management, offshore/offsite, coordinating between vendors, consultants and internal staff? How many were they managing? This will give you a very strong sense of the complexity of their ability to keep a project going even when it means spreading their scope of influence far and wide.
3. What types/scopes of projects have you managed and what was your success on them?
This is the nuts/bolts of what they have done. How long have their projects gone, what technologies/types of projects have they led/implemented, what was their budget, and did they meet deadlines and budgets?
4. What project management methodologies/approaches/tools do you use?
This can provide a few key bits of information. Aside from the obvious – do they have expertise with MS Project and/or Agile/Scrum, it can also be an indicator if they are a methodology agnostic or wedded to one approach. Either answer may work for you, but it’s important to know if they will be flexible in adapting an approach that works for your environment, or will be forceful about implementing their preferred approach.
5. What is an example of a project which was going off track, and how did you get it back on plan?
Once again, there is not necessarily a right answer, but how they answer may indicate if they are right for your environment. Project Managers often walk the tightrope of being accountable for project delivery, while having no line management power over the resources that need to get the job done. In some environments, a more forceful approach is required to whip things into shape. In others, a gentler touch is needed.
Whether you need a diplomat or a dictator, the questions above will help you to identify not only if the person can effectively manage the type of projects you have in your pipeline, but also if they have the type of personality which will effectively prosper in your unique environment.
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Prior to turning to the dark side of recruiting, Janine Davis was in technology herself, which gives her a leg up in terms of knowing what acronyms can go with other acronyms. She is the Principal of Fetch Recruiting, which specializes in LA tech recruiting for startup, high growth and web companies.