So, you have decided you need a project manager for your project. We applaud your decision as having a project manager on board is the best possible way to ensure your project meets its two most important goals: finishing on time and on budget.
That said, choosing a project manager is a big decision. It is important you find someone who is communicative, easy to work with and, ultimately, is someone you and your stakeholders can trust to get the job done. Here are some questions you might like to ask to determine if a potential project manager is right for you.
1. What are some of the biggest challenges you have overcome in the past?
This is a great question to ask to get a little background knowledge on their work experience and will help you to get a sense of their ability to think on their feet. Almost every larger project is going to have some kind of unforeseen circumstances crop up along the way so it is important you have someone on your side that is able to step up to the plate should things move off course for any reason. If they tell you they have never worked on a project that has been challenging in some way or another, they might not have the kind of experience you are looking for—or worse, they might not be telling you the whole story.
2. Do you have references we may contact?
This one is really a no brainer; it is important to take the time to check in with former clients to see if they were satisfied with this project manager. A good project manager should work closely with their clients to develop solid relationships so it should be no problem for them to provide references to you.
3. What can I expect in terms of regular communication?
Consistent and transparent communication is one of the most important components of a successful partnership with a project manager. A good project manager should be able to tell you exactly what to expect when it comes to getting updates and should be flexible to meet your needs when it comes to providing those updates in a way that works best for your team.
4. What are your thoughts on the project? What are you most excited about and what concerns come to mind?
Ideally, you need a project manager who is going to care as much about this project as you do—and ideally, even more. They should be receptive to your vision and enthusiastic about the end goal. If that energy is not there from the get-go it is not likely to be there months, or even years, down the line. Additionally, it is a project manager’s job to give informed and honest feedback at all times. As we mentioned earlier, it is rare for a project to make it to the finish line without even one small hiccup along the way and it is the project manager’s job to envision 100 potential hiccups from a mile away—and then do everything in their power to prevent them. So, if they cannot think of a single concern right off the bat, they are probably not thinking hard enough and you should probably look to a new candidate.
5. What experience do you have that lends well to this project?
Sure, if you are building a glitter factory in a super remote location with sub-zero temperatures, this is probably not a project they have in their portfolio. That said, a good project manager should be able to draw from their previous work experience for each new job, whatever the job. They might not have worked on a glitter factory, but maybe they can tell you they have worked on a project that required a sharp focus on workplace efficiency or strict safety features that needed to be considered. They might not have completed a build in the middle of nowhere, but perhaps they have experience in bringing materials or equipment in from far away. And, finally, maybe they have not worked in sub-zero temperatures, but maybe they have worked in a place that rains a ton or is really really hot and needed to accommodate accordingly. Whatever the case may be, you are going to want someone with experience that is solid enough to make your glitter factory a reality.
So, there you have it. Those are the five most important questions to ask a project manager candidate. Ideally, your conversation should lead to even more questions and discussion naturally as this should be someone that is easy to connect with and is interested enough in your vision to want to discuss it at length. This person is going to be in it with you on this project for the long haul, so you will want to be sure you can see yourself not only happy to have them there for the ride—but ready to have them help lead the journey.