How to Hire the Best Project Managers for Your Development Company
At SimplyPHP, we’re fortunate to have worked with many wonderful and passionate project managers. These staff members have a key position within our team, serving as the conduit between development teams and clients. They facilitate communication, set deadlines, and keep the team motivated and encouraged as they work together.
Jan 2021 - 4 minutes read
In a recent podcast, we talked about how we’ve learned how to develop great client relationships, and why we’ve made this such a meaningful institutional priority. Treating clients like family isn’t something that just happens. Our project managers and account management team are instrumental in turning this policy from a theory into a reality.
Today, we’ll discuss what makes a great project manager, and what you should be keeping in mind when you’re hiring this key member of your team.
What Makes a Great Project Manager?
In development, the project manager has a key role to play in the successful execution of any development project. From the inception of the project to the day the last deliverable is finished, they’re responsible for overseeing all the work in progress. They’re the first point of contact for clients and staff alike, and should feel comfortable navigating between each relationship.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of project managers being hired by development companies today have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The most common majors are computer science and information science.
Even though an educational background in this field is useful, some of the best training for this position happens on the job. Here are some of the qualities that we’ve found in many of our most successful project managers.
Being a great communicator is an incredibly important skill for any project manager.
A project manager needs to be able to communicate well with a variety of people of varying technical backgrounds. This isn’t always easy.
It’s one thing to be able to explain a complex technical topic to a fellow developer when you have the same background and can use complex technical jargon. Project managers must be able to get all the same concepts across, but are often required to explain these intricate topics simply and clearly, without using the types of technical jargon that would only confuse a non-technical client.
In addition to being able to communicate technical topics well, project managers also need to be able to facilitate complex and sometimes difficult conversations with clarity and tact. Project managers must ensure that no meeting ends without everyone being on the same page, and are often tasked with delivering constructive feedback, which they need to be able to do without demoralizing or frustrating their team.
Communication is important, but is of no use at all when you don’t know what to say. In addition to being able to communicate well with clients and team members, project managers must have the leadership skills to manage their team. Without reliable leadership, it won’t take long for even the most skilled developers to lose sight of deadlines, expectations, and more.
Depending on the company, project managers may be the ones responsible for staffing each development team and ensuring that each project and client has the best developers for their needs.
This requires a thorough understanding of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, so complementary teams can be made, and projects staffed effectively. While this type of character and ability assessment may seem easy, it requires someone with an analytical mind, as well as the leadership skills to make their team feel appreciated, no matter what role they’re given.
Many issues can arise over the course of any normal development project. From scope creep to illnesses and accidents, these problems should be expected and taken into account when planning out the overall timeline of the project.
As the person with the greatest understanding of each project, both developers and clients rely on the project manager to solve problems if and when they arise. Managing the crisis, and forging a new path forward is critical to ensure that the problem doesn’t completely derail the project.
How to Hire the Best Project Manager
When it comes to hiring, each company has its own approach. Some companies prefer to work with recruiters, while others rely on word-of-mouth or their own social media pages to generate interest in available positions.
As long as your company has a strong and reliable hiring and onboarding process, there’s no wrong way to solicit resumes and get people interested in your position. The key is to pick the right person from within your pool of qualified candidates.
Hiring a project manager is about so much more than technical knowledge. This person needs to be an excellent communicator, a strong leader, and a thoughtful problem solver.
Let’s explore how to find people with those qualities, and what questions you should ask to make sure you get all the information you need to make the best hiring decision.
Project managers should have a strong background in development or programming, but as we’ve seen, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have a formal education in IT or computer science. Some of the best developers out there today are self-taught.
Questions you can ask:
- How have you been trained?
- Can you tell us about your formal education?
- What have you taught yourself about development?
- How often are you asked to explain complex development ideas in layman’s terms?
Skills and Experience
While education can demonstrate an individual’s formal knowledge in any subject, what’s undoubtedly more important are the skills and experience they’ve picked up through on-the-job training.
A great project manager should be able to tell you about projects they’ve worked on, how many different teams they’ve managed, and situations where they’ve demonstrated their leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Questions you can ask:
- How long have you been working as a project manager?
- How many different teams have you managed?
- Tell us about an experience where you needed to solve a problem for your team.
- What are some methods you use to encourage and motivate your team?
Each person you hire will have their own style of project management. The key is to find the individual that best fits into your team, and work with them to ensure that their instincts and abilities are encouraged.
At SimplyPHP, we have tons of articles and other resources designed to facilitate discussions about our favourite topic: development. Want to learn more about what it’s like to work with us? Come visit our website, or stop by our YouTube page to check out more episodes of our podcast.