Hiring for any new position – when you haven’t had to recruit for someone in that role before – takes a little bit more thought than recycling the ad you used last time you needed someone. If you don’t have any project management experience, it can be even harder. What, exactly, do you need to do to get started?

Companies tend to feel that they need a project manager as they take on larger internal or external developments. Perhaps there’s a major product upgrade on the roadmap for next year. Or a relocation or expansion. Perhaps you’ve just got more small projects on the go than the team can handle alongside their day jobs and you want someone dedicated to moving them on. A project manager can help address all of these needs.

What Role Are You Really Recruiting For?

The first question to ask yourself is what role are you hiring for? Is it really a project manager that you are looking for, or do you need a coordinator or a junior/assistant project manager?

If your project is:

  • Clearly defined
  • Relies on a small team of dedicated experts
  • Low risk
  • Low cost
  • Only going to take a couple of months or less
  • Not critical to the overall success of the business

and you have someone in a leadership position who can offer support as required; then you probably don’t need a project manager. Someone who is less experienced could adequately manage projects like this. They need to be able to organize tasks into a plan, manage the team’s work towards completing the tasks, report progress and handle problems, escalating them where they can’t deal with them alone. You can support them to grow their skills to take on larger initiatives in the future.

However, if your project is a bit vague at the moment, is going to use external suppliers and a large team, lasts longer than six months and is expensive, risky or business critical, you’re going to want someone who can handle the pressure of complex work.

Prepare The Job Description

Having decided on the project role you need, the next thing to do is define a job description so that candidates know what you are looking for.

It goes beyond making sure that you list the key tasks, competencies, and skills of a project manager. Your job requirements should also include the kinds of behavior that you expect from an employee in this role.

Remember to make it specific to your organization and the job that you are hiring them to do. The more specific, the better.

As this is the first project manager your company has hired, don’t get too hung up on specifying qualifications. Qualifications show that your candidates have a professional knowledge of project management and have demonstrated that competence under exam conditions and perhaps, depending on what certifications they have, also have professional experience.

Qualifications are a good benchmark and way to determine if someone is serious about making project management their career, but making them a mandatory requirement for hiring could mean you are missing out on talent that would otherwise be a good fit.

Later, when you are recruiting your tenth project manager, it’s definitely worth reviewing this position. Having several project managers all using different methodologies isn’t going to work, so there is an argument to standardize as your team grows.

Look Forward To Future Projects

Project Manager Number One is going to have a bit of a mountain to climb in that there are unlikely to be many formal project management processes in your organization before they arrive. It’s therefore useful to recruit with half an eye on whether the candidates have the skills to be able to set these up for everyone else too.

Creating a corporate project management approach isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but to the right candidate, it makes your vacancy even more appealing.

Start The Search

Knowing what you want in an ideal candidate is only the first part of hiring someone. The next is to advertise and interview: start your search for someone to join the team.

This is where it can get difficult. Getting your job ad in front of the right candidates is time-consuming and can be costly. Coming up with interview questions that appropriately challenge your candidates can be tough if you haven’t got much first-hand experience of project management yourself. And this whole process takes time, which we’re willing to bet is something that you don’t have a lot of to spare.

You can streamline the process by using a strategic recruiting partner who will take responsibility for the sourcing strategy and recruitment. It’s a cost-effective and time-saving way to get a candidate who perfectly fits your business.

Why Not Promote Internally?

Maybe you should. There are certainly plenty of benefits from promoting people you have grown internally.

But realistically, if you’ve got this far you are going to need someone external. If you had a suitable internal candidate, the chances are that they would have already started taking on project responsibilities. They might not have the job title of Project Manager (yet) but they are probably doing a lot of what you have documented in your job spec. Great, highly performing candidates tend to fall into project manager – we call them ‘accidental project managers’ but they can be as skilled as someone who actively chose the career path of project management instead of falling into it.

Before you call us to help organize the recruitment of your first project manager, take a final look at the resources available to you internally. Knowing what is missing in your current resource pool may well help you finalize the requirements for your vacancy.

Ready? Get in touch and let us help you find the perfect PM for you.

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