7 tips for hiring a project manager in your web design agency

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📅 Last update: November 16, 2020

How do you ensure that your web design agency is delivering work on time, on budget, and at a high-quality level every time?

This boils down to effective project management.

Hiring a project manager can help you build a more efficient and resilient agency.

In this post, we’re sharing seven tips to help you hire a project manager. 

1. Hire based on specific needs, not headcount

Many agency owners think that you should hire project managers based on reaching a certain team size or number of client accounts.

The reality is it is more complicated than that. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for when to hire your first, second, or third project manager.

A better strategy is to hire a project manager based on your team’s bandwidth. In general, the more systems and processes in place, the longer you can go without hiring your first project manager. And, once you have a project manager in place, they’ll be able to do more with less.  

2. Create systems and processes before you need them

This brings us to our second tip, which is to invest in building out systems and processes in your design agency before you hire any project manager. Having a few processes already in place makes it easier to train a project manager since you are going from 1-10 instead of 0-1.

Pro Tip: Want tips on how to create your first few processes? Check out this detailed guide.

Your project manager will be able to learn how things are currently handled before they start making improvements to the process. 

3. Decide on what type of project manager you actually need 

Do you need a technical project manager, an account manager, or a mix of the two?

For example, if your agency specializes in designing WordPress sites, you might want a technical project manager who is great at communicating with clients and is also tech-savvy enough to handle QA for projects. 

On the other hand, if you have a large number of clients and an experienced team of designers and developers, you want a project manager with great soft skills who can handle all of the communication and account management, freeing up your development team to focus solely on client work.   

4. Write up your job description first

One of the biggest mistakes that agency owners make is treating the project manager role as a catch-all position. They might be doing a little project management, some account management, sales administrative tasks, office management, etc. 

When you spread your project manager too thin, this is a recipe for problems. Your project manager won’t know what to prioritize, so they’ll either burn out trying to do all the things, or you’ll wind up with tasks taking a lot longer than they should. 

5. Hire based on attitude, not aptitude

It is relatively easy to teach a project manager a new skill or how to use a specific piece of software. However, it is much harder to make someone care about their job or how not to be a jerk. That’s why you should screen for attitude and enthusiasm during the interview process. 

6. Look for candidates with great communication skills

Can they communicate effectively both verbally and through the written word? Regardless of whether they are a technical or non-technical project manager, great communication is a fundamental component of the role. The other key component, which is closely related, is leadership.

A project manager won’t be successful if they can’t communicate and lead a team effectively. In the interview process, you want to ask questions that will allow you to gauge their leadership and communication styles (or, in some cases, lack thereof) 

7. Evaluate how process-oriented they are

The best project managers are systems thinkers. They are great at building and optimizing systems and processes to streamline workflows and work more efficiently.

Here are some traits to look for to see if the candidate you are interviewing is a systems thinker.  

  • Obsessed with details – Do they sweat the small stuff, such as scoping out projects to the last detail?
  • Systems thinker – Do they have a track record of building and optimizing processes in past roles? Can they point back to specific examples? 
  • Problem Solvers  – When an issue arises, are they naturally solutions-oriented, or do they try to cast blame on others? 

***
Hiring a project manager – especially if it is your first time doing so – can be an overwhelming task. These seven tips can help you find and hire a great one.

Do you have any additional tips for hiring a project manager? If so, please share it in the comments.

Jessica Malnik

Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on ProcessKit, The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and many other sites.

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