We met with Chris Lucy, Creative Resources & Project Manager to discuss how best to go about hiring a Project Manager and the kind of questions you should be asking to get the most out of your kick off conversations.
What do you think are the key characteristics of a good project manager that might be tested at an interview?
Objectivity, neutrality and logic. These Project Manager characteristics can be tested by posing a hypothetical work situation – one that’s centred around time, money and resources. The answers should give some indications of the person you choose to manage the project.
Much like meditation allows the ‘observer’ to bypass one’s ego, a ‘neutral’ Project Manager, can observe the components of a project, i.e. aspirations, objectives and requirements, to logically make decisions. From this viewpoint, one ascertains if the client’s expectations are achievable and if there’s a good foundation in realistic optimism, for everyone to meet their goals. It’s always best to be honest and upfront, no matter how uncomfortable that can make someone feel – and the mark of a good project manager, is in the delivery of this information.
Good communication is paramount from the outset (as it is throughout the entire project). Understanding what is desired within a specified time frame, will greatly affect how much money is required, to bring in the right people. For me, this area termed the ‘alignment’ phase, is the keystone for project success and therefore, not something to be rushed, nor taken lightly. Involving senior stakeholders: the Client, Business/Client Director, Creative Director, Financial Director, Strategists and Planners, it’s where leaders have open discussions about their objectives and where deliverables take formation. Involving an experienced Project Manager at this early stage of a project, could be a smart move..
What questions should a client ask?
Clients should ask their project manager to stay the full term. Always ask:
Are there other commitments potentially impacting 100% focus?
What experience do you have in relation to the role?
Do you have any examples highlighting where your skills can be utilised in the role. i.e. problem, reaction and solutions?
A light hearted way to reveal the human side of any individual in the interview process, is to ask ‘what their super power is’ – closely followed by their kryptonite. If the interviewer reveals their answers first, there’s more likelihood of a genuine response, which may be a good measure of character, plus helpful in revealing how/if this person being interviewed, will fit in.
Ultimately, experience really matters in Project Management, but it’s the kind of experience that counts. Verify that the suitable candidate has worked in the same field, sector, or under similar conditions, as they will better understand what’s in store for them, for the project and for your business
As a freelancer, what questions would you ask a client in regards to the project?
The core client questions are usually centered around time & money. As a general rule, the more flexibility on delivery times, the less money becomes a concern. A very important question would be:
Who has final sign-off – and is there a direct line of communication?
Many larger companies have compartmentalised departments who may not be fully aligned. Sign-off through committee will eat into project timings. Projects require collective collaboration, equally as much as they require strong leadership with responsibility coming from the top. It’s essential for everyone involved, to establish who is the ultimate decision-maker. Other questions will mainly be determined by the type of project.
What considerations should a client take into account for the project and Project Manager?
What type of project is it? Do you require someone in person, on site, or would tasks be carried out remotely?
Some roles will be more about steering a difficult and very complex project, others might be more about motivating the client and the team. For example: scoping, planning, emailing, scheduling and resourcing – all of which can be carried out remotely.
However, for instilling confidence in the team, motivation and leadership, such as on a pitch, or for meeting and keeping on top of third-party service providers may require a more personable, face-to-face relationship-building type of skill.
So matching the project with the best project manager, requires deeper insights about the type of work required, to ensure the PM's personality, style and skills befits the role.
Chris is a Creative Resources & Project Manager who started out in media as a graphic designer, progressing through to art director and eventually running his own business. Chris is experienced in multimedia disciplines/roles, including leadership, management with hands-on creative & production skills.