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Revenue Operations
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Hiring a Revenue Operations Professional: Project Manager

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Welcome to the fourth article in a multi-part series that will help you find the perfect fit for your revenue operations team. Because revenue operations often spans technical system administration, data analytics, enablement, process management, and project management, we’ll break down the different functions to cover them in more detail.

While it is possible to find someone who can pull off all of these functions, we feel obligated to point out that placing the burden of managing all of these components on one human will not set them up for success. A team of one may save you money in the short term but consider a plan to scale the team before your workhorse shows signs of burnout absolutely essential.

In small organizations, senior systems analysts are often expected to play the role of builder, tester, trainer, and project manager. As your business grows and your cross-functional workflows become more complex (and your systems admin is too swamped with other things), a project manager will help your team stay focused on the highest priorities.

What Makes a Good Project Manager?

When I think of the best project managers I’ve ever worked with, I remember them being clear communicators, detail-oriented, highly organized, and, honestly, a bit type A. Project managers often lack positional power. They have to find creative ways to push people who don’t report to them into staying on schedule.

I’m not suggesting you hire a tyrant, far from it. The best project managers have high emotional intelligence, are outgoing, and know the strategy behind ensuring their projects get the attention they deserve. They are tactical about establishing relationships, and they aren’t beneath a little public shaming to keep people on task.

Project management can be very stressful if the project manager takes it personally when a project goes off the rails. The trick is finding someone who knows how to communicate delays, escalates accordingly, and realizes that you can’t force someone to do their job.

What Kind of Experience Is Needed?

If someone is highly organized and a skilled communicator, they may not need a great deal of experience, particularly if you have the good luck of having a systems analyst or business analyst on the team who can coach a new project manager. Having reliable project team members who can help guide estimates for project duration, recognize when the wrong expectations are set, and raise a flag if a significant delay occurs can help a new project manager ramp up quickly.

On the other hand, if you have a fairly junior team of system analysts, you’re going to need to make up for their immaturity with a veteran project manager. Knowing approximately how long a project will take and recognizing the signs that something is going awry are invaluable skills. Someone on your project team must have these capabilities, and experience is the only way to get them.

Ultimately, I am a fan of hiring the right person over certifications or experience with certain tools. People can learn project management software and process improvement techniques, but it’s a lot harder to teach someone to communicate clearly and be persistent (annoyingly so if necessary).

Hiring a Project Manager

The Job Requirements

A project manager is expected to organize team members across multiple departments and keep a project on time and on budget. These cunning cat herders keep tabs on dependencies, departmental needs, and delinquent contributors.

The project manager:

  • Is an excellent verbal and written communicator who lives for organization and details
  • Has the ability to dig into large projects to determine key dependencies and work backward to realistic but aggressive timelines
  • Is skilled at defining project scope, uncovering project objectives, and identifying key milestones that follow S.M.A.R.T. criteria
  • Measures and reports on project performance based on timeline and budget adherence as well as goal attainment
  • Manages changes to scope and timeline and escalates changes to key stakeholders when necessary
  • Accustomed to managing multiple team members across different departments
  • Comfortable with bringing project teams together to cover an agenda and push for status updates when necessary
  • Create and maintain extensive project documentation
  • Has a passion for process improvement and risk management
  • Experienced with project planning software such as Asana, Trello, Monday, Workfront, or Wrike

Nice-to-have certifications (one is great, more are unusual but welcome):

  • PMP - Project Management Professional
  • CPM - Certified Project Manager
  • APM - Associate in Project Management
  • CAPM - Certified Associate in Project Management
  • MPM - Master Project Manager
  • PPM - Professional in Project Management
  • PMI-ACP - Agile Certified Professional 
  • Six Sigma (Green Belt or Black Belt) Certification
  • Lean Six Certification
  • KAIZEN Certification
  • BPM - Business Process Management Certificate

The Questions

Q: You have a project with several dependencies listed under one individual’s name and an aggressive timeline. Several other departments are waiting on this one person to complete their work. What are your thoughts about how best to move forward with your project?

Why it’s asked: It’s pretty typical for a system administrator or similar role to be assigned the lion’s share of tasks. We also want to see how this person navigates interpersonal relationships.

Example Answer: I would talk to the person with many tasks at the beginning of the project to ensure we documented the correct timeline. If they feel they can’t finish all of their tasks, we should approach their manager and communicate the timeline could be at risk. If we aren’t given additional resources, I would keep a close eye on the timeline and escalate as necessary if the timeline begins to slip. It’s tricky when one person is responsible for so much because one slip on the timeline can have a snowball effect.

Q: Do you have any certifications?

Why it’s asked: This shouldn’t be your only requirement. I’ve hired people who tested well but didn’t feel comfortable escalating to management when people fell behind on their tasks. It isn’t easy to pass certifications, so they should carry some weight.

Example Answer: Yes. I have a Six Sigma Green Belt. I feel that this focus on process improvement is a good complement to my six years of experience as a project manager.

Q: How do you keep an agenda on track and ensure people attend your meetings?

Why it’s asked: It’s important that project managers feel comfortable taking control of a room and keeping people on task.

Example Answer: I like to send out an agenda before the meeting and remind people that they should send a representative from their team if they aren't able to attend. If someone lets me know ahead of time that they won't attend and don't have an alternate, I will record the meeting if rescheduling isn't possible and they are a key contributor. During the meeting, I record attendance, notes, completed items, delayed items, and project status (red, yellow, green) to send out in an email to the project team and stakeholders. I've noticed that keeping attendance and emailing stakeholders that list has a positive impact on meeting attendance.

Q: What kind of project management software do you prefer to use?

Why it’s asked: Adaptability is important. There are a lot of tools out there that do very similar things.

Example Answer: I’ve used Microsoft Project back in the day, Asana, and Jira with more technical teams. As long as people can be assigned tasks and I can indicate dependencies and be alerted when timelines are changed, I’ll use whichever program the company prefers.

Q: What’s an example of a project that didn’t go as hoped, and how did you handle it?

Why it’s asked: A project manager only has so much control. How they deal with a project that spirals out of control is more important than the fact that it spiraled in the first place.

Example Answer: The CEO wanted us to pull a project together and determine how to monetize the ability to place ads throughout our end-user-facing software. One of their channel managers had already been in talks with some high-end brands floating the possibility of a partnership. We had worked with developers to get the details behind where and when we could place ads, but they didn't tell us it wasn't possible to push the ads from corporate. Each machine had to be updated every time an ad ran. I held a call with the CEO and channel manager that afternoon to let them know that the functionality hadn't been developed and wasn't on their immediate roadmap. That killed the project and infuriated both the CEO and Channel manager, who were under the impression this functionality had always existed.

Q: Give an example of when one person consistently missed deadlines and how you handled it?

Why it’s asked: Every employee has a life outside of work that may impact their performance, or they may be buried in too much work. It’s important to see that some empathy comes into play before someone is blasted in front of the project team.

Example Answer: We had a trainer who consistently waited until the last minute to prepare for the training session. They didn't ask enough questions or want to sit down with the person who created the solution. They said their creative process worked better if no one told them how things worked. 

While they had good input on what wasn't intuitive, it resulted in many last-minute changes for the developer. They'd miss several features during training, and people would call in for help after being trained. After refusing to be involved earlier in the process (too busy), I met with their manager, and we came up with a better arrangement. 

The trainer was given access to our test environment and included in user acceptance testing. Once the developer was done and we were ready to move to production, the trainer was required to sit through a review. We covered the project's objectives and how the design met those objectives. The good news is instead of being angry, the trainer admitted that the process improved their training and their team had time to make job aids for people to refer to after the initial training.

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