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How to Hire a Project Manager for Your Startup

Kristin Bachman
4 min read

At evolving startups, new projects are one constant founders can always expect to see in the pipeline. As companies grow, the leadership team is often pulled in numerous directions making it more difficult to plan, organize and lead each new initiatives. With increased funding and continued growth strategies, it’s lucrative for startups to hire project managers to help your team refine workflow processes and ensure projects are on track and within budget.

In the Project Management Institute’s Pulse of Profession 2021 report, they found that 75% of projects led by individuals who are able to practice collaborative leadership and diverse methods for working met their original business goals and 65% completed the project within budget, increasing the ROI on project managers.

Learn how to hire a project manager to improve internal processes and establish streamlined workflows throughout your company.


Why Hire a Project Manager? 

According to the Pulse of Profession 2021 report, companies that implemented project manager practices on initiatives were 89% more successful than companies who did not have a project manager in place. 

During the startup stage, it’s essential for organizations to implement processes that will drive growth and success. For many companies, hiring a project manager early on will increase productivity and help save money otherwise spent on remedying failed projects. Depending on your business and needs, you may hire a project manager to:

  • Lead team and company projects from activation to completion. While the process for planning and completing a project is different for every company, each project will likely include the following steps:
    • Identify the purpose of a project 
    • Build a roadmap with relevant milestones
    • Establish a budget 
    • Assign tasks to team members
    • Manage each step of the project workflow
    • Prioritize tasks when necessary
  • Help alleviate complexities in projects. A project manager can help your team manage risk (60% of project managers engage in risk mitigation) and identify ways to complete projects faster and cheaper. Risk management may involve monitoring costs, schedules, and performance to help team members make the necessary adjustments. 
  • Introduce and implement PMO software. Especially as startups often don’t possess adequate resources as a corporation, project managers can help boost efficiency with software. A survey discovered that over half of employees spend five or more hours on tedious tasks each week. 
  • Provide cohesion between teams. It takes several people, cross-funtionally to introduce a product to a market.  Ensuring everyone is on the same page and facilitating communication is a key responsibility of a project manager. If you or your team is at full capacity, a project manager can serve as the liaison between your team and key stakeholders.

Research illustrates companies that leverage project managers are:

  • 73% more likely to meet project goals 
  • 63% more likely to complete projects within budget 
  • 59% more likely to deliver projects on time 


How Do You Hire a Good Project Manager?

Selecting the right project manager requires consideration of the following four areas:

1. Full-time vs. Freelance

Depending on the frequency and scope of your projects, you may require a full-time or freelance project manager: 

  • Full-time: If you have consistent and ongoing projects and deadlines, hiring a full-time project manager can help your business maximize efficiency and results. 
  • Freelance: Hiring a freelance project manager may be cost-effective, especially if your startup has infrequent or one-time projects.


2. Specialization

Not every project manager role is the same. It is key to assess the specific responsibilities you would like your future project manager to take on. Depending on the scope of your startup, project managers that can specialize in a certain industry or business need can alleviate the workload throughout your company. For example:

  • If you are hiring a project manager who specializes in industry, you want to look for a candidate who is able to implement practical deadlines, can communicate the project needs effectively and is able to help drive the creative development of the project. In terms of business needs
  • If you are hiring a project manager who specializes in business needs, consider the specific type of project management emphasis your startup merits. Statistics show that 41% of businesses with a high-project failure rate report a lack of involvement from leadership. Hiring a project manager that specializes in risk and stakeholder management can initiate risk assessments with business leaders to create a contingency plan. 


3. Cost 

Once your team has decided on the type of project manager your team requires, there are generally four pay models for project managers: 

Salaried: The average base salary for a full-time salaried project manager in the U.S. is $80,295. Their salary will depend on: 

  • Experience level
  • Scope of responsibilities the project manager will have
  • Geographic location of the project manager
Salary should never depend on a candidate’s race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Flat-Rate: A flat rate is a set price based on the satisfactory completion of the project, regardless of the number of hours spent. This is a common payment method used in relationship with freelance project managers who are earlier on in their project manager career.

Percentage-based: The project manager would receive a percentage of a project’s total cost upon completion. The rate typically declines as the project scale and price increase. For example, a construction project manager may receive 5% - 15% of the project’s total earnings. 

Hourly: Hourly rates are frequently implemented at companies that work on hourly based projects when clients are being charged by the hour. The average hourly rate for a program manager is $45.37. This rate will vary depending on: 

  • Experience level
  • Specialty or industry 

Hourly rates should never depend on a candidate’s race, religion, or sexual orientation.

4. Interviews

When interviewing project manager candidates, it’s essential to consider the topics discussed above and have a list of desired attributes and experiences. This list should be crafted with the help of your entire startup team, allowing you to inject your hiring process with the right intention.

Look for project manager candidates who possess: 

    • Conflict management skills. Conflict is inevitable, especially when it comes to managing teams and timelines. You want a project manager who is confident in navigating challenges and identifying resolutions quickly. During the interview, you may want to have candidates describe a time they overcame a particular obstacle to assess their conflict management skills. 
    • The right communication style. Your startup team comprises unique communication styles. Be sure your candidate can align with these to ensure a productive and harmonious relationship with team members. You may ask about their approach to communicating with a diverse team and ensuring they implement inclusive language throughout the project timeline.
    • A data-driven mindset. A strong project manager understands how to:
      • Leverage project management software to make intelligent and profitable decisions.
      • Select the right metrics to ensure deliverables align with quality agreements, standards, and budgets.

For more information on carrying out successful project manager interviews, read the eight most insightful project manager interview questions and answers

Where Can You Find Project Manager Candidates? 

Business leaders can identify qualified project managers through various recruitment strategies, including: 

  • Promotion from within: Some of the most qualified candidates may already work at your startup. Your current employees already possess extensive knowledge regarding your business and industry and may provide a smooth and cost-effective transition. Finding a project manager within your organization can be advantageous. 
  • Leaning on a referral network: You don’t have to source candidates alone—and you shouldn’t. Business leaders should lean on internal and external referral networks to source high-quality project manager talent. 

Recruit a Top-Performing Project Manager with Hunt Club

With access to 7 million+ industry experts, Hunt Club’s Expert Network is transforming how leading startups connect with top talent. Our team is leveraging the power of referrals to give startups access to in-demand candidates. Start your project management recruitment process with the Hunt Club team.

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