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Strategy when interviewing a prospect PM?


Tomorrow I'm facing the task of interviewing a prospect Program Manager. We are currently 5 Software Design Engineers in the dev department and we seriously lack a Program Manager.

I've some experience in interviewing prospect SDEs, but I feel I shouldn't apply the same interview methodology when it concerns a PM position. He is an ex Microsoft employee and of course he knows the MS way to interview people (a way that we try to adapt). He has been both dev lead and PM at Microsoft.

I wonder if you have a cookbook recipe for my situation or just some advice on how I should approach this prospect?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Introduce him/her to the team.

If they he/she is compatible, hire with a 3,4,5,6 month probation. For that kind of position, you don't really know how it will work out unless they live in the position for a bit.

Now that I think about it, that is true for manager positions in general.

Hey, will you accept my resume for that position? I am looking... He he...


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Be careful. I was in your position and I gave a green light to a PM who drove me nuts. I left the company because of the owners inability to see the incompetence of the PM. My revenge was finding a guy smarter than me as my replacement and they fired the PM a couple of months later. Be very careful.

If I had to do it again I would have spent MUCH more time seeing how the PM works. I would pretend to be a client and ask the PM how they would start to organize the project.  We needed a PM to be more than a PM just as we needed to be more than programmers but this PM was just their for the paycheck.

At the place I was working the owners would get jobs and then convey to me the requirements on a whiteboard or in an email and the bigger the project, the smaller the email.  We had no system. But we got a lot of projects done. I thought we could do better if we had a system. I did not see how we could grow without a system and I was expecting a PM to bring this. The PM I interviewed showed me a stock project system from the last place they worked. When this PM came on board they tried to do as little as possible and I had to keep prodding them to create a system. Oh well.

Just be careful because the wrong PM can drive you nuts.

trying to reinvent the wheel
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Ask if you can talk with members of other teams that the PM has led/managed.

If you can manage to talk to 2 or 3, that should tell you all you need to know.  Talking to the boss of the prospect tells you some things, talking to the reports of a prospect tells you everything.

Unfocused Focused
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Employing someone to a position above you is always very difficult.  Even more so if you dont have that experience yourself.

Not sure how MS go about training their PMs but I would expect any to have PMO certification as a minimum.

But really what you need to know is what you actually require to be done.  Why do you need a PM and what tasks are they to be doing (what are the tasks you need done).

Then its just a matter of interviewing to find out if they are capable of doing those tasks, and if possible what additional value might they be able to add.

Dont forget the social side of the interview. You do need to make sure you get on with them well (this is often more important than their skills).

Andy Watson
Monday, April 26, 2004

List all the things that piss you off about a Project and Program Manager;

Ask him how he / she deals with such situations;

Hire / No Hire

Pissed Off
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

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