Program Success Starts with People: 6 Steps to Recruiting a Dream Team (Step Four)

Step Four: The Interview Process

Move Quickly

The next step in the process is identifying the correct individuals through detailed and careful interviewing. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of moving forward with this step as quickly as possible.

Make Your Team Sing

It takes team members with the right skills and attitude to make your team sing. There are a lot of great candidates out there, but there are even more who can impede the success level of your program if selected. The unsung heroes of this process are the recruiters who perform the initial screening of these candidates.

Considering the multitude of hats project managers wear in today’s day and age, it is worth your time to perform comprehensive interviews as efficiently as possible. A phone screen is generally a good place to start. At the conclusion of this call, you can determine if it is worth your while to spend additional time bringing the person in for an in-person interview.

Nailing Down the Details 

When starting a phone interview with a prospective candidate, always provide them with an overview of the program’s mission within the organization, the role you are looking for them to fill and how you believe that role is essential to the program team’s make-up. Recruiters can give the candidate a general overview, but it is generally the hiring manager who is working the program that can equip the candidate with the most accurate and detailed information. 

During this initial screen, provide the candidate with an opportunity to ask questions and tell you a bit about themselves. You will want to ascertain if the prospective candidate has the experience and education necessary to meet the minimum requirements and determine what additional experience they have that may set them apart as an exceptional candidate. Identify whether they have a unique skill set that will help round out your team in additional ways and make sure the candidate seems genuinely interested in the opportunity. 

Lastly, find out what their projected start date is. If you need someone immediately and the candidate indicates they want to take a one-month vacation after they give their two-week notice, you will likely need to start looking elsewhere. Likewise, if the candidate starts to bargain with you about vacation days and/or remote work days at this juncture in the journey, it is likely just the start of a pattern that will continue to persist – he/she may lack filters regarding appropriate communication.

Meeting Your Candidate

If you are impressed with the candidate, let them know you will be in touch to set up an in-person interview. If you like what you heard but you are unsure or you are not interested, let the candidate know you’ll follow up. Always be gracious no matter how the conversation went and be sure to thank the candidate for their time. You can follow up with your recruiter to circle back with the candidate on any next steps.

Once you move forward to an in-person interview, be sure to have copies of the individual’s resume handy. Candidates do not always bring copies and it is helpful to have a detailed reference. You may also want to highlight items ahead of time that are of interest to you for follow-up during your meeting.

With an in-person interview, you are very much trying to get a sense of how the individual will interact with you, the team and other stakeholders. You’ll want to help the candidate feel at ease and assess his/her skills again, but also see/listen to how they communicate. What are they sharing with you and asking you about? What is important to them? What are they not saying?

It is important for you to sell them on the role. It is important for them to sell you on themselves.

I pay special attention to how people dress – are they well groomed? Do they demonstrate good manners? Are they on time? Promptness is a big deal regardless of how bad traffic is. I believe a candidate should take any potential travel issues into account and the way he/she calculates this reflects largely on their reasoning and common-sense abilities. I have seen highly qualified candidates arrive late and it negatively affects how they present at an interview.

Does the candidate demonstrate a good attitude and an interest in the role? And lastly, is the candidate personable? (Not to be confused with sociable). This quality will make it much easier to integrate the individual with the team, even if the team is only you.

Conclude the interview by letting the candidate know you will follow up with him/her and thank them again for taking the time to come in.

Want more? Check out Michelle's entire series below...


  • Step One: Understanding the Importance of Staffing
  • Step Two: Identifying the Need
  • Step Three: Crafting the Position Description
  • Step Four: The Interview Process
  • Step Five: Hiring & Follow-up
  • Step Six: Onboarding

Staff Development

  • Key One: Training Needs
  • Key Two: Mentoring
  • Key Three: Individual Feedback
  • Key Four: Group Feedback
  • Key Five: Positive Working Environment
  • Key Six: Modeling Integrity

Additional PM resources:

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