a project manager holding a tablet and talking to a coworker in front of a project board

Your leadership team has settled on a business strategy and your product manager has produced an ambitious product roadmap. Now all that’s left is figuring out how to do all of it. For that you’ll turn to a project manager. While they share more than just 12 letters with their counterparts on the product side, project managers play a distinct, critical role in any organization’s success.

In this article, we’ll look at what makes a great project manager and how they’re different from product managers. We’ll also give you a solid framework for writing a job post that will attract the right kind of project manager for your needs.

Project Managers vs. Product Managers: Similar, But Also Different

There’s often some overlap and confusion between the roles of product manager and project manager, so let’s briefly distinguish between them. In short, project managers translate the product roadmap and vision laid out by the product manager into defined, actionable assignments. While the product manager can tell you what the product is and how it’s going to help users or achieve broader business goals, it’s the project manager who can answer questions like, “how much is this going to cost?” and “who’s doing what?”

Because of their unique position, project managers need to be exceptionally organized. They’ll need to be able to create a realistic schedule and budget accordingly while also holding the designers, developers, and other project members to those requirements. The ability to prioritize and allocate resources accordingly is critical. Like some product managers, project managers may be responsible for the day-to-day work of the development cycle, making sure things remain on schedule, solving problems as they arise, and avoiding scope creep. While project management is neither a technical nor a design role, a successful project manager will have enough familiarity with these disciplines to be able to translate the needs of their team members between one another and to the product manager or leadership.

Defining Your Project Management Needs

Your #1 consideration when engaging a project manager should be to find someone with a proven record of completing projects on schedule and within budget. While it may be an asset if a candidate has experience managing similar projects to the one you’re working on, it’s probably more important to make sure the projects they’ve managed are comparable in scope or complexity.

Beyond that, you should also be clear about what you need from your project manager. That means defining your requirements. Be clear about how many team members they’ll be overseeing, what resources they’ll have at their disposal (you can be general when talking about budgets), and what the timeline is for the overall project.

Writing a Product Manager Project Description

Once you have a solid idea of what you’re looking for in a project manager, you’re ready to write a job post. The quality of your post can have a significant impact on time-to-hire and the quality of interested talent, so it’s worth investing some time and thought into crafting a compelling, detailed post. You should say whether you’re looking for someone who can manage a small, agile team of designers and developers who are building a new consumer-facing app or whether you need help overseeing a massive effort to re-design your backend systems, which could involve a dozen or more sub-projects.

Include a clear description of what they’ll do for the project and what teams or functions they’ll be working most closely with, mention whatever project management or communication tools your team prefers, what availability you expect of them, and, of course, your budget. The key here is to give ample context so that you can get a meaningful proposal from an interested project manager.

Sample Project Overview

Below we’ve put together a sample of how a project description might look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is only needed if you’re looking for an employee. If you think you might want an employee, check out Upwork Payroll. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically just need a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work.

Title: Project Management for Complex Backend Overhaul
Description: We are a large data analytics firm in need of project management expertise as we migrate our database from MySQL to PostgreSQL. We’re looking for a project manager with experience overseeing complex, months-long projects as we redesign our database system, perform the migration, and troubleshoot new problems as they arise. Work would ideally be done on-site but we’ll consider exceptionally qualified remote candidates.
Scope and Timeline: Our goal is to complete the migration and optimization within six months.
About Us: We’re a large data analytics firm based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Looking for more resources? Check out our tips and tools for project managers.