How much are your PM skills worth? Try this: search “project manager salary Seattle”. Instantly, you’ll get the current market rates paid in a variety of companies. It’s exciting to see those six-figure salaries at global companies. But at the other end of the spectrum are PM salaries that can be as much as 40% lower. So how do you make sure you land a spot at the top of the pay scale?
The short answer is: think like a project leader.
From the moment you sit down for an interview you need to present yourself as an asset worth paying for. Act like a leader and you’ll be treated like one. That means paying attention to the total package of attributes and abilities you have to offer. Often we’ll get a candidate with a stellar resume but lackluster presence. Or someone technical and personable but who lacks business acumen. Remember, the final hiring manager won’t just be looking at your resume, she’ll be looking at you and asking herself one question: is this the person who can help me get what I need?
From the moment you sit down for an interview you need to present yourself as an asset worth paying for. Act like a leader and you’ll be treated like one.
To be the one chosen and get the dollars you deserve, here are the three key boxes you must tick:
Project leaders have composure and presence. They’re not afraid to look someone in the eye, speak clearly, and ask direct questions. The image you present in an interview is the only chance you have at a first impression. The thing we always (and we do mean always) hear from our recruiting staff and clients is professional candidates earn professional salaries. Did he show up on time? Was she respectful and polite? Did he dress appropriately? Was she engaged and leaning into the conversation? A “no” answer to any of these questions is a bad sign for everyone involved.
When the answer is “yes,” however, we know we’ll be able to ask for and get more money for that candidate. Even if the job you’re interviewing for has a laid-back company culture, you need to put your game face on. Slang terms, curse words, and jokes might be okay in the workplaces you’ve experienced in the past, but an interview is never the time to test the waters. When you dress and act more like the C-suite and less like a developer at a startup, others will see you that way and your status will notch up.
As a project manager, your technical experience, professional certifications, and educational background are important, but so are your people and business skills. Don’t ignore non-technical training. High-paying positions have higher demands. Yes, being a PMP or having an Agile certification to put on your resume will take your rate up a bracket, but these kinds of things don’t speak to your qualifications as a leader. Hiring managers know that just because you passed a few tests doesn’t necessarily mean you have the magic touch in team situations.
We know what companies like to see, and in general, that means a strong balance between technical proficiency and soft skill mastery. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), more and more companies are putting weight on things like leadership ability, communication expertise, and business strategy development. No one wants a one-trick pony in business, and project management is no exception; if you can’t play well with others, you’ll have a hard time showing a hiring manager why you’re the right fit to lead a team let alone worth a premium salary.
By now you may have worked with a few big-name companies, led some long-term projects, and accrued a few professional certifications. That’s great. And, few interviewers will assume job experience is the same thing as job success. They know your CV only tells part of the story. Instead, they’ll ask: what problems did you help solve? You need to be prepared to give concrete, specific details that demonstrate how you personally contributed to better business outcomes.
It’s easy to slip into thinking of project management as just wrangling cats but results matter. How were you able to simplify the development process? What solutions did you implement that made better use of time and money? Good project managers, the ones that can consistently nail interviews and land six-figure jobs, think in terms of case studies. They can tell a good story and give key metrics about performance. Over and over we find hard numbers earn hard dollars.
Money may not be everything, but let’s be honest – money means a lot, especially when it comes to your career. It not only pays the bills but it confers status. And a higher IT project manager salary this time is more likely to lead to better pay next time. So, in the interview, take the lead. Focus on professionalism, versatility, and productivity and you’ll be in a great position to land the high-paying job of your dreams.