Higher PM Salary: Meet These 5 Criteria

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To be the One Chosen and Get the Dollars you Deserve - Consider These Areas to Start

Apr 3, 2018
a project manager obtaining more money


How much are your PM skills worth?  Check out this web-page at Glassdoor.  It provides a good reference for IT Project Manager pay correlated with other IT Career positions, experience levels and some popular 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.

Whether you’re sitting down for an initial interview or in mid-flight with your current employer 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.  

Good PMs can come with a stellar resumes and skills but demonstrate a lackluster presence. Someone could be highly technical and personable but has a noticeable lack of business acumen.  Remember, the hiring manager (or supervisor) will be looking beyond your resume.  She’ll be looking at you and asking herself one question:  does (or can) this person help me get what I need?

Whether you’re sitting down for an initial interview or in mid-flight with your current employer you need to present yourself as an asset worth paying for. Act like a leader and you’ll be treated like one.  

While the following discussion is germane for all PMs, let’s assume our PM of interest is entering the interview process. To get the dollars you deserve, here are the five criteria you must satisfy:

1– Be a Class Act

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.  If this seems pretty like basic advice, it is – but you would be surprised.

Whether you’re sitting down for an initial interview or in mid-flight with your current employer you need to present yourself as an asset worth paying for. Act like a leader and you’ll be treated like one.

Slang terms, curse words, and jokes might be okay in the workplaces you’ve experienced in the past, but an interview is a very poor venue to test the waters.  Never be afraid to dress and act the part of a pro – others will see you that way and your status will notch up.

2– Master Soft Skills

As a project manager, your technical experience, professional certifications, and educational background are important, but so are your people and business skills. Yes, being a PMP or having an Agile certification to put on your resume will take your rate up a bracket, but you also must 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. High-paying positions have higher demands.

an upward payscale for project managers

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.  

Understand how to discuss difficult situations and utilizing soft skills to harness the energies of teams and stakeholders. Show that you can play well with others. Checkout our blog “Project Manager Maturity the Easy Way” and consider a holistic approach to highlighting your skills. If you can’t demonstrate the soft-skill side of the equation, 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.

3– Show Results

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.  However, 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.

4– Understand the Organization’s Focus

Sound easy, perhaps – but you’ve got to expend the effort prior to your initial face-to-face meetings with a prospective employer to make this determination.  Try to develop and understanding of their situation and organizational objectives. If possible, find out what is working and not working and determine how your attributes attack the problem and drive the solution.

5– Understand Your Boss’s Focus

Much like understanding the organization’s focus, understanding your supervisory function’s major issues, concerns and challenges.  If you can make a reasonable determination of these factors, you’ll be well set up not only to receive a job offer, but to ensure that the hiring managers are not going to let salary risk the opportunity.


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 is a measure of merit.  And a higher IT project manager salary this time bodes well for the next time.  Therefore– in the interview – take the lead.  Focus on professionalism,versatility, organizational awareness and results and you’ll be much better positioned to land in the upper bracket of a given position's salary.

Written By:
Kerrie Gill, PMP, ITIL

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