So, you’re considering hiring a construction project manager to help with your office build-out. But how do you make sure that the one you’re considering is right for you and your project?

In the excitement and anticipation of beginning a new project, it can be easy to rush through the hiring process in an effort to get the ball rolling.

While there are many qualified project managers in the market, some have certain specialties or attributes that differentiate them, and it is important to find the project manager that’s skill set matches your needs.

In order to make this process a little smoother, we at the AQUILA Project Management team have compiled a list of seven must-ask questions to help you screen your project manager candidates.

Read Now: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Project Manager for Your Office Build-Out


1. Does the project manager work for a reputable firm?

Doing some initial research on a potential project manager’s firm will go a long way. If they are employed by the firm, chances are they share a lot of the values and goals of the company. In order to narrow down your candidates, be careful to choose from trusted firms. Reputation and resources are key components in deciphering if a project manager will fit with your vision.

Be sure to look at sites for ratings and reviews, and find out how long the firm has been in business. If people like them, chances are they have produced quality work in the past and will for you too.

Additionally, be sure to discuss firms with your tenant rep broker and see if he/she has any recommendations or bad experiences with specific firms.

Specific Questions to Ask

Specific questions you may ask your candidate to ensure they work for a reputable firm include:

  • Do you have any testimonials you can share from clients you’ve worked with in the recent past?
  • Who are some of your other clients? What types of projects have you worked with them on?
  • Can you provide names and contact information for references that I can talk to?
  • Are there any relevant case studies from past projects that you were involved in that I can look over?


2. How much experience does my project manager have?

Experience in this sense is not limited to how long a project manager has been in the industry. Instead, this question asks how well they know the local construction market, their relationships with industry vendors, and the kind of specific work experience you’re looking for.

You should make sure that your project manager has a strong list of connections, clients, and unique access to market resources.

A project manager who is local will be able to fast-track the process of gathering engineers, architects, designers, and contractors. The longer a project manager has worked in a market, the more likely they have strong relationships within the industry and access to an established network of contractors and suppliers in the area.

Specific Questions to Ask

To gauge this, you want to ask the project manager questions like:

  • What types of projects do you typically work on? For example, do you typically work in retail or office spaces? Shell space or second generation?
  • What are the trends you are seeing in my industry, as far as pricing and timeframes?
  • Can you give me an overview of the trends and rates you are seeing in the construction market in our area?
  • Can you provide me a sampling of similar projects you’ve worked on in the past five years?


3. Does the project manager’s firm offer additional services and assistance throughout the process?

There should not be additional fees when asking for a little extra assistance from your project manager throughout your project, so it is logically and financially sound to utilize him or her firm as a resource.

Additionally, the more they are willing to help, the more likely you will be to reach out for help on another project in the future.  

Specific Questions to Ask

Additional questions you can ask include:

  • What services do you provide in addition to acting as an owner’s representative throughout the construction process?
  • Will you help manage other vendors I will need to hire?
  • What will our relationship be like after the project is complete?
  • Do you have a relationship with a particular moving company and/or other vendors that may need to be hired, ie security, cabling, signage, etc.?


4. Have you worked on a project in our field before?

Does the project manager have experience in your field? Do they know what works for some industries and what doesn’t? Not all projects are the same, and your project should not be a project manager’s guinea pig.

Having specific experience in the type and scope of the project you are looking for should be a determining factor for your project. Because commercial spaces can vary dramatically depending on the intended use, it is important to find a project manager with experience dealing with your industry and the type of specific requirements you need. For example, imagine the different need requirements between a manufacturing and distribution plant and a Class A law firm space.

Specific Questions to Ask

Questions you can ask to better understand if your project manager has the experience that meets your needs:

  • What other companies in my industry have you worked with?
  • What have you found to be the biggest priorities for other companies in my industry?
  • What trends are you seeing with other companies in my industry?


5. What are your project management fees?

Your project management fees are going to be based on the size and scope of your specific project. Don’t let this scare you- a successful project manager is going to save you more on your total project cost than what you will pay to them in fees.

While your specific cost will vary, there are three standard ways that project management fees may be calculated:

Percentage of project cost

This is the most common payment structure for project management contracts.

In this scenario, you will pay a predetermined percentage of the total project cost. The project cost is the combined sum of the hard cost (the value of the construction contract) and the soft costs (the architect and engineer fees, cabling, permitting, and more).

This is similar to the way you would pay an architect and engineer.

Fixed monthly cost

At the request of the client, project managers will sometimes structure their fees as a fixed monthly cost.

In this situation, the project manager will look at the timeline and the scope of the project in order to estimate the hours per month their team will spend on the project and charge a set fee based on this number.

Cost per square foot

The third option for structuring project management fees is a per-square-foot cost. In this case, the project manager will charge a fee per square foot, based on the total project cost.

This option is typically only employed at the request of the client. In this situation, the higher the project cost per square foot, the lower the project management fee per square foot.

To learn more about what typical project management fees and rates, see our blog post Cost to Hire a Project Manager for an Office Build-Out or Renovation (Fees/Rates).

Specific Questions to Ask

  • What will your fees be for this project?
  • How will the fees be structured?
  • When will payment be due?


6. What was the outcome of your last project?

The biggest predictor of future success is often a history of past successes. Be sure to ask about the project manager’s previous projects, and dive into what made them successful or what they learned from a recent bump in the road, as failed projects often help people learn from mistakes and not make them again.

Specific Questions to Ask

  • Did the project go as planned?
  • Were there any lessons learned along the way?
  • If it went well, what contributed to the success? If it didn’t go as well, where did it go wrong?
  • What changes should have been made to make it go well?


7. What certifications or qualifications do you have?

Project management is a highly technical field and requires significant training. Additionally, if you’re hoping to achieve environmental certifications for your project, it’s extremely helpful to have a project manager with training in that area.

Many project managers hold a degree in Civil Engineering or Construction Management. Additionally, they may hold special certifications such as:

  • LEED Certification
  • Project Management Professional Certification (PMP)
  • American Institute of Construction Certification (AIC)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Quality Management for Contractors (CQMC) Certification

Specific Questions to Ask

  • Can you supply your full resume including your educational background?
  • What, if any, specific certifications or qualifications do you hold?


Free Resource: 30 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Project Manager

What’s Next?

Now that you know the right questions to ask before hiring a project manager, finding the right project manager to lead your build-out or renovation should be a little bit easier. To learn more about AQUILA’s expert project management team, visit the project management page on our website or schedule a consultation with our team.

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Dustin Hogzett | Commercial Project Management in Austin, Texas | AQUILA Commercial

Dustin Hogzett

As a project manager with AQUILA, Dustin leads and manages fast-track and task-critical design and construction projects.

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