Any company that’s spent some time looking for an experienced project manager knows it that can be a stressful process that sometimes yields little or no results. In an article, I did for TechRepublic, called “Trouble Hiring a Project Manager? Five Possible Reasons Why” I shed some light on what may have gone wrong as well as some of the things that can be done to rectify the issues.
When hiring a PM, the knee-jerk tendency seems to be to hire the person with the most technical knowledge when other, broader skills are more likely to get the results you’re really after.
A great project manager can mean more than just the difference between project success and failure (which is important enough). With a rock-star PM on your team, you can enjoy some peace of mind knowing that projects and processes are being shepherded in a professional, efficient, timely, and ultimately profitable manner. Conversely, a lousy PM can have deleterious effects, including a drain on your own time and, eventually, your company’s money.
Clearly and precisely identify the goals for the position
When looking to hire a first-rate PM, the first step is identifying what the crucial goals are for this role. Be clear within the job posting about exactly what you need from the PM. All too often, project-management job postings are cookie-cutter and focus primarily on the general technical aspects and candidate attributes. Flush out detailed business and job-specific goals. Document precisely how the new project manager’s role will assist in accomplishing those exact goals.
Plan ahead to increase chances of finding the best candidate
The timing for hiring a PM should be identified ahead of the actual need. Waiting until the need arises will simply create unnecessary stress and possibly end in disappointment. Often the hiring process cuts too close to the initiating of a project, creating a situation where the rush is on, and yet the choices may be too limited. The end result: hiring a good project manager but not the best one for a specific role.
This next section expands on the most important qualities of a project manager.
Experienced business strategist
Consider looking for project managers with broader, high-level business knowledge and skill sets who understands how their role plays into the overall business-wide objectives. Project managers who possess this understanding and who approach the role with this in mind can make a top PM candidate as they are able to make a conscious effort to ensure that all project activities align with strategy. Without this knowledge and understanding, the key foundations can easily be eroded.
Loves the Work
The role of a project manager is stressful in the best of times, as it requires PMs to juggle multiple deadlines, resources, requests, stakeholders, and goals. The role can be overwhelming, rewarding, and discouraging all at the same time, and it can result in a high level of job satisfaction but also job frustration. In order for PMs to be effective and stay focused and vested, they must absolutely love what they do, as oftentimes this is what allows them to stay motivated and focused.
Exudes intrapreneurial spirit
Project managers need to be of an intrapreneurial mindset, always evaluating the best methods for business-goal attainment. All decisions and actions must be directed toward the best interests of the business. This requires a project manager to be innovative and extremely focused, as well as being goal and people-oriented at the same time.
Demonstrates extraordinary leadership
Exceptional leadership skills are not optional in this role. While the majority of PMs will have some form of formal technical training and combined experience, not all project managers demonstrate exceptional leadership. Leadership is not simply leading, facilitating, managing, and directing. True leaders must lead by example, make difficult decisions when necessary, and act in a fair manner when it comes to all stakeholders while they also ensure that their attention and effort remain trained on business objectives at all times. Accomplishing this is not always easy, but it is necessary in order to be an extraordinary leader.
Excels at crisis resolution
Crisis resolution is another one of those areas in which a PM must be well versed and experienced, as this is guaranteed to be a regular fixture in the world of project management. More often than not, projects do not go as planned. Project managers will often encounter one crisis or another, whether financial, time-based, human resource, or other related issues, and will need to remain calm, focused and level-headed and to act appropriately, regardless of the situation. A crisis-resolution expert can make all the difference, as this can be easier said than done.
Exhibits outstanding communication skills
Many projects have been derailed solely on communication issues that have arisen simply because the project manager lacked sufficient oral, written, or nonverbal communication skills. Knowing how to effectively communicate and what medium to utilize in a particular situation is critical. This is easily one of the most important skills to look for due to the potential risks and impact.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.