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How to Identify and Hire a Strong Project Manager

Hiring a new project manager can be stressful and time-consuming. Most employers are looking for the perfect mix of ability and skills, and for someone with a personality that fits with the team’s culture. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that three out of four employers stated that they had hired the wrong person for a position. And, a wrong hire comes with a cost. In fact, on average, companies spend $14,900.00 annually for every mismatched hire. 


When looking for a new project manager, it is essential to consider two areas of proficiency. The first area of competence to look for includes technical skills. Does this individual have the knowledge base and abilities to perform the technical aspects of the job? Have they completed the education and/or training needed to complete tasks effectively? Moira Alexander, in her CIO article How to Hire a Rock Star Project Manager, suggested that it is helpful in an interview to have clear goals for the hiring position. You can better match your candidate for the job when you have a well-defined picture of the skills needed. You can then determine, more effectively, if your candidate’s skillset matches or not. Another good way to assess a candidate’s abilities is by asking them to look at current projects and share how they would process the information and create a plan. You could also test a potential employee with one of many available online software assessment tools. This approach may provide a more objective view of proficiency. 


The second area you’ll want to look at in a potential project manager (PM) is that of soft skills. These are the behavioral aspects of the job. Soft skills include communication, critical thinking skills, and whether or not the individual has the overall personality to fit your organization. LinkedIn reported that the U.S. is short 1.4 million professionals with appropriate soft skills. This number is even more significant when communication listed as the number one skill in demand. Soft skills are often overlooked in today’s society, but are critical to the success of a company or organization. Such aspects are the least susceptible to artificial intelligence (AI) or robots. As machine learning and AI grows in use, the project manager’s role may shift, and with it bring a greater emphasis on soft skills. 


Acumen in a prospective candidate gives you insight into the level of authenticity an individual possesses. Identify some behaviors that suggest strong soft skills, and ask questions about how the potential PM might respond to certain situations. A vital aspect to discover is how the candidate views the incorporation of words and actions. Have them describe a time when their words and actions matched. This information gives you a clue as to how ingrained this behavior is in their daily life. Individuals and organizations with words that match actions are at the highest level of authenticity. Look for evidence during the interview that shows such capacity. A discrepancy between the two activities results in micro-fractures that weaken trust. Think of a time when you had an employee who said one thing and then did another. You don’t want to hire someone to lead your team who will perform that way. Ask the candidate during the interview process to give you a few action words describing the type of company culture in which they would feel most authentic. If the potential employee is looking for a company where “friendly people” best fit their work, then you want to be sure your company’s behavioral environment falls in line with these words.


Looking at the alignment of behavioral goals gives you and the candidate a chance to see if you have matching views on what soft skill behaviors at work are most important. Another way to look at this when considering a new employee is to learn more about how committed they are to details. Attention to detail is linked to an individual’s ability to see how people and events are interwoven with each other. Asking why timelines matter, or how one defines attention to detail will give you some understanding of whether the candidate has a fitting viewpoint to that of your organization.


Finding the right candidate for your team saves you time and money. Choosing new employees is also an individual experience. What you need in an employee for one group may not work for another team. Put together a hiring process that works for you and your organization. An excellent overall strategy in an interview is to have a candidate tell you their story. How did they get from one point on their resume to where they are today? Let them talk about themselves, and, throughout the process, you’ll learn about them and their life experiences. This strategy gives you great insight into how they think and make decisions. 


It’s important to be intentional. The more time you spend considering the candidate, the less time you might have to regret your choice. Think of each new employee as an integral piece of your project puzzle. When a piece of your team does not integrate with the overall picture, you’ll have missing or fractured places that make the whole incomplete. Take time to find the person who can complete the puzzle. You’ll be glad you did when you have a team that works well together and gets the job done.


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Written by Dr. Lynette Reed

Writer, researcher and advisor on human potential for personal and organizational development, Dr. Lynette Reed has mentored people from in businesses, not-for-profits, schools, allied health agencies, chambers of commerce, government and churches. She has taught courses on team building, leadership, ethics, world religion and world cultures. Her current literary contributions include an executive summary paperback titled, Fixing the Problem: Making Changes in How You Deal with Challenges, as well as book contributions, articles, guest radio appearances and a series of children’s books with Abingdon Press. She is also a co-founder and board member of the Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership at Seton Cove. Lynette holds a Doctor of Ministry in Spirituality, Sustainability, and Inter-Religious Dialogue and a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Contact her at expectations2reality@icloud.com.

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1 Comment
  1. Your tips apply not only to find a project manager, thanks for the helpful information!

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