How to Make Sure Your Organization is Hiring the Right Project Management Talent

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), “Demand over the next 10 years for project managers is growing faster than demand for workers in other occupations. Organizations, however, face risks from this talent gap.”

Right now, the economy is strong and the demand for Project Managers continues to outpace the supply of talent in the marketplace. For those who are not entirely familiar with the definition or depth of the Project Management framework — also known as the PM framework — it is best understood as the processes, tasks and tools used to take a project from start to finish. It also encompasses components such as planning, managing and governing a project. Using the PM framework allows colleagues to review each phase and assign accountability. Additionally, whether it’s PM methodologies such as Scrum or Agile, or even old-fashioned Waterfall, there’s currently a great deal of buzz surrounding the Project Management role and skill set, and this trend is likely to continue with the emergence of Agile methods across a variety of disciplines and industries.

My passion is helping Project Managers pass the very difficult Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam, and you can bet that I am quick to point out this Job Growth and Talent Gap study to my potential customers. Plus, as I often tell my students, it’s not just about getting a PM job, it’s about salary potential, too. Industry studies have shown that — on average — certified PMs earn up to 20% more on annual compensation than their non-certified counterparts.

I think it’s a compelling point to make to an uncertified PM or a newcomer to the field – people need to understand that their knowledge of the PM framework is an essential part of a long-term career plan that’s rooted in very strong industry growth as well as the opportunity to gain expertise, certification and career success, while earning a salary that’s far more competitive than their non-certified peers.

In my experience as a Project Management Coach I have also encountered many people who thought they qualified as a PM, but in fact they did not have the requisite talents or the experience.

So, this got me to thinking, is there a true differentiation between the professional project manager and the “wannabe”?

How does an organization hire the right PM talent with the ability to discern the difference between a seasoned PM and a more junior resource who is trying to “fake it till s/he makes it”?

Well, for a lot of organizations the knee jerk response is to simply say “make sure all the PMs are PMP certified” and that’s it.
This is really oversimplifying your PM hire and is a big recruitment mistake.

While the people who source and hire your PMs may not want to have to become Project Management theologians in order to hire a good PM, they should be aware of a few core principles when interviewing and hiring PMs. There are 3 core principles that all successful PMs must have — regardless of industry — and if your candidate doesn’t demonstrate knowledge of these during the interviewing process, than perhaps you shouldn’t hire this individual even if s/he possesses PMP certification.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) describes these skills as the “Talent Triangle”:

  1. Technical Project Management – While the candidate doesn’t have to be the ‘expert’ in all of the below categories, they do need to have an understanding in multiple disciplines such as:
    1. Scheduling
    2. Budgeting, Forecasting
    3. Risk Management
    4. Delivery of Scope
  1. Strategic and Business Management – Business skills needed by PMs are:
    1. Ability to work with all stakeholders
    2. Ability to set goals and objectives
    3. Knows operations
    4. Understands the market and its conditions
    5. Awareness of competitors
    6. Uses the right tactics
  1. Leadership – PMs should be able to:
    1. Collaborate as a servant leader
    2. Manage conflict
    3. Build Trust
    4. Balance competing demands
    5. Be politically aware
    6. Negotiate and persuade

Of course, there are many other elements and dynamics to hiring a PM and this certainly is not a checklist, but if your candidate is not able to speak to a good number of these items in a way that really demonstrates proficiency and a level of knowledge and experience, then you may want to think twice about hiring that person.

Once you can identify a candidate who has these necessary talents, THEN you can look to see if the candidate has a PMP certification — which would be the icing on the cake, rather than being the cake itself.

The PMP credential is a very valid measure of a PM’s ability to use best practices, speak the language of Project Management and execute and report on projects in a consistent and predictable manner. However, keep in mind that the PMP credential only requires that candidates have 4500 hours of experience.

Sound like a lot? That’s really only a little over two years’ experience. Some PMPs may have 20 years’ experience, but how many years’ experience does the PMP candidate your company is considering have? And – do they have experience utilizing the core PM talents?

Once you’ve mastered the interview questions and explored their subject matter expertise, you will be well on your way to detecting the truly qualified Project Manager from the well-intentioned counterfeit ­– and it’s that discovery that can make a huge difference to your mission and overall success.


Daniel Ryan, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP
Since 2011, Dan Ryan of the PM Exam Coach, has been training and preparing PMP aspirants globally with thousands of satisfied customers.

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