Cultural, Personality and Rapport – The Key to Recruiting Project Managers

There is a conundrum when it comes to recruiting project managers and it is this, how can anyone be sure that the project manager they are about to hire can perform the role in a new organisation?

If we think about the traditional recruitment process – that is still in operation in many organisations today – an organisation has a project management position that it advertises. The advertisement may feature details such as key skills, competencies required, key accountabilities etc. Project managers then apply for the job – possibly with a CV or application form. The organisation then reviews all the applications and ranks them against the key requirements of the position. Candidates then get called in for an interview – where again they’re ranked and compared against each other and the requirements of the role. Additional interviews might take place – and then if the organisation – or more likely the hiring manager is satisfied a job may be offered.

The whole process is about matching the project manager’s skills and experience to the vacancy that the organisation has – but there is a flaw here. The project manager may have the right level of technical competencies, they could be a great manager too however their success to date doesn’t guarantee that it can be repeated for a new employer.

low-interview-pictofigo-hi-007(1)One thing that strikes me, working with organisations everyday to find the right kind of project managers for their business is just how important the cultural and personality fit is and the rapport between the hiring manager and candidate is when it comes to offering the job. Most candidates are called in for an interview because they have demonstrated that they have the right kind of experience and skills on their application. An organisation tends to prepare well for testing this experience and skills – competency based interviews also make sure its easier to compare candidates like for like. However when it comes to the three important areas that really make a candidate stand out – cultural fit, personality and rapport – organisations struggle. They struggle to not only articulate what these three areas should look like in their ideal candidate but also struggle to assess them and compare them to others.

Traditionally what happens is the hiring manager will prefer the candidate who is most like them – or the person they can see in their mind’s eye as being the easiest person to work with. It is not uncommon, and in fact much research has been conducted into this particular interview bias. Due to the importance we place on cultural fit, personality and rapport, organisations have to focus much more in this area when putting together their job descriptions, advertisements and interview techniques.

Take cultural fit, being able to really define the culture of an organisation means questions can be devised that really explore how someone would potentially operate in this kind of environment. An example – the projects have a fast pace of change – candidates need to be resilient. Competency based questions that test attitudes and reactions, what resilience means to others, how would you operate in this kind of environment etc.

If the organisation can start to really define these ‘softer’ areas of their ideal project managers, there will be a greatly increased chance that the new hire will fit right in and continue to deliver their best.

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  1. Hi, interesting article.

    I’ve just finished reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. He talks about building up companies and how important what he calls “culture fit” is. In his opinion, and he makes a compelling case, recruiting requires not only the right skills but the right personality and if you fail to pay attention to the type of person you recruit it can bring a business to its knees. He got his HR team to develop questions and recruitment practices designed to focus on assessing whether a new hire would fit in with the company culture and this was a key component of the hiring process.

    I worked with a senior manager on one of my projects who almost completely disregarded the standard CV skill set and focussed on the personality of the people he interviewed. His logic was that those applying would have the basic technical skillset otherwise they wouldn’t have applied. Gaps in technical knowledge could be addressed with training but a personality who couldn’t fit in his team could never been effectively turned around. From what I saw, he ran an excellent and very productive team that was well regarded by all who came in contact with them.

  2. Hi Owen

    Thanks for the book reference I’ll check it out, and thanks for sharing. It’s interesting that the more senior a project manager is (or has a lot of experience) it goes without saying that they probably know what they’re doing when it comes to the nuts and bolts of project management. When recruiting senior positions here, the selection process I go through is very much about personality and the softer skills.If we’ve got to talk about the ins and outs of planning the person is proably not going to be right for the job. Senior roles demand the kind of soft skills that work with other senior people. If only all interviews focused on exploring this.

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