Project Management Q&A: Hiring the Right Person First Time

As the hiring manager, how do I “ensure” that more often than not I get the right person for the role first time of asking?

What a great question and I’m sure if we could crack this one all our lives would be much easier! This question follows on nicely from our previous PM Q&A: How to Hire a Project Manager for the First Time. If you haven’t read that post yet I would recommend checking out (especially if you’re new to project management recruitment).

I think one of the main reasons why recruitment activity doesn’t give consistent results over time is for the simple reason that recruitment involves people and where there are people involved, there are typically differences in interpretation, assumptions, and expectations.

Take for example the relatively easy task of stating what kind of person you are looking for to fill a project manager position. As a minimum we probably need to consider;

  • what the roles and responsibilities will be;
  • what skills and experience the role demands;
  • what education, training and accreditation level the role will require;
  • what behavioural characteristics and personality will be required to establish a cultural fit into the organisation.

Some parts of the specification may be easier than others; after all, listing out the tasks that will need to be performed on the job should be straightforward for a hiring manager. The challenges generally start when we have to put into words what kind of personality we need or behavioural characteristics we are looking for. These are entirely subjective and not only are they difficult to articulate and write down, but they are also difficult to convey to others, for example when briefing a recruitment agent.

Another challenge specific to project management hiring is that it can be difficult to determine the right level of previous experience and the appropriate skill level of candidates in relation to the tasks of the job. For example, take this line in a job specification for a project manager; ‘Constructing project plans and schedule activities throughout the project lifecycle’. It is an activity that all project managers would be expected to perform, however, there are no details here or elsewhere in this particular job specification that gives any context to the task.

Context may be:

  • Is there an expectation that the project plans will be created using a particular tool?
  • How complex are the plans and schedules? How many resources are we expecting to schedule?
  • Are we talking about PIDs in relation to project plans here?
  • What is the project lifecycle for the organisation?

Here our interpretations, assumptions and expectations of the job specification come into play and have a bearing on the types of project managers who would be suitable for the position.

These are just two areas that can impact the success of a hiring campaign. Further areas like organisation attractiveness for candidates (would they want to work for your organisation?), advertisement effectiveness, communication throughout the recruitment process, interviewing skills, appropriate testing and so on could all present further pitfalls.

Do you have a Project Management question that we can answer on the Camel Blog? Let us know in the comments.

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