Project Management Recruitment Ideas – Recruiting a PM for the First Time

The nature of what we do has changed significantly and we find ourselves needing to recruit a project manager for the first time. What should we be looking for in terms of the calibre of project manager and should we, for example, develop internally or recruit externally?

Bringing a project management resource into an organisation for the first time will require a little bit of extra planning over and above the other types of resources you normally recruit for. Before going into a little more detail about recruiting for a project manager for the first time there is another question to be answered first; do you really need a project manager?

A quick and simple series of questions may help in determining the kind of resource needed:

  • Has the project been well scoped out already?
  • Have the critical success factors been well defined already?
  • Is the project team size less than 5?
  • Is the project of relatively low value / low cost?
  • Is the project timescale less than 6 months?
  • Is the project low risk?
  • Is the project non-business critical?
  • Is there an immediate manager – project sponsor – with available time for support?

Depending on the answer to these questions you could actually be in the market for a project co-ordinator or assistant project manager. The tasks carried out are not unlike that of the project manager however if the project is small and uncomplex the position can be carried out by a competent project co-ordinator. The project co-ordinator in this kind of role does have the experience and understanding of project management concepts – or the more technical parts of project management – like putting together a plan, assigning a team to activities and controlling the delivery. The likelihood is the project they are managing would be small in team size, even a project team size of one, where they are expected to deliver the project outcome themselves.

If your project is relatively high risk or business critical you could indeed be looking for a project manager. The key to bringing in a project manager for the first time is to really concentrate on getting the job specification and requirements right for your organisation. If you are considering a project manager I’m making the assumption that you understand the basic roles and responsibilities of a project manager; the tasks and activities normally performed and the ideal behavioural characteristics. Work to make sure all three areas fit your own organisation’s situation and avoid insisting on certain project management experience just because that’s what project managers are supposed to have/do! A classic is insisting on the PRINCE2 qualification when actually your own organisation does not use it nor has any intention of hiring project managers with vast experience of it.

Recruiting a Project Manager for the first time

One option to consider when bringing on a project manager for the first time is to consider someone who will not only deliver the project you have but also provide foundations for the future. A project manager who can also establish project management best practice to suit your organisation, start to develop internal resources and fill the immediate project needs could be a perfect solution. There are a number of project managers in the marketplace who would welcome such a diverse and challenging role.

One part of the recruitment process that you may need additional help in is conducting the interviews. It can be difficult to select the right types of questions and gauge the responses if there is a lack of project management knowledge and experience within the organisation. Organisations have used Arras People as an expert on their panel interviews to provide support and guidance in this type of situation. An independent view from experienced human resource professionals could also be sought out.

Finally in addressing the ‘calibre of project manager’ during the recruitment process – how to assess the applications, pull together the shortlist, conduct the interviews, and select the right person – it all stems from the job specification. The more time and consideration given to this part of the process, the better the assessment you can do against the specification.


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