2008-10-01 0 1147

How to hire a Project Manager ?

Yesterday I had an inspiring discussion with Carla Simpson from the Queensland Government about the principals to apply when you need to find the right fit and right sized Project Manager.


We try to structure it in two major stages. The first stage is the CV / Resume that you might have on a table and the next stage is the Interview process.

Within the CV / Resume stage, where you just have a piece of paper in front of you just highlighting the typical stuff, like "Areas of Expertise", "Employment History", "Achievements", "Qualifications" and other areas we have identified three items to look at:

1) The CV itself. The track record in delivering projects and continuity in work relationships. We thought it is important to spend some time with one company rather than being to agile in selecting new engagements on a monthly bases (change contracts or work relationships every 6 month etc.). A Progression in the carreer should be visible. Example, going from a developer, via a Project stream lead into a project management role, supported by specific training undertaken, and now moving into programme management. Going from various Programme Management roles back into nitty greedy projects we found is not supportive. For me key are the first two pages of the CV. The details should follow after that and if I am interested i will go through the details, how ever the first 2 pages should give me a snapshot of the candidate in the areas mentioned above.

2) Cultural fit was another area we have identified which can be read out of the CV as well. How? The Industry the individual has worked, the time he or she spent in the Industry and the potential, visible from the outside, organisational maturity of that particular organization is another important indicator. Of course Cultural fit, especially in Australia, is important and needs to be reassessed in the interview itself.

3) The Third item is the Project Management Certification and other skills that can be identified via the CV. Global recognized Project Management Certification and local (Country) recognized certification has been identified by us as relevant. Also whether the certification type is just based on a course or learning a particular topic or if work artefacts and work history is proven or audited by the certifying organisation is another indicator. If you just sit an learn, pass an exam and get a line in a CV, does'nt tell whether the individual is able to apply the particular skills. Depending on the role various Business & Leadership styles become more important. Going from a team member, via a stream lead and project management role into programme or portfolio management different skills are required to be successful.

With that kind of areas hiring managers should be able to identify right candidates already and shortlist them for an interview. The second stage is about the Interview it self and the questions to be asked / probed there.

So beside the usual stuff to go through in personal interviews we found that the Behavioural Competency is something that needs "checking" and depending on the role you might need to apply different techniques. The one i learned and applied in my former role was using the STaR Model / Approach. Its about asking the candidate a question to describe a certain Situation or Tasks (Please describe a situation where you had difficulties to engage your project stakeholders!), the candidate is asked to explain what Actions where taken by him to resolve the issue / challenge / problem (Please talk us through the actions "you" have taken to engage the stakeholders and made them communicate better) based on the Situation described by the candidate. After the candidate talk about the actions its all about the Result (What has been the Result / Outcome / Feedback after you have taken the actions described ?). With that model and the right questions to probe on specific areas that are relevant to that particular project management role you are hiring for (might be Communication, Problem solving, Analytical Thinking, Vendor or Stakeholder Engagement and Management and many others) and get an understanding how the candidate has dealt with these situations in the past as this will give you an idea how he will act in a similar situation in the future and whether thats appropriate for your organisation and the environment he / she will be working in. Find some sample questions here.

Beside the Behavioural Question i also like to ask the following questions

Please describe your career in a nutshell, give us a high level (30.000 Feet) career snapshot how you got to where you are today? Its less about the story and the journey as i could read that in the CV, however, it's to understand whether the candidate is able listen and stick to the high level that you would like to see. I have seen several candidates that are going into the very detail of a particular project at the beginning of their career. 

On a scale of 0 (no experience) to 10 (expert, super highly skilled) where do you see yourself as a project manager? The most answers you get are between 6 and 8. Then i ask the question why he / she is judging him / herself as a xyz, what are the key drivers that make them a xyz. It's a different way of the typical strength and weakness question. And then the next question would be what is missing to get to a 10. The answers give me an indication around self perception as i usual ask them at the end of an interview as where i should have a good picture about the candidate already. What is missing to a 10 is given me the idea whether is about whether the experience missing is about size and dollars spent on a project or specific knowledge areas or other things why the candidate thinks he is not a ten. An even better answer is, that he / she will never be a ten and always room to learn.

This approach, definitely not the silver bullet and not complete, should / could give you a good idea whether a candidate fits or not.



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