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The basics of project management recruitment

Reiner Poynton
March 16, 2011

The role of recruiters

Recruiters need to gain an appreciation of the culture of the organisation to ensure candidates with the right disposition are presented. A candidate that is accustomed to quick decision making and a ‘pressure to perform’ environment moving into a bureaucratic environment is likely to be very distressed and dissatisfied and therefore less productive over the long run.

The project(s) undertaken by the client organisation needs to be understood by recruiters as it may impact on the type of methodologies that should be used. Recruiters need to have a strong conceptual understanding of techniques that are available and be able to advise client organisations of their pros and cons and thereby search for more specific attributes from candidates that would fulfil the requirements.

Recruiters should be comfortable, allowed and able to speak directly with the role’s manager to ensure the role requirements are clear both from a soft and hard skills perspective. It should also be made clear whether a candidate’s experience is more important than his or her accreditations. Many excellent project management candidates have not necessarily achieved stipulated accreditations but would be ideal in the role. Recruiters should also be aware of industry accreditations and their value and significance to the organisation, as should the organisations themselves.

This may be a little controversial, but recruiters should be more active in assisting organisations in clarifying whether they really need a project manager as opposed to a project administrator or controller. The problem here is many recruitment firms typically work on commission basis of between 12–25 percent of a candidate’s remuneration package with individual recruitment staff often working to sales targets and bonuses so they are incentivised to promote a more senior candidate, and do so quickly. Organisations that initially seek project staff may not be aware of the different types of project roles and what is needed and hence may become disillusioned with the project management profession.

Once the correct project management candidate(s) are identified and hired, organisations need to realise what motivates their project managers to be high performers and should seek to continue to challenge them with the types of projects they are given.

Organisations need to be aware that stress is a real issue for project managers and that at some stage a project manager may want to move into a line management position where there is continuity and familiarity with the role that reduces stress. This may be a permanent or temporary situation. Organisations can also help by providing career coaching including counselling and encouraging physical activity to relieve stress.

The project manager has a role to play in keeping the union with their employer satisfying. They need to voice their passion and career aspirations with their employer. Demonstrating a commitment to achieving their goals to an employer will give them the confidence to support the project manager if it will be valuable to the organisation.

Lastly, I would strongly advocate a mentor for every project manager. This is particularly important if working as a contractor where you can feel isolated and unsupported. It is important to have someone outside of work that you can confide in and discuss the issues and bring perspective over problems that many not be as large as you first thought.

Common CV mistakes

The following don’ts can be argued either way and touch on some unspoken and politically sensitive bias or prejudices:

  • Do not include too much personal information, including your age. Some employers have an issue with the age of a person. This may have nothing to do with ability but preconceived idea about profile of desired candidate. Advertised positions cannot discriminate on basis of age, gender etc. however it does not stop prospective employers filtering on this basis, hence do not include your age or details about family.
  • Do not include a photo. It unnecessarily increases file size and can work against you.
  • Do not insert images or graphs. This includes images of certifications; it does not give any more credibility to you claim of achievement.
Reiner Poynton
Reiner Poynton is the founder and director of DENKHART, a Divison of Professional PM Services. DENKHART is a recruitment and professional services agency specialising in project and program management.
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