Category Archives: Hiring Manager

Project Manager Recruitment

Recruitment is an interesting topic and certainly becomes quite complex when you are looking for a specific skill-set such as project management – PM covers a multitude of areas and can often be deceptive in the job titles assigned to roles. The reason it can become difficult to source the right candidate can be because emphasis is placed on a person who currently performs the role, yes it is true. A lot of hiring managers will look to replace “Dave” or “Sarah” when they are moving on, often asking Dave or Sarah to list everything they do in their role to assist in creating a job description. Suddenly a fairly straightforward role starts to take on a rather long “wish list” and expectations are very high, this combined with applying a starter salary for that role means it becomes increasingly difficult to find the ideal candidate for the role.

Understandably if you have a star employee who is progressing or moving on, you will want to replace them seamlessly but naturally as someone has been in a position for some time they will lend strengths to their role which goes above and beyond the job description, over time they are generally rewarded and may take rather large pay increments for having additional responsibility.  Then when you are back at square one you are actually looking for an employee which does not exist especially at the lower salary pay band.

Standing out in the crowdTo escape this trap, it makes sense to meet with Dave or Sarah and talk through key responsibilities and think about what the core role actually involves and identify what the “would like to haves” are without biasing your recruitment.

The beauty of human nature is that we are all made differently and all have natural abilities in differing areas, therefore a new person on the team could actually bring a fresh dynamic which could really draw out skills from others who haven’t had the opportunity to shine. It is with this thought in mind I always encouraged an open mind from hiring managers to seeing candidates with varying backgrounds. Especially those who were adamant they required someone from a specific industry, the skill-set for a PM professional is transferable and as long as there is no need for the technical knowhow then there is no reason why they wouldn’t be able to perform the role. A PM in the traditional sense does not get embroiled in the product or service as this can greatly affect delivery, slowing down the process. All organisations and industries work differently and taking someone with a different perspective can really add a lot to a project environment. Asking questions often overlooked through complacency and always following methods which have previously worked – but isn’t project management all about change? Shouldn’t we be constantly looking for new and improved approaches as all projects are different (if not, they are business as usual).

Project Management Frustrations – PINO

An interesting and often frustrating subject when carrying out project management recruitment has to be buzzwords – over the years I have discussed employers’ requirements for project management jobs and been asked the dreaded qualifications question. Now I believe in a balanced and proactive approach to gaining experience and qualifications in project management. After all, a true professional should be keeping abreast of effective methods and as part of their continuous professional development (CPD) training and studying is expected. However in most organisations, a pragmatic approach to implementing and following PM structures is common place – which is how the methods are anticipated for use by the authors and bodies. There are many PM badges available and those who are successful in the PM field tend to dip in and out of a number of methods for delivery and supporting project delivery.

When an employer is looking for a new project management professional they will usually create a job description which includes a number of core competencies and required experience – however for years now a great deal of these employers will ask for PRINCE2. When asked if they use this structure they often say no, but they want someone who has the certification as this means they are qualified. I have pushed back on this preconception dozens of times and only on a few occasional have the hiring managers or HR actually understood that experience counts for more than just a certificate. I have dealt with hundreds of candidates who have no PM experience but have taken their PRINCE2 qualification in the hope of getting a job in project management. Equally I have spoken with hundreds of project professionals who have a great deal of demonstrable experience in delivering / supporting often complex projects and programmes but have no PM related qualifications. I know which I would rather have responsible for my expensive projects.

Don't follow sheepWhy is PRINCE2 so commonly asked for from employers who do not use the method?

Because it is a buzzword – PRINCE2 has been very well marketed over the years, and as such it has gained popularity within the PM field. Just like MP3 players are referred to as iPods, not all are actually the genuine article but the fantastic marketing of Apple has ensured iPod is a household name for personal music playing devices. Therefore if you look up project management on search engines – you guessed it, PRINCE2 pops up straight away. I can understand to a point why employers will then assume that this is the standard for PM professionals but more education is required for the hiring managers to ensure they are not losing out on exceptional candidates just because they don’t tick that box. The use of PINO (Prince In Name Only) needs to be addressed after years of use and a better understanding of what structures are used (and required) still needs clarifying when writing job descriptions.

There are a number of project management specific recruitment agencies available in the UK – if you are an employer who is looking for a new project management professional to join the team, it is well worth talking to one or more as a sounding board and to assist you in understanding your actual needs.


There’s no business like snow business

This year we have been hit by snow on a few occasions causing disruption throughout the UK, seeing villages without power and major road networks grinding to a halt. Businesses have had employees stuck at home, whether snowed in or looking after children because the schools closed and there’s more snow to come. So what are businesses doing to ensure they can keep operational during these inconvenient weather spells?

Speaking to a head of projects last week, he told me that he has worked hard with his business (a major blue chip) to ensure all project staff can be mobile. He said that although there is a fundamental requirement to be on site for effective PM – senior management keen to keep everyone together (and where they can see them I am sure), he had convinced the SMT that the project team can also benefit from working remotely. He stressed that being in a very rigid environment where reporting, rigorous analysis and updating of the project library for the PMO was mandatory that quiet time can be very beneficial for individuals to get on with often technical and tricky pieces of work with less interruption. This was his business case a few years back and now as unavoidable circumstances leave staff stranded at home – they can still get on with their work and reduce impact to the business. Another part of his business case was to introduce a trust ethos and make a happier employee.

Snowed in

Forcing employees onto the road in treacherous conditions, having them arrive hours late because of traffic and leaving early in the hope of getting home without any incidents is a waste of valuable time and effort plus it says a lot about how the employer views you and your safety over the business. Most project teams, especially the delivery staff tend to be mobile and can work remotely these days due to project on/off site requirements, however a great deal of the support staff and PMs in other industries are still expected to be in the office 5 days a week. An issue seen by employers is that they would need to supply staff with equipment and internet access to make the move – however if you approach staff and say the opportunity is there for you if you have a PC and internet access (let’s face, who doesn’t these days really?) and most employees have work mobiles or commonly use their personal mobiles for work.

Snow days do not necessarily mean no work days – sorry to put a dampener on it, but in times of austerity needs must. Keep calm and carry on!

Interview Tips for the Employer

Being on the employer side of business instead of the one searching for a job can make it seem as though you’ve got all the advantages.

However, finding the right employee for your organisation is a tricky proposition. Not only will you have to carefully read between the lines of your prospect’s CV, you’ll have to determine if he or she is a correct fit for your organization.

What’s more, each applicant will have to be evaluated as to their potential longevity with the company. The last thing you want to do is spend a large amount of time screening a pool of applicants, painstakingly select the perfect one, train them for months, and then have them leave you within a short period of time.

Once you’ve determined the unique needs and requirements of the position and your strategy for selecting the ideal candidate, it’s time to focus on the interview process. While there are many interview guides for job candidates, employers as well can suffer from lack of knowledge regarding interview techniques and etiquette. Many executives actually become quite nervous at the idea of meeting and greeting a candidate.

Assuming you’ve screened candidates properly, and are awaiting a meeting with an excellent prospect, there are several tips to follow for a great interview.

Make a Good First Impression

Remember that the candidate is also screening your company for an appropriate fit. Be sure to have a tidy, clean space for receiving your candidate. Organise any loose papers neatly in lever arch files to eliminate clutter, and offer water or coffee. Dress in professional clothing (appropriate to your industry) and introduce yourself in a friendly manner, stating your full name and title. You may chat a bit about the weather or other neutral subjects but try to keep small talk to a minimum.

Prepare in Advance

A good candidate will arrive well-prepared for the interview and you should do the same. Take the time to become acquainted with his or her CV and make notes to yourself about which points you’d like to learn more about. Being prepared with a lever arch file of carefully listed questions will help reduce any anxiety you may have about the meeting as well.


Ask Smart Questions

Your questions should help you relate your candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities to the requirements of the position. Asking open-ended questions will allow him or her to expand upon certain subjects. It is fine to ask about past failures and how they were handled, or ask about why he or she is seeking a new job, but don’t try to trap them or test them under pressure. Record answers carefully and file them (along with your candidate’s CV) in a lever arch file for quick reference.

End on a Positive Note

Each and every candidate should be treated kindly and respectfully even if you know from the beginning you won’t be offering them the job. Thank him or her for their time, and advise them as to where you are in the hiring process so they’ll know when to expect a response from you. Once you’ve selected a candidate for a job offer, be sure to contact each person you interviewed to let them know that the position has been filled. You may also provide feedback, upon request, to those not selected.