Only a small percentage of jobs are filled by recruiters, in fact the percentage doesn’t increase greatly with advertised roles either. The majority of roles filled are through other means – now I have always said that recruitment can be like a lottery, you need to be in the right place at the right time. However there are some things you can be doing to ensure you are likely to be in the right places and highlighted specifically for upcoming roles and roles which haven’t necessarily been identified.
- Networking – personal networking and social contacts are a valuable tool when you are looking to secure a new position, do keep in touch with your contacts regularly and not only when you want something! Update or create a LinkedIn profile and connect with your previous employers, colleagues, friends etc. Make sure you join groups and get involved in discussions, this keeps you at the forefront of people’s minds but also demonstrates your passion for your profession and you can easily gain new valuable contacts through this practice. Go to PM specific events, there are a fair few which are free to attend – go listen to seminars and network with delegates to strengthen your contacts list. Join in social networking discussions beyond LinkedIn – twitter has a regular gathering on a Friday afternoon under the hashtag #pmchat – the topic differs from week to week and it is a great opportunity to talk live about PM related subjects with other Project Professionals.
- Create opportunities – if you are already in a contract or employed you can take the consultative approach and get involved with other project teams, understand what changes are afoot and identify how you could tap into these changes. Even talking to other PMs over coffee and hearing their challenges can unearth some interesting pieces of work you can take to Head of Projects etc.
- Direct approach – I can almost hear your sigh at the thought of a speculative application, after all in the past you have done this and received the generic response of “keeping your details on file”, but there is a more effective way to approach businesses.
- Create a list of companies you would like to work for and know have project management functions.
- Research the companies, track them online – identify changes, look at anything which might generate jobs, from new product launches to mergers.
- Identify Heads of Projects – a bit of searching online will soon generate some names and contact details.
- Draw up a tailored cover letter, talk through the change you have identified and match up your experience to how you have delivered similar change in the past.
- Tweak your CV to ensure it is relevant to the business and look at other employees’ profiles from that business to grasp an idea at what attracts the business to them.
- Approach the contact, be assertive but not pushy and ask for a call or to meet for a coffee to discuss.
The direct approach is time consuming but, think about how your chances of securing a new role have increased significantly by demonstrating key skills such as being proactive, commercially astute, good researcher etc. you could also save them costly recruitment fees moving forward and avoid the long queue for a role which has later been adevertised.
In previous blog posts I have talked about being proactive with job applications direct to employers as often you can cut out the middle man and harvest greater results from your applications if you put the work in and tailor your applications. However recruitment agencies can also yield results if you use the right agencies and display the right kind of behaviours.
Project Management recruitment agencies can be very useful to you in your search for a new job – so it is important to make sure you work with them to get them working for you.
I know through years of working in specialist PM recruitment that some clients do not advertise their roles other than through a handful of agencies, others will advertise and use every agency available. However the ones who have struck up a good relationship with their clients and have repeat business built up over the years can be a real asset to candidates serious about getting a new role. These types of recruitment agencies tend to work hard at client retention and as such will be keen to make sure that every candidate they submit to their client is a very close match to the client’s needs. Common sense you say, well yes but a great deal of recruiters out there work on volume and have a necessity to submit as many candidates as possible in the hope of hitting the nail on the head so to speak. The specialist recruiters are different in that volume isn’t necessarily the right route.
Working with specialist agencies by making contact and actually speaking with the recruiters is very important, if you can arrange a discussion to talk through your experience and your aspirations to really gain some buy-in from them could be the difference between being called as soon as a new role which meets your needs and skill-set and being left in the database of thousands of candidates. Listen to what the recruiters are saying to you – ask for feedback on your CV and applications, learn to understand their perspective and you will soon be placed in their favourite’s folder awaiting new roles as they hit the recruiters’ desk.
Don’t be afraid to call when you see new roles advertised, talk through expectations of their clients and ask if you need to make any tweaks to your CV. Once you have submitted your application you should look to track its progress – do not hound the recruiter, strike a balance of keeping in touch and if necessary, agree a communications plan.
All good project management professionals follow up actions and by demonstrating your keenness and being professional in your approach you will soon be remembered for all the right reasons. At a time when agencies have reduced portfolios of work and large databases of candidates you need to make sure you stand out above the rest.
Project Management is an integral part of any progressive organisation and as such bringing in new talent should always be at the forefront of your mind. There are many means of finding new potential employees for free through the use of social media such as twitter, LinkedIn, and personal websites. Therefore I don’t suggest you only look for fresh talent when a requirement becomes apparent in the business – you should look to get ahead of the game and anticipate where individuals can fit in to your strategic plan.
However once sign off for a new position has been made you should look to take a structured approach to attracting applications as well as going out to individuals.
- First of all you need to understand what key skills are required for the role – by writing a job description from scratch rather than using old descriptions, you will start to form a clear list of needs. Avoiding an extensive list which may put potential talent out of the running when you don’t actually need particular (old) skills.
- Then write a balanced advert which really attracts people to want to apply rather than being put off by everything you need from them – what can you offer them, this doesn’t just come down to remuneration. Think outside the box, such as training, coaching, work environment, social activities etc.
- Advertise – as popular as your company website may be, you need to reach out further afield and attract talent in through job adverts. There are PM specific job boards which don’t cost the earth to advertise on and will bring in the right talent as they are specific to the PM field. Also think about putting the feelers out on LinkedIn and on twitter etc.
- As hiring manager – you manage the application process.
- Once the applications start coming in – don’t work with a list of tick boxes as this could quickly discount a number of potentially great candidates. CVs are supposed to include all details but if your advert and job description aren’t clear enough or an application was made without tailoring to your role you may miss out. It is easy to say that the candidate does not have sufficient buy-in but at the end of the day there is little assistance for professionals to really understand what is required of them in a competitive market. Therefore the best CVs are getting all the attention not necessarily the best candidates.
- Work out an effective filtering system – even if this is an email response with specific questions to the candidate to answer, clearing up any missing details. Telephone interviews and skype interviews are a great way to filter out any uncertainties without using up precious time and resources.
Make sure you know from the outset what it is you really need and use your gut instinct when reviewing CVs, by introducing a filtering process in the initial stages you can really start to get together a strong shortlist of candidates for interview and ensure you are seeing the right people.
Careers advisors have been working with young people for decades to help them recognise their potential through various testing and quizzes which often list project management as a suggested route for those who demonstrate an organised approach to working. However it is one thing being listed as a suggested profession and another thing actually being able to attain a project management role. Most of the PM people I know happened to fall into the field – like myself, I was working on quality control for a large blue chip when I was asked to get involved with some continuous improvement projects. Having demonstrated my willingness and aptitude to managing these projects I was put on courses to learn a structured approach to delivery and quickly moved into a role where I was managing new product introduction projects across Europe. I haven’t looked back and having been fortunate enough to have a supportive senior management team I learnt a great deal very quickly.
I would always recommend those who want to get into PM take a look at their current circumstances, what can you do where you are to achieve your goals? If you are yet to secure a new role then I suggest targeting businesses with the scope to be able to offer more, later down the line. Make a point of securing a new position which is ideally office based and work hard, get noticed for the right reasons and don’t be disheartened if you don’t feel you are moving at a pace you feel you deserve. It is important to make sure you gain some trust by the senior management team, once they know you can do the task in hand (i.e. the job you were employed for) and can see your willingness to be involved in projects you should start being invited to get involved. In the first instance you are likely to be asked to support a project, this is a great basis to build up your portfolio of skills and gain a greater understanding of how projects are run. You will also get to work with other parties around the business and begin to be recognised in this field. The knock on effect is that you may then be requested from other areas in the business to join new projects. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be open to training, and be keen to join in.
This can work for those already established within a business, if you have been working in a job which isn’t challenging you, take time to speak with your manager and ask if there are any projects you can get involved with. Explain you are keen to be involved but be careful not to be too dismissive of your current role – think about the reasoning behind why you want work on projects, always take a positive approach.