Understanding the recruiter’s view of PM candidates

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Categories: recruitment

The Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report is out and 2015 is the 10th anniversary of this important study into the state of the industry. One of the interesting snippets of information in the 40-page report is a peek into how the recruitment pipeline breaks down because the people involved aren’t using the same criteria to assess candidates.

The person hiring has very different views of what makes a great candidate for a PM role to the project management professionals who may be involved in the hiring process. Let’s say I’m the hiring manager. I have certain views as to what makes a great project manager, but I don’t want to sift through CVs and interview candidates alone. Project management is a team sport, so I bring one or two of my trusted senior project managers into the loop for the purposes of recruiting. They have a different view of what the person should be good at to excel in the job.

So far, so clear. Let’s look at where the differences of opinion are between hiring manager and peer.

Professional body membership

Hiring managers seem to put a greater emphasis on membership of professional bodies like PMI and APM than project managers involved in the recruitment process. Over 50% of recruiters say it’s important compared to only 29% of peers.

Continuous professional development

Should project management candidates show evidence of improving their skills over the years through continuous professional development? Over 50% of their peers believe that they should. Less than a third of hiring managers thought it was an important element for someone’s application.

Soft skills training

Project management is a lot about managing stakeholders and getting the soft skills right on a project goes a long way to achieving that. Over one in five hiring managers doesn’t believe it’s important but only 8% of peers would agree. Nearly 60% of peers think that their prospective colleagues should be able to demonstrate that they’ve done some soft skills training but only 15% of hiring managers would rank that as important on an application.

PPM accreditation

We’ve seen how professional body membership is viewed by both groups. What about credentials and certificates in project management subjects? This is one area where both hiring managers and the project managers involved in recruitment seem to have a similar view. Over 75% of recruiters and peers agree that PPM accreditation of some sort is essential for candidates.

Why does it matter whether the people involved in recruitment agree or not? A healthy debate is the result of not agreeing, and that can make for better hiring decisions.

Well, it can. But it can also result in posts not filled because managers can’t agree on who to recruit. It results in good candidates not getting a look in because they are weeded out at an early stage when actually they may well have the skills to do the job. That’s not to say that either hiring managers or peers are ‘wrong’ in their assessment of what it takes to do the role. I’m only highlighting that some candidates won’t make it past the first filter because of who is doing the filtering. If they had made it past and were subject to that healthy debate, the hiring team may end up with a different perspective on their application.

The disconnect in the recruitment supply chain, as Arras calls it, also creates problems when dealing with third party recruitment agencies (like Arras). That’s another viewpoint. They are specialist, and know what the market wants, but it’s still a third pair of eyes reviewing CVs and applying their own filters about what important skills and qualifications a candidate should have.

How do we fix this problem? I don’t think we can. It’s normal for people in different posts to have different opinions of a role – it’s normal for different people to have different opinions. Instead, all we can do is be open to the fact this is happening and make sure we really discuss a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in the round before writing them off. Otherwise we’ll be left with vacancies we can’t fill and projects that can’t be delivered, and that’s no good for anyone.

Posted on: March 10, 2015 10:07 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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This is interesting information, especially when it comes to the percentage of hiring managers who believe that continuous professional development and soft skills training are important compared to the percentage of peers when looking at a potential hire. Do you think that percentage is lower compared to peers because they may feel that membership in a professional association and holding a professional certification implies a candidate's commitment to those things without having to call it out in a CV? I, personally, don't know the answer to that, but I would be interested as to what others might think.

What really jumped out at me was the low importance hiring managers put on soft skill training vs. peers. It is telling that peers want to work with people, who have developed soft skills, who can communicate, listen, provide leadership. But for some reason, hiring managers don''t see that as very important.

To me, it is far more important to have someone who can be a good team player, and who is willing/eager to learn technical skills. One person''s good or bad attitude can bring loft, or kill the morale of a team, which has lasting and huge impact on the project''s success, and on retaining valued employees.

hmmm.... there seems to be something missing in the above graphs. NOTHING BEATS EXPERIENCE, no matter how much certification you have it WON'T help. Let me explain. For junior and entry level certification the above may apply, but not for senior roles. I have added various certifications on my resume. Some certification I did only because I have done the job in the past and I wanted to make my experience look presentable, but other certification I added purely because I was interested in a branch in my career path (however I did not have the experience). My experience tells me that certification without experience will only get you in entry level roles. 

Thanks for your comments. George - this analysis is for people with the job title Project Manager. The report analyses other job titles that would reflect more (or less) experience, so they do take that into account in a round about way.

Marjorie - I wouldn't take anything for granted on a CV! I think it's important to be explicit about your skills, you can't rely on a recruiter to guess that membership of PMI means you have certain other skills. There might be some truth in your assessment but if I was a candidate I would make sure my CV explained what I could do fully.

Michael - soft skills are so important, I agree. However, perhaps people think that you only have the training if you weren't any good at it before hand? Project managers naturally gifted at all the things you mention wouldn't need training, surely? Just playing devil's advocate!

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