What recruiters want from project managers (and what the project management industry thinks they want)

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Categories: recruitment


What do employers want from project managers? If you are in the market for a new job, then a study in Project Management Journal* may give you the answer. The researchers looked at over 760 jobs and documented what recruiters were asking for. What came out on top might surprise you.

The top 5 skills requested by recruiters

OK, the first one on the list won’t surprise you at all: employers are looking for project managers with good communication skills. ‘Communication’ covers reporting, presenting and interpersonal skills. The top five skills list looks like this:

  1. Communication (61% of adverts asked for this)
  2. Technical skills (43%)
  3. Stakeholder management (41%)
  4. Cost management (37%)
  5. Time management (32%).

What professional bodies tell us is important

The interesting thing about this study is that the researchers compare what job ads ask for to what the project management professional bodies and literature tell us is important. In other words, they are comparing supply (project managers developing professionally through well-trodden credentials) and demand (what employers actually want).

Leadership, for example, is the thing that is most talked about at the moment in the professional project management world. The researchers say it is the hot topic for professional bodies and in professional development for project managers. But the job adverts say it is only in 8th position when it comes to being a desirable skill for a job candidate. Employers would rather have someone good planning skills (the 7th most requested competency) rather than a leader.

Another interesting fact for readers of this blog is that cost management comes out so highly in the adverts. It doesn’t feature at all in the top ten skills that project management literature tells us is important. We (the collective project management industry) are not supplying project managers with good cost management skills because it is not considered an essential skill. The employers beg to differ and count being able to balance the books as one of the top five. In fact, cost management features as a top five skill across three of the five industries studied: construction, engineering and government all rank cost management as essential. It doesn’t feature in the top five for ICT or healthcare projects (but that isn’t to say it isn’t in the top ten – this data isn’t given).

Time management is the same: the literature doesn’t rate this as a critical skill for project managers, but the research shows that employers value it very highly. Stakeholder management is in the same situation: a top five skill for recruiters but only ranking number 15 on the list of things that the global project management body of knowledge and literature think a project manager should be able to do.

So are professional bodies teaching the wrong things?

Professional bodies and the project management body of literature do not stress an importance on cost management, time management or stakeholder management and they do focus on leadership. This doesn’t align to what employers are asking for, based on this study of job adverts. So, are professional bodies focusing on the wrong things?

I don’t think professional bodies are focusing on the wrong things. I don’t think employers are asking for the wrong things either. The two sets of requirements are very different: a national or international project management association is focused on helping project managers be the very best that they can be based on the received wisdom and years of research into what makes project successful. An employer wants someone who can deliver a project and fit into their team and their existing project culture. Now.

There may also be something else at play: employers want people who can deliver in a very dynamic market place and perhaps the recognised industry standards for project management haven’t yet caught up. We’ve seen the introduction of stakeholder management in the latest PMI standards so there is definitely a shift towards aligning the knowledgebase with the practical skills that project managers need to be successful at work.

If nothing else, this study might explain why you are finding it so difficult to fill project management positions in your business!

 

* Ahsan, K., Ho, M. Khan, S. ‘Recruiting Project Managers: A Comparative Analysis of Competencies and Recruitment Signals from Job Advertisements’, Project Management Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, pp36-54

Posted on: September 05, 2014 05:06 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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olagai simon gershom
Wow, Elizabeth article directly talks to me. I have been thinking leadership skills is all you need to drive the teams forgeting that Cost effectiveness and Communication skills are paramount.

I must say 80-85% attention should also be paid to donor relation.

I will the journal over and over.

Thank you,

nvempati
Very well written article and good points Elizabet and I actually appreciate the hard data supporting recommendations. It is indeed a quality information otherwise you are just playing a guessing game when it comes to your resume being picked from the pile.

Unfortunately, there's a lot to be addressed around hiring processes. Hiring is still dependent heavily on ATS used to filter candidates in the first place so having meaningful buzzwords/keywords definitely help. After this stage leadership and other factors come into play when you sit in front of the panel being reviewed for the position.

Good article

Glad you both thought this was a good article. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I was surprised by some of the data that was in the Journal article but it's very useful to consider when you are looking for a new job. Anything that helps you get to the top of the pile has to help!

Elizabeth, I was struck by this comment: "Employers would rather have someone good planning skills (the 7th most requested competency) rather than a leader."

I think many organizations are seeking for leadership skills or the outcomes that are delivered by leaders.

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