Project Management Central

Please login or join to subscribe to this thread

Topics: Talent Management
How do you select a PM?

I'm curious about how experienced project professionals go about selecting project managers. Staff selection is rarely conducted in relaxed circumstances with the luxury of loads of time and access to proven recruitment and selection resources. It's usually a case of "We need a PM. Now." We contact a few head hunters who trawl their database for a match for the few criteria that have been provided. We conduct some interviews and select the "best" candidate. Often with mixed results which means we may be back to recruitment square one sooner than we'd like. Whereas if we took more time and followed a structure process that included a resume review, a work based assessment, a structured interview and a reference check we would end up with a better outcome for the project and the candidate. Or am I being unrealistic? How do you select a PM?
Sort By:


Interesting question and often you are right needs to be done on a urgent basis.

For me there are four levels I am looking at
- technical skill set
What kind of skills are required by the environment and the project, e.g. Oracle package, bespoke development etc and what is the size of the team and his role. WIll he run the complete project with 50 resources technical skills are less important than when he is the teamlead for 5 resources.

- soft skills/leadership style
Wha kind of team is it and what kind environment Is a tough pm required or somebody how is very diplomatic etc. Does the team exist of younsters or seasoned prima donna's. All these things determine the soft skill set.

- pm skills
What kind of PMO is available? Again the size of the team and the governance structure. Will he pre-dominantly manage the outerskits of the project or the team itself? How snenior is the PMO?
This determine the set of pm skills I am looking for

-Communication skills
THis seems the odd one out since it already addressed in the soft skills and the pm skills. For me this is the important one. What kind of communicator do I need. Some one who catalyse communication because customer and team act as silos, some one who filters information before it goes to the customer/team,. All the dependent on the individual resources in the team and at the customer. It has to do with enabling communication amongst team memebers and stakeholders and again you can play different roles in this

Making this assessment takes normally an hour or 2 dependent on how familiar you are with the project and is the basis for the request to the head hunter in broad terms and checked during the interview.

Following this approach plus the question if he is willing to commit himself ensures a high hot sucess rate

Hopes this helps

I agree with the checklist that Hans posted.

To add to his point - If there are qualified candidates and you have time to conduct an interview I recommend scenario based interviews. The scenarios are written based on current and potentially future needs for project management. Thos scenarios are then sent to the candidates in advance. What the candidates prepare for the interview provides a good indication on competencies (even if there is only time for them to prepare a list of questions), approach, style and their level of interest in the position (how likely are they to stay).

If using head hunters - require the head hunters to send samples of their candidates' work (the work could be redacted for purposes of confidentiality).

To what extent would qualifications or membership to the professional bodies (PMI, APM) take? One of my interview questions or remark that stands out for me, is, how does the candidate keep abreast of current techniques, theories etc? Are they an avid reader of Project or Project Manager Today?

This would give an indication of commitment to the PM lifestyle and whether it's more than a 9-to-5 job.

Thanks for your comments everyone. It's interesting finding out how others conduct their PM selection process. I've been trialling the following approach:

Skills. I rely on two things for a demonstration of skills. Industry certification, such as PMP or Price 2 Practitioner, and performance on a scenario based activity conducted prior to interview. I ask the candidate to complete an issue report based on a Project Management Plan I've drafted and an issue I've encountered. The issue report requires options for resolution and associated risks. This is presented to a 'Project Board' by the candidate in 10 minutes or less.

Experience. Using the approach described by Crawford and Hobbs in their June 2006 Project Management Journal Article "Aligning Capability with Strategy: Categorizing Projects to do the Right Projects and to do Them Right" to categorize the project. I use this information to develop a position description and ensure the candidates selected for interview match this description fairly closely. I also check the candidates experiences with their referees.

Qualities. Leadership is clearly the most important quality however, depending on the requirements of the project team, other qualities need to be considered. I ask the HR Department to administer an Emotional Intelligence Test to ascertain the candidate's ability to get on with others and effectively manage a team. I also check the candidates qualities with their referees.

I've used this approach a couple of times. It seems to be working out OK, but it's a bit soon to tell.

Do you think this approach would be effective? How would you feel about being asked to undertake such a process?

A while ago I asked visitors to my blog, project professionals, this question: “If you have 10 minutes, how do you judge a Project Manager?” Although this was by no means a scientific experiment, it provided some interesting clues.

A summary of the responses is given by this statement: “If they just use jargon from a handbook, I put them on the lower end of the scale. If they talk about the importance of stakeholders and people in general I put them on the high end of the scale. If they talk about stakeholders, they must have been in the trenches.” Note the importance of language.

If one has only ten minutes appearances do matter. The respondents hesitate to admit this, because it sounds very superficial, but it is true; people are looking for visual clues of competence, confidence and calmness. Clothes have some importance in the first impression; dress with taste, clean cut and similar to what your client is wearing are the advices in this area.

It is a cliché that a Project Manager should be a good communicator. So this is the area that gets to most attention. In the interaction the new PM should good listener, a good conversationalist that doesn’t dive immediately into “shop talk” but can converse with confidence and respect about life, the universe and everything. He should under no circumstances have a loud-mouth, heated discussion about a topic. Knowledge and opinion is one thing, in control and respectful are considered far more important.

About the messages that are exchanged in the first ten minutes people are short: people are looking for words like “you”, “we”, “our”, “team” and “support”, and are absolutely allergic to buzzwords. “Plain English Please!” as one of the respondents wrote.

Please login or join to reply

Content ID:

"One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

- Bertrand Russell