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Would you hire a Paper PMP?
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Last week I read a post on Linkedin from a very experienced PM and one of the founders of the PMP. He clearly stated he dislikes what he calls a Paper PMP, meaning someone who has little experience, studied for the exam, met the criteria and passed the exam. His approached was PMI de-valued the credential, and these so-called PMP are diluting project management. Some PMP-holders who have no business running a project. They’ve passed the PMI’s test (which isn’t difficult for an experienced PM), and handed in application forms that were so light on detail they should have been flagged by the most perfunctory of glances.

I’m interested in what you think about the PMP. Does it continue to have value? Is the PMI doing a good enough job ensuring credential holders deserve the PMP? Is the industry watered down with too many PMP holders who can’t run a project? Or is the PMP an excellent credential that should give hiring managers confidence in their new hire?

Is, does experience trump credential? I say of course. Remember one of the criteria for PMP is 4,500 to 7,500 hours or 2½ to 4 years of directing projects. Agreed, it is not massive years of experience, but PMI believes the experience level is appropriate for the credential. Experience equates resolved mistakes and challenges, and nothing can replace it. However, no employer is willing to invest in errors and error, too costly. The age old dilemma comes in again, how can someone obtain experience, if no one is prepared to spend the effort to the person?

Would you hire a Paper PMP? Someone who has the credential but not the experience. The PMP credential does signify knowledge and core competencies. I venture to say, someone who dismisses an applicant for lack of experience is not willing to invest.
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First of All , A Project Manager who works in the field may not use a lot of the concepts or delve into the depths that PMBOK guide does.
Most Project Managers may not be in control of Budgets or Procurement and the money may be managed by either a Finance/Procurement Person or someone very higher up in the pecking order and the PM might just be brought in to perform delivery.
It is therefore valuable that PMP equips Project Managers with an insight into procurement and finance.
The PMBOK also does not go into great depths regarding Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills which are the main assets of a Project Manager when it comes to communication and Stakeholder management. These skills are acquired in the field through years of experience.
And therefore it makes sense that Project Managers after few years of experience pick up the concepts and are able to apply them in their daily work.

How does one judge a Paper PM in a 45 minute interview? asking them about the projects they have managed and judging if they have used PM-isms taught in the PMP.

Experience doesn't trump credentials but is supplemented well by the credential in my opinion

Also , I think going through the PMP exam preparation has helped me better do my job and apply the PMisms.

And I don't think the questions are that straight forward in PMP and you really have to apply the concepts rather than pass the exam by reading the books
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3 replies by Ajay Bhargove, John Rice, and Wade Harshman
Mar 22, 2017 10:15 AM
Wade Harshman
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I had similar thoughts. Some PMs with years of experience have a very difficult time with the PMP. They have to train their brain to ignore "real world" situations and focus on the ideal state described in the PMBOK.
Mar 22, 2017 10:34 PM
John Rice
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Deepesh,

Thank you for your insightful input.
Your right about PMBOK also does not go into great depths regarding Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills, but it isn't and can't go in depth. EI and Soft Skills are learned and acquired by focusing on relationships.
May 02, 2019 7:42 AM
Ajay Bhargove
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I don't agree with the said article. PMP is credential like any other qualification like Medical Science, Engineering, where we earn degree after studying lot of subjects, which we might not use completely as further specialization like Heart Surgeon is qualified specialist where as we have Pediatrician and Gynecologist. All are doctors but have different area in practical life. As PMBOK says it is only framework and Project Managers must use the Framework and define the methodology.
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I cannot speak for all project managers, but for myself I can say that the PMP credential was the next logical piece of the "accidental project manager" career path and it definitely followed gaining hands-on experience as a project manager first. Passing the PMP exam was validation that my experience was on target and I was moving in the right direction.

I agree with Deepesh completely that the credential requires experience as part of the pre-requisites to sit for the exam and that experience is supplemented by credential attainment.

Given a choice of the PMP credential or having hands-on experience managing projects, I certainly would take the latter, but I have gained a sense of completeness by earning the PMP credential. It has absolutely enabled me to fill in some of my knowledge gaps as well as giving me some practical tools that help me in better managing my projects.

Thanks for posting this great question, John.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 22, 2017 10:40 PM
John Rice
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Thank you, Mark.
I too gained a sense of completeness by earning the PMP credential. Most job postings expect 3-7 years experience and new practitioners barely fit the criteria.
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John, sometimes individuals are simply negative, and see things as binary. Nothing is devalued, there is no conspiracy theory. And like you said, there is a rather stringent vetting process prior to taking the exam.

Actually, it can be viewed not as a 'paper PM' but as someone who stretches themselves and takes the initiative to better themselves, showing dedication and respect to the craft. Additionally, maybe while the individual is in a bad place in their professional life - searching for a career change or trying to bounce back from a job loss. Is that not the kind of person you want?

I would not be surprised to see his interview techniques prejudice, purposely asking questions to trip up a candidate he sees as being a 'paper' PM.

Frankly, I don't give individuals like that much credence.
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3 replies by John Rice, Mark Eckman, and Mudassar Khan
Mar 22, 2017 7:47 AM
Mudassar Khan
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Excellent response put forward by Andrew , and i totally agree with him
Mar 22, 2017 10:09 AM
Mark Eckman
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Very well stated!
Mar 22, 2017 10:57 PM
John Rice
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Andrew thank you for your support.

I posted the question from my experiences.

My current employment is my third one; I have 20 years in the US military, 5 five years with Sprint, and now seven years managing curriculum projects. This job is my first contracting job, and I was told to keep looking for your next job. Therefore, I looked for something that would make me more marketable. Because we are in the project management business, I saw the PMP as a coveted goal. I studied and earned my Masters in PM and applied the PMP processes to the small projects I was responsible for the experience.

In 2016 I became PMP certified, but it was a struggle. PMI designed the exam for the experienced PM who manage a project with 200+ people. I failed my first attempt because of the deficiency in my experience level. To overcome my faults, I not only memorize the processes I built a relationship with them and what I currently do. So yes I am PMP, even though I have not yet managed a large scale project.
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Mar 22, 2017 6:56 AM
Replying to Andrew Craig
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John, sometimes individuals are simply negative, and see things as binary. Nothing is devalued, there is no conspiracy theory. And like you said, there is a rather stringent vetting process prior to taking the exam.

Actually, it can be viewed not as a 'paper PM' but as someone who stretches themselves and takes the initiative to better themselves, showing dedication and respect to the craft. Additionally, maybe while the individual is in a bad place in their professional life - searching for a career change or trying to bounce back from a job loss. Is that not the kind of person you want?

I would not be surprised to see his interview techniques prejudice, purposely asking questions to trip up a candidate he sees as being a 'paper' PM.

Frankly, I don't give individuals like that much credence.
Excellent response put forward by Andrew , and i totally agree with him
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1 reply by SUNNY HELWANDE
Mar 22, 2017 11:06 AM
SUNNY HELWANDE
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I too agree with andrew.
I personally feel its all about right opportunities and how well someone grab those opportunities.
Its not about how many years of experience one have, its about how well one have applied the project management principles for whatever period in worked i projects.
Network:608



I think the problem is that some people view the PMP as a guarantee that a person can perform a project successfully, and liken the PMP certification exam to a Plumber’s certification exam. When I hire a certified Plumber, I know s/he will weld my pipes correctly because Plumber exams are practical; they must weld pipes and have their welds pass examiners’ scrutiny. In contrast, the PMP exam is conceptual. It demonstrates that a person understands certain basic project management concepts, but doesn’t prove s/he can manage a project well. The ability to do that can only come through experience.
So, to answer the question I’d hire a paper PMP according to the level of his/her experience, which I can only ascertain by asking detailed questions about previous projects.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 22, 2017 11:06 PM
John Rice
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Eric,
I relate to your first statement... when I passed PMP, I was on a high; thinking I could conquer the world. Your second statement is the reality. You can not excel in something if you were not exposed to its challenges.
Network:1808



Mar 22, 2017 6:56 AM
Replying to Andrew Craig
...
John, sometimes individuals are simply negative, and see things as binary. Nothing is devalued, there is no conspiracy theory. And like you said, there is a rather stringent vetting process prior to taking the exam.

Actually, it can be viewed not as a 'paper PM' but as someone who stretches themselves and takes the initiative to better themselves, showing dedication and respect to the craft. Additionally, maybe while the individual is in a bad place in their professional life - searching for a career change or trying to bounce back from a job loss. Is that not the kind of person you want?

I would not be surprised to see his interview techniques prejudice, purposely asking questions to trip up a candidate he sees as being a 'paper' PM.

Frankly, I don't give individuals like that much credence.
Very well stated!
Network:263



Mar 22, 2017 12:32 AM
Replying to Deepesh Rammoorthy
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First of All , A Project Manager who works in the field may not use a lot of the concepts or delve into the depths that PMBOK guide does.
Most Project Managers may not be in control of Budgets or Procurement and the money may be managed by either a Finance/Procurement Person or someone very higher up in the pecking order and the PM might just be brought in to perform delivery.
It is therefore valuable that PMP equips Project Managers with an insight into procurement and finance.
The PMBOK also does not go into great depths regarding Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills which are the main assets of a Project Manager when it comes to communication and Stakeholder management. These skills are acquired in the field through years of experience.
And therefore it makes sense that Project Managers after few years of experience pick up the concepts and are able to apply them in their daily work.

How does one judge a Paper PM in a 45 minute interview? asking them about the projects they have managed and judging if they have used PM-isms taught in the PMP.

Experience doesn't trump credentials but is supplemented well by the credential in my opinion

Also , I think going through the PMP exam preparation has helped me better do my job and apply the PMisms.

And I don't think the questions are that straight forward in PMP and you really have to apply the concepts rather than pass the exam by reading the books
I had similar thoughts. Some PMs with years of experience have a very difficult time with the PMP. They have to train their brain to ignore "real world" situations and focus on the ideal state described in the PMBOK.
Network:851



What position are you hiring this person for? I would not hire a newly certified PMP, with the minimum experience required to apply for the exam, for a senior project manager position. Unless this person falsified information on their PMP application, which I have no way to know, my assumption is that this person has some experience, which should be reflected on the resume, and enough understanding of PM Principles to pass the exam. This can be vetted during the interview, to some extent.

Would I hire this person over an experienced PM who does not have a PMP? It depends on the experience, the position, and how the interview goes. Of course, a bigger factor is whether or not the resume of the PM without a PMP made it past the HR screening - I might not even see the more experienced PMs resume, therefore, no interview. That's an entirely different discussion.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 22, 2017 11:23 PM
John Rice
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Aaron,

It really comes down to experience, the position, and how the interview goes. Can the candidate handle the perceived challenges?
Network:600



Mar 22, 2017 7:47 AM
Replying to Mudassar Khan
...
Excellent response put forward by Andrew , and i totally agree with him
I too agree with andrew.
I personally feel its all about right opportunities and how well someone grab those opportunities.
Its not about how many years of experience one have, its about how well one have applied the project management principles for whatever period in worked i projects.
...
1 reply by John Rice
Mar 22, 2017 11:25 PM
John Rice
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Sunny,
I support you because I will the opportunities presented if the doors open to me. It is just getting into the door.
Network:120356



Andrew made a great point - I agree with him.

On the other hand, with regards to your question of whether I would hire a paper PMP or not, then it is a Yes / No:

1- If I see potential in the candidate then yes because I like to invest in people. PMP exam is not easy and all questions are situational so if he managed to pass then I am pretty sure he has the ability to learn and excel. It all depends on the budget and project circumstances.

2- I won't hire a paper PMP if it was a critical project and / or I did not see any future potential in him / her.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 22, 2017 11:28 PM
John Rice
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Rami,

This is where Emotional Intelligence, which PMBOK does not go into depth, comes in. If you believe the candidate has potential and their learning curve is mentored, the decision is solid based on the budget and project circumstances.
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