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Beyond the Resume – 5 Tips to Hire the Right Project Manager

The right project manager can be the real difference between success and failure of your project despite the governance structures.

Unfortunately, even the most experienced managers often make blunders when hiring. The wrong PM will drain your time, money, and resources. Even with the best intentions in the world, hiring managers still miss out way too many things during the hiring process. Look beyond the resume and use these five tips to hire the right candidate;

#1 – Recognize the Critical Behavioural Traits

The existing education system and an indifferent interviewing process make it a little challenging to find the right kind of person for the job. There’s a chance a candidate might check all the boxes from their resume, but is unable to gel with team members. Other than the essential skills and the requisite experience, there are other important factors like the “right behavioral traits” that need to be considered when looking for a new project manager. Most job listings only talk about certain objectives that have almost become redundant. Words like adaptable, positive, passionate, proactive have become useless with no real meaning left.

It’s vital to ensure that organizations create a list of behavioral traits that are required for the specific position. For instance, some posts might require someone passionate and a go-getter, whereas other positions might require a person with a high degree of patience. Do some homework and figure out what is essential for the job. Speak to a former colleague or employer of theirs. Don’t hire a generic “misfit” PM who is not suited and unable to earn respect from clients and other team members. It would be a disaster.

#2 – Choose Relevant Experience Over Degrees and Certifications

If you happen to find a candidate that seems suitable for the job, try and think beyond the need for redundant industry certifications. In my experience, there have been many great PMs who’ve got the most suited experience without any proper industry certification. Even the most certified PMs cannot guarantee 100% efficiency on a project. There is a possibility that some of these most “certified” project managers have never delivered a quality project. Look beyond just the badges and numbers. However, before you’re about to finalize the candidate for a position, spend enough time carefully verifying their credentials, especially experience and the working style.

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#3 – Look for Enthusiasm and Passion in The Interview

At the risk of sounding like every other article available on the Internet, this is still a relevant pointer. The role of a project manager can be overwhelming. To perform, a project manager must be focused and deeply vested in the daily drills. They must love what they do. While interviewing a candidate, make sure that you’re able to gauge the requisite passion needed for the profession in general. Any candidate that showcases laziness, tiredness, and even excessive nervousness should be dealt with extreme caution. Be careful. Be aware. If they’re not able to bring out the passion for the job in an interview, you should probably move on to the next candidate. Project Managers need a high degree of energy and enthusiasm to stay driven to serve their clients best. Look for the intrinsic fire in their belly that allows them to stay inspired and focused.

#4 – Articulate Specific Methodology Required

With competition and even recession in some industries, hiring managers often try and choose a generalist who can be expanded into multiple roles. This is usually done to save costs. However, the half-hearted approach of hiring a person who is the jack of all trades and master of none can backfire if you need a specific methodology in your organization. Rather than asking a candidate about every project management methodology they know about, ask them about the specific methods you want them to use. It’s good practice to mention the same methodology in the job listing as well. This can help reduce the number of applicants and make the hiring process more efficient. Don’t try and find a person that you expect to “adjust” when the time arises. Ask what you need at the time of the interview, to avoid problems down the line.

#5 – Create The Right Job Listing

Putting the right job listing out is something that most organizations struggle with. You need to be extremely original in your listing. This effectively means that the listing needs to be informational, to the point, and highly specific to your needs. You can also use Google forms in the listing to ask some specific questions that will make it easier to sort through the applications. Always stay away from those template job descriptions that sound like a copy-paste act that doesn’t inspire trust among the most qualified candidates. In a nutshell, get specific!


People generally don’t work the same job for 30 years the way they use to. This means that while you can expect a Project Manager to stick around for a long time, you can’t realistically expect someone to be around for decades. You might have to go through this roller coaster of hiring, retaining, or even firing in some rare instances. If you keep these five pointers in mind and hire a project manager who is suited to your organization, you’ll see less attrition and more productivity.

Stay clear about what you need from the beginning. Highlight the precise goals that your organization is planning to achieve by the end of a defined period. Give them a plan of action and the right opportunity to rise to the challenge in their role. The process might seem like an overkill in the beginning, but you’ll fall in love with it in due time. Is this a fool proof plan for hiring a Rockstar? Certainly not. The best you can do is to put a process in place to get the most suited person for the job.

Paul Oppong

Paul Oppong is a management, strategy, and business transformation consultant, specializing in digital transformation and program management. He helps clients navigate the ever-changing landscape of business Technology, using his expertise to deliver evidence-based solutions that exceed their performance expectations. Paul Oppong has a global outlook and has assisted organizations in both the public and private sectors, including some of Africa’s largest financial institutions and Australian government agencies, in realizing the benefits of their transformational investments through project and portfolio management. For more information visit

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