6 Essential Things To Look For When Reviewing Project Management Candidate Resumes
Female project manager talks with two colleagues to gain input.

Project managers you hire to lead programs will have a profound impact on the success of your current and upcoming initiatives and, by extension, your company as a whole. For example, research indicates that 73% of organizations that use a formal project management approach, whether utilizing Agile, Waterfall or some other methodology — when driven by experienced personnel — always or often meet their project goals.

Moreover, the average project manager is going to stay with their employer for a considerable period: according to one study, 37% of project managers stay at their job for 1-2 years, 16% stay for 3-4 years, and 15% stay for 5-7 years! This combination of realities greatly impacts who you bring in as a project and program manager, and will fundamentally impact the delivery of your initiatives.

This critical point demonstrates the importance and need to identify candidates that are more likely to oversee a successful project from start to finish. Fortunately, you can make a favorable decision for your company by focusing on six essential factors when reviewing the resumes of project and program manager candidates. Below, we will discuss each factor in more depth.

1. Progression in Project Manager Work History

One key factor to consider is the candidate’s work history progression. Since it can be challenging to start a career as a project manager, many candidates begin their careers in another role, such as business analyst or project coordinator. Sometimes, they choose to work in a specific technology like infrastructure (networking, system administration) or development and then transition into a project management role. The transition is less important than how long they have been in their current project management or program management roles.

Important work history questions include:

  • What is the size of projects they have worked with (man hours or financial scope)?
  • What methodologies are they familiar with and have worked with?
  • What types of projects have they managed (application, development, infrastructure, or ERP)?

Candidates that have worked in complex environments tend to have a more well-rounded understanding of how they can contribute to the project’s overall success.

2. Project Manager Success/Completion

Many project management candidates talk about the different projects they’ve managed throughout their careers. However, a better focus is whether the candidate’s resume includes tangible language around the steps that contributed to the successful delivery of past projects or programs. 

For example, one candidate may have managed a plethora of previous projects, but how many of those projects were successfully influenced by the candidate to be delivered? Another indicator of past success is understanding what KPIs were used to measure project success and how the candidate managed and communicated risk. What examples or samples of executive communications does the candidate have to share? A candidate that can provide hard data on the five projects they previously worked on may be more attractive than the candidate with 20 projects under their belt but with little evidence that they made a positive impact in their previous roles.

3. Education and Certifications Related to PM Methodologies

Another factor to consider is the candidate’s educational credentials and project management certifications. For example, do they have a certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) or a comparable institution? Are they a Certified Scrum Master, or certified in another LEAN approach like Kanban? Furthermore, do their certifications align with your methodology and processes?

Although certifications speak volumes about exposure, these certifications do not necessarily mean that candidates’ experiences and culture align with how your organization delivers on initiatives and projects. The above are key questions to ask as you review candidate resumes, especially if you want a smooth transition in project leadership.

4. Skills

Successful project managers must have excellent soft skills, including strong interpersonal skills, the ability to motivate team members, and leadership by example. They must also have a skill set specific to project management. For instance, do they have the ability to plan ahead, foresee potential issues, keep the team organized, and focus on action items within the scope of the project? Perhaps the most important single skill project managers must possess is the ability to communicate clearly and with authority — i.e., to “manage without the title.”

Project and program management candidates that understand the importance of these skills and list them on their resume may be more likely to contribute to your project’s successful completion in a meaningful way.

5. Cultural Fit

At the end of the day, managing and leading projects is first and foremost a “soft skill” position. In other words, if a candidate doesn’t fit into the company’s culture, there’s no way they can deliver on your initiatives. By its very nature, a project or program manager’s role requires them to be at the forefront of team culture, providing leadership in both word and deed.

Therefore, cultural fit should be a key factor in your decision-making process. Granted, there’s only so much a resume can tell you about how well a candidate will fit into your organization’s established culture. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that a PMO candidate’s intangibles are the things that could ultimately decide the fate of upcoming projects.

6. Complexity of Projects

Finally, it’s important to understand exactly what type of projects the candidate previously managed. How complex were these projects? How well do they align with the type of projects your company is developing? For example, has the candidate primarily managed projects for custom application development, whereas your company needs a manager for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) project?

While PMO candidates don’t necessarily have to be experts in their employer’s industry, prior experience with similar projects can be a huge advantage for anyone you bring onboard. 

Reviewing candidate resumes with these six key factors in mind can guide your hiring process, helping you to identify those applicants with the greatest potential to drive success for your company. Of course, there are several other aspects of hiring a project or program manager that you also need to give attention to. Reach out to our team at The Doyle Group for more information about how we can help you find the right PMO candidate for your open position.

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