Need a Project Manager? Look for These Characteristics

4 minute read

Upland Admin

Are you a project management office (PMO) director looking to add project management staff to the group?  Are you a hiring manager looking to add some PM expertise to your department?  Whether you have an established PM infrastructure already such as a group of project managers or even a formal PMO, or are just looking to hire someone to lead projects on an ongoing basis in your department or organization, the qualities you should be looking for are going to be the same.  And whether your are big or small or somewhere in between on the organizational size scale, you still want to focus on some key qualities or characteristics in the individual or individuals you hire to lead your important internal projects and/or projects for your external clients.  What are these qualities?  In my opinion, there are five key characteristics you should be looking for…

Leadership.  It’s a given that every project manager should have leadership qualities.  If you aren’t there and you are a PM…or want to be one…then you better “fake it till you make it.”  When hiring a PM, you need to be looking for someone who can display a propensitiy for leadership through the interview and on paper in his resume and cover letter.  Ask questions designed to pull out those specific times when the candidate may have shown excellent leadership skills, like drawing a team together to pull a project out of certain failure and turn things around to success or when a difficult decision needed to be made with very little outside input or information.

Passion.  Passion for the PM position and all it entails – which is a lot and a very diverse and sometimes unpredictable array of skills – is something a hiring manager should definitely be looking for.  Ask some driving questions to make sure you are really seeing passion and not just desperation.

History of success.  I like to look for a history of success more than I care about certification.  Certification can be good and can show a dedication to the profession, but nothing replaces actual experience.  Failures are good, too, as they are great learning experiences.  In fact, I’d prefer that a PM does not have his first failure be as a PM on my staff or in my PMO.  But make sure there has been more success than failure.

Relevant skills.  Hiring a PM with skills that are applicable to the industry can be very helpful and I highly advise it.  Even though I feel that many basic project management skills transfer well from industry to industry, industry-specific experience and success is desirable to have.  I feel strongest about this for technical projects as the project manager is often looked upon to make key decisions and interface with the client on tech solutions.  This is hard to do without relevant knowledge and experience.

Team management.  What good is a project manager who can’t manage a team?  Not much.  If you’re interviewing project managers for your PMO or department, ask pointed questions that have to do with leading teams, resolving conflicts, collaborating and delegating tasks.

Summary / Call for Input
The bottom line is this – look for characteristics and skills that are going to be useful today.  Especially when you are in the building phase.  When you are well staffed with experienced PM’s, then you can go with beginners and utilize existing staff to mentor if you have that much staff availability.  Everyone should be given a chance, no question, but if you need productivity immediately, then hire for that.

What characteristics are you looking for, if you are in charge of hiring project managers for your organization or assisting in that process?  What has brought you the must candidate success?

About Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at

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