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A good project manager is hard to find

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At the start of the new year, hiring tends to go up. And this year seems to be no different, especially when it comes to Project Management jobs.

 

According to LinkedIn, the hiring demand for Project Managers (PM) is very high in several major markets including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta. There are more, but I didn’t have enough space to list them all.

 

The talent pool, relative to demand, is down in each of these cities as well. So, what is a hiring manager to do? You’d think that with 32k+ professionals in the project management field in San Francisco, it’d be easy to find candidates. But I recruit for this skillset on a daily basis, and I know first-hand, it’s not.

 

It’s mainly because a PM is a unique and demanding position. The biggest challenge can sometimes be finding the right combination of experience and skills. Here are the top abilities we see hiring managers requesting in a project manager (in no particular order).

 

Communication skills. According to the Project Management Institute, 90% of a PM’s time is spent communicating. A PM is essentially the face of the company, speaking to stakeholders, vendors, developers, other team members, etc. They must be able to explain a project in layman’s terms and tailor the message to the audience. A solid PM can handle different situations by focusing on asking good questions to understand the situation, have good relationships with the technical pros and ensure the team keeps the appropriate business objective or goals in mind. And when considering a candidate’s skill level in this area, remember one thing: many projects succeed or fail based on communication.

 

Planning/organizational skills. Not only does the PM need to know how to communicate, but when. Laying out a communication/project plan and sticking to it is crucial. This entails prioritizing tasks, neatly documenting everything for future reference and making sure that information is easily accessible to everyone on the project.

 

Remote work management. A PM needs to engage with project resources, sponsors and anyone else who can contribute to the success of the project. Working remote is not ideal for managing a project, a good PM must adapt. Video conferencing is incredibly helpful in ensuring people feel connected these days, so mastering the art of Zoom or Teams is a desirable skill. And with many organizations shifting to all remote or a hybrid approach for post-COVID, this skill will continue to be relevant. For more on remote project management, check out the How to manage projects with remote teams blog.

 

Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (s). For many PM roles, a PMP certification is required. Even if it’s not, candidates with their PMP are masters of their trade. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), there are almost 1 million PMP certification holders worldwide. But earning these certifications is no walk in the park. It takes time, commitment and a lot of hard work. According to PMO expert and hiring manager, Mike Zekser, it’s not the be all end all. He said in a recent blog post, “While usually a good indicator of a person’s commitment to a PM role, like all certifications, it doesn’t tell you anything qualitatively about their skills. If someone doesn’t have their PMP, I’ll ask why and often look past that provided they have the soft skills, project management skills and experience that I’m looking for.”

 

Agile experience. While some companies still use the Waterfall methodology, the Agile methodology or a combination of both is starting to dominate project management. And a misperception about the Agile methodology is that it’s just for software developers. It’s not. Agile is all about adaptivity in a world of high uncertainty – from rapidly changing technology and increasingly complex solutions to pandemics and the changing business environment. And being able to work in that type of environment is imperative for a PM.

 

Innovative thinker. Another important factor in today’s PM environment is a greater need for creativity and innovation to develop truly leading-edge products. An over-emphasis on planning and control can stifle creativity and innovation, so your PM can’t just be a box checker. A truly good PM brings new ideas to the table, thinks ahead and can be innovative, not just managing a project to manage a project.

 

Development background (in an IT environment). While not a must-have, finding a PM that has some development knowledge can be a huge advantage. In the tech world, a majority of projects revolve around some type of development. So, if your PM knows basic developer lingo, how the process works and basic concepts, the project will go that much smoother.

 

In summary. These skills are by no means a complete list. PMs require varied skills, a unicorn of sorts, and that’s why it’s a difficult field to recruit. But that’s why hiring managers lean on recruiters like me. Reach out to us if you need help finding your next PM.

 

About the author

Carlos Hernandez serves as a Technical Recruiter for Synergis from our San Francisco office. He specializes in project management and cloud computing positions. In his role, he places top candidates with clients nationwide, putting quality first. Carlos earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara. When he’s not recruiting, he enjoys traveling, hiking and snowboarding with good company.