What Are the Most Important Traits of a Successful Project Manager?

When it comes to taking a project from start to finish, it’s hard to overstate the value of stellar project management. It can mean the difference between delivering an on-budget, on-time project and one that fails to meet expectations or deliver real business value. With so much on the line, it’s absolutely critical to find a good project manager. Yet companies often struggle to attract, hire, and onboard project managers with the right combination of skills and experience.

Why is finding a good project manager so challenging? For starters, they’re in high demand, and existing talent shortages make project management staffing no easy feat. But more than that, hiring managers tend to overemphasize technical knowledge and training and undervalue soft skills and cultural fit. This is a dangerous habit to adopt.

Why Technical Skills Are Only Half the Equation

When it comes to hiring a project manager, it’s essential to consider both hard skills (e.g., how proficient a project manager is at navigating software) and soft skills (e.g., what makes that project manager an effective leader). According to PMI, 32% of project management experts say job-specific and leadership skills are both key attributes of a project manager. Yet a 2018 study found that 62% of company leaders regard a candidate’s hard skills as the most critical factor in hiring.

However useful they may be, tangible skills found on a résumé don’t tell the whole story. For instance, all a PMP certification tells you is that a candidate is minimally qualified for the job. But it will do little to demonstrate how well that candidate can rally your team around a demanding project, which is a primary challenge of project management. For that, you must consider cultural alignment.

“Culture” has morphed into a nebulous buzzword in hiring circles. To put it simply, organizational culture is the expectations, experiences, and values that guide team behavior. For project managers, culture dictates how well staff members work together in pursuit of a common goal.

Hiring a project manager who’s aligned with your company’s culture doesn’t just improve the team’s performance and the project’s outcome. Almost 90% of leaders agree that their most successful hires are those who were evaluated for cultural fit, according to the same 2018 study.

How to Find a Good Project Manager

To help ensure the next project manager you hire is an excellent cultural fit, there are multiple steps you can take. First, when you partner with a staffing firm, remember that not all of them are created equal.

Traditional staffing firms often lack the expertise needed to identify soft skills that aren’t plainly stated in a résumé. What’s more, they rarely help clients identify a shortlist of candidates who are a good fit. Instead, they drop a pile of résumés that check a few boxes on your HR team’s lap and leave it to them to comb through the list and identify suitable matches.

Partnering with a boutique staffing firm that specializes in project management staffing connects you with a diverse array of experts. For instance, you’ll be able to work with people who can help you write more descriptive job ads and identify candidates who have the potential to be long-lasting, valuable employees.

It’s also imperative to recruit for cultural fit right out of the gate. Within the first interview, you should be asking questions to determine whether a potential hire fits your current culture. Again, a boutique staffing firm can provide the expertise needed to ask candidates the right questions and ascertain whether they’re talking around questions or demonstrating real knowledge on how to manage project staff.

Finally, once you’ve hired and onboarded a candidate, make sure you’re providing ongoing support to ensure a successful ramp-up. It takes approximately eight months for a new hire to be fully productive in their role. Address any issues as they arise, and continue to coach your new project manager on your internal processes and organizational quirks.

No hire is “low stakes,” but finding a good project manager is especially high stakes because languishing projects amount to a great deal of lost time and resources. When evaluating potential project managers, look beyond their relevant technical skills to determine whether they have the right blend of core values and soft skills.

To learn more about how Project Assistants can help you find your next project manager, set up a free consultation today.

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