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What To Look For In A Project Manager

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Project managers have a unique position within your business. They need enough technical knowledge to understand their team's assignments along with the leadership and communication skills to lead them to success. Not all aspiring PMs realize this, however, and assume they're qualified for the job simply because they've held a certain position for a long time.

Unfortunately, this assumption can lead to a lot of unqualified candidates submitting their applications for an open PM position. Here's what to sort through to help you find the right project manager out of a huge pool of choices:


Many candidates lack communication and other soft skills. This is especially true of recent graduates, noted Fast Company. You probably won't be hiring a project manager fresh from college, but most PMs spend a few years in an entry-level position before applying for a promotion. It's important to consider if the candidates in front of you had the opportunity to learn these skills in their previous role. As noted above, many applicants assume they're qualified because they've held a particular role for a while, not because they've worked on assignments that make them better communicators.

So what sort of experiences cultivate this soft skill? Look for a history of collaboration and successful group projects. If a candidate has worked on multiple assignments with others, it stands to reason that person is adept at giving and receiving both instructions and feedback. Also, consider the candidates' resume and, if applicable, cover letter. This is their first chance to show you their communication skills, so use the opportunity to vet them thoroughly.

Project managers must be good communicators.

Responsibility and accountability

The best project managers aren't just leaders. They're also role models who exemplify the values of a particular business. As such, you want to be certain they act in a manner that shows responsibility and accountability.

These terms mean something different depending on your company and its location. In some cases, it means applicants need a professional license, which you can verity with a third party. In others, a pre-employment drug screen may be required. Regardless of the specifics, these screening options help you find a hire that is qualified for the job.



Good project managers are efficient and know it. They aren't arrogant, but they are confident in their ability to lead a team. What's more, a great PM is eager to use their skills to accomplish the task at hand.

When interviewing candidates, look for hints of enthusiasm for the position. Signs of engagement in the conversation are a good indicator, so keep a watchful eye for details like eye contact and posture. Someone who is enthusiastic about the interview will likely bring the same attitude to the job.

"56 percent of employers caught candidates lying about their credentials."

An understanding of the department

While knowing the department they're leading - whether it's IT, accounting, marketing or something else - isn't the only thing required of project managers, it's certainly a significant part of the role. Look for such experience on an candidate's resume, but be cautious. According to a CareerBuilder.com survey, 56 percent of employers caught candidates lying about their credentials. It may be necessary to conduct a background check and verify a candidate's claims.

Too many candidates for your open project manager position? Contact the Orange Tree sales team and let us do some of the screening for you.