A representative from a community church approached me to manage an eight week fundraising project, codenamed SPUD. The project goal was to "Host a booth and sell baked potatoes at a multi-day local fair".
Case Study: Managing a Volunteer Project to Sell Baked Potatoes
click here
search:
Latest Blog


Latest Podcasts


Articles To help Project Leaders


Issue # 27 August 2010

SWaynePow'Rful Presentations Newsletter
 
August 2010 - What hiring managers look for in IT Project Managers

 
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the word).
  
Disclaimer - depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be "imaginative".
 
© Wayne Botha 2010
 
****
How to demonstrate that you are the right person for the job. 
25 In-depth interviews reveal what hiring managers look for when hiring IT project managers. 
Over the past 18 months I have conducted in-depth interviews with more than 25 seasoned IT project managers in multi-national organizations. Here are the key skills and behaviors that hiring managers want to see when interviewing for IT project managers, both for new hires and staffing special projects.  
 
1. Competence. "Can the candidate do the job?" Your project management certification helps to establish your competence, but every hiring manager interviewed told me that project management certification is only a starting point.
 
You also need competence in other tasks required to carry out the tasks of the job. For example, on enterprise-wide programs, you must demonstrate executive presence be able to present your project confidently to senior business executives.
 
You must know how to frame up defects and keep them in perspective relative to the project goals and the risk it poses to your project and the business. You must be able to plan, prepare for, and facilitate large conference calls, if you have a sizeable and dispersed project team. (Obviously, it goes without saying that you need to be proficient in the project planning software that the organization uses.)
 
The lesson is: Highlight your competencies when applying for a project management position. Establish your basic competency with a recognized project management certification as a foundation. Then, take stock of your other skills that seasoned project managers demonstrate and make sure to market them to your hiring manager.
 
2. Communication skills. "Can the candidate communicate with multiple levels and groups?" This goes far beyond "Can you send out a nice email to all team members, and weekly status reports?" 
 
Different stakeholders need different levels and packages of information. Project sponsors want status information to stay informed, but require focused messages when you want them to take action. For example, "Joe, we have reached an impasse with the development vendor and I need you to call Sally for ETA on the backlog of defects". Project team members need two way communication "I need you to complete task# 47 by Thursday. What do you anticipate will hinder this progress?"
 
The lesson is: Learn how to communicate in multiple formats (email, voice mail, in person) and package information correctly for the audience.  
 
3. Prior experience. "The ideal candidate is someone who has successfully managed this exact same type of project, recently." Hiring managers are looking for project managers with experience, to reduce their risk of a bad hire and to reduce the learning curve.
 
A surprising result of my research is that hiring managers are not impressed by squeaky clean project managers. If a candidate claims that every project she managed was a total success and does not have any scars from mistakes she made, then seasoned hiring managers smell something fishy.
 
Every sizeable IT project has issues. Some are a result of mistakes that the project manager made. The best project managers conduct a "lessons learned" of their own behaviors and continually improve their skills and behaviors. Don't be afraid to show your scars and the lessons learned to say "I made this mistake in the past, have learned to proactively manage similar situations now, and it will not happen on your project".     
 
The lesson is: Make sure to highlight your prior experience to hiring managers, including lessons that you learned from your scars.
 
4. Knowledge of the business and ability to learn more. "Does this candidate for an IT project manager position know the insurance / car manufacturing /  banking business, and how quickly can they learn more about it?"
 
IT projects are initiated to meet a business need. The IT project manager should know the business need, objective and constraints to make better recommendations and decisions for the project.
 
In addition, the project manager will encounter new terms and situations and business needs during the project lifecycle. You need to be able to continue learning and teach yourself if needed. For example, when you interface with the Service oriented Architecture team for the first time, do you say "I don't understand technical stuff", or do you Google it, speak with a subject matter expert and learn the basics before you go home tonight? Your ability to continue learning the business and IT landscape makes your project (and you) more successful
 
The lesson is: Make sure that you continue learning your business and market this behavior to hiring managers.
 
In summary, hiring managers are looking for competent project managers that make the effort to understand the goals of the project and continue drawing on a variety of skills to work with people and move the project forward. There is no place for the "narrow minded, yet certified project manager who walks around with a clipboard and checklist to get status."
 
****
 
My embarrassing moment of the week. 
Although this is a relatively monthly newsletter, I seem to generate enough embarrassing moments to fill a daily journal. 
 
I  installed towel rails in our walk-in closet. I put on the light and carefully marked the wall to drill the holes. My son helped and asked "What is in the walls? Don't you have to be careful where you drill?" Patiently, I explained that the drywall construction in Connecticut uses wood studs with Sheetrock® to create hollow dividers and there is nothing in the interior walls.
 
As I drilled the first hole, we smelled something burning which indicates that my drill is worn out and must be replaced. The second hole produced a few sparks which pointed out that I had managed to find the one-in-a-million spot where a nail or screw was exposed in the hollow wall and the drill bit created sparks on contact.
 
After the drilling, we noticed unusual smoke rising through the holes from inside the wall. As the lights went out, I realized that I had drilled directly into the back of the light switch, and through the electrical wires. 
 
Now, I know that a light switch on this side of the wall indicates a "do not drill" area on the other side of the wall. And yes, I have to be careful where I drill.
 
 
****
Do you know an IT project manager who is stuck and not progressing towards a goal? Contact me and I will schedule a complimentary coaching session to see if we can work together.
 
Do you need a speaker for your IT or Project Management association chapter meeting? Contact me and lets see if we can work together for a win/win/win outcome.
 
**** 
Get more value on my blog, facebook and   View Wayne Botha's profile on LinkedIn

Email me with any problems or questions that you have about project management or presentations and I will attempt to address them in a future newsletter.

More next time!

Wayne Botha

Join Our Mailing List
Copyright 2017 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897