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How To Hire Good, Bad and Ugly Project Managers

        posted by , May 22, 2013

So you're looking for a Project Management superhero.

Someone who effectively manages risk, quality, time lines, budget, communications, stakeholders, vendors and project teams.

Lake of Galilee

You know that good Project Managers are hard to find. You're also painfully aware that over 50% of IT projects fail.

One effective way to hire a good project manager is to run a sanity check after each interview.

The following 8 points cut to the core of what it means to be an effective project manager. They separate the good, the bad and the ugly.

1. Office Politics

Project managers find themselves at the center of office politics whether they like it or not. Navigating the complex politics that exist between stakeholders is an essential part of project delivery.

The Good
A project manager who cuts through politics to find solutions to issues.

The Bad
A project manager who can't handle politics.

The Ugly
A project manager who's a regular source of political drama. Such project managers may more interested in settling political scores than delivering projects.


2. Methodology

Most organizations are long past ad-hoc project management processes. They expect project managers to apply established methodologies and best practices.

The Good
Project managers who understand the practical application of methodologies inside-out.

The Bad
Project managers who have a textbook understanding of methodologies without any sense of why such methodologies are useful or how to apply them to real business problems.

The Ugly
Project managers who are weak in methodologies or who are obviously more interested in winging it.


3. Tools

It's a great advantage to hire a project manager who's proficient with your tool set (especially if you expect them to be productive from day one).

The Good
The candidate is a power user of project management software tools.

The Bad
The candidate is unfamiliar with any of your tools.

The Ugly
The candidate would they prefer if the world went back to paper.


4. Leadership

Project managers must demonstrate strong leadership skills.

The Good
A project manager who leads by example, letting their enthusiasm and professionalism shine through to motivate their team.

The Bad
A project manager who works well with others but lacks leadership capabilities.

The Ugly
A mushroom manager who antagonizes their teams.


5. Influence

Project managers must influence stakeholders to clear project issues.

The Good
A candidate who can influence without authority to resolve issues between stakeholders and keep projects on track.

The Bad
A candidate with no ability to influence without authority.

The Ugly
A candidate who tends to anger upper management.


6. Diligence

Does the candidate let things slide or do they have a pulse on the project at all times?

The Good
Candidates who are passionate about their jobs. For example, project managers who prefer to over-communicate rather than risk under-communicating.

The Bad
Project managers who don't communicate unless a task is due and always seem to be stuck in reactive mode.

The Ugly
Candidates who slack to the point that they're not aware of project status.


7. Failure

Any experienced project manager who tells you they've never had a project fail is probably in denial.

The Good
Great project managers bounce back from failure and adapt quickly in an environment of constant challenge. These candidates can face issue after issue but still deliver.

The Bad
Candidates who haven't made their biggest mistakes yet (inexperienced).

The Ugly
Candidates that haven't learned from past failures in a positive way or who assign blame for their failures on others.


8. Success

Project managers have many different styles. The most reliable way to judge their chances of success is a history of delivering.

The Good
Project managers who've established a long history of successful projects .

The Bad
Project managers without a long history of managing projects.

The Ugly
Project managers who have a long history of failed projects.

This article is part of the series: The Ultimate Guide to IT Hiring


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