What are project management skills?
Project management is a profession in itself, one in which an individual applies an extensive range of skills to successfully oversee a project from start to finish.
Some of these skills are classed as technical and are acquired through education and training. Financial planning and the implementation of a particular PM methodology are two examples here.
Others are known as soft skills, which are inherent and are not so much taught as they are developed through experience. It is these project management soft skills that make an individual well suited not just to this particular career but to a wide range of jobs, simply because the skill set is so diverse.
- People, or "interpersonal" skills
- Organization and time management
- Problem solving
- Professional judgment and decision making
- Attention to detail
- Risk management
Whether employed specifically in a project management role or not, these skills make an employee a valuable addition to any business or organization.
How do great project management skills make an employee more effective?
The skills associated with project management are so broad that there are multiple ways they make an employee more effective - whether they are actively involved in a project or not.
1. They're good with resources
Whether it be money, time, technology or people, employees with great project management skills know how to use the resources available to them.
They are natural planners with a talent for delegation, and are able to spot opportunities for increased efficiency and cost savings.
2. They're strong leaders
Even when not in charge of a project, the interpersonal and people management skills these employees hold make them highly effective leaders.
They're able to motivate and inspire others to reach their full potential and bring teams together under a common goal.
3. They're effective problem solvers
Employees skilled in project management combine creativity and critical thinking. They assess and manage risk, explore new ideas and run with the best course of action.
This means they usually land on the most effective solution when faced with a problem. It also means they drive innovation, which always brings a competitive advantage.
4. They communicate well
Good project management is all about proactive and clear communication, ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time.
When you hire those with great project management skills you build a communicative workforce, which in turn boosts productivity and engagement.
What jobs benefit the most from great project management skills?
Great project management skills are of course a prerequisite when hiring for the role of project manager itself, but that's not the only job to benefit from this diverse set of abilities.
There are a vast number of professions that involve the completion of small to medium projects on a regular basis. Whilst these may not be seen to require an allocated project manager, the employees involved will certainly be more effective if they have great project management skills.
Two areas where you'll find a lot of project-based roles are the tech and creative industries, with project management skills beneficial for jobs such as:
- Video editor
- UX designer
- Graphic designer
- Mobile app developer
- Software developer
- Web designer
- Content writer
As this skill set lends itself so strongly to people management and leadership it is also beneficial to employees in a position of authority, particularly those that are likely to oversee a project of some scope during their tenure.
You may look to assess project management skills when hiring for:
How to hire for great project management skills
Hiring for project management skills is a multistage process. Whatever project you foresee the candidate completing, you'll want to be sure they have the necessary technical skills, like familiarity with a particular software for example.
You'll also want to ensure they have the required soft skills, and that's where things get tricky.
As they take a practical nature, soft skills are impossible to measure on paper, making candidate shortlisting based on resumes alone ineffective. So at the start of the hiring process, it's wise to use a practical assessment that helps you narrow down the applicant pool.
Use a project management skills test
A project management skills test is a psychometric assessment best administered in the early stages of recruitment for objective skills-based screening.
It takes the form of a multiple-choice situational judgment test in which a candidate must assess and respond to a range of project-based scenarios by choosing the course of action they see as most effective.
These scenarios vary in their focus. They may look at how a candidate would manage resources, communicate with key project stakeholders, or mitigate project risk. Questions are designed by subject matter experts to test core project management skills like decision making, strategic planning and team leadership.
For each candidate that completes the test, the hiring team will receive a detailed score report. This provides comparable data so you can confidently put the most promising talent through to the next stage in the process.
Make relevant reference checks
To further assess your shortlisted candidates, it's useful to use a source that brings first-hand insight. This is where reference checks come in.
Asking for a relevant contact (like a line manager for example), speaking to them in person and asking the right kind of questions will give you a good understanding of a candidate's true potential.
Here are some examples of questions you might ask a referee to assess an applicant's project management skills:
- How would you describe the employee's ability to prioritize tasks?
- Can you describe a scenario in which the employee used their problem solving skills to overcome a challenge?
- Can you give me an example of when the employee took the lead on a project of any size? What was the outcome?
Use structured interview questions
An interview is your opportunity to quiz a candidate in person on their project management skills, and structured interview questions are the best way to do it.
In response to a structured question you're ideally looking for a structured answer that clearly explains a situation in which the interviewee successfully applied their project management skills.
This should start at the beginning with a small bit of background and then cover each step involved - what the candidate was required to do, how they approached this and why, and the resulting outcome.
Within this explanation a promising candidate will highlight key project management skills like communication, organization and problem solving, supporting the evidence you have from your skills test and reference checks.
Here's an example of a behaviorally focused interview question relating to project management skills:
”Please describe a time when you were involved with creating and executing a detailed project plan."
How testing for project management skills can benefit your company's hiring process
Shortlisting candidates based on qualifications and experience alone is an ineffective approach to recruitment. It neglects the strengths, abilities and behaviors that separate an average employee from one with the potential to excel.
A project management skills test fills this gap, bringing practical insight, objectivity and increased efficiency to the screening process. It helps you evaluate suitability based on all essential criteria, not just that which can be demonstrated on paper.
The benefits of testing for project management skills don't end there either. Using score reports alongside reference checks and structured interviews will give you a comprehensive view of this skill set so you can select the best possible candidate for your open position.