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How to find the perfect project manager

Mary K. Pratt | June 11, 2015
The prototypical project manager needs financial, scheduling and management skills to keep projects on time and on budget. They also must communicate effectively to diverse business and technical teams -- and that's just the beginning. Here's how to target the elusive perfect project manager.

Reed estimates that salaries range from around $75,000 for junior-level program managers up into the six figures for more seasoned professionals. Stevens confirmed the range; his office offered between $80,000 and $120,000 annually when it went to market for project managers.

Reed and others expect demand to stay high for the foreseeable future. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for IS managers, including project managers, will grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022.

"Demand for project managers right now is tremendous," says Felix Fermin, a New York City-based recruiting manager with the IT recruiting firm Mondo.

Fermin says some companies are willing to train and eventually promote internal candidates who show promise in this field. However, companies that go to market to hire project managers almost always want candidates who already have worked as project managers.

"They want someone who has brought in a project on budget or on time. That speaks volumes," he says, adding that they also put a premium on candidates who balance a technical background with business experience.

The making of a project manager

Susan Engle, vice president of the project management office at Avnet, a global technology distributor, says she hires experienced project managers as well as professionals from other disciplines who aspire to work as full-time project managers. She also brings in college students as interns, who may move up to associates in Avnet's project management office.

Engle puts a premium on particular traits -- the willingness to work hard and soft skills such as collaboration and leadership capabilities -- more so than business and technical acumen. She says she's particularly interest in professionals who can communicate with a broad range of people, as project managers have to work with different divisions within the organization and meet with and present to individuals throughout the hierarchy, from junior staffers to C-suite leaders.

"A project requires you to resolve issues and break down barriers. You have to be able to lead and communicate," she says. "It's very hard to teach a non-communicator to communicate but it's easy to teach them how to do an ROI or do something that's more of a traditional project management item."

She likes to see flexibility in her project managers, too. "Project managers have to have a level of adaptability because we put them in so many different organizations. They have to adapt to the group they're supporting," she says.

She also wants project managers who understand how the business works and want to learn more. She expects her senior project managers to hold the PMP credential; she doesn't require it for junior staff but helps them get it.


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