by Gary Hamilton; Gareth Byatt;Jeff Hodgkinson

What employers are asking for in job postings for PMs

Jun 28, 20127 mins
IT ManagementProject Management

In today’s challenging economic times (acknowledging that the economies of the US, South America, Europe, Australia and Africa are all experiencing different situations), you can’t take anything for granted, including your employment. Whether you work for a private or public company or a government or not-for-profit organisation, circumstances beyond your control can occur at any time, causing layoffs, downsizing, attrition, buy-outs, mergers, etc. If you are self-employed, future opportunities could be limited or non-existent.

Without wishing to paint a ‘bleak picture’, anyone can be susceptible to job loss, and the best advice we can offer is: ‘Be prepared’. We share a common philosophy: ‘Always be prepared through continuous improvement’. We are all multi-credentialed and actively volunteer in our profession because we gain numerous benefits, including professional contacts.

By searching open job postings on major sites, we were able to obtain a picture of the current job market for project management. We were then able to come up with some commentary on what is being asked of PMs in the current job markets around the world (at a summary level at least), and to let you compare this with your own knowledge and experience as a PM professional.

PM positions that are listed today range from the project coordinator to a director-type level. Obviously, salaries vary in accordance with factors such as geography, scope of duties, and the industry in question. A recent article in US News stated that employers are increasingly seeking workers proficient in project management; 90 per cent of executives surveyed claimed that project management is either critical or somewhat important to their operations, and roughly 1.2 million PM jobs will be created per year for the next 10 years. This seems to be good news for those in the PM profession, but there will be tough competition for these positions.

PM job postings generally request some technical background and experience specific to the type of business in which the company operates, which is, of course, to be expected – experience will always be a primary factor in hiring process. We realise that background and sector experience are important, but we are focusing on the pure PM requirements. Titles and seniority levels aside, we have seen some common themes and expectations (listed below in no order of importance):

  • Provide project updates
  • Conduct project meetings
  • Manage cross-functional teams
  • Coordinate cross-discipline teams
  • Manage all stakeholders effectively
  • Meet project schedule commitments
  • Define and achieve target milestones
  • Manage risks and issues in a competent manner
  • Be ‘self-motivated’ or a highly motivated project manager
  • Know how to lead and influence others without direct authority
  • Successfully manage several projects simultaneously or a large program
  • Deliver projects on time, meeting performance metrics and project objectives
  • Manage resources and deliverables to meet both project and company objectives
  • Strong interpersonal skills in addition to exemplary writing, speaking and presentation skills
  • Experience working with globally dispersed, multi-cultural, multi-lingual teams preferred.

It is fair to say that many PM postings today state that ‘a PM type credential or certification is preferred’. Different industries (construction, IT, etc.) tend to ask for some specific certification or group membership. The wording for the certification required can range from ‘preferred’, ‘a plus’, ‘highly desirable’, or in some cases ‘required’. In some cases, postings suggest that multiple credentials would be desirable, but this is not always the case.

Being a professional program/project management practitioner means you should perform actions that lead to predictive, positive consequences and outcomes, not only in your projects and programs but also in your career. What is exceptional today is expected as the norm tomorrow, and the second that you rest on your laurels is the day you fully retire. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to be personally prepared – as the saying goes, ‘only the paranoid survive’.

We have a few suggestions that may help you plan for the time that you need to be ‘competitive’ in the marketplace. Using the matrix below, objectively score yourself in the appropriate column. You may also find it beneficial to print or send this to a few trusted colleagues and ask them to score you. Use the ratings as a baseline; if there are any areas in which you believe need improvement, set a goal to seek out those experiences.

PM Experience Attributes

Having completed the above matrix (and perhaps after obtaining feedback from those that you know and trust), review the common PM credentials and certifications we found in various job descriptions. Decide if there are any that you either need or plan to obtain. Note: We have not listed all credentials possible, but have focused on those that are most common.

PM credentials and certifications

If you have decided to improve your experience attribute level and/or to obtain a new PM-related credential or certification, set a goal for yourself to do both. At a minimum, we suggest either improving one skill (perhaps something you can focus on in your continuing professional development at work) and/or obtaining one additional certification which can actively contribute to your self-improvement every year. In this way, you are steadily making real career improvements, learning new skills, and keeping yourself ‘relevant’, both for the benefit of your current employment and also as preparation for facing an ever-changing and challenging international job market, should you ever be in such a position.

Critical to the decision to hire is the candidate’s experience to match the job required. Individuals always need to bear in mind that they need to continually demonstrate ‘on the ground experience’ that will entice an employer to select them for interview. It is undoubtedly true that ‘experience counts’. Things you might want to consider are as follows: What is the toughest assignment you have had to manage so far? How can you prove what you have really achieved to a prospective employer? How will you show that you can perform a prospective job better than anyone else?

In conclusion, as we all know, experience that matches the role is always critical and this requires careful thought when applying for a new role (within the organisation you work for or elsewhere). We also think there are some common PM skills attributes and also some appropriate certifications/credentials that are mentioned in job descriptions (recognising that different regional geographies and industries will ask for specific credentials that suit their needs). Regardless of your employment status, if you are a PM practitioner, there is a genuine benefit to be gained by continually improving both your experience and/or obtaining a new PM related credential or certification (ideally, with one new certification/year). Amongst other things, this will help maintain your competitiveness in the job market should you ever need or want to try something new.

Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson are experienced PMO, program, and project managers who developed a mutual friendship by realising they shared a common passion to help others and share knowledge about PMO, portfolio, program and project management. In February 2010, they decided to collaborate on a three-year goal to write 50 PM subject articles for publication in any/all PM subject websites, newsletters and professional magazines/journals. They can be contacted at

Other articles by these authors:
  • Calm in the eye of the storm – dealing with project issues
  • Were the Three Stooges really good project managers?
  • Should project managers be professionally licensed or chartered?
  • Project management for the small business
  • The project management survival toolkit
  • Understanding project management processes and tools to drive success
  • How to tailor your presentation to the audience
  • How to approach a project
  • The trouble with continuous multi-tasking
  • Communication risks within and around a virtual team
  • An objective methodology to project prioritisation
  • Program amp; project manager power – What are your most important traits to achieve success
  • Anatomy of an effective project manager
  • The unspoken additional constraint of project management
  • How project managers can help their companies ‘go Green’
  • What makes an effective executive?
  • Minimising bias of subject matter experts through effective project management
  • Program and project manager power