10 Crucial Project Management Skills to Identify and Test

Blog 10 Crucial Project Management Skills to Identify and Test

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how do we assess project management skills

All industries and all projects, big or small, need project managers. Whether you recruit for a company that needs a PM to build a bridge or a software developer needing a PM to launch a new app, you need experts with outstanding project management skills.

A project manager’s role is to ensure the project runs smoothly, in time, within budget, with an engaged team behind it. As you can easily figure out, project management is a challenging position. If you want to hire top talent, you need to know the most sought project management skills and how to test them.

What Qualities Make a Good Project Manager?

Understanding project managers’ roles and defining project management skills is an entire research branch concerning academia, legislators, etc. When it comes to abilities, responsibilities, and aptitudes, The Project Management Institute identified three competency dimensions: knowledge, personal, and performance. Knowledge and performance revolve around the nine project management knowledge areas described by the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Experts in the field break up personal competencies in six areas:

  • achievement and action,
  • helping and human service impact,
  • influence,
  • managerial skills,
  • cognitive abilities,
  • and personal effectiveness.

To put things in perspective,

There is not one agreed-upon definition of “project manager” or his/her responsibilities: scope of duties range anywhere from administrator to multi million-budget manager. In addition, a lot of companies have defined project manager selection criteria vaguely and often focus more on fit into the organization than competency for the position.

Udo, N. & Koppensteiner, S. (2004). What are the core competencies of a successful project manager? Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2004—EMEA, Prague, Czech Republic

As you can see, hiring talented project managers and assessing project management skills is a challenging duty.

What Are The Most Important Skills Of A Project Manager?

In the recruiting practice, specialists agree that project managers must demonstrate both hard/technical skills and soft skills. We look besides certifications, qualifications, degrees, experience, and knowledge. Recent data (Project Management Institute’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession report) indicates that soft skills are more important (in 4 out of 5 cases) than other hard skills. However, we will discuss today a handful of hard and soft skills that HR specialists consider to be crucial employability skills for project managers.

Hard/Technical Project Management Skills and How to Test Them

technical project management skills

In recruiting and personnel assessment, hard skills are easier to measure. When we need to hire talented new employees for a specific project management role, we can use complex tests, questionnaires, and even simulations to get a clear picture of their knowledge and performance. Here are the most critical project management skills that companies hire for in our modern times!

1. Expertise on the subject matter

New trends in project management show that subject matter expertise is vital in today’s economy. Generally speaking, we consider project management a transferable skill. However, some experts say that we should go deeper in our assessments: can a construction project manager achieve the same healthcare industry performances? Here is something to consider when we prepare our “pen-and-paper” tests and simulations.

2. Digital prowess in project management

Successful project managers have to prove more than just basic computer skills and mastery of hardware/software. The use of several project management tools (like Jira or MS Plan), PM techniques (Agile, for instance), and other connected fields (business software, team management apps, etc.) is mandatory. It is not enough to list such project management skills on a resume. Recruiters and companies provide simulations and exercises in the pre-employment assessment stage.

3. Risk management

Again, testing talented project managers for risk assessment skills involves exercises and simulations. It is a consensus that PMs have to show advanced competencies in using a risk management matrix and employ risk management tools to analyze all potential risks of a project’s implementation on all levels.

4. Time management

Time, deadlines, schedules, and deliverables are at the core of any project. You can employ a series of standardized time management tests to evaluate how a candidate deals with time constraints.

5. Team management

We are entering the soft skills realm, although many PMs rely on specific tools, software, and apps to manage their teams and team members’ tasks. However, team management has everything to do with teamwork, an essential employability skill that we compete for when we strive to hire talent.

Testing Hard Project Management Skills with Pre-Employment Assessment Tools

We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to hard/technical project management skills. Recruiters are companies that are actively looking to hire, train, and retain project managers who show high capacities in:

  • Planning and forecasting;
  • Budget and costs management;
  • Project progress monitoring and tracking;
  • Documentation development;
  • Initiation and planning of all project’s main and sub-phases;
  • Other technical skills.

You can evaluate all these competencies in a standardized and objective manner. Moreover, you can also use a handful of HR assessment tools to make correlations between results.

Top Instruments to Use from The Hire Talent

We recommend you evaluate PM candidates with the following pre-employment assessment instruments:

In case you are recruiting for companies & organizations expanding their pools of talented project managers, we recommend you to check the HR evaluation tools catalog we offer professionals in the field.

You can enjoy a free demo on each of them, so take your time and decide what tests work best for your organization’s recruitment and personnel assessment needs.

Soft Project Management Skills and How to Test Them

soft skills in project management

What is a project manager’s role beyond the technical realm? Project managers have to display a constellation of personality traits, interpersonal skills, and other soft skills they use every day to lead the project one-step closer to its success. According to the Project Management Institute,

Project managers are held responsible for the overall success of the project. They are responsible for managing the interaction between all stakeholder groups, each of whom has their own expectations and project success criteria. The project manager is often well served by putting their egos aside and keeping a necessary emotional distance from their work. Summarized, the position of project manager demands an overall defined skill set and personality profile.

Udo, N. & Koppensteiner, S. (2004). What are the core competencies of a successful project manager? Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2004—EMEA, Prague, Czech Republic

Luckily, we can test for many of these abilities/personality traits in the pre-employment assessment stage. Of course, companies running employee development programs can also use such instruments to help their inside specialists attain higher positions. Let’s see some of the most important soft project management skills we should assess.

1. Leadership

Project managers with the right leadership style and established leadership skills know how to motivate the team and align everybody to its strategic goals. Analyzing situations, making informed decisions, and solving problems while being open and empathetic with all team members is what a project manager must do every day.

As we discussed on previous occasions, such skills overlap. Integrity is essential to good leaders who can also make excellent project managers, for instance.

If you want to assess leadership in a candidate for a project management position, we recommend you to start with our Leadership Predictor Profile and go on from there.

2. Communication

You probably already read our guide on interpersonal skills testing. Communication is among the primary interpersonal skills we need to evaluate candidates for a wide range of jobs and roles. Such ability goes beyond reading, writing, and talking to other people. It involves active listening, empathy, assertiveness, eloquence, and more. A good project manager has to know what to communicate, when, and how to ensure everyone is on the same page with the project’s goals.

We recommend using our Aptitudes and People Skills Test to understand your candidates better from this point of view. Such people skills test taps into communication proficiency, personality traits, emotional intelligence, and other decisive personal dimensions.

3. Adaptability

Adaptability is what made (and still makes) this world go round. Beyond ensuring survival, adaptability is a skill, a personality trait, and a soft, subtle competence that differentiates top employees from the rest. We never said it was easy to quantify and standardize. However, an adaptable project manager can flexibly respond to sudden changes, make quick smart decisions, revise priorities and re-organize them, and so on.

In the project management report we mentioned above, experts said that poor communication was responsible for 29% of failed projects. When it comes to adaptability, things take a more serious turn. Survey respondents admitted that the project objectives’ changes were responsible for 37% of failures. Moreover, a change in the company’s priorities is the number one reason projects fail.

In other words, we need PMs who are not only predicting changes but face them and navigate them to avoid project implementation errors and fiascos. High adaptability levels seem to do this trick.

Evaluating adaptability is not an easy feat. We recommend you use a mix of cognitive tests, personality assessment tools, and behavioral interview questions. Together, they will help you make a more objective evaluation of a candidate’s adaptability skills.

4. Emotional Intelligence

Some say empathy is the most important soft skill for a project manager, but we believe it takes more than this to become an outstanding PM on the fast track for a leadership role. We need emotional intelligence (a vital interpersonal skill) in the workplace across the board.

You may evaluate a PM running a small team to build a website for a client in a month. On the other hand, you might have to hire a project manager to implement a new social & healthcare support system for people with disabilities in two years. The project’s magnitude is less important, but the people who make it happen are.

Emotional intelligence has everything to do with empathy, conflict resolution, self-motivation, others’ motivation, helping others develop their skills and reaching their goals, and more. According to studies, those who show high EQ scores are more likely to become leaders, manage stress better, and yield the desired results when working in teams.

A comprehensive test used to measure EQ concerning project management is our Sales, People, and Logic Test. It evaluates emotional intelligence, cognitive abilities, logic, sales skills, and people skills. The results paint an interesting candidate profile:

  • able to work with teams and supervisors,
  • strong cognitive skills,
  • stout emotional management capabilities,
  • able to adapt and respond to challenges,
  • and a “flair” for negotiation and optimal communication.

5. Integrity

An elusive skill when it comes to objective testing, integrity in the workplace has made the topic of continuous debates. Do we want employees who remain on the good side of the law at all times, or are we looking for more?

Of course, we are looking for all the soft skills, subskills, and traits that make integrity one of the most sought characteristics when we hire project managers and grow tomorrow’s leaders. Integrity has a lot to do with demonstrating:

  • Recognition and gratitude related to others’ achievements;
  • Patience;
  • Trustworthiness;
  • Accountability and responsibility;
  • Helpfulness;
  • Respect for the project and the people involved in it.

As you can see, we can teach and train Jira, organization, budget management, even communication and teamwork. When it comes to integrity, it develops over time, and we need to identify it, nurture it, and reward it accordingly.

One of the simplest ways to measure a candidate’s integrity for a project management position is to use our Integrity Test. You can correlate its results with those you obtain after applying the Big 5 Personality Inventory and the applicant’s answers during the behavioral interview.

Bottom Line

Recruiters evaluate project management skills using a combination of practical tests and exercises, simulations, cognitive skill tests, personality inventories, specific skills assessment tools, interviews, etc. A project manager has to have the knowledge, experience, and credentials to perform the job. However, when we hire talented PMs, we always look for soft skills and personality traits, helping us hire and retain the most brilliant minds in the field.

How do you use pre-employment assessment instruments to evaluate project management skills? Are there are methods you employ? We would love to hear about your project management candidates’ assessment and recruiting experiences!

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