Advertising for a job - experience or expertise

A typical job advert might look like...

Pelicam grid

Specific job advertisements for project managers such as this are not unusual.  But are the specifics helping or hindering the search for a top-quality PM?  How big a part do specific criteria play in the successful delivery of a project in comparison to core project (intelligent) management skills?

From Pelicam’s experience, when organisations get into difficulties and call in top-tier consultant PMs, these specifics are often discarded in favour of intelligent, experienced project managers who rarely meet such a shopping list.

So which view should we take?  We asked our own project management community about their views.

The pros and cons of experience

Prior experience of a sector/technology often increases the project manager’s productivity levels. Familiar challenges and risks are more readily identified; solution options may be repeated more quickly from past experience.  However, familiarity can create complacency, possibly rejuvenating a previous solution that is inappropriate for the current problem. 

At an organisational level, familiarity with stakeholders could be an asset as relationships are renewed much quicker, but only if there is professional respect between the partiesand if the stakeholder roles are similar to previous occasions.  Knowing and understanding the culture of an organisation also provides accelerated progress towards productive project management, provided things haven’t changed over the intervening period. 

In summary there are a number of advantages; however each of them have certain limitations precluding a wholly compelling argument.

The pros and cons of expertise

The first challenge of arriving ‘cold’ into an organisation is how to get up-to-speed.  In theory this could take time; in practice, high calibre project managers learn quickly and adapt accordingly.  New challenges and risks have to be identified.  However, the newness of the environment prevents any complacency.

Building new relationships with stakeholders takes time and although there is no short-cut, the way in which an individual conducts their business can rapidly engender confidence in lieu of a strong relationship.  Understanding the culture of an organisation has an advantage limited to the time taken to understand that culture – typically not very long.

In summary there are few disadvantages; only specific knowledge of ‘particular’ stakeholders (on the assumption that their roles have remained constant) stands out as having any potential significance.

So, experience or expertise?

Are there any significant differentiators that provide a compelling proposition to spend too much time finding, and then hiring, project managers with specific sector and/or technological experience? 

It’s a rhetorical question. Agility in hiring project managers appears to be based around core project (intelligent) management expertise with an ability and desire to learn quickly.  Sector and/or technological experience is a bonus, but it’s not a driving criterion for hiring...