Good Recruitment Policies are the Key to Finding Excellent Project Managers
By: Gary Muddyman (CEO) - CONVERSIS
08 March 2008
Good people are a critical factor for a company's success. It's a cliché, I know, but particularly important in a people-oriented, service industry like ours. So, it stands to reason, get the right people and you are well on the way to an outstanding offering.
Our Project Managers are required to manage a series of language based projects and tasks cost-effectively, efficiently and to the highest quality standards in our industry. This involves the effective coordination of in-house and external suppliers as well as our technological resources. These activities in turn require a number of personal qualities and experiences, all of which can be identified during the recruitment process.
Starting the selection process
To start, it is important to define the recruitment requirement. For example, when advertising a Project Management role, I ensure that the required qualities/skills are listed plus the desirables. These criteria will be in order of priority. I will also provide a detailed job description. This is a simple step, but an important one – just what are we looking for?
I have used recruitment agencies in the past, in particular localization recruitment specialists. They have a role to play and there are good ones in our industry. However, they can be expensive. Sometimes their specialist database is useful and they can add value, and sometimes there is little choice but to use these services, especially when other avenues may have failed to show up suitable candidates. However, I would say that if time allows, try to advertise directly or, better still, follow up on direct contacts and recommendations.
Social media sites such as proz.com are a good resource to use when recruiting. Job seekers will place their profiles on these sites along with their experience. Advertisements can also be placed on these sites as it is a niche community and will attract multilingual job seekers.
Read the CV information very carefully. Most candidates will embellish their experience to some extent and in some cases to the point of being misleading. For example, some candidates may claim that they covered Project Management in previous roles but have actually performed tasks with less responsibility. Understandably the candidate is selling them self, and it is the assessor’s job to discern fact from fiction. The CV should be seen as an initial evaluation tool and a platform from which to explore issues more deeply.
Methods of driving the search
Use your core values
Here at Conversis, our job is to help our clients enter international markets and communicate effectively in these markets. We have established core values as follows: we meet our client’s deadlines, budgets and quality expectations; we are flexible in meeting our client’s needs; we use simple language and say what we mean when communicating with our clients, suppliers and each other; and, we take the time to really understand our clients’ needs, industry conditions and objectives. When recruiting Project Managers, these values provide the bedrock from which we evaluate the personal and professional qualities we look for in an individual. The values become meaningless unless the people employed are capable of executing them. Our clients are often constrained by budget, time and sometimes influence, and they need the right Project Manager who is capable of managing quality within these constraints.
Link the type of client to the type of Project Manager
I try to link the type of customers that we attract to the type of staff that we hire. This exercise helps in defining and attracting Project Managers who fit with our clients’ needs, values and culture.
As a general provider Conversis has a diverse range of clients. In particular we serve many companies in the software and healthcare sectors. Whenever possible, candidates with backgrounds in these industries have an advantage.
However, on a broader level, our clients have similarities. They are multinational enterprises, and the individuals we deal with are usually middle to senior managers. Often, they do not have GILT experience. So the range of skills needed by our Project Managers should fit with these requirements.
Qualifications versus qualities
Formal training such as a certification relating to Project Management is desirable, especially if related to the localization industry, but not essential. Only for a senior Project Manager would I ask for this. What is essential is a keen interest in the industry and a high level of understanding of Project Management gained in a previous role.
I would say that a candidate’s qualities are more important than formal training. The following qualities are a must in a Project Management role.
- Planning and organizing skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Numerical skills – budgeting is a key part of a Project Managers role
- Ability to multi-task
- Highly competent IT skills, especially in Project Management and translation tools such as MS Project and Translation Memory packages.
- Good decision-making skills
- Knowledge of at least one other language
The interview process
At our company, the first interview is with the Line Manager. We are looking for the candidate to display the core competencies and experiences for the role. In addition, finding a connection on a personal level is important to our manager.
Any candidate selected for interview is sent what I call a localization skills list. They are asked to mark their experience level of various IT tools which are relevant to the role. This gives us a clear idea of their IT expertise prior to meeting with them.
If we feel that the candidate has performed well at first interview, I will provide them with a written task to complete prior to second interview. The candidate is presented with a job related scenario and is required to email their suggestion of how they would deal with this. They will have the opportunity to describe their answer in detail at second interview and it gives us the opportunity to probe them further in the core skills requirement.
The second interview will normally be with me. Though growing, Conversis is still a relatively small business. It is important that a candidate’s attitudes, values and behaviors resonate with all of our stakeholders; clients, colleagues, shareholders and suppliers.
I don’t want clones. I want informed, intelligent, independent thinking people who will enjoy the way we conduct our business. The second interview therefore is all about the personal qualities of the candidate.
We also use a simple psychometric test to validate the opinions of the interviewers.
Criteria based interviews
Whether first or second interviews, criteria based interviews focus on the key competencies required for the role. I like to use this method of interviewing as questions are specifically tailored to the job role and focus on individual behavior. For example, asking the candidate to provide detailed examples of how they as an individual dealt with a demanding project, strict deadlines, or difficult clients in previous roles will show me how they coped in a particular situation which may arise in the project management role.
Remember that people deal with people and Project Managers must therefore be people orientated. It is no good recruiting someone of great technical skill if they are not good at relating to others who may not have the same intellectual or technical capabilities as themselves. It is vital that this is recognized at the recruitment stage as it is quite common for companies to look for technical knowledge and skills while not focusing enough on the human factors.
We use assessment centers when we either have multiple vacancies or a high number of suitable candidates. Assessment centers can be used to measure a candidate’s performance on a variety of factors such as; job related scenarios, interviews and/or psychological and psychometric tests. These normally involve both a personality test and an aptitude test. The personality test is used to establish how a candidate will normally behave in particular situations. An aptitude test can determine their numerical, analytical and communication skills. The assessor will evaluate the test performance based on the key competencies required for the role.
The assessment center also gives us the opportunity to introduce group experiences to measure the candidate’s ability to work with others as part of a team.
Project Managers often work under pressure and to strict deadlines. They deal directly with the client and suppliers and must therefore have excellent communication skills. The candidate will be faced with certain challenges in the assessment centre and will have the chance to prove that they possess all of the skills that appear on their CV. It gives us the opportunity of seeing people in a less “false” environment of an interview, where they interact with other people and we get the chance to observe them in a number of different situations over a whole day.
The correct experience and learned skills are obviously important. But equally critical in my view are the personal qualities and attributes of the candidate and if they fit in with the established culture of the business. During an interview we only have a limited time to evaluate this critical area. We therefore seek to employ the best available techniques to assess this requirement in the time allowed. We feel that the success of our business is in part dependant on this important task.
Gary Muddyman is Managing Director and CEO of Conversis. Established in 2003, Conversis is a U.K.-based leading provider of Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation (GILT) services.