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Building Your PMO – People, Process, Tools – Part I – People (continued) (#2 in the series Building your PMO – People, Process Tools)
By Derry Simmel, PMP, MBA, FLMI

Assuming you now have the list of qualifications, skills and characteristics of the type of person you want for your PMO. The only problem is that you don’t know how to find these people. How do you get the right person and not be fooled in the interview? Not only that, maybe you have 3 openings, but what mix is right for you and your PMO. We’ll save organization for later, for now a little about how to pick make sure you get the right people. There are a lot of tactics and a ton of good information is available, make use of it! As a general overview, these are some of my thoughts, as always if you have any ideas, post them for others to read.

Use Your Network: You probably know some good people already if you are part of any professional organizations or have kept in touch with friends and colleagues. Even if they aren’t the right people, they probably know someone who knows someone. Your network is probably the best place to find someone. Your friends would not recommend someone unqualified (well, let’s hope not), and you have a great chance of finding a “diamond in the rough”- someone who is better than their resume. There are a lot of good PMs out there looking for the chance to be part of your PMO. I have to recommend Ask the Headhunter, I have subscribed to Nick’s newsletter for about 6 years, and even when not looking for people or a job, the advice has been priceless. The newsletter and column focus on the job seeker more than the employer, but there are some priceless words of wisdom for anyone. The site is a gold mine of advice, you will not regret it! So stealing a key point from ATH:

Get Them to Do the Job: This is tough; in the past we have done simulations which are fun for all by the way. You can give the candidate a problem to solve, but my absolute favorite was “the project meeting.” One of the PMs in our group had a really harrowing meeting where just about everything happened, and he was quite challenged in just getting through the session – which he did. Anyway, we used this meeting as a simulation. Before the interview (after a phone interview usually) we arranged for the candidate to come onsite for some face-to-face talks. We would send the candidate some project documentation telling them about the history of the project, their role as the project manager, and other details about the meeting and the project status. Then, when they came in for interviews, we scheduled a meeting where the PMO members played the part of the project team and the candidate was the PM. We each had a role to play, one of us came late, one was constantly checking his PDA, one was constantly trying to bring up their issue and hijack the meeting, and so on. The really good thing is we have all been in exactly that kind of meeting. Frankly, most candidates were a little lost, but you could tell who knew what they were doing and who didn’t. Also, those who did their “homework” were obvious, as were those who didn’t. If nothing else, this tells you who is serious about the job and Project Management.

Constantly Recruit: One of the most frustrating experiences is to finally get that personnel increase approved only to have it pulled after you are almost ready to make an offer. So what I’ve found to work is to be constantly on the lookout for great people, and to be recruiting all the time. This way you will have a short list of people to choose from and can make the “official” part of the process as short as possible. I do not want to sound like an HR basher, but I have found that HR is generally not interested in you getting the best candidate; they are more concerned with legal and procedural risks and issues. Your objective would be to make the internal part of the hiring process as short as possible. This means you have to do a LOT of prescreening, you might even want to “interview” people from around town by inviting them to lunch and sharing ideas and experiences. Heck, maybe you will want to work with him or her. Another constant recruiting method is to get out there in professional organizations, so your network helps here too.

“Trust your Feelings”: Use the force. If you do not like something about someone – listen to those feelings. Don’t throw someone out solely because of what you feel, but find out why you feel uncomfortable. One good way is to talk it through with someone else. We try to do interviews with two interviewers. While one is talking / listening, the other can observe the interaction. Maybe the person with you saw something – you pulled back when the candidate asked about overtime and vacation. This way when the two interviewers talk immediately after the interview, you can share impressions and probably find the reason for any uneasy feelings. I’ve found that there is almost always a reason I feel uncomfortable about someone, and if I talk with someone, we can usually figure it out. Once you have a tangible reason, you can make a better decision.

OK – four again. Next time I’ll talk a little (maybe a lot) about organization – how to organize the crack team you’ve put together!

Mr. Derry Simmel, PMP, MBA, FLMI

Derry Simmel has been in IT and project management for over 15 years. He has started 3 PMOs in the last 6 years, the latest of which is with a large project for the State of South Carolina. Derry has an MBA from University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of South Carolina. He currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of Membership for PMI’s Project Management Office Special Interest Group and as the VP of Programs for the PMI Midlands Chapter. Derry maintains All about Project Management Offices, a professional blog covering all aspects of PMO.

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