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How To Recruit A Project Team Member

How To Recruit A Project Team Member 03.06.2014 - When someone left my project team suddenly I was faced with being a resource down. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially as you have spent time and effort training that person and they have built up specialist expertise in the topic of your project. It can feel like you’ll never be able to replace them.

However, I did manage to replace that person. It did take a little while, but the new team member is lovely and equally as capable as the person who left. There are two options available to you when it comes to recruiting a new member on to the project team. I have used them both in my time, but in my view Option A below is the easiest, even though it takes a bit longer. What’s Option A, I hear you ask?

1. Option A: Let Candidates Come To You

When you need to add more project resources to the team, the most common way to find a new team member is to start a recruitment process and ask people to apply for the position. The steps for this are:

1.1 Advertise

Start off by advertising internally. Use the intranet or recruitment portal. If you find you don’t get enough applicants this way you can always advertise externally in the trade press or online. Make sure that your advert sets out exactly what you expect from the candidate and the skills you need them to have as this will help weed out unsuitable applications. You don’t need to create an application form as you can simply ask candidates to send in their resumé.

1.2 Review The Applicants

Once the closing date for applying has passed, review the applications. Go through each resumé and covering letter and assess whether or not the person has the relevant skills for the role on the project.

1.3 Shortlist Candidates

Once you have reviewed all the applications, you should be able to pick out your top few candidates to make a shortlist of prospective project team members. You can do this by ranking the applicants in order of your preference. Of course, you haven’t met any of them yet so you are just doing this from the information that they have submitted.

1.4 Interview

Invite your shortlisted candidates to an interview. This is your opportunity to see if they are a good fit for your project team and to check that they really do have the skills they said they did. Ask them about their experience and how relevant this is to your project. Remember that many of the things that make your project unique can be taught, so it is also worth assessing their attitude and willingness to work as a team as well as the ‘hard’ skills of project management.
The interview is also the candidate’s opportunity to ask you questions and to get a feel for what working on your team would be like, so expect to be asked about the working environment and the project.

1.5 Make An Offer

After you have interviewed all the candidates, you should have a good idea about who you’d want to join the team. Make this person an offer, setting out the terms and conditions and the pay (most people are interested in pay!). The individual may accept straight away, or they may reject your offer. Or they might try to negotiate a higher pay rate, more vacation time or on some other point in the employment contract. Get some help from your HR team if you need it during this stage, as once a contract is signed it is very hard to break!

2. Option B: Seek Out Suitable Candidates

Advertising and interviewing for a new project team member can be very time-consuming. A less formal way of adding a new person to the project team is to seek out someone and invite them on to the team. This is ‘head hunting’ and it starts with:

2.1 Approach Their Manager or PMO

If you already have an idea of who you would like, then make a direct approach to their manager. It’s not a good idea to approach the individual straight away, because it can undermine the manager’s authority. Ask the manager if they would consider letting the person join the project team either for a fixed time period or on a permanent basis. If they are happy, then you can talk to the individual, or let the manager do it.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a particular person in mind, you can start with your Project Management Office (PMO). They normally have a list of individuals who have worked on projects or who are available for project work, along with their skills. You can use this database as a starting point to identify who has the right skills for your project and to check whether they are available. Once you have identified someone, you can approach them (or their manager) to see if they would like to join the team.

2.2 Interview

The individual concerned might not know you or anything about your project, so an interview could be a good idea for both of you. It gives you the chance to meet them without having to commit to anything. Of course, if you are convinced that they are the right person for the team (perhaps you have worked with them before) then you can skip the interview stage if you prefer.

2.3 Make An Offer

So, you’ve found the perfect person, either through the PMO skills database or your knowledge of the business. As you would do with a candidate who has responded to an advert, you need to make them a formal offer. Get the terms and conditions put in writing as this will give you both peace of mind.
This route is far less formal and it’s worth being aware of the office politics involved with seeking out someone and making a direct approach. Other individuals who consider themselves to have the same skills may also have wanted the chance to work on your project, so think about the impact this might have on your project team or the morale in other departments. You don’t want to be accused of favoritism or just hiring people you know! Your HR team can give you more advice if you need it.

About the author

Jason Westland is CEO of ProjectManager.com, an online project management software company. He’s also the author of The Project Management Life Cycle.

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