Finding the Best Staff – Tips for Project Managers

I know that project managers working for large companies with human resource departments and Project Management Offices, usually get the staff needed for their project without the need to recruit or hire from outside. However, in small companies, the project manager may be tasked with finding new employees or outside consultants to work on his or her project from outside the organization.

I sympathize with PMs who must add the “find-hire-acquire-staff” to their to-do list. It is not easy to find the right people and the negative consequences of failure can be long-term. Therefore, I have given some thought to effective staffing/recruiting strategies—along with borrowing insight from others.

Obvious Ways to Recruit New Employees
Of course, you can place an ad in local newspapers and check out popular generalist and industry specific websites that post jobs for those seeking them. Popular sites for job seekers include, and Professionals seeking jobs in the technology sector also register with Dice and techiegold. (Joel on Software offers insight and disheartening numbers on using these sites for recruiting developers in his post, “Finding Great Developers”)

Ask your current work contacts for suggestions or referrals or represent your company at local job fairs talking with perspective employees and collecting resumes. Some companies use staffing firms to get resumes and outside contractors – but be warned that this industry has become over taxed with too many players and too few good resumes.  Use social networking sites that focus on work related information sharing such as LinkedIn or Plaxo. Also, another warning, “Posting on these social sites may yield varying results”.

In the past, some organizations dismissed searching though active job seekers for their employees preferring instead to use recruiters to tickle the fancy of people already employed and not actively looking—this becomes very expensive very quickly. In today’s economy, many talented, hardworking developers and project staff are unemployed or under-employed and looking.  

Any or all of these activities bring resumes of viable candidates for your consideration –frequently buried with hundreds of others that are not viable. Be prepared to sort through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat.

Before you make any decision about recruiting versus staff augmentation, you also need to look hard at your real needs and constraints for a project:

  • Do you need a junior or senior person?
  • How long will you need the skill set?
  • How long do you have to get the person on-board and trained?
  • If you need multiple people, how many do you hire versus bring in as consultants?

Recruiting Outside the Box
The first question I would ask you to consider, “Is there someone in your organization who– with training–could do the job you are trying to fill?” The advantage of hiring from within is that the individual already has a stake in the company and a record of accomplishment you can check. Of course, some training takes more time than you have available, but at least think about the possibility of offering training in exchange for the opportunity to work on your project.

Check through filed resumes and applicants from past employee searches. Someone that almost made the cut for a previous position may still be interested in your opportunity and a potential candidate for you.

Attend trade shows, professional conferences or training events with the purpose of scoping out talented individuals. When you find someone with potential, give them your card and let them know that your company is looking for people with their skills.

A Techrepublic article offers this out-of-the-box recruiting strategy—host a training event or game night. Depending on the type of developer you seek, you may find that they share interests with others in your organization for advanced training workshops or video game competition. Check with your compadres to identify a topic or event that is relevant or fun and will attract the types of people you might want to hire.

IF your timeframe is long enough, think about hiring an intern. Of course, their skills are nascent, but some future superstars are in the ranks of graduate students who would appreciate a chance at real world experience. And, who knows they may remain after their stardom is established.

Once you successfully get a group of potential candidate resumes (for either hiring or contracting), get ourself prepared to ask good questions and be a good interviewer.  If you decide to hire be sure you look for soft skills in addition to the hard technical skills.  I have developed a few  key competencies I look for in staff over the years – you may want to read my thoughts in, “Staffing Projects for Success: Back to The Basics” by Cognitive Technologies – (free registration required).

Please share your out-of-the-box and traditional staffing/recruiting techniques with fellow project managers.

2 Responses to “Finding the Best Staff – Tips for Project Managers”

  1. Marilyn Nichols @ Project Management Certification Says:

    When you know someone in the company has the potential, giving him a chance isn’t harmful. For all you know, you might be missing something great if you don’t try.

  2. Job Title Inflation Continues | Fear No Project Blog - Focusing on the Management Side of Projects Says:

    […] the job – beyond the titles, training, and certifications on the resume.  I wrote a post about staffing and finding the best staff last September (2010) which speaks to finding resumes and people – but did not address how to […]

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