Do PM Job Descriptions Address the Skill Gap?

My last post addressed the first question from our webinar: how to hire for the right project, leadership, and business skills. The webinar recording itself is here (registration required).

As I noted, that question is at the heart of sustainable talent management for your project managers. Even while we answered that question live, we received a follow-on question that was on point:

Do job descriptions for project managers reflect these gaps in skills between high-performing and low-performing organizations?

My experience is that job descriptions themselves are reasonably good. Even the role descriptions I have inherited have been workable. The most common adjustments I made were to prioritize skills and experience by reordering the document: the most important move up top, the nice-to-haves go below. When I need more content, there are plenty of good models available. I relied on J. Kent Crawford’s book, Project Management Roles & Responsibilities to help draft the role descriptions for my staff … and for myself!

However, this approach begs the question. It assumes that I – or my external sources – know what’s right for these roles. Unfortunately, what we write in our job descriptions, what we say we should do, then what we do, are not always coordinated: “For I do not do the good I want to do.” We get a better alignment between words and deeds when we verify these job descriptions by looking at the knowledge, behavior, and performance profiles of top performers.


Role definitions must be embedded in a sustainable talent management process (as shown in the graphic above). They should be addressed up front, when looking at strategic alignment. If nothing else, this approach gives some direction to a role’s acquisition strategy – hire, develop, or source – and which job descriptions would attract the right candidates.

However, this tactic is only the start. What happens if we stop there, skip the “assess” phase, and go right to the “develop” phase of the lifecycle? We almost certainly will find we have:

  • Made more bad hires than we should because we never revised our role descriptions based on an assessment of the right skill, behavior, and performance profile.
  • Exacerbated these mistakes by training against generic needs vs. known gaps that we systematically derived.
  • Driven turnover, dissatisfied employees, or renewed “shotgun” training.

Of course, it isn’t only the company that suffers when bad hires are made. An ill-fitting role can be a career killer for the individual, as well. The use of a sound talent management approach means that, as in the old adage, instead of pulling the drowning project manager out of the current, we go to the head of the river and prevent them from falling in.


One Response

  1. […] Do PM Job Descriptions Address the Skill Gap? […]

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