The job description for a project manager sets out what the roles and responsibilities are for the job. It’s often part of the hiring process: you’ll see it at the point of applying for the job and then return to it very little after that.
Job descriptions come in various different formats and the most important thing is that you are clear about what is expected of you in the role. If you don’t have a job description, it’s worth putting one together for yourself and then having your manager or HR team approve it. Equally, if you recruit project managers, you should have a standard job description on file to use for them.
What’s in a project manager’s job description?
Below are the headings you should expect to see in a standard project management job description.
- Job title
- Line manager/department
- Daily duties/activities
- Experience, certifications, training requirements
Let’s look in detail at those now.
Normally this is right at the top of the job description: the title of the role. It might not say Project Manager. It could be a Project Scheduling Expert, Planner, Co-ordinator, PMO team member or manager, Portfolio Officer or pretty much anything. The world of project management is wide and job responsibilities and titles are broad!
This shows who the role reports into. It’s normal practice to put a job title in here rather than the name of the individual in the post. You can add the department. This is helpful where the company has project managers working in functional teams, so you might be a project manager in IT, or a project manager in operations, for example.
This is the first place I look on a job description. Will the job be based in an office location (if so, which one in which city?) or will it allow working from home? Write in how many hours the job holder is expected to do. Normally this will be full time hours but you may be offering or working in a part-time post.
This section sets out what the role is accountable for. This is the area of responsibility for the project manager. For example, it may include reporting to senior managers, handling the project finances, leading a team, operating the profit and loss for the department and so on.
This is the bulk of the content for the job description. It sets out what the project manager will do day to day. It can include all the activities the project manager is required and expected to do. For example:
- Managing the project life cycle from kick off to closure
- Leading and facilitating the project management team
- Ensuring success criteria are agreed and met
- Dealing with day to day problems
- Escalating issues to the project sponsor
- Managing project quality
- Managing project budgets up to a value of a certain amount
- Risk, issue and change management
- Project scheduling
And so on.
There might also be a list of tasks that aren’t necessarily part of the project management lifecycle but are required for the job, such as mentoring colleagues, providing input to the business case process, supporting the PMO with implementing new procedures and things like that.
Experience, Certifications And Training
This section isn’t about the job itself, but instead about the person doing the job. This section may be presented in another document called a person specification, but I don’t think it honestly matters where it goes. The point here is to help the recruiter find a good fit for the kind of person suitable to fill the role described above.
Include here any experience requirements, for example, 15 years of programming skills, or 10 years working in oil and gas. You can also include certifications and note if these are mandatory for the candidate or simply nice to have. For example, you may require someone to have a PMI credential, but PRINCE2® would be a nice to have extra.
Specify if it is beneficial to have training in any particular field such as conflict management, a software tool like Primavera.
Finally, you want to include a statement or two about the expected skills of the individual. Split this into technical and ‘soft’ or interpersonal skills.
Some of the technical skills will feel like a repeat of the daily duties section above. If you expect the project manager to be able to do risk management, it stands to reason that risk management needs to be one of the technical skills that they bring to the job. List anything that they need to be able to do.
The last essential section is the interpersonal skills. Spell out what qualities you are looking for in the project manager. For example, you might want to specify leadership, good communication skills, negotiating, influencing, matrix management, conflict management and so on.
You can expand the job description to cover anything you want, so feel free to add more sections if necessary until you have fully documented the role. Hopefully, this exercise helps set expectations and manages the roles and responsibilities in the team.
This article was written by Elizabeth Harrin.
Elizabeth Harrin is the creator of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, which she started in 2006. She has won a number of awards for her internationally popular blog: "A Girl's Guide To Project Management." She also authors two additional blogs, regularly featuring interviews she conducts with industry experts: "Talking Work," and "The Money Files," on Gantthead.