Critical Review Of A Research Paper – Recruiting Project Managers


This critical review is on the following research paper “ Recruiting Project Managers: A Comparative Analysis of Competencies and Recruitment Signals from Job Advertisements ”. The study is about the competencies organizations use in Project Manager Job advertisements to recruit project managers. Organizations find it a challenge to recruit the ‘right’ project manager. Choosing the ‘right’ manager, results in achieving the project objectives.    The role of the project manager is critical in project management because the managers need to have a broad understanding of the different areas that require coordination. The final outcome of the project is dependent on the project manager and thus has an impact on project management  (Meredith & Mantel, 2006, p. 139).

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Selecting a project manager is one of the crucial decisions required for any project. Organizations therefore need to know which signals to use in job advertisements in order to attract potential applicants for the position of the project manager. At the same time, these signals need to reflect the standards prescribed by project management professional bodies.   The objective of the study was to provide a systematic approach to understanding the use of project manager competencies from the job advertisements, academics, and standards provided by project management professional organizations.

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The study was done by Dr. Kamrul Ahsan a senior lecturer in Victoria University, Melbourne; Marcus Ho from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand; and Sabik Khan from Trust Bank Limited, Bangladesh. The study addresses the following research questions which are clearly stated. They include: One, what are the most frequently used competencies to attract potential project managers to organizations? Two, do the competencies sought by recruitment job advertisements reflect the competencies prescribed by project management literature and professional bodies? Finally whether there are differences regionally and between industries in the use of project management competencies to attract potential project managers.

Literature Review

The researchers reviewed relevant research studies and provided a rationale for the importance of the study. The literature review highlights the research gaps and provides reasons why the research was necessary. The literature review focused on the project management profession and the role of the project manager. It looked at what makes a competent project manager and the competency frameworks from project management literature. Finally it reviewed project management recruitment and job advertisements.

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The last five decades has seen a growth in the use of project management across different industries. This has led to the development of project management as a profession just like other professions like law and engineering (Hodgson, 2002). This has led to the growth of project management professionals with the Project Management Institute (PMI) having over 3.3 million members with 400,000 of these having Professional Management Professional (PMP) credentials as of 2011.

Research studies indicate that even though the development of project – based organizations has received attention in theory and practice (Sydow, Lindkvist, & DeFillippi, 2004; Turner & Keegan, 1999; Turner & Keegan, 2001). There is little research that has been done on the role of the project manager.  The role of a project manager has changed from an administrator to a managerial and leadership role. This means that the project manager needs a different set of skills, capabilities and competencies hence the need for this study. The professionalization of project managers continues to remain diverse as an occupation and profession.

Research studies indicate that the types of projects and competencies of project managers vary in depth and are very broad (Muller turner). According to Muller $turner, there is a correlation between project management leadership competencies and the success of the project. The different types of projects also require different types of leadership style. The International Project Management Association (IPMA) and Project Management Institute (PMI) are the two major project management professional bodies. These organizations have developed various project management competency frameworks. The three dimensions of project management competencies are knowledge, performance and personal.

The literature also looked at the recruitment of project managers which is critical for an organization to attract and retain talented personnel. The critical role of the competencies of project managers to an organization is vital to the success of its projects because of the complexity of project work. The matching of the project manager to the requirements of the project and objective of the organization is vital. The research indicated a gap in linking the project management competencies to the project management professional body standards and the job advertisements in recruiting the ‘right’ project manager.


The study population is made up of project manager job advertisements on print and online media. Print media includes newspapers, professional magazines and journals. Online media includes online job boards, company career web pages and social media. The researchers chose online job boards because these were bigger and more detailed than those found in published print media. The online job advertisements provided a lot of content for analysis. They are easy to navigate, manage, and access the target job advertisements. They are also easy to categorize by country, industry, role and responsibilities. The size of the sample was 795 job advertisements which were analyzed using the 15 KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Ability) developed from the literature review. The job advertisements were representative as they covered different industries from Australia and New Zealand.

Data Collection

The researchers justified their choice of data collection. The data on job advertisements for project managers was collected from online job boards. This is because online job boards provide more details on the job competencies and requirements than print media. Print media is restricted due to the limited space provided and it is also costly when the job advertisements use a big space.

The researchers described the format of their data collection tools. The first step the researchers followed was to create variables that would be the basis of the data collection. They then identified the most cited variables from the project management literature in regards to the competencies required of a project manager. This process identified 60 variables which were grouped under the 15 KSAs. The variables were tallied and ranked based on how frequent they appeared on the job advertisements.

The next step was to identify the job website, and the researchers chose ‘Seek’. This is the largest online job board in the Australian region, and hosts 60% of the Australian job sites. The researchers did not consider other job boards as many recruiters post the same jobs simultaneously.

There was evidence of a pilot study because before the researchers embarked on data collection they ensured that the KSA variables they would use covered the most sought-after project manager competencies. The pilot study involved the analysis of 40 job advertisements. The merging and grouping of the key variables was conducted through the literature review, content analysis from the 40 job advertisements, and group consensus among the researchers. The initial 60 variables were checked and amendments made where necessary. The pilot study was a success as the researchers’ added variables to the initial 60, and other variables were discarded in the process. This ensured a robust variable set for the study.

The strengths of the data collection process were that the researchers could identify the strength of the selected variables and adjust them accordingly before embarking on the major data collection. The weakness of the process was that it was time consuming as it was done manually without the use of any software. This process was painstaking, time consuming and laborious. The researchers used 795 jobs advertisements which were reduced to 762 after screening due to lack of content or duplication. This is what was tabulated for analysis.

Data Analysis

            The data was analyzed using content analysis which is a research technique that allows for inferences to be  made based on text an in consideration of the context it was written. It uses two integrated approaches; qualitative analysis for conceptual framework and quantitative to allow for measurability. The researchers used statistical analysis after identifying the final 762 job advertisements. The analysis was done according to job advertisements under country category, under industry category, and across industries and countries category. (Holzmann & Spiegler, 2010)

The data was in qualitative form before it was statistically analyzed. Each job advertisement was printed and marked with a reference number and filed under country and industry. The researchers used the initial 60 variables and scanned each advertisement for key words, phrases that fell under the predefined variables. Variables were placed in columns and job advertisements in rows. A binary code was used where ‘1’ was a positive response and ‘0’ was the alternate answer. Researchers also recorded demographics that included the name of the company, job titles, salary, benefits and project size.

Study Results

There is a section on the results and analysis which includes the study results. This section has different sub sections that give the results under different themes. These are; job advertisements under KSA classifications; sought-after KSAs across industries and countries’ KSAs under country category; and KSAs under project industry category. Under each sub section there is a report of the results.

The qualitative data was the final 762 job advertisements that were analyzed. There is no example of any of these job advertisements. The analysis of the quantitative data was through the use of tables and graphs for each sub section. There were five tables that represented; the top 15 most cited KSAs from literature; the top five KSAs from job advertisements; the top KSAs across industries and countries; a comparison between cited and sought-after KSAs; and the top five sought-after KSAs for the top five project industries. The results also included a graph indicating the project manager KSAs comparison for Australia and New Zealand. The second graph indicated the KSAs demanded in different project industries.

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The results indicated that education under the knowledge category was the most cited competency at 28%. Communication was the most sought-after competency across all industries at 61.68%. From project literature leadership was the most frequently cited competency. For competencies under country category, Australian project management jobs looked for more KSAs in their advertisements than New Zealand. In addition Australians were more concerned about time and cost management than New Zealand. There were some differences in job requirements between the two countries. Under the project management industry category, most of the job advertisements were from 8 major industries with 52% from ICT and 25% from construction. Arts and media had the least job advertisements. Overall the most common competencies were communication and education.

Discussion and Conclusions

The researchers did not compare their findings to other research studied because this particular study was the only one of its kind in project management literature. The study provided answers to the three research questions set out at the beginning of the study. The most frequently used competencies to attract potential project managers to organizations were all skills based. These were communication, technical, stakeholder management and time and cost management. Under the knowledge category, the top two competencies were education background and project management certification. The ability category was the least emphasized in the job advertisements.

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Similarities exist between the competencies sought-after by recruitment job advertisements ad those prescribed by project management literature and project management professional bodies. However, there are differences on the emphasis of competencies across industries and regions. Although the study indicates that communication is the most cited competency across all industries, the results indicate that the KSAs vary between industries. This means that the role of the project manager is different under each industry.

The limitation of the study includes the focus of the study on Australia and New Zealand. Differences may exist if the study included job advertisements from other regions such as the United States or Europe. The other limitation was that there was no similar study that had been carried out that would provide a comparison.

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The researchers drew accurate conclusions based on the study finding.  The most significant finding was that attention is required on the variations in KSAs that exist across industries and regions as regards the role of the project manager. These differences can for the basis of a comprehensive understanding of project management.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The study was very easy to read and interpret because the research questions were clearly stated at the beginning of the paper. The discussions and conclusion clearly related the findings to the research questions. The research methodology was explained in detail and reasons given at the choice of using content analysis. The results were tabulated using tables and graphs which were easy to follow and interpret. The use of percentages and statistical analysis indicated accuracy in the results. The results were also grouped into themes making them easy to understand. The use of the pilot study provided authenticity of the variable set that was used for the study.

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The findings of the study will benefit project management as a profession. The findings indicate that the role of the project manager is becoming increasingly important in any organizations across a variety of industries and will have an impact on project management. The findings will help project management professional bodies to come up with standards and consider that these standards may vary across industries and regions. The role of the project manager has changed from and administrative role to a key leadership role in many organizations. Similar research needs to be done in other regions so that a comparison can be made and additional recommendations in the area of project management.

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