Just like organizations work hard to find the right person to fill an open position, you need to consider the right fit if you’re in job search mode. I realize in many hiring situations this is much easier than it sounds. The problem is, you’ll rarely get much of a chance to see much detail of the organization before taking a position or right before that all important decision to take the job... Long after you've likely put significant time and effort and phone calls and travel into the search process. Yes, it would be nice if you could gather all the information you want and need about a company before you even apply for the job, but unless you already have a trustworthy contact on the inside, even with the internet you won't be able to find out the kind of detail you would probably like to have and should have. That has to come from you're own questioning and investigation... If possible. You likely won't meet much of the senior management team unless that’s your peer group. Sometimes you won’t go beyond Human Resources depending on the job and company.
Your goal is to Work for someone who appreciates your ideas, loyalty and hard work. What I want to do here is discuss some of the things to do and look for and ask about. Yes, do what you can to get the right information and answers you really need to make the right decision about a job - but some you may never get the chance to question. You must try if you can and look for opportunities to do so.
Some of the things you should really want to know - what’s the management style? Any reward and recognition system? What’s the average tenure of the PMs? All employees overall? Good things to know if you can.
Look for leadership that seems to buy-in to the processes and get involved. Next - ask about the company’s senior leadership involvement in the PM process if one exists. Do they attend any internal PMO planning meetings and PM project team meetings? Do they attend or involve themselves in the project customer meetings beyond just the kickoff meeting? I realize we don't want our senior leadership looking over our shoulder all the time just to stick their head into things. But real involvement - showing up to a few... Not just one... Weekly customer call can say a lot and show a lot to an important project client.
Ask about how project budgets are managed and supported. Knowing what you'll be up against in terms of funding projects, obtaining additional funding for projects and working with clients on the financial management and aspect of projects is important. Is the company organized? You can ask questions and you'll get some answers. But if you know how to manage the finances well on a project and forecast expenses, you'll be able to see through a veil of HR or PM speak and not real processes or know-how. That may be a flashing red light to run fast the other way or it may be something peaks your interest more because you know you can make a huge difference and probably get easy recognition as a game changer for the organization by implementing good processes right away.
Ask about the PM infrastructure in the organization. Extending the PM discussion further, ask about the makeup of the PM organization. They may say PMO or talk methodology, but that means different things to different people. They may say they have a PM infrastructure that strictly follows
Ask about how they decide which projects to take on and which to pass on. Another thing you may want to find out is how they decide which projects to take on and what to pass on. How are they strategically executing their PM process? Are they utilizing a project portfolio management (PPM) enterprise tool or do they have a committee that decides or are they just taking on all projects? I’ve worked in all three types of organizations. I worked as a consultant for the one that took on everything - I was called in to rectify that situation because as they were experiencing tremendous growth they significantly over committing resources which was beginning to affect delivery capacity and the ability to meet deadlines. In the organization with a committee, much time was spent on PM prep and presentation on the projects they were assigned to allow the committee to decide if they were good projects to take on and how to prioritize the initiatives. The main problem with that was that it delayed the go/no-go response to the customer which only served to frustrate their very important client base. The enterprise PPM scenario was by far the best - as it systematically and objectively helped pick and prioritize the undertakings and much faster than the human factor could by taking into account technology, available resources, budgets, and current skill sets. PPM was a win-win by far.
Summary / call for input
Some of this is fantasy because you just don't always get the opportunity to ask these types of questions or have the right people in front of you to ask these types of questions. But by seeking answers to them - even if it's just from the first HR representative you meet - you sound more intelligent, you sound like you have the experience thus verifying your qualifications and you're letting them know you really are interested and mean business.
Readers - what's your take on this? What suggestions would you add to this to position yourself for the right next step? Please share and discuss.