Project Practitioners > A Short List for Hiring Staff

A Short List for Hiring Staff

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Being Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I wanted to discuss finding the right partner. I am not a relationship expert, so the partner, in this case, is a staff or team member. Someone you can work well with and an asset to any organization.

Working for a small organization places emphasis on the right people for hire. One false step in the hiring process can result in poor performance in the field. Word gets around that this small company cannot do what they say, and suddenly, the phone stops ringing, and the company goes out of business.

If you work in a larger organization, there is more leeway in finding the right person for the job. When I worked for a large corporation, we would hold interviews every day, three times per day in the Winter looking for operators and laborers for the upcoming construction season. Unless the incompetence was obvious, we hired most everyone.

The approach became survival. Usually half of the new hires would end up quitting because of the travel requirements and long hours. The hiring process became arduous because it felt neverending. Instead of hiring people who would stay and perform professionally, it became a number’s game. We needed to hire ten people knowing five are necessary and the likelihood five people quit is apparent.

To avoid this process, the following is a list of requirements to use for hiring anyone to join your team and stay on as a productive member:


  1. Fundamental knowledge of the area he or she has been hired to manage.

Back to basics. Notice the generality of fundamental knowledge. The ins-and-outs of the position and organization will be picked up as time goes on, but the basics need to be there from the start. Each organization will have a different way of doing things. Standard procedures may be jumbled. The basics never change.

With my background in construction, installing storm sewer pipe is quite common and one of the largest line items on a project. Some foremen use a laser on top of the previous manhole structure to ensure the pipe is installed at the proper pitch and direction. Others place the laser down inside the manhole. Either way, the basic knowledge of using a laser to install storm sewer pipe must be there. The ‘why?’ becomes more important than the ‘how?’


  1. A relatively high – but not manic – level of energy and enthusiasm and a personality that is upbeat, motivated, and animated.

When obstacles pile up and fires continue to blaze, having someone around that keeps spirits up can mean all of the difference. Complimenting difficult times with a bad attitude signals worse times ahead. Someone needs to spark the energy of the room and get people back on track.

The downside of having a lot of energy is becoming manic. Manic is synonymous with someone who is frenetically busy. Running from one cubicle to the next while talking on their phone is a sign of manic energy. While the goal is to get work done, there needs to be control involved. Emotions need to be kept in check. Being energetic and excited about the project is great, but continuing to redline over the long haul will lead to a dramatic crash.


  1. The ability to discern talent in potential employees.

Bring someone onto your team that not only helps you but can help others achieve success. Having an extra set of honest, objective eyes to look for potential in others will only make your team stronger. This recognition of skill shows a self-awareness that benefits the project team.

Putting people in places to succeed is one job a leader has. Attracting talent is one thing. Getting the most out of said talent is the real skill.

Some people are not good in front of crowds yet can produce fantastic, visual presentations. Pairing a speaker with a producer can be the magical combination. They work in tandem, using their talents to compliment each other. Recognizing your role within the team, and then excelling in that role, produces success.


  1. An ability to communicate.

Having a fundamental knowledge of the area along with a great attitude and the ability to recognize talent is a fantastic combination. Yet, if this person cannot communicate these abilities effectively, he or she may become frustrated and hinder the team.

Communication not only refers to conveying information but also body language. If your posture and delivery of the message are poor, team members will tune out. The message and the way its delivered need to match. Delivering a motivating message with a monotone voice is ineffective.

Open lines of communication need to be established. Company phones are handed out to promote constant contact. Each phone number is shared and has company email function to keep those lines open at all times. There is no excuse for a message to get lost or never shared.


  1. Unconditional loyalty to both you and other staff/team members.

Dedication is immediately noticeable. This person wants to stay late, asks others if they need help, and pokes their head in your office to see if there is anything else you may need. Downtime is not an option for a loyal employee. They would rather learn the ways of the organization than watch YouTube clips or go on social media.

Their work becomes their life and vice versa. It is possible not to have a work/life balance and be happy. Those two can blend in with each other, especially for the unconditional loyalist.



Finding a great staff or team member is difficult. People come and go. The grass always appears greener on the other side. The second someone learns your ways and starts to get the hang of it, he or she leaves to another team or organization. Retraining someone else begins.

By taking these five characteristics of a potential new hire, you will find a great fit. Someone who you can build up with the established techniques of your organization while he or she brings a watchful eye for talent and enthusiasm your project needs.

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