One of the most frequent questions project management job seekers ask is, “What is the market like at the moment”. Without getting into specifics about how the market is for certain types of project management practitioners, here’s the current top ten trends in project management recruitment in the UK-based on both our recent research and the day-to-day work we do in project management recruitment.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Current sector knowledge is still one of the top things employers are looking for.
  2. Being a self-starter when it comes to personal development can increase visibility in the marketplace.
  3. Ageist regulations do little to curb its practise against young and old project management practitioners.
  4. Project practitioners are confused about whether to pursue new Agile based qualifications.
  5. The perceived value of certain project management accreditation is waning.
  6. Increased attention to branding and marketing techniques helps to stand out in the current stagnant marketplace.
  7. Increase in dropout rate at offer stage for project management.
  8. Going direct to where the projects are still being commissioned pays off for proactive project managers.
  9. Salaries and rates still remain stagnant.
  10. Misalignment in cultural fit with an organisation is one of the top reasons for post interview rejection.

1.What is it about sectors?

I think we can put this down to organisations wanting “one of their own”. They want someone who has managed projects that are similar to the ones they have, and that really means having worked in the sector before. It comes down to how risky it is to hire someone who doesn’t have that previous sector experience, and how willing an organisation is to take that risk.

Yet when we put this question to hirers in the latest Benchmark Report, what is the most important thing you look for in a Project Manager, guess what? Experience and Personality are more important than Domain/Sector. I personally think that Domain/Sector second to Experience would actually be nearer to the reality.

2. Personal development does make a difference

You can really tell the difference between practitioners who choose to keep on learning about their profession and those that don’t. We talk about it in the Project Challenge presentation (have a look). It makes sense that a practitioner who knows about different methods, processes, approaches – who takes the time to understand where their gaps are and how to fill those gaps, will be a better candidate in the marketplace.

3. You have a problem if you’re male and over 50

We’ve looked at this issue over the last ten years of the Benchmark Report and the male, over 50 does get a raw deal when it comes to the open marketplace. The same also goes for those at the younger end of the scale too. The Age Regulations that came into effect in 2006 still has little impact. Take for example the role of the “Junior” Project Manager and the need for “15 years experience”. These are still frequently seen in job advertisements for project practitioners yet were deemed to be unlawful under the Age Regulations.

We hear many anecdotes from a cross-section of the project management society and its the younger and the older that bear the brunt of discrimination.

4. Agile, should I or not?

If you’re working with software developers yes, if you’re not, why not just read up on it and put your mind at rest.

5. Accreditation as a Differentiator?

With previous experience and sector knowledge being the most sought after by organisations in their new hires; accreditations are taking a back seat when it comes to shortlisting. Experienced programme and project management practitioners are wise to the fact that accreditation are no longer the differentiator in the marketplace than they used to be. Prior experience is king.

For people who are newer to project management – knowledge is the thing they need so accrediations make sense. With knowledge being the foundation on which experience is built, accreditations will always be needed but its the experience that is the real differentiator.

6. Who you are and what you do

Since we started the business back in 2002, the UK marketplace for project management has increased quite dramatically. Everyone is doing a project, being a project manager (or at least one of the many roles that surround project management). With more people, that’s more choice in the marketplace. With more choice comes buyer indecision. Who do I choose?

Well you tend to choose the people who are very clear about who they are and what they offer the marketplace and doing that with just a badly written CV doesn’t really cut the mustard. If you’re interested in sorting out your CV you can take a look at the presentation which includes a “secret” URL to gain access to our project management CV webinars.

7. More choices?

Why is there an increase in drop out rates at offer stage? It works both ways. The buyer (that’s the organisation) can choose at any time to withdraw a role from the marketplace – this can be due to restructures, sudden headcount restrictions, a change in requirements or just getting pulled up because the correct recruitment procedures weren’t followed. The seller (that’s you) are looking at several opportunities at any one time and you’re going to go for the one that best suits you at that moment in time.

8. Knocking on the door

We’ve always said that gaining a role through a recruitment agent is actually not the most fruitful way of gaining new employment. The most popular is actually through your own network and for some project practitioners the cold-calling route is also effective – they go where the projects are being commissioned, straight to the horse’s mouth as it were. In fact when you have a strong network there is minimal cold calling involved because you know a friend of a friend…

9. Purses and Wallets

The average salaries and rates for project practitioners have stayed pretty much the same over the last few years – the Benchmark Report covers those in more detail – but we’re also concerned that this year might see no change either. 42% of contractors saw no change to their rate last year whilst 38% of employees did but only between 1 and 2%.

10. How on earth do we solve this problem?

You can have the right experience, good knowledge, have the right domain or sector knowledge but sometimes your face just doesn’t fit. Sometimes this can be because of the old age problem of interviewers recruiting like-for-like i.e., the interviewer hires in their own mould and if you’re not it, you’re not it. Other times it’s because it is incredibly difficult for an organisation to articulate exactly what kind of person is likely to fit in with the company and its culture. If they can’t articulate it – how on earth can a job seeker understand whether it’s likely to be the right organisation for them?

This article was originally published at How to Manage a Camel.