What Employers Want in a Construction Project Manager
Construction project managers are in high demand at the moment. If you’re thinking of becoming one, what skills and traits will you need?
We talked with Brian Binke, president and CEO of Detroit-area construction executive search firm The Birmingham Group, to find out what assets employers today want their project managers to have.
Communicator with social skills
The construction industry once celebrated the my-way-or-the-highway type personality, according to Binke, but today's project manager needs to be a diplomat who can work effectively with owners, subcontractors and other project players. This is due in large part to the popularity of the design-build method, which requires teamwork and collaboration.
Project managers also must be able to articulate and present project details to the owner and the rest of the team in a way that is easily understandable to all parties, Binke said. They should also have the knack of bringing out the best in the people working under them.
The best project managers can build projects in their heads and "paper-napkin" a budget with reasonable accuracy, Binke said. These skills are particularly valuable on design-build projects, in which the design and construction processes happen simultaneously or at least overlap. “It requires that conceptual thinking," he said.
Experience with drones and software applications related to building information modeling (BIM) and other design or construction management functions is important, Binke noted. Extra points if you know how to use the exact software the company uses, but if you don’t, you should be able to learn it. If you’re not up on today’s technology or able to adapt fast, you’re at a disadvantage.
Companies want a get-it-done project manager, Binke said. This is a person who will put in the hours necessary, doesn't need constant supervision and will take ownership of the project. “He might leave at 2 pm one day to see his kid's game but will stay late the next day," Binke explained.
This ideal project manager also should have enough experience so that he or she can anticipate potential project issues and devise solutions even before the problems arise.
Loyalty and stability
Construction is not like other industries, Binke said, in the sense that employers don't expect to see a candidate's work history reflect many years with one employer. But that doesn’t mean they don’t look for loyalty to a company and someone who will stick around for a few years, especially when they're needed to manage a large project that could take two years or more. "If a person can't last a year or two years at a company," Binke said, "they might not last through a long project."
Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.