A course instructor teaches agile project management.

What makes a good project manager? It’s not just about having the right training or adhering to the typical job duties (although those are important too).

Being an excellent project manager requires the ability to combine both hard and soft skills to manage tasks, timelines, and technical expertise, as well as the ability to draw out the best in people, cultivating harmonious relationships across departments, and maintaining smooth operations throughout the project lifecycle.

Despite the seemingly light-hearted term “soft skills,” their impact on team performance is robust, with 97% of surveyed SHRM employers agreeing that soft skills were equally as important as hard skills. 

Below, we outline the seven most essential (hard and soft) project management skills that recruiters love.

6 Skills A Project Manager Should Have

1. Understanding Agile vs. Scrum

Agile project management is an iterative and flexible approach to project management that prioritizes collaboration, customer feedback, and small, rapid releases. It focuses on adapting to change and delivering value to customers consistently.

Understanding the nuances of Agile vs. Scrum is important for project managers, as each has its strengths and is suited for different project scenarios.

Agile: Focus on Flexibility 

Agile project management is a broader approach that emphasizes flexibility and collaboration. It allows for iterative development and enables teams to respond to changes quickly.

  • Agile’s strength lies in its flexibility. It accommodates changes in project requirements even late in the development process, ensuring the final product aligns with evolving business needs.
  • Agile employs an iterative approach, allowing for continuous improvement throughout the project. This iterative nature is beneficial for projects where early feedback is crucial.
Scrum: Structural Framework

Scrum is a specific framework within the Agile methodology. It structures the development process into fixed-length iterations called sprints, offering a more prescriptive approach compared to the broader Agile philosophy.

  • Scrum provides a more structured framework with defined roles, ceremonies, and artifacts. It’s particularly beneficial for projects with well-defined goals and frequent deliverables.
  • Scrum emphasizes specific roles, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team. This delineation helps clarify responsibilities and streamlines decision-making.

2. Adaptability: Embracing Change

In the ever-changing corporate landscape, project management job responsibilities include adaptability as a non-negotiable skill. HR managers are looking for project managers who can deal with uncertainties, pivot when necessary, and ensure project success despite changing circumstances.

3. Effective Communication

Clear and concise communication is a cornerstone of successful project management. Project managers need to make project management job responsibilities clear to various stakeholders. HR managers value those who can foster effective communication within teams and across organizational levels.

4. Time Management: Delivering on Schedule

Meeting deadlines is a fundamental aspect of project management. Recruiters seek project managers who excel in time management, ensuring that projects are delivered within specified timelines. This skill is essential for maintaining stakeholder trust and overall project success.

5. Risk Management

Anticipating and managing risk is a critical skill. Project manager skills include the ability to recognize potential problems, develop mitigation plans, and proactively overcome challenges. Effective risk management ensures that projects stay on track even in the face of unforeseen obstacles.

6. Leadership and Motivation: Inspiring Project Teams

In the realm of project management, being a good leader isn’t a straightforward task. What makes a great leader can differ depending on the industry, team dynamics, and individual members. Effective leadership involves a blend of skills, including clear communication of project goals, empathy towards your team, and adept handling of challenges. Recruiters value project managers who can motivate teams, resolve conflicts, and inspire collaborative efforts towards project objectives. With increasing experience, your leadership skills will naturally evolve. Remember, being a good leader isn’t about fitting a mold; it’s about finding your own approach to motivating and guiding your team, utilizing your unique project management talents.

Two women in an office with coffee cups check project manager skills

Why Project Management?

Project management is crucial because it ensures every part of a business operates more efficiently and effectively.

Given this, it’s no surprise that the demand for project managers is growing faster than for skilled workers in other fields. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 1.1 million job openings in this field each year on average.

Unlike many job titles, “project manager” accurately describes the role: managing projects from conception to completion, involving hands-on work and team leadership. Even at the entry level, project manager salaries in the US remain high:

  • Project Coordinator: $60,889
  • Assistant Project Manager: $74,413
  • Associate Project Manager: $76,510
  • Junior Project Manager: $72,699

Merit America’s Project Management Career Track

The best way to learn these project management skills is by practicing them.

Merit America’s Project Management Career Track is designed to equip individuals with the skills necessary to land entry-level project management positions through practical, real-world exercises, flexible online training, and support from career coaches, job success coaches, and technical advisors.

Participants will learn fundamental project management skills, including estimating time and budget, conducting effective meetings, managing stakeholders, applying Agile and Scrum frameworks, and developing leadership skills.

Upon completion of the program, participants will be prepared for various positions such as project assistant, project coordinator, customer success coordinator, project administrator, project analyst, operations analyst, junior consultant, project manager, technical project manager, scrum master, and program manager.