Is the Value of the PMP Credential Being Diluted?

Lately, LinkedIn and the blogosphere are awash with anecdotes about inexperienced or just plain lousy project managers with the PMP credential.  Patrick Richard, of The Hard-Nosed Project Manager, posted several specific examples  just the other day.  “We are not talking here of a lack of familiarity with specific tools but rather with basic project management concepts.”

As a long-time PMP credential holder, I don’t want to see marginally skilled or largely inexperienced project managers with the PMP.  Obviously, if PMI is credentialing people who don’t have the necessary experience to sit for the exam, then they should consider requiring independent verification, or at least increase their application audit sample rate.  Those looking to “break in to project management” should be encouraged to pursue the CAPM.  Perhaps PMI should improve their pitch on who should apply for which credential, possibly adjust pricing to make CAPM more attractive, and work to improve industry acceptance of CAPM as an entry-level certification.

As a hiring manager, I value the PMP credential as a filter.  Over the years, I’ve seen quite a few self-described “expert project managers” who weren’t.   Same thing with bad programmers, bad drivers, bad cooks, and bad parents.  Professional society credentials are at least an objective indicator (if not a guarantee) of some level of mastery.  However, managers shouldn’t make hiring decisions based entirely on a resume.  They should do extensive reference checks, along with multiple in-person interviews, and possibly proficiency tests or situational assessments for those claiming specific skills. And those managers who still make a bad hire, despite the filters and rigorous selection process, need to figure it out quickly and take appropriate action, because that’s what good managers do.

Those of us who are in leadership positions have to take some responsibility for development of those who will eventually replace us.  Used wisely, the PMI standards and credentials are useful tools for professional development.  But they aren’t the whole picture, and we shouldn’t curse a yardstick for being a poor micrometer.

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About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.

9 thoughts on “Is the Value of the PMP Credential Being Diluted?

  1. Dave,
    I do agree with your post with a few comments:

    • Using the PMP designation as a filter during hiring can be a double edged sword; you may allow in people that are very good during interviews, but not otherwise, while filtering out the very capable but not PMP certified.
    • Most head hunters do not look at the whole resumes, just the buzz words and anyway most people that do the hiring know nothing about project management as evidenced by the job descriptions they create.
    • PMI should indeed increase its audit sample.

    The PMP designation should identify a person with project management experience, a commitment to excellence, and a commitment to continuous skills improvement. If it truly was we would not see job descriptions for entry level positions that require the PMP and pay less than Wal-Mart or McDonalds as no PMP would answer them anyway.

    Thanks for posting on my blog and for the back link!


  2. Recruiters are not generally experts on most of the jobs they recruit for; recruiting is a sales (or purchasing, if you’re a corporate recruiter) activity. Consequently, we need some way for them to filter out the resumes that probably won’t pan out. Back when unemployment was around 5%, it was less of an issue. But with the current economy, any decent job gets a flood of resumes from people who’ve decided to apply for every opening they see.

    That said, if I get a personal recommendation from someone whose opinion I respect, I’m not going to look for credentials or education as a filter, because I have more useful information. But even then, I’m going to ask the candidate about their personal approach to professional development, especially when I’m hiring for a staff position, as opposed to a contract position. Good managers are forward-looking, aware of developments in their areas of expertise, and seek to maintain their skill sets. A candidate who gives a Sarah Palin response (“Oh, I read all of them!”) to the question isn’t going to get an offer from me.

  3. Dave, I agree with your views on this. I am seeing to many “test takers” who have no business beign a project manager.
    Although here, two recent peers who received their PMP were audited. Not a bad ratio, 2 out of 10.

  4. I agree, two out of ten is just about right. But the hiring managers need to play a role, as well. When more of these “test takers” get turned away or released prior to the end of their probationary period, word will get around that PMP isn’t a point of entry.

    I hope the new job is going well?

  5. If a person has been certified by the PMI but has never been on an IT project team, would you even consider hiring that person to manage an IT project. Motivate


  6. Freddy, if a person has been certified by PMI but never been on an IT project team, I would have no reason to consider him for an IT project management position. Similarly, if someone has decades of IT project management experience and a PMP credential, I would have no reason to consider him for a high-rise construction project management gig.

    Experience matters, but relevant experience matters far more.

  7. When I was awarded my PMP credential, I didn’t see it as a huge advantage. It is a methodology and each company uses bits of it differently. When I moved to Europe and began managing IT projects at banks here, I went through the same feelings about the Prince2 methodology. It’s something you have to do to show you can learn, not something that proves you are competent.

    I think the value of the PMP or Prince2 Practitioner certifications are not in that they prove what you can do.

    No exam can certify your level of determination and conscientiousness.

  8. I don’t disagree. Prince2 is a method, and it provides a common framework for people who use it to plan for and govern projects. The PMBOK is not really a method or even a framework; just a collection of processes that may or may not have value on any given project. Being well-versed in either one won’t make you an effective project manager, any more than knowing a lot about anatomy will make you an effective doctor. But just as those who want to be doctors should study anatomy, so should those who want to be effective project managers should study the craft. Prince2 and PMP each provide very effective frameworks for that sort of study, and I would argue that, as credentials, they demonstrate that you’ve acquired a significant understanding of the craft. But neither is a substitute for practical experience, just as practical experience isn’t a substitute for continued learning; thus, PMI requires continued study in order to maintain their credentials.

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