Project Management Skills List (15 PM Resume Competencies)
Maybe you’re new, and trying to understand what project management skills are required going into the profession. Or maybe you’ve been in the field for many years and finally decided it’s time to move up the career ladder.
Either way, you’ve arrived at the right place!
In this post, we’ll discuss the top core skills every project manager must possess to thrive in their role. Read on and learn the top soft skills and hard skills that are a must in today’s competitive industry.
What are project management skills? Our definition
If you want a quick project management skills definition, it’s this: Project management skills are the corpus of knowledge and abilities that a person needs to effectively manage projects.
In short, project management skills are an essential element in every project manager’s toolkit. Effective project managers need to not only be good at things like working in project management software and understanding the key project management methodologies. They must also possess excellent communication, collaboration, and time management skills.
Combining these two types of skills—both hard and soft—will make you a successful project manager.
Why develop your project management skills resume?
Project management is a fast-growing field that offers opportunities in almost every industry. Whether you’re looking to begin your career as a project manager or just want to make sure your resume stands out, developing a project manager skills resume will give you an edge when applying for new jobs or advancing your career.
Indeed, if we think about project management tips in general, one of the key things to look for is who has what hard and soft skills. In order to get a project management workflow humming along, acquired PM skills are a must.
What are the core skills of a project manager?
Skills like knowing how to set up the right workflows in Asana and understanding the agile principles are important aspects of project management. However, some of the core project management skills include making your project team feel valued, motivated, and trusted to do the job.
These are called soft skills, and they are project manager essentials.
Project managers must be able to get the best out of people, create harmonious relationships between team members, and design a positive working environment.
But there are other skills needed to be a project manager, of course. In addition to soft skills, some of the technical skills required to excel include budgeting, risk management, and planning and forecasting skills.
Top project management skills list
In the following section, we’ll dive deeper into the top skills for project managers and discuss what each skill entails. We’ll pay equal attention to soft and technical skills that great project managers must possess to manage a thriving team and projects that reach the finish line on time and under budget.
Here’s the best project manager skills list that covers the core competencies:
Project management soft skills
Working on projects requires much more than technical know-how; soft skills are also required to achieve project success. Soft skills for project managers might often be overlooked, but they can make or break your career. These are some of the most important project manager soft skills you need to stand out from other project managers.
A project manager must be a good communicator as all projects require collaboration with a diverse set of stakeholders. This means listening carefully, asking relevant questions, summarizing points, and responding appropriately to group dynamics. It also means knowing when and how to use communication technologies.
Some situations are best handled in-person (for which you need interpersonal skills), while others are better suited to email, video calls, or collaboration platforms like Slack and Asana. Knowing which method to use and when can ensure messages are received clearly and reduce the risk of miscommunication.
Good project managers know how to collaborate effectively, not just with other project managers but with other team members and stakeholders. When collaborating, project managers need to be able to build consensus, facilitate decision-making, inspire creativity, and have good conflict resolution skills.
This means identifying the root causes of conflict and negotiating solutions that satisfy all parties. It also means breaking down complex challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can help to minimize feelings of being overwhelmed, increase motivation, and enable creative problem-solving. And, of course, team building always leads to better teamwork.
Time management skills
Time management isn’t about having magical powers; it’s about understanding how your team members work within different environments—and how to maximize productivity within those settings.
The first step to effective time management is knowing the various stakeholders’ time frames and how this impacts project schedules. It also means identifying tasks that are taking longer than expected.
This can help you re-assign or reschedule tasks to reflect realistic timelines more accurately. Identifying and removing time-wasting activities from your team members’ schedules is also essential. This can help to reduce project risks, improve morale, and minimize burnout.
Every project manager will encounter challenges, roadblocks, and unforeseen circumstances. The best project managers know how to identify the root causes behind these problems and develop creative solutions.
For example, suppose a project is behind schedule. There could be many reasons for this: team members don’t have the necessary skills, they are working too long hours, the project is too complicated, etc.
Once the root cause has been identified, the next step is to develop a solution. This could include hiring new team members, rescheduling tasks, reorganizing the project, or doing something else entirely.
The project manager’s job is to be a leader. They must be able to boost confidence in team members, inspire creativity, and be a positive force in the organization.
A good project manager can see things from other people’s perspectives, understand diverse needs and translate those into actionable plans. The best project managers are also good listeners who can tune into the emotions and motivations underlying other people’s requests. There’s no way around it—team management is one of the essential project management skills.
The best project managers know how to adapt to changing circumstances, including project scope changes, team member fluctuations, resource availability issues, and shifting stakeholder needs. A good project manager can quickly assess the situation and determine the best path forward.
Good project managers know how to make timely and balanced decisions. They can look at all sides of an issue and weigh the benefits and drawbacks with a clean head. They also know when to seek input from team members, experts, or stakeholders to get additional perspectives before making a decision.
Critical thinking skills
A good project manager can identify potential issues, opportunities, and risks. They can also break down these issues and opportunities into smaller components to be more easily addressed. They can then determine the best path forward for each item based on available resources and constraints.
Conflict resolution skills
Conflict is part of life, and project managers will inevitably encounter some type of conflict as they manage their team and stakeholders.
To deal with conflict and do effective mitigation, managers need to apply conflict resolution techniques such as active listening, appointing a mediator, active collaboration, constructive criticism, pragmatic decision making, and so on. Such negotiation skills are ultimately key to completing projects.
As a project manager, you’ll have a to-do list that’s miles long—and you’ll need to prioritize your team’s work to meet deadlines and deliverables. But how do you know what tasks need to be done now? Which ones can wait? And which ones should be tossed out altogether? To prioritize your work effectively, you’ll need to take a closer look at each task and determine its value, risk level, and dependencies.
Project management hard skills
We’ve already established that soft skills are more subjective and nuanced and can’t be measured directly. Technical skills, on the other hand, are tangible and measurable. A project manager might possess a good deal of soft skills, but in order to succeed in this career field and remain competitive, they must also possess hard skills.
Let’s take a look at the most important hard skills for project managers:
Risk management skills
Every project faces risk, and the project manager's job is to mitigate that risk and keep the project on track. This means knowing which risks are likely to impact your project and how to prepare for them.
A good project manager keeps an eye on their team's workload and adjusts as needed. Risk management also involves being aware of external factors that could impact your projects, such as regulatory changes, economic conditions, or political events.
All projects have a budget. To ensure that your project stays on track, you'll need to track your budget closely. PMs are responsible for communicating budgets to stakeholders and ensuring the team stays within budget throughout the project's life.
This doesn't mean that you need to be an expert in accounting, but it involves understanding the financial impact of each decision you make. Whether you're negotiating a contract with a vendor or deciding which software to use, you need to understand how it will impact your budget.
Planning and forecasting
Project managers' planning and forecasting skills are key to effective project execution. PMs are responsible for scheduling tasks, working with stakeholders to identify resource needs, and forecasting project costs and timelines. Good PMs use their planning and forecasting skills to keep their projects on schedule and within budget while also considering risk factors that could derail those plans.
This means forecasting resource needs based on data, such as the number of hours required to complete certain tasks, while also considering subjective factors, such as how many meetings a team member needs to attend each week. Overall, it would help if you had a good grasp of the critical path, resource capacity, and other project variables.
Project management software skills
Modern teams manage their work using task management software like Jira, Asana, or Wrike, instead of spreadsheets. Project management tools allow teams to collaborate remotely and create shared projects that can be accessed from anywhere.
By managing your work in a software, you're making it easier for stakeholders to track and review project progress. Successful project managers should be well-versed in project management software and know how to choose the best solution for their project and team.
They should know the difference between Kanban boards and Gantt charts and determine which way of working is best for the team. Project managers are also tasked with onboarding their team members to the software and setting up the proper workflows.
Project management methodologies skills
Similar to how project managers are responsible for identifying which project management software is suitable for their team, they're also required to determine which project management methodology would be the best fit for their specific project and team.
There are different types of methodologies to choose from, including Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Scrumban, Lean methodology, and more. Once they choose a methodology, they must become familiar with its principles and best practices for overseeing and managing projects.
How to improve project management skills in yourself or in a team
There are always opportunities for growth. Even the most experienced professionals can benefit from a regular challenge to keep their skills sharp.
But what’s the best path to learn how to develop project management skills?
Luckily, there are many different ways to learn project management skills that you haven’t had the chance to learn before.
If you’re interested in improving your project management skills, here are some steps you can take:
1. Utilize a project management skills matrix
A skills matrix is a visual representation of the skills required for a job and their levels of importance. It's used as a hiring and people management tool to ensure people have the right skills to succeed or advance in a role.
The skills matrix can give team members insight into their own competencies and skills they are missing. This can be a fantastic starting point for learning and development opportunities. For project managers, a project manager skills matrix serves the same purpose.
Project managers can identify which skills they have and which skills they are missing from their skill set so they can improve accordingly.
2. Network with other project management professionals
The best way to advance your project management skills is to network with other professionals. Project management is a skill that is constantly evolving. New technologies, processes, and methodologies are always coming out, and it’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day work and not stay up-to-date with these changes.
Networking is a great way to make new connections and find mentors who can help guide you. If you are just getting started with networking, focus on building relationships with other professionals in your industry. You can easily find networking events in your area through social media platforms.
3. Read resources on project management skills
Reading materials related to project management is another strategy for improving your skills. Luckily, there are tons of resources available on project management, from articles and guides to industry reports and webinars.
For instance, the Project Management Institute offers a variety of resources on its website that can help you stay current with the industry trends. Here, you’ll find everything from conference papers and case studies to research papers and articles.
4. Review previous projects
If you want to upgrade your project management skills, reviewing some of your previous projects might be helpful. Reviewing past projects allows you to reflect on your work and determine what you did well and what you could have done better. You'll be able to identify areas for improvement and set goals for your future projects.
5. Use project templates
Project plan templates are standard documents pre-populated with sections and checklists to help you get started with a project. They're a time-saving tool that enables you to start a project immediately instead of writing a project plan from scratch.
Instead of asking yourself, "where do I begin," you and your team can hit the ground running. The good news is that hundreds of templates are available online in tools such as Google Sheets, Excel, and Microsoft Word.
You simply need to find your preferred template and then customize it to suit your project. If you’re using a software, you’ll be happy to hear that the best CRM and project management software come with a generous library of pre-made project templates you can use for your workflows.
6. Ask for feedback
Another tactic for improving your project management skills is asking for feedback. Feedback from other people can help you identify areas for improvement and set realistic goals for your skill development. If you are just getting started with project management, it can be helpful to ask for feedback from more experienced professionals who can offer guidance and feedback as you advance your skills. You can also ask for feedback from your team members. These are the people who work with you on a daily basis and know your strengths and weaknesses. Turn to a few people you trust and ask them what they really think about your performance.
7. Complete training courses
Finally, completing a training course can quickly improve your project management skills. There are plenty of project management training courses available online that can help you advance your skills.
These courses are usually broken down into modules, and you can easily complete them in your spare time. Plus, many project management training courses are free of charge, so you won’t have to break the bank.
If you want to go full bore, you might consider getting Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). However, the best project management certification is probably subjective, according to focus areas, and there are other certifications to consider.
Key takeaways on project manager skills and competencies
While there are many different ways to become a project manager, you'll need a few project management competencies to succeed as a project manager. These skills range from technical ones like project management software skills, budgeting, and planning techniques, to soft skills like communication, collaboration, adaptability, and leadership.
The skills you need are different for every project manager, but it’s important to take the time to identify the skills that are most important to you. Once you know what skills you need to improve, you can start working towards improving yourself and your career as a project manager.
Is project management hard?
Project management is one of the most demanding roles that requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and strategy. As a project manager, you need to use excellent communication skills and analytical thinking to manage different projects simultaneously. You must know project management software and methodologies like Agile and Scrum.
Is project management a soft skill?
Project management is neither a soft skill or a hard skill, rather it is a combination of both. Both soft skills like effective communication and leadership and hard skills like budgeting and risk management are equally important to be successful in a project management role.
What are 3 critical skills of a project manager?
The three critical skills of a project manager are planning, leadership, and communication skills. Good PMs use their planning skills to keep projects on schedule and within budget. Project managers must be leaders who will boost confidence, inspire, and motivate. Communicating effectively with diverse stakeholders is also key.