Selecting an Expert for your Project

A Project Manager will often need to select an “expert” for their team. As a Project Manager, how do you select, screen, and evaluate the best expert for your project? Because experts are critical to the success of your effort, you must have the tools to find the best expert for your team. Let’s review how you can find the best candidate for the selection of that Subject Matter Expert. Here are some essential strategies, tools, and techniques to select, screen, and evaluate an expert.

Experts – Challenge and Background

Go to a popular job search and networking site; search for people with “expert” in their profile. How many results did you get? A recent search returned about 690,000 people.  Wow! Which is the one expert for your project? This is a challenge, indeed! So, we need to establish a selection process with screening and evaluation criteria in order to narrow down that number. Then, we can find the right expert for our project without burdensome effort.

First, we need some background, and we also need to find a shared definition of “expert”. The United States Code of Federal Regulations uses these key phrases in their definition of an expert:

  • Specially qualified by education and experience
  • Performs difficult and challenging tasks
  • Above the range of competency in a particular field

Do these terms match what you ‘must have’ for your expert? We can certainly add more; we are looking for screening criteria to start the process of narrowing down candidates.

Establish Screening Criteria to Select an Expert

That definition of “expert” provided us the basics of ‘screening criteria’. Screening criteria are the ‘must have’ areas. These are non-negotiables; the knowledge, skills, or abilities that must be proven and displayed. These areas will be integral to the success of the project. As listed previously, our expert must have education and experience. They must have proven results in performing difficult tasks. Additionally, they must show competency above their peers in a field. Now, let’s add more screening criteria based upon your project and show some additional ‘must have’ statements:

  • Cost- what is the budget? “Salary must be in the range of $X – $Z per hour”
  • Schedule- is the expert available? “Availability must be for 2 wks of testing; 2 wks of integration”
Team judging Screening Criteria

As a Project Manager, you can add more screening criteria or raise the bar for the existing education, experience, performance, and competency in the ‘must have’ areas. Tailoring your project and the ‘way of work’ includes how you select an expert; it is your best judgment! You will determine what you ‘must have’ versus what you ‘should have’ for an expert on your project. Accordingly, the ‘should have’ areas will become our evaluation criteria.

Establish Evaluation Criteria to Select an Expert

Now we are at “evaluation criteria”. These are the ‘should have’ areas. So, what knowledge, skills, or abilities are needed from your expert for your project? Perhaps your project needs these aspects from an expert:

  • Innovative- ‘should have’ experience in bringing novel concepts to production
  • Highly Adaptable- ‘should have’ skills to integrate quickly into diverse teams or changing schedules
  • Effective Communicator- ‘should have’ ability to provide expert advice in value-driven manner

You have the leeway to tailor the evaluation criteria. One technique is to determine the factors that are most important and weight the evaluation criteria accordingly. Perhaps you value Innovation at a 3X rate; you value Adaptability at a 2X rate; and you value Communication as X. Lay out your weighting scale before reviewing candidates and selecting an expert. We certainly don’t want to change our scale to fit the preferred candidate. It is important that we consider all candidates equally. Therefore, let’s try to remain objective.

Example: let’s select an Expert!

In our example, the Project Manager says to the Team: “I think we need to bring in an expert trainer to assist our team so we are successful for Iteration 24.09. How about we brainstorm some screening criteria and evaluation criteria so we can select that expert trainer? What are ‘must have’ and ‘should have’ areas so we can evaluate who would be the best expert?”

The Team comes up with:

  • Must be a nationally/internationally certified trainer in skill required
  • Must have specialized education and continued accreditation in skill
  • Must have 15+ years of overall training experience in skill area
  • Should be available in remote or hybrid option; flexible scheduling for world-wide team (x weighted)
  • Should have excellent reviews; past performance comments are available for view (2x weighted)
  • Should be available after training is complete: maintain virtual support (3x weighted)

This is a great start! We are establishing transparent criteria important to our team and project.

Team discussing criteria

Team Selecting an Expert!


Finally, you don’t have to be an expert to select an expert. You know your team and your project. Tailoring screening criteria and evaluation criteria allows us to refine what we really need from the expert and how they are expected to add value to the team and project. Use these strategies, tools, and techniques to select the perfect expert, specifically for your team!

Project Management Institute, Talent Gap: Ten-Year Employment Trends, Costs, and Global Implications.

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This article was written by Frank Tank. Frank serves as the Military & Veteran Adviser to Peak Business Management. He is a certified PMP and a 30-year US Army Veteran, serving as an enlisted soldier and as an officer in the intelligence field. Frank guides military members and veterans who are pursuing PMI certifications