Learning Not to Fear the PMP Application Audit

As an instructor at the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College, I often talk to students that intend to apply for their Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI). Many of them express concerns over the application itself and how PMI counts their relevant project management experience gained through their military duties. I’ve seen many great articles written on how to properly fill out the application but I wanted to share my own experience of going through the audit process of the PMP application so that readers know they do not need to fear this process if selected for an audit.

I attended a project management boot camp in January 2017 which went over the application process as part of their curriculum. When the instructor reached the audit portion of our class, he stated that we should not worry about the audit since it was a low percentage of people that actually become flagged for an audit. With that in mind, I submitted my application three months later to PMI for consideration. Lo and behold, I was notified that my application was flagged for an audit. I was perplexed as to what flagged me since I had several PM certified individuals review my application before submission. I also found out that our civilian instructor was flagged for an audit on his own application. Knowing that the percentage of audit flags were low, we then tried to deduce what would have flagged both of our applications.

To recap the requirements for the PMP, here is a screen shot from PMI of the PMP requirements.

PMP Requirements

Once you are notified of an audit, PMI walks you through your next steps. Here is a screen shot of their audit instructions:

PMI Audit Process.JPG

Looking at the requirements, the 35 hours of project management education was easily obtained through our PM boot camp training.  We both met this requirement through an organization aligned with PMI and eliminated this as a possibility since our training certificates were included in our application packets.  The educational requirements were easy for me to verify as my college was already recognized by PMI for aligning their degree to PMI’s standards.  My college transcript and degree were part of my application process and thus not part of our rationale on why we were flagged for audit.  What this leaves us with is the actual project management experience.  Our applications in no way mirrored each other on content for relevant project experience.  I had included several military projects from recent deployments and my civilian counterpart had projects from his tenure as an instructor.  We both had PM certified individuals from our respective PM boot camps review our applications before submission and passed their critical eye from hundreds of applications they assisted on.

So how did two individuals from the same organization that applied at different times (within a month of each other) become flagged for audit?  The best educated guess is that our supply and budget officer paid for our certification and training using our organization’s government credit card.  Although we obtained proper approval from our chain of command for using unit funds to pay for our training, the only common element of our application was that the same government credit card was used to pay for the exam fees of our PMP certification.

Being flagged for an audit is not the end of the world though!!!  In fact, this was a very painless process and facilitated by a very helpful PMI staff.  Every project you list on your application requires you to also list the project sponsor with their contact information.  When you are flagged for an audit, PMI will split your application out by the projects you listed on the application.  Your different project sponsors must then verify the project experience you listed by reviewing your claimed project and signing their agreement with your project experience.  Your project sponsor must return these in a SEALED envelope for you to return to PMI.  DO NOT open the envelope!  Consolidate the signed application portions and then send these off to PMI for their consideration.  You should also include any PM Boot Camp training certifications to satisfy the 35 hours of Project Management Education requirements and any degrees or transcripts earned to satisfy the education requirements.  PMI’s help desk staff was extremely friendly, competent and helpful on any questions that I had along the way.

Given my audit experience, here are my best tips on your application:

  1. Make sure that your project sponsors know you are pursuing your PMP certification and ask if they will agree to be listed as valid references for your project experience on your application.  Many of my project sponsors were now retired from active duty so reengaging them renewed my network and allowed them to be a part of my process.
  2. Make sure that the contact information for these project sponsors are accurate in case the PMI audit team needs to reach out to them later.  These retired Colonels and Lt. Colonels had new life goals so finding the best means to reach them if an audit happens is crucial!
  3. Notify the project sponsors if you are under audit ASAP!!  This will help them understand that you will require something from them to clear the audit process.
  4. Provide prepaid return envelopes for your project sponsors.  Let’s be honest, you NEED them so we should make their part as painless as possible.  Providing prepaid return envelopes allowed my sponsors to sign their portions of my project experience and drop the application in the mail on the same day. 
  5. Follow up with confirmation that you cleared the audit process.  This let’s your project sponsors know that their efforts helped you clear the audit process and also keeps your network aware of your progress.

From notification until clearing the audit, I was through the process in under a month and proudly finished my PMP certification August of this year.  Although an ideal situation is that you are not flagged for review, be confident to know that PMI has made the process easy to navigate and timely in their response to your packet.  So do not fear the audit if it happens to you!


PMI Audit Process: http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/audit-instructions.pdf

PMI PMP Application: https://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/project-management-pmp

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