For even the most qualified project management professionals, a good CV can be the difference between securing an interview for a job and falling at the first hurdle of the recruitment process. Unfortunately, while many project managers have excellent credentials, they also make fundamental mistakes in their CV writing.
This is understandable, as it can be difficult to strike the right balance between making a CV easily readable, and actually highlighting the skills and PM training courses that need to be showcased. This article takes a closer look at some of the ways you can get the balance right, and maximize your chances of securing an interview.
Prioritize Relevant PM Skills
When crafting your CV and attempting to highlight your project management skills to a recruiter, you need to give some careful consideration to the skills that are most relevant to the role you are applying for. After all, your CV only has limited space, and different recruiters are looking for different things.
One of the most effective approaches here is to use the person specification and job advertisement as a guide for what you highlight in your CV. For instance, if the person specification mentions Agile project management high up, you include any Agile training courses and experience early in your CV.
Generally speaking, some of the main skills that you need to highlight for a project management role include risk management skills, planning skills (Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, etc.) and communication skills.
You should also adopt the language that the recruiting company uses. For example, if they refer to a ‘responsibility assignment matrix’, you should use this too, as opposed to using a similar phrase like ‘linear responsibility chart’. Look at whether they use terms like ‘benefits realization management’ or ‘project benefits management’. If they are speaking about ‘business transformation’, run with it, rather than speaking about ‘business change’.
Consider the Different Audiences
Any time you write anything, regardless of whether it is a CV or an email, you need to consider who the audience is. When writing a CV for a project management role, you may think your audience is a project management expert and this is partially true. However, you need to understand that this person is not your sole audience.
In actual fact, it is fairly typical for recruiters to use machines to narrow down applicants. The typical process here is to add all CVs to a database and then search for specific features. As an example, a recruiter may use this process to discard applicants who do not list fundamental DevOps training on their CV or to put forward those applicants who list specific PM training courses, or specific qualifications.
Additionally, before your CV reaches a recruiter with actual knowledge of project management, it may also need to pass through another person, who screens CVs and puts through the best ones. This person may have close to zero understanding of technical jargon, but they may look out for gaps in your employment history, the overall standard of your written communication, and the extent of your project management experience.
The best project management CVs are written with both of these audiences in mind, in addition to the eventual recruiter. This can be a tricky balancing act, but it is an important one to try and get right, as failing to do so may result in your CV being discarded early in the process, even if you would have been an ideal match.
Highlight Certification and Continuous Learning
Next, one of the best ways to make a CV stand out is through the inclusion of formal qualifications or certification. Many active project managers have stumbled into their current role, and so might not have the same level of formal education you have. Possessing recognized certificates can, therefore, be a major game changer, but you need to make sure the recruiter can easily see that you possess such certification.
In particular, if you have globally recognized certification, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification offered by the Project Management Institute, or one of the various PRINCE2 certifications, you should make sure this is prominent on your CV. It does, after all, indicate in-depth knowledge of the role.
Other certificates, such as the Associate’s Certificate from Strategy Execution, are also well worth highlighting, as they show an active effort to learn the theory behind the role. Meanwhile, you can also highlight any courses you are in the process or taking, or any other continuous learning efforts, as it all helps to build up a clear picture that you are a dedicated candidate, who is looking to improve and progress.
One thing you should be aware of is the fact that PMP certification needs to be actively maintained. Each certification cycle lasts for three years, during which time you will need to amass Professional Development Units (PDUs) to qualify for renewal. PDUs can be earned by attending PMI seminars, completing recognized courses, and by carrying out project management work. You cannot list PMP certification if your certification has expired.
Explain HOW You Have Managed Projects
Finally, most of those with project management experience are adept at covering the various projects they have managed in their CVs, explaining the nature of the projects, who they were for and what the outcome was. However, far fewer are adept at actually explaining how they went about managing the project and ensuring it was a success.
This is a fundamental CV mistake because simply explaining what a project provided you with relatively little scope to highlight the specific skills that were used. While overviews and outcome descriptions are useful for establishing how successful you are, lengthy technical descriptions can be largely irrelevant to recruiters.
What they are really interested in is the way you approach projects, the way you respond to challenges, and the way you work with others to deliver on objectives. It is only in explaining how you actually managed the project that a recruiter can ascertain whether your approach is a good fit for them and what they want to achieve.
Similarly, while you may be tempted to just state that you have undergone Agile training courses, or that you have completed fundamental DevOps training, it can be more effective to demonstrate how you have put those skills to use. For instance, you might briefly highlight how your use of the Agile approach benefited a certain project.
An ideal CV will highlight a range of different projects, but also a range of skills and approaches.