After all, even the most experienced project managers can find themselves being overlooked for roles they are ideal for if they fail to adequately highlight the skills they have.
The quality of your CV can make or break your job-seeking prospects, so it is important that you do not assume your experience and qualifications will be enough on their own. In this article, we take a closer look at some of the best ways to draw attention to your skills and make sure you get that project management role you are looking for.
Consider Your Audience
When asked to consider the audience for a project management CV, most people will assume the answer is simple: the hiring manager, who is looking for a new project manager. However, in reality, things are not always this simple and there are actually often multiple audiences to consider before you reach the hiring manager.
As Lindsay Scott astutely points out in a blog post written for the Strategy Execution blog, PMO Perspectives, your CV should actually be written with three key audiences in mind. The first is a machine, the second is the person in charge of shortlisting, and the third is the hiring manager who will eventually make the decision.
The problem with focusing solely on the hiring manager is that your CV may never reach them. For this reason, you need to give consideration to what a machine will be looking for in order to pre-qualify CVs, and what a shortlisting professional might look for, given they may not actually have a knowledge of project management.
Machines are likely to want to see common project management training phrases, keywords and qualifications, so make sure these are listed clearly. For instance, you might need to highlight any online PM courses you have completed and if you have PMP or PRINCE2 certification, this should be clearly mentioned too.
The person in charge of shortlisting is more likely to be looking into your personal details and general competency. Make sure any gaps in your employment history are explained and avoid spelling and grammatical errors. Then you can think about impressing the hiring manager with specific skills and past projects.
Tailor Your CV For the Role
Next, it is crucial that you are taking the time to tailor your CV, so that it shows the specific skills and attributes that the role you are applying for requires. To do this effectively, you need to read through the job advertisement, the person specification and any other relevant material and make a list of the skills they request.
Once you know what they are looking for, you can create a CV that showcases the relevant skills and helps you to stand out as the ideal candidate. For instance, if the recruiter is looking for Agile project management skills, you should be listing any Agile project management training you have completed, and giving examples of past Agile projects.
"If they're asking for something concrete, have that shown clearly in your resume," says Jennifer Bridges, in an article for ProjectManager.com. "Make it clear that what the employer needs for the position is also evident in your resume. [Use] the language of the recruiter... use the industry-specific keywords that they're seeking."
For example, if the role is for a project manager, you should describe yourself as a project manager. If they speak about a project charter instead of a project statement, you should too. In terms of matching your responsibilities to those requested, this blog post for Strategy Execution recommends making sure you can clearly demonstrate at least the top five within your CV. Be honest though, as any lies are likely to be found out.
Be As Specific As Possible
Finally, regardless of whether you are trying to emphasise soft skills or job-specific skills, you should avoid being too general. There are only so many times a recruiter can read phrases like "excellent communication skills" and "great attention to detail" without rolling their eyes, so stand out by being as factual as you can with what you say.
When it comes to soft skills, for example, it can be best to take a "show, don't tell" approach. If you want to highlight your communication skills, make sure your CV reads well. If you want to say you are committed to continuing your own personal development, make sure your CV shows evidence of this through any online PM courses you have completed.
In terms of the more specific project management skills you possess, try to think of the ones that are going to be most relevant - planning skills, risk management skills, resource management skills, etc. - and demonstrate that you have them. This can be achieved by talking about specific previous projects you have managed.
In an article offering CV tips, Monster.co.uk also recommends highlighting specific professional awards or achievements. Recruiters would rather see evidence that something is true than read biased assertions that it is.
With your job history, it can be beneficial to include some basic contextual information about what the role was, what it entailed, and what successes you enjoyed. Of course, the balancing act with this is to avoid going into too much detail. Try to be clear and concise, as you ideally want your CV to fit onto two pages.
The Last Word
No matter how qualified you are, you can miss out on a project management role if you fail to take the appropriate steps to manage your CV. You must make sure it highlights the skills you possess by writing with all relevant audiences in mind, by tailoring your CV to the role you are applying for, and by being as specific and factual as you can.