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The Top 3 Mistakes Seen in Project Managers CVs and How to Avoid Them

If you are applying for jobs and aren’t getting callbacks or you are about to start job hunting and need a helping hand, taking note of these 3 common mistakes to avoid in your CV will put you in good stead.

1. Your career history section in your CV is lacking detail

One of my pet peeves as a CV writer is when a Project Manager client’s CV doesn’t contain enough detail for their responsibilities. The purpose of your CV is to paint a story about your experience, skills and how you add value to teams and organizations. If your CV lacks detail, you aren’t giving recruiters and employers the chance to understand the full extent of your capabilities.

For each of your Project Manager positions you should give the following information:

  • A brief overview of the project (i.e., what it entailed, number of individuals involved and the project budget)
  • An overview of your position, i.e., what was the function of your role, who did you report to, how many people did you manage and how many stakeholders were there

After giving an overview of the project and your role, you need to explain your experience. Remember recruiters and employers already know what Project Managers do, after all, they are hiring for the role, so it doesn’t make sense to simply state the duties for each of your jobs. 

Instead, you should pull out the most important parts of your experience so the reader has a good idea of what you have done and ensure that a reader can understand what each of your duties involved doing. For example instead of stating:

‘Managed a team of six project team members’ …

You could say ‘Led and managed six project team members; set clear deliverables, oversaw work performance and offered guidance via weekly 1-2-1’s’.

You can instantly see that the latter gives recruiters and employers a lot more detail on what you have done. This level of detail is what you should have throughout your CV.

2. Your CV is not optimized for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

What are Applicant Tracking systems I hear you ask? Well, Applicant Tracking Systems known as ATS are used by recruiters and employers to source candidates via online databases. Put simply if your CV doesn’t contain the keywords relevant to the jobs you are interested in, employers and recruiters won’t see your CV when they search for candidates.

Some of the relevant keywords for a Project Manager would be:

  • Project Management
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Vendor Management
  • Risk Identification and Mitigation

One of the best ways to incorporate some of the relevant keywords is to have a key skills section in your CV. However, it isn’t just a case of listing the skills you have; you must back up how you have each skill by giving examples.

Your key skills section should:

  • contain 5/6 skills which are required and desired by employers
  • have 3-4 lines next to each skill explaining how you possess it and giving examples if possible

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It is essential that the sentences in your key skills section are short and punchy and that you use engaging language, to captivate and retain recruiters and employers attention. Be very selective in what examples you give – you want to make sure the supporting evidence mentioned conveys how you add value to teams and organizations.

3. Your CV is not achievement orientated

When I first read my clients’ CVs, I instantly see that they are task-orientated rather than achievement orientated. Employers and recruiters like to see achievements in CVs because they show that you go beyond your job description and contribute to the bigger picture.

As a Project Manager, there are so many achievements which may be relevant to the roles you have held. Examples of good achievements to mention include:

  • Significantly reducing costs incurred in a project
  • Implementing strategic changes resulting in an increase in productivity or efficiencies achieved
  • Effectively working with challenging stakeholders or team members or successfully navigating a difficult work environment
  • Managing issues occurring during the project such as lack of resources or repeated scope changes
  • Delivering challenging projects to schedule and within budget

Remember that as well as mentioning the achievement you should explain how you achieved it. If you faced any particular challenges in the course of doing so, mention this as employers and recruiters want to see that you can overcome obstacles.

By taking the above suggestions into account, your CV will effectively explain your experience and skills, contain the relevant keywords, so you are seen by employers and recruiters and convey your value via your achievements. These three factors will help position you apart from the competition and increase your chance of getting callbacks and interviews.

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