There’s always a lot of pushback when it comes to singing your own praises on your CV, how very British of us not to celebrate our success. Often you will consider simply stating “completed on time and to budget” as good enough, but in reality this statement is met with a shrug of the shoulders, as a successful PM is supposed to deliver this a minimum right!? It is all too easy to become very egotistical too which doesn’t paint you in a good picture either as no one likes a show off. So how can you really add in detail to your CV which sings your praises but doesn’t have the hiring manager wondering how they will get your head through the door at interview?
Here are some tips:
- Tell us about the complexity and size of the project, often an area overlooked by throwing in internal acronyms which mean little outside the business or generic terms which could mean anything.
- Talk through some key challenges faced on the project – don’t assume the hiring manager will know that you have had to herd chickens and completely rebuild the hen house. I have lost count of PMs who have said “well it’s all part of the job”, not for every project it isn’t and if you don’t tell us on the CV how will we know just how good you really are?
- Facts and figures are important on a CV; there is a huge difference from delivering £300k of business benefits to 100 users than £3m benefit covering 1000 employees.
- You say you are good with people, but have you demonstrated this with some good examples in the CV. Just what is it you do to create a results driven team?
- Dealing with multiple sites? Matrix management? Offshore and nearshore? There’s a great deal of work goes into working with disparate teams, cultural issues, language barriers and even time differences which can become huge blockers.
- Picking up failing pieces of work? Have you told us this or merely stated you delivered it on time and to budget? It takes real skill to parachute in and fire fight with teams who may have had several PMs trying to deliver the work prior to you.
These are just a few ideas which will assist you in thinking through your assignments, it is important when you perform a skills audit that you list your core issues and how you overcome them, you will soon have a strong piece of information which can be tailored to your CV and really blow your trumpet without coming across as a self obsessed.
Taking that step back into the UK job market can feel like a lonely place at times, applying for roles and waiting for calls. But how do you know if you are being seriously considered for the roles you really want. We’ve all applied for jobs we’re not entirely bought into; often this is done whilst we are applying for roles we really want. Therefore if we look at the volume of applications being made versus the call backs and subsequent interviews being secured we will have a good indication of whether your CV is working for you or not. Proof is in the pudding so to speak, so you should be seeing a healthy response from your efforts – if you aren’t then it is probably time to revisit your CV. Of course it could also be that you are not applying for the right roles, you must be realistic in your aspirations, matching roles to your skill set and ensuring your CV reflects your seniority.
All common issues and all easily tested through seeking feedback from your applications, recruiters can be difficult to get a hold of admittedly but you should be making the effort to speak with them about your applications; asking for feedback is a good idea. Be careful of those recruiters trying to engage you into training or paying for thorough feedback and also those who will say anything to get you off the phone. A good reputable agency will take time to speak to you about your CV with some constructive feedback. If you haven’t been considered for a role, ask why? What is missing from your CV which would have you be considered for the role. Remember recruiters see hundreds of CVs per day and some feedback isn’t asking too much. It is in a recruiter’s interest to help you, the better your CV is, the easier you are to place. Do not assume that agencies rewrite or tweak your CV for applications – this is deemed as too time consuming and writing CVs is a honed skill set which doesn’t naturally correlate for all in the recruitment profession. Make sure you gain some feedback from your peers, do you know anyone in HR who might be willing to look at it for you? All feedback is good feedback, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time – learning how others translate your CV is very important, once you have the feedback, be constructive and make changes – it could be the difference between getting interviews or endlessly applying for jobs with no response.
I have been working with a recent graduate to get his CV up to scratch for his first job in his chosen field, we have produced a good, strong CV and also been through some careers coaching to ensure he is applying for the right roles and in the right way. As he started to apply for positions he found a great deal of interest from recruiters and direct from employers, so much so that he had a number of interviews lined up and was now being prepped ready for these when he came across an awkward situation with a recruiter.
To set the scene; he had already been through a 2 stage interview with company A and was due to go for a 2nd interview with company B when he received a call from the recruiter representing company A telling him he had an offer for the position – great news! However the candidate wanted to go for his 2nd interview with company B later the following day as he had a preference for this position/company. Being new to all this, the candidate explained his situation to company A recruiter and asked for a little time to consider his application. Bearing in mind 24 hours since his offer had been made hadn’t passed this shouldn’t be an issue. However recruiter representing company A then started to pile on pressure, stating that the offer may be withdrawn if he didn’t accept now and that he had a list of other suitable candidates which he could supply to company A.
The candidate called me and explained the situation asking what he should do, he feared being left in a position where he would have no offers at all should company B not make an offer and company A may withdraw offer. I pointed out that he should be in receipt of an offer letter as a minimum from company A but ideally they should be sending over a contract as there is no real offer until you have something in writing. I also pointed out that I doubted company A were threatening to revoke the offer and that it was likely the recruiter was saying this as a bullying tactic to get him to take his role – clearly his commission was at stake.
After a lengthy discussion we agreed that any company offering and withdrawing within 24 hours might not be the company you would want to work for, but giving them the benefit of the doubt we said a positive move forward would be to ask for the offer in writing for consideration (and buying some time for the other interview to take place). When the candidate asked the recruiter for an offer letter/contract the recruiter said it is not normal practice to send out such documentation without acceptance of the role. As the candidate regaled the conversation to me it became clear that recruiter A was getting rather desperate and saying anything to get the candidate to accept the role.
This kind of practice is not on and can really damage the reputation of the company the recruiter is representing, not to mention lose a good candidate for them, the good news is that the 2nd interview at company B was a success and an offer was extended on the spot to the candidate who has accepted and starts next week.
It is important to stay in control in these situations, do not be bullied into taking a role and always ask for an offer letter/contract as you may find yourself with no firm offers in place – you are entitled to take some time to consider an offer and it isn’t unreasonable to take a couple of days, keep your cards close to your chest about other opportunities when being pressured as this can lead to additional pushing from recruiters. Gut instinct should play a good part in decision making, don’t let fear of losing an opportunity make your decisions for you. If you are commanding a good level of interest elsewhere then you won’t be on the shelf long before more offers come your way.
All too often I am approached by PPM professionals asking me why they are not getting into shortlists for roles commensurate to their salary/day rates and experience. One look through the CV will tell me all I need to know about why the applications are not being taken seriously, if the CV is well balanced with project detail and core competencies then it is usually that the CV doesn’t speak the right level of seniority and responsibility. Overlooked have been key areas such as team management (and direct line management which is less common with PPM professionals these days thanks to matrix environments), levels of management dealt with and of course complexity of projects (with the issues that these attract). Do not assume a job title will cover core areas of responsibility as titles can be very deceptive from organisation to organisation. If you are working at programme level then one would expect to see some reference to the elements of programme management required in order to carry out your role, project support professionals need to address the core areas they are covering such as interfacing the PM teams with senior management as standard and look into areas such as building project capability. Are you hands on or do you orchestrate teams? Or a bit of both, talk to us about how you deliver and deal with underperforming staff. Training and mentoring individuals and teams tends to be par for the course with most PPM professionals however not all and there are many ways to administer and gain buy-in; from your teams and also from your senior stakeholders.
There may be elements of change management you apply to your delivery and particular emphasis on risk – talk about these, all core areas sought after by employers. Don’t get caught into repetition on the CV – you may deliver similarly from role to role but there are always subtle differences, make sure you draw these out to add more value to the CV rather than stating “same responsibilities as XYZ role”. Cover as many elements of the project lifecycle as possible running through the roles so you can really start to tick the boxes of the hiring manager’s wish list. As a contractor you may have some fantastic war stories you can share – talking through how you hit the ground running and trouble shoot, and don’t forget that all important handover to BAU. Employers would much rather have a contractor come in and solve their issues and leave the team capable of continuing the good work once you leave. Always adding value, thinking about the end goal and how you can be attractive to your next employer is very important – don’t sell yourself short.