The PM job market has been up and down over the past few years but there have always been good roles available throughout, and although it has become more competitive offers have continued to be made to good project people. One of the key issues tends to be securing interviews with a application list of hundreds, it isn’t difficult to see why employers and recruiters will naturally pick out the best CVs over anything else. It’s not ideal as the best candidates may be left on the shelf because their CV isn’t telling us what it needs to. I was speaking to a seasoned project manager the other week who has exceptional experience but his CV was really letting him down – it just didn’t attract attention for the more senior roles he had the experience in. He told me he has no issue with delivering strategic pieces of work, improving corporate wide project capability however he really struggles to spend time on recording this detail in a CV. He can talk about it very coherently but putting it on paper to the in point the relevant parts over too much detail isn’t his strong point. When I pointed out that we all have skills in different fields he agreed and said that is why he decided to make contact with me. Having spent years working with clients from all industries in a recruitment capacity – I know what piques the interest of hiring managers and recruiters alike. There’s no shame in being unable to produce an effective CV, if it was that easy then there wouldn’t be so many professional CV writing services available. I have yet to come across another specialist PM CV writer with a background in delivering projects, specialist PM recruiting and over 8 years PM careers support like The CV Righter. I set up the business after being approached on countless occasions by all levels of PM professionals requesting their CV be rewritten, it makes sense that with a proven technique which really generates interviews I write your CV and you concentrate on delivering your projects – as with any resource planning within project teams there are “horses for courses” and achieving good results is what we all strive for.
Taken this all into account, you will see why it is important to make sure you invest in your career by taking advice and making sure you are seriously considered for the roles that are available, whether in abundance or scarce.
I’ve had a number of clients come to me recently asking how difficult it is to transfer into permanent roles for a number of reasons; one main concern is lack of stability with contract positions. This is why I always question those who decide to take a contractor route, in an ideal world you would command a good day rate and aim to work 6 months of the year with 6 months out of contract – however day rates aren’t always ideal and those who don’t plan carefully will need to be in contract for the full 12 months of the year. If you are looking to move into a permanent role, you should also realise that the change isn’t always ideal for everyone. The fact you have moved around a lot means you probably don’t settle too well into a permanent scenario. It is this reason that employers may become wary of considering you for a permanent job, they will question whether you are just taking the role because there are no contracts about and will you leave when the market improves.
It isn’t impossible to make the transition, however you will need to put in extra work with your CV and I would also recommend a strong cover letter detailing why the change from contract work. The CV will need more focus on where you have delivered from start to finish – not necessarily picking up part run projects and I would also focus attention on where you have improved team performance. Evidence of hitting the ground running is great for contract work but not necessarily required for FTE. However areas where you have improved overall project capability and really worked with the business will come across favourably in the CV.
Be ready for questions about your motives, you will be scrutinised at recruiter level, HR level and by hiring managers so it is important to get your story straight and believable.
On the eve of Guy Fawkes it only seems fitting to talk through some explosive ways to impress your potential employer and add in a few examples of when the anticipation has fizzled out from a short fuse or two. Getting that next role has become increasingly more challenging over the years with the double dip recession and banks collapsing have left employers strapped for cash and particularly averse to taking risks. The better candidate is deemed as the one who has an exceptional CV and can really sell themselves in interview, often leaving great PMs out in the cold because their CVs aren’t up to scratch. Depending on the industry you are applying to, there are less traditional ways of capturing the attention of hiring managers such as a more creative CV and including hobbies/interests which are deemed a little different. I have had recruitment clients who have specifically asked for candidates who take time out to go travelling and have an “different” portfolio of interests, I met with recruitment clients who like their candidates to be a little more creative with how they dress – not the usual suits for them thank you sir! However I have known candidates to dress in quirky outfits only to be rejected at interview for being a little “too far out there”, you must pick your industry carefully so your rocket doesn’t backfire and set the interviewer alight in the wrong ways.
Of course for the drier industries the way to really impress is to do your research to understand what it is they really look for with potential new employees, you can look on their website but also check out their employees on LinkedIn to look at backgrounds and particular skill sets. Understanding your target audience and drawing out key experiences and skill sets can really set up your display for the right kind of “oooooos” and “ahhhhhs” as opposed to “oh” and “argh”. It’s going that extra mile which demonstrates you are bought into the business but also how there is much more to you than just “turning up” to work. Keep thinking about adding value, remember you are judged from the moment to make contact, right down to how you word your email so make an effort and be professional. Treat your job applications like you do your projects, provide the right kind of information which isn’t overbearing and ensure your stakeholders are thoroughly informed about the product you are delivering – in this case… YOU!
Having reviewed literally thousands of CVs over the years, one thing which quickly became apparent was that prospective job candidates really struggled to articulate themselves. It’s true and not just restricted to those deemed “junior” or fairly new to project management, those managing multi-million pound programmes and heading up incredibly complex and technical pieces of work (often high profile) are also guilty, if not more so. You may ask how hard it can be to clearly talk about the key deliverables, important facts and “how” you work – when spelled out, it isn’t or is it?
How many times have you made a statement which has been misinterpreted? From a flippant status update on Facebook to a quickly scribed tweet, responses contrary to what you meant often crop up so how common is it to make the same mistakes on your CV – very!
When we write something down, to you as the author it makes sense but often you write as you speak and don’t think about the fact that others do not know what context you are talking in when it’s a flat piece of paper. A short, to the point (or not) document which should be presenting you in a professional manner and selling your abilities to potential employers and recruiters.
Don’t leave it to chance, think long and hard about your target audience and what they expect to see, work through your skills, experiences and knowledge and ensure this comes across clearly on the CV. Don’t make the mistake of writing thousands of words or going polar opposite by barely supplying any info. Remember it doesn’t matter what level you work at, the employer still needs to see what it is you have done and how you have done it. Senior management often believe less is more but this will seriously hinder you from securing that next position.