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.
Just like people, CVs need a health check periodically, as a project management professional you should take responsibility for your career and part of progression is updating and improving you CV as your experience grows. However there are times just like with your own health when you may suspect something is no quite right, you know when you feel there is something amiss and you aren’t functioning properly… Well you may also see these signs with your CV especially if you are applying for roles. To you the CV looks OK, but you aren’t yielding results from your applications or maybe you are but they aren’t quite the results you were hoping for.
Visiting the doctor is a good idea if you don’t feel right but all too often the GP cannot diagnose and calls for tests, and ultimately will refer you to a specialist in the field, who can investigate more thoroughly and is used to seeing hundreds of patients annually who display similar symptoms to yours and can often pinpoint what is wrong within a short consultation. Unlike the GP who is a general practitioner and is fantastic for uncomplicated ailments and conditions but has not got the in-depth knowledge of specific areas of the body to be able to accurately diagnose and ultimately understand your condition.
The same goes for your CV, you may investigate your CV and even take it to recruiters, managers, colleagues, HR friends etc but as good as their advice can be, the likelihood is that they don’t know enough about project management combined with hiring managers high expectations. Those who do will often miss how to articulate key details.
When you come to The CV Righter, you will have your CV thoroughly reviewed, and moving forward with the service you will have a thorough consultation where weak points in the document will be highlighted, completely missed areas will be teased out and poor parts will be nursed back to health to ensure the CV is really selling you.
Don’t leave it to chance, you could be missing out on some fantastic opportunities just because you hope it will sort itself out and blaming the state of the job market just isn’t an excuse. As a seasoned PM recruiter I know only too well that opportunities are still there even in perceived slow periods.
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.