“As a senior project manager with experience of working on some high profile projects with large names in financial services I have been applying for a number of project management jobs recently and had a few calls but still no interviews – what am I doing wrong? I am clearly attracting some interest but not a lot and I don’t seem to be getting further that the initial recruiter call and promise of being put forward to the client.” John Senior PM London
Without looking at your CV it is hard to say but I can make an educated guess at where you are going wrong John – for a start, the fact you have worked on high profile projects for reputable businesses will always attract some interest from recruiters. However the experience alone won’t cut it with the employers and this part is the most frustrating for the recruiters, your CV clearly isn’t selling you positively so the recruiters are taking a punt by putting you forward for roles but you are being rejected against your peers who have a much stronger CV.
Be sure to tell us about the projects – what was involved and what they achieved but don’t write an essay, keep it clear and concise (we don’t need to know sq ft just general scale). Then tell us how you work – think about the job description, it should contain a list of wants, are you addressing these wants on your CV?? And not just a list of skills, use the space to talk through context so we know exactly who, how, when, why etc. Do not assume the reviewer will know you work in a particular way, having the PM badges doesn’t excuse you from talking about method in your CV.
Why is it so hard to provide a snapshot of yourself as a professional? Well maybe because there’s a lot that goes into what you do, all those behind the scenes bits coupled with this ingrained need to follow an old school recipe of placing buzzwords such as team player and motivated into the mix. Argh!!!!!
Time to leave all of that behind an follow a new but effective pattern – forget all you know about writing your profile and follow the below steps:
- Begin with a list of the core skills which are your strongest and you enjoy the most, put them in order of priority of enjoyment.
- Now look at what you actually do day to day – are you a deliverer, do you support, are you a specialist in a particular area such as risk or change?
- Think about areas that are relevant to the roles you’re applying for: managing/supporting teams/budget management/implementing frameworks/global interfacing etc
- Methodologies used and certifications gained: PRINCE2, APMP, PMI, P3O etc
- What type of projects/programmes do you manage or support?
- What industries have you worked in?
Now you should have lost of notes, put all of it together starting with a description of yourself with a job title and flow through the various specialities and core areas which will draw a strong picture of you as a professional. You only need one paragraph, but make it a powerful one – tell the reviewer all they need to know about you in one concise message.
We’ve gone over all the various aspects that make up a winning project management CV over the past few years but I thought it was a good opportunity to have a refresh at the core elements:
- Profile – your profile needs to be a good description of what it is you do, this makes sense but you’d be surprised how many feel the need to tell us they are organised and cheerful blah blah blah…! Think about the reviewer, give them a snapshot of your core skills and what it is you deliver/support/manage etc. If you cannot summarise what you do in a paragraph then there is a big problem, and this will be picked up on.
- Key Achievements – Tell us something about how you work, don’t repeat detail about delivering xyz on time and to budget, talk to us about the bits that make you a success. Think about what it is that you do best, whether it’s turning around teams, working with suppliers etc we want to know about it and how you bring out the best in what you do.
- Employment History – Balance the detail of the projects versus the core competencies; think about what job descriptions ask for, whether it be risk management, change control etc these are the things you need to address in your bullet points.
- Education & Training – List most recent first, pop on all those courses relevant to PM and don’t forget to list your practitioner candidate numbers.
- References – “references are available on request” is perfectly sufficient; we don’t want your referees to be harassed by recruiters looking to generate leads.
I’ve written about this before, albeit a couple of years ago but it is always good to have a reminder. When sending your project management CV for job applications don’t make the mistake of sending a PDF file. Now we are told that sending a PDF file will keep the format of the document and the reviewer will read it as they were meant to but… And here’s the big but…. If you want your CV to go into recruitment agencies systems to be available for recruiters to search for and review for other roles then you may find the file won’t save properly. Unfortunately outdated systems often used by some recruitment agencies cannot process PDF files, therefore large chunks of detail can be missing and basically it renders your CV useless in their system. Now in all fairness I don’t know a great deal of recruitment agencies that bother to revisit CVs in their own systems due to the volume of applications being made regularly making it not necessary. Also the large job board websites have much more robust searching options which means most recruiters would turn to these repositories over their in-house systems. But to always go belt and braces to ensure your best chances by always using a MS Word file format.