I have been working with a contractor who came to me with a 7 page CV – when I reviewed it I found that he had over 60 short assignments on there and although he had listed a number of projects by name he hadn’t really gone into any detail about how he delivers or what the projects were. When I talked through his feedback I asked why this is the case and bearing in mind he has a significant number of practitioner qualifications there is no evidence of using these. It quickly became clear that the nature of the projects meant he could not administer recognised formal structure and that he struggled to articulate how to note down his key skills in his remits through fear of lengthening the CV further and not knowing what to actually state.
Having had a lengthy discussion about the projects and his approach to managing the projects we soon started to draw out key areas of interest such as dealing with very tight deadlines and cultural differences in project management. We discussed that it is important to list all assignments but to focus on the most recent and differing projects to add in some valuable information.
It is the intention for this contractor to apply to some regulatory bodies with his CV and as such, we discussed the need to take a more traditional format whilst ensuring we highlight how he sets himself apart from other project managers in his field. With a great deal of interaction and collaborative working we managed to reduce his CV down to 3 pages and ensure that we are covering key elements expected by hiring managers.
Here are a few tips for writing a CV to include a lot of jobs:
- Place emphasis on most recent roles, talk about the project, any problems (remember a contractor is often a fire fighter and required to hit the ground running) and how you delivered it.
- Reduce the detail of the remits as you work down the CV but ensure all roles with a difference have sufficient detail which will demonstrate your ability to work on varied assignments.
- Do list all the roles but for those over 10 years old and certainly when you are listing over 20 jobs, you need to reduce the detail to a line stating job title, dates and company. In this case a table was required due to the sheer volume of assignments.
- If you, like my client, have not been working to formal structures; think about how you deliver and add the detail in. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it is wrong, in fact it demonstrates other skills and abilities to work in fast paced, often demanding environments.
- To save space, you may look to add in achievements entwined in the project detail rather than separating out at the top of the CV.
- Learn to articulate detail in a clear and very concise manner – not like a job description but reducing the paragraph down so we get enough information to know what it is you were tasked with and difficulties faced, just avoid waffling.
This is an interesting topic in that a great deal of PM professionals I’ve spoken to, say that it can be an impossible feat trying to even get to speak with the recruiter direct. Skipping past all the usual excuses of gazillions of applications/calls/pressure blah blah blah, it is possible to strike up a relationship with these people as long as you make the right moves. Now, building a relationship doesn’t mean stalking… No one likes to be bombarded with calls and emails! Think about how you are approached by others and what techniques they might use which actually work and get your attention. Don’t bother if you haven’t made a good effort to sort out your CV and make it sell your abilities or haven’t done your research in regards to what type of job including which field etc you want to apply for moving forward – and for goodness sake, be realistic, you are not jumping into a programme manager role from support position. No matter how good you are and how great your sales patter – recruiters cannot seek you into their clients when you have unrealistic aspirations.
- Do your research – find the agencies and individuals who handle your type of roles
- Make contact with the identified individuals by dropping them a line and asking if it would be possible to have a chat.
- Make sure you send a well written CV ahead of your call so the recruiter can see your background.
- Don’t be pushy, no one likes to be bullied.
- Do what you say you’ll do, if you’ve arranged to call at a certain time, then do so.
- Make sure you are clear about what you want to discuss and stick to the point – recruiters are busy and don’t appreciate disorganised candidates bumbling on.
- Treat others how you wish to be treated in return, this means everyone, receptionists etc all count!
I remember a candidate working hard to build up a relationship with me, back in my PM recruitment days, we would have a chat on a bi-weekly basis and even though I wasn’t 100% I could place him, I continued to humour him when one day a role came in which was a good match for his skills. I thought about him immediately as I knew I was due a call, we discussed and I agreed to present his CV to my client. Now he wasn’t an exact match but knowing the client well, I knew I could sell him in. Having done so I was pleased to announce that an interview had been arranged for my candidate. He was very happy and so the interview coaching began, I spent quite a lot of time making sure the candidate knew all the was to know about the role and business, and ran through typical interview questions – ensuring the preparation was top notch. After all I knew he would have to shine at interview to beat off his competitors who had a closer match to the role. All was running swimmingly until a day before the interview I received an email…. Yes an email, not a call, from my candidate saying he was pulling out of the interview. Obviously I wasn’t best happy, but c’est la vie, I informed my client and made up for the disappointment with a new candidate (who was offered an interview and eventually got offered the role). So on my part I wasn’t too bothered, however I vowed I would not work with the candidate again as I had stuck my neck out for him and he had been so rude.
A few weeks later I received a call from said candidate who had the front to ask me to put him forward to other roles, I explained as politely as possible that I wouldn’t be doing that and he persisted to ring me regularly to the point I got all my calls screened and told all staff under no circumstances to put his call through. I thought he had got the message but a few months after leaving the PM recruitment business I received a text from a colleague telling me he had been in touch again…. Thankfully my former colleague did not pass on my contact details! And that is how not to make and break relationships!
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.
So we’ve been in and out and back in and double dipped the recession, a lot have held on in their current jobs feeling it to be a safer bet than moving into the unknown – but in reality, just how safe is it to stay with an employer after a few years? The business may be booming and there is no sign of streamlining, however a story I hear all too often is that there appears to be no progression and roles are becoming a little stale as the projects are very much alike. As far as your career progression goes, the safe bet is actually making your aspirations grow stagnant. Most PM professionals enjoy the job because of the diversity and growth, and as much as your company may be signing off training to keep you interested and happy – is it really enough?
I was talking with a programme manager last week who told me he had realised he’d lost his spark because there just wasn’t enough of a challenge for him anymore. When he had started his role a few years ago at his current employer, he had significant challenges with disparate teams and projects not delivering on time or to budget. Having spent time to really understand the team and implement a stepped capability model into the business, he had brought the programme capability through to maturity and apart from the occasional anomaly he has a smooth running ship. He explained that he’d hung in with the business as the job market was unstable and felt the security of his current position was enough to keep him interested. But as time has flown by he realises that he needs to do something against his risk averse comfort zone and take a leap of faith to secure a new challenge and get his spark back. Although he has a great deal of loyalty to his current company, he knows that the current structuring means he will continue in the same role with no chance of progression until “someone dies” and as the PPM team and structure are looking healthy for the foreseeable future his only option is to move on.
Is this you? Are you feeling trapped in a comfort zone which is slowly killing your passion for PM? The market is always up and down, there is never an ideal time to jump ship but as a good PM you will be used to researching and weighing up the risks, so use these skills to look at new opportunities and relight that fire.