A lot of people come to me for advice and help about their CVs, not because they cannot write their own CV but because they want to understand how others view it and if they are being clear. It is common for those who create a document to assume others will know what it is they are trying to say. As you are doing the job it makes sense to you but it may be baffling to others – striking a balance between clearly defining your role and projects whilst engaging a number of levels of understanding can be tricky. The reviewer of the CV could be a non-specialist recruiter, HR administrator and equally a line manager who hasn’t got the PM experience (hence wanting to bring a subject matter expert into the team). Therefore it is important to ensure you have others look over the CV for you to gauge how clear the information is and if it is hitting the mark in regards to including the relevant detail. Those who assist others with writing CVs will know only too well how easy it is to reshape the document to say the right things even if not entirely au fait with what recruiters need to see in an evolving market place.
I would recommend having a number of people review your CV – from those who have no understanding of PM to those who are seasoned PM professionals, remember you are asking for feedback so take all comments and criticism on the chin. All feedback is good feedback, take on board what is being said and see how you can address the CV to ensure it makes sense to a wide audience.
Remember project management is all about communication, often we need to address a variety of technical and non-technical stakeholders. As your job application is being judged from the moment of contact you need to ensure you are displaying all the right qualities, engagement being very important you should be treating every step of the application process with this in mind. Instead of stating you are a clear communicator – demonstrate it with your CV and the all important email. Don’t tell us you understand PM methods, tools and strategy – demonstrate it, it is very obvious who truly understands their role (and trust me, a lot don’t) by how they communicate the what, how, when, who and where’s of an assignment. Employers want to know what the benefits are to the work you have delivered, do you know what they are… I would hope so, have you communicated this in your CV?? Probably not!
Put yourself in the shoes of those recruiting; don’t assume they will know you have had exposure to a structured approach to PM just because you have the PM badges. Demonstrate your knowledge and use of structures as these are the core criteria being assessed on your CV when you apply for a role.
As much as a balance of experience and competencies put into context are important on Project Management CV, personality is a close second. This may feel quite daunting as it can be difficult to bring the CV to life with a personal feel, but really it isn’t rocket science. Talking through you as a professional in your profile should really be a marketing pitch for employers which gives a snap shot of you, but don’t be afraid to present it in your own words – we are often encouraged to write this in a formal way but there are subtle ways of introducing your personality in there. Think about your management style and approach, if people are your thing then talk about how you engage people (briefly), you take a straight forward approach to implementing structure? Then say so, don’t worry about being too embroiled in PM terminology (there’s plenty of opportunity to get these keywords in further down the document. Now my favourite part of the CV, Key Achievements is the perfect place to really bring your personality to the document. This is where you talk about those extras that you do as a matter of course being a project professional and are what set you apart from others, so if you’ve already mentioned you are a good people person then you need to draw out a good couple of examples to qualify what you’ve said. If you have said you take a pragmatic approach to applying structure then this is also a brilliant place to talk through how and why you have done this with demonstrable examples. Really bring out your management style and personality to help the employer draw a picture of you.
Talking through your career experience you should look to add in context with the project details and competencies, then tailor the information to match up with your approach so it is wooden. I have come across so many CVs which are well written but read a little flat (missing the personality); the document needs to be informative and engaging.
It is really important to me to make sure a CV not only sells the candidate with all the right information but also to make sure the CV is akin with its owner – this is why a consultation takes place at the start of the our CV writing process – not only teasing out all the information, gaining a good understanding of your management style but also getting to know you and how you engage and articulate yourself.
Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of an employer when it comes to writing your CV? If you were looking to bring in fresh talent, whether on a contract or for a permanent role, what would you want to know about that person? When putting together your project management CV you should always try to take an objective view to what you are presenting, obvious things are grammar, spelling, format, CV length etc but beyond these standard considerations there is a lot you can be doing to make sure your CV is being considered for the job and not just put in the recycle bin.
Top 5 PM CV tips list:
- Are you telling the reviewer what it is you actually do? Your profile should be a summary of you as a professional, we would expect you to be motivated, complete (most of) your projects on time and to budget, and be a good communicator. What we actually want to know is: what do you actually do? Project management is a rather large umbrella that professionals sit under so tell us the types of programmes / projects you manage / support and what this involves. You are marketing yourself so some indication of the size and complexity coupled with the projects themselves is a good starting point.
- Talk us through some key achievements; tell us more than “successfully delivered a £20m programme on time and to budget”, after all this is expected if you were paid to do it. However projects don’t always go to plan or may be particularly tricky and it is this type of information which sets you apart from others, it tells us a lot about your management style.
- Your career history should give detail about the projects and your involvement and then look to drill down core competencies (as these are what are checked for by recruiters / employers – work through the project lifecycle and don’t just list keywords, add context.
- Keep emphasis on the most recent roles and reduce down the detail as the roles get older – something over 7 years old is a lot less relevant than work you have completed in you most recent roles.
- Any training and education should be included towards the end of the CV, do add dates and institution names and practitioner registration numbers. This is a professional document and most employers / recruiters will check, so make it easier for them.
These are very simple but important tips to work to when putting together your CV – by following them you will create a document which tells the reviewer what they want and need to know about you as a prospective employee. Putting yourself in the employers’ shoes again, you have a project which requires XYZ and someone who has delivered similar sized/complexity through ABC methods – making sure you address this in your CV and add in that extra management style will set you apart from your competitors.
With the UK job market seesaw it is important to make sure you are making a good impression with your job applications – often with the lift in roles we are lulled into a false sense of security that the market will stay buoyant for a while and that the volume of roles means we are in with a good chance of securing interviews. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, the volume of applicants remains high and as such the competition is still strong. With recruitment companies endorsing the need for a good CV to yield results from your job applications and a small emergence of courses aimed at assisting project professionals gain the tools and knowhow to create a winning CV it is now widely being acknowledged that job hunters need to step up.
I have been pleased to see such interest in my field and completely agree that more needs to be done, time is of the essence and those who are fortunate enough to have the ability and/or time to put together a winning CV should take heed. For those who recognise they either cannot put together a strong CV or haven’t got the time/inclination are best suited to invest in their careers with a professional CV writer who actually understands the industry and doesn’t just play about with formatting and rewording documents at a high cost.
I am presenting a PM CV writing workshop later in the year with APM as I feel it is important to give something back to the PM community and fully endorse those who can write a CV but need a little guidance should be doing so. For the rest of you, I have put together a series of blog articles with lots of examples and tips on how to create a winning CV and continue to offer a competitively priced CV writing service bespoke to your needs. A great deal of contractors come to me already bought-in to the investment opportunity of having a CV created which time after time secures them interviews moving forward, likewise a great deal of senior PM professionals who are just too busy to work on their CV step forward to take the service. I have also noticed a number of clients wanting to break into project management but not knowing where to start or indeed what the roles actually are – these clients receive coaching in a variety of areas and walk away with a strong CV and knowledge on how to approach a career change.
There are many reasons clients come to us but one which made me smile the other day was a project manager who when asked his reasoning for coming to us was that he is in a position where he can pay others to do the tasks he hates. Just like having a breakdown membership, why change the wheel yourself when there is someone much better qualified to do this whilst you get on with your life. Embrace the help that is out there and identify what is most relevant for you, treat your career needs as an investment, just as you would take PM training or invest in better tools (software) – make a difference to your life.