“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.
I was at an event recently when I met a hiring manager from a large employer in London, he talked to me about a project controls position which had become available and it really struck a chord with my experience. I asked a few questions and explained my background then asked if he would be interested in my application, to my delight he said yes and gave me contact details asking me to send my CV and cover letter to him. I am fairly sure my CV reflects the detail required for the role but I have little experience in writing a cover letter can you advise where to start? Sarah – Project Consultant, London.
Many thanks for your question Sarah let me start by saying well done for asking questions about the requirements for the role – this is a key starting point for the bulk of the letter. Ideally you should highlight specific examples of your experience which closely matches the role – avoid being theoretical, keep to facts. As this is a project controls role I would keep focus on where you have “policed” governance or put structures in place, talk though background briefly then what you were actually doing and the results achieved from this.
I know you mentioned your CV you feel is up to scratch, however, the CV needs to back up your cover letter – therefore you should read through the letter once complete then read through your CV to ensue it matches up. This is where many fall down, spending a long time creating a great cover letter then the CV doesn’t reflect this experience clearly. As cover letters often get discarded, it is important to make sure you really work on that CV or all that time will have gone to waste and you’ll be left wondering why you’ve not had a call.
Dear Nicola, I have been in the same role for 5 years (a Project Coordinator) within Central Government with a lot of experience in supporting hardware and software roll outs. I am due to be made redundant next month and so I have updated my CV and applied for 10 positions but not heard anything back. Can you tell me where I am going wrong please? John, Project Coordinator, London.
Hi John, many thanks for getting in touch. Firstly let me start by asking if the roles you have applied for are similar to the one you are currently doing? As it is common for PM professionals to apply for anything with PM job titles without reading the job description/advert properly. As you’ll probably be aware, job titles can be very misleading so it is important to read through each role before applying for it. Ensure you can meet at least 90% of what they are asking for, employers are very cautious on the skill set they will want on board the team and in a time where training has been cut they will want a close match to their requirements so you can slip into the role with minimal handholding. Once you start to look at all the roles out there, and there are quite a lot, you will start to recognise the ones you should be applying for and avoiding ones which aren’t going to gain a response.
The next step is to look at your CV, as I have reviewed your CV I can see you have gone into a great deal of detail around the core competencies used throughout the project lifecycle, however these do look a little bland in that there is no context so we have no clear idea of the size of projects you support or indeed the number of PMs you support. There is also a vague overview of the technologies you have been supporting the delivery of – something which can be very transferable into your next role. Your CV comes across very process driven, which is fine but there is little detail about engaging with stakeholders, PMs etc. which gives the impression that you may prefer to be hidden in project documentation. Not ideal when a Coordinator is usually the central point of contact on projects for the business.
The other issue may be that you are applying for private sector roles, and there is a prejudice with some employers that public sector staff will not transition well into a commercial environment. I believe that support roles are fully transferable; however you need to convince employers of this. By talking through the projects/technologies themselves and any exposure to dealing with 3rd party suppliers/stakeholders external to the council, you will assist the hiring manager in matching up your knowledge and abilities in supporting the delivery in such projects. By taking all the above advice and revising your CV you will have a stronger chance of securing interviews moving forward.
Hi Nicola, I am a PPM professional with a mix of both managing projects and implementing/managing PMOs – I am looking to secure my next contract position and want to know whether I should have two CVs, one pitched at each audience? Nadia, PMO/Project Manager; London.
Hi Nadia, many thanks for your question – one of my favourites and aimed at all those out there who have more than one string to their bow. I believe the skill-set you have is perfect for the market today as organisations are always looking to save money so having more knowledge and experience about supporting and managing projects provides exceptional value for money to employers. I also believe it is very important for project professionals to have had exposure to these two elements of PPM; it certainly makes for a more effective environment when you have sat on both sides of the fence. Keeping this in mind I suggest you ideally would have one main CV, a “master copy” which lists all of your experience and an equal number of PMO and PM achievements. This makes the CV rather long but you can strip out the PM achievements or PMO achievements for each application as relevant. That way you are still keeping in the core experience within each remit but highlighting the achievements which would be deemed most appropriate for the role you are applying for and requires a little work for each application. Some roles may be hybrid PM/PMO positions so a combination of the two elements in achievements would be useful here. That said I always believe a little tweaking is required for every job application, ensuring the relevant information for each position is demonstrated. There is generally more emphasis placed on specific competencies within a job description / job advert so bringing out more detail in these areas, re-jigging the order and stripping back detail on the competencies not asked for will always assist you in gaining more attention from the reviewer. In regard to the detail in the role remits, always ensure you place an introductory statement before you bullet the competencies, context is very important so talking through what it was you have been tasked to achieve and some detail about the complexity, team sizes etc is important. The bullets need to talk through how you delivered, do not fall into the trap of just listing a few keywords like a job description, remember every project/organisation/department works differently so do not assume the reviewer will know what you are talking about without adding in some context.