“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.
After reading a number of stories about those with aspirations to better themselves and secure their dream role it occurred to me that fear of the unknown or more so fear of failure are the major blockers to those wanting to reach their goals. Taking an easy road where you feel secure isn’t necessarily as safe as you may think – securing a position within a large organisation where you feel job security comes before your own career goals can really hinder you and be counterproductive. Taking the leap of faith by going after the career you believe is your forte can be far more rewarding and have equal risk to that faithful safe route. Not only will you feel as though you aren’t being utilised to your full potential you also run the risk of that time old “restructuring” which can inevitably mean redundancy. By researching what it takes to achieve your career goals and taking a few punts you will be taking the right steps towards reaching your full potential and general happiness.
Here’s an example:
John knew at university that he was a strong leader; he had a passion for creating and always felt he would be well suited to managing large construction programmes of work. However, John was worried he may falter along the way by having periods of unemployment as the route he felt was ideal often meant he would be working on contract not as an employee – who would pay the rent when he was between contracts? So he took a safe route as a large blue chip financial institution was offering graduate roles within their accounts department, he worked for years taking the appropriate qualifications and became a qualified accountant. Not a bad course to take but very limiting for someone who clearly had different aspirations. After 20 years faithful employment he was made redundant and because of the recession dip found himself struggling to secure a new role, he was also caught up in a catch 22 situation where a change in career seemed almost impossible. Every day became a struggle and his dreams of building were just that, dreams.
Had he taken the approach of the path less travelled and gained some experience in construction supporting large programmes of work and working his way up he would have no doubt come across the major construction stoppage during the recession but the outcome would have been different. He would be realising his dream and still had the period of unemployment/no contract. However the economy adapted and both fields picked up again for new roles, at least he’d be living his dream and the risks were equal.
Don’t be afraid to chase your career dreams – we spend far too much time working versus being at home, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Writing your CV doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people and Project Professionals particularly find it difficult to strike a balance between getting the project information versus the core competencies. This is understandable as there is often a great deal of detail you wish to include and in doing so, key criteria is missed out completely. Knowing what the hiring managers want to see has changed over the years and with the volume of job applications increasing for roles you are unlikely to be called in for an interview to discuss the missing parts when there are those who have clear and concise documents which do have the correct balance of information.
I was talking with a recent client who had previously had her CV professionally written and one of the bullet points stated Change Management – I probed what this involved in that role and she said she hadn’t actually done any CM in that role but had been advised to state it anyway. I pointed out that should she secure an interview with the CV that she would inevitably be asked to expand, as there was no detail and it is a point of interest for a Project Manager job. She became very concerned that her CV was not saying the right things and began to question the advice she had received from the service she had invested time, money and faith into. I have come across a number of CVs which have been professionally written, which either don’t make sense or are limited in content – the problem with not using a CV writing service which is specialist in your field. At the CV Righter we work with you to understand where your skill-set lies and help you achieve a CV which will draw attention for the right reasons, we look to add that extra information about your style and where you go above and beyond the role. Setting you apart from your competitors is crucial to getting you on that shortlist for interview.
Do not make assumptions about the reviewer of your CV – they can come from all sorts of backgrounds and may not necessarily understand Project Management, you need to be hitting the right keywords but also adding in context to make the information understandable to all.
Identifying a CV service which is right for you and your skill-set is important – just because it is cheap or very expensive, doesn’t mean you will be getting value for money. Ask for a review of your CV before engaging services and see what their understanding of your experience is, it is all well and good pointing out grammatical errors and formatting – but what will they do with the content and how will they work with you to achieve a good, strong, honest document which will harvest results?
Get in touch today to receive a free review of your CV and constructive advice on how to improve it.
There’s always a lot of pushback when it comes to singing your own praises on your CV, how very British of us not to celebrate our success. Often you will consider simply stating “completed on time and to budget” as good enough, but in reality this statement is met with a shrug of the shoulders, as a successful PM is supposed to deliver this a minimum right!? It is all too easy to become very egotistical too which doesn’t paint you in a good picture either as no one likes a show off. So how can you really add in detail to your CV which sings your praises but doesn’t have the hiring manager wondering how they will get your head through the door at interview?
Here are some tips:
- Tell us about the complexity and size of the project, often an area overlooked by throwing in internal acronyms which mean little outside the business or generic terms which could mean anything.
- Talk through some key challenges faced on the project – don’t assume the hiring manager will know that you have had to herd chickens and completely rebuild the hen house. I have lost count of PMs who have said “well it’s all part of the job”, not for every project it isn’t and if you don’t tell us on the CV how will we know just how good you really are?
- Facts and figures are important on a CV; there is a huge difference from delivering £300k of business benefits to 100 users than £3m benefit covering 1000 employees.
- You say you are good with people, but have you demonstrated this with some good examples in the CV. Just what is it you do to create a results driven team?
- Dealing with multiple sites? Matrix management? Offshore and nearshore? There’s a great deal of work goes into working with disparate teams, cultural issues, language barriers and even time differences which can become huge blockers.
- Picking up failing pieces of work? Have you told us this or merely stated you delivered it on time and to budget? It takes real skill to parachute in and fire fight with teams who may have had several PMs trying to deliver the work prior to you.
These are just a few ideas which will assist you in thinking through your assignments, it is important when you perform a skills audit that you list your core issues and how you overcome them, you will soon have a strong piece of information which can be tailored to your CV and really blow your trumpet without coming across as a self obsessed.