Yes, it is Guy Fawkes and as such we are adding a little fun into the article today to relate all things to the occasion and asking the question – does your CV light fires in the hearts of hiring managers’ or is it a bit of a damp firework? Expectations are always high when it comes to opening a CV when recruiting for a new role, sometimes (but not always) we have our appetites whet by a really explosive covering letter which really addresses the requirements for the role and we open the CV with excited anticipation, however, often the CV is a real let down. Why does this happen, you ask? Well CVs are often put together and then forgotten about as you feel you’ve done the best you can and it should be fit for all applications. You see a job you like and go about writing a cover letter talking through your career similarities to the position, all the effort goes in here with little thought to how the CV reads now (sometimes months on from when you originally wrote it). It is good practice to always read through your CV and match against the roles you wish to apply for, and then make tweaks so it is substantiating the detail you have supplied in the cover letter.
- Bonfire – Create a document which really makes reviewers warm to it, think out of the box, and make sure your personality and management style come across.
- Fireworks – Create a dazzling display on the CV to make recruiters want to read on, it’s not all about formatting and colours, it is content. What would you like to see if you were recruiting?
- Treacle toffee – Always seems like a good idea until it gets stuck in your teeth, just like writing untruths. Keen it real, you want the CV to be good, more emphasis on what you have done not what you haven’t please.
- Lanterns – shine a light on your experience; stand out from the crowd by working in good examples of where you have shone.
- Penny for the Guy – Stop pretending to be something you are not, you will soon be found out. You will no doubt have some great experience so talk about it, think about impacts and change – doesn’t sound so flat when you add in some context.
Have a safe and happy Guy Fawkes!
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.
Hi Nicola, I have over 15 years experience delivering system integration projects as an interim. I had my CV professionally written a while back by a generalist, however I have not received any contact from my applications over the last 3 months and I am beginning to worry now. I feel my CV is clear but there is something wrong otherwise I would surely be getting calls and interviews?
The reason I originally went to a CV writer was because I struggle to put my experience in a format which meets the terminology and expectations of employers. Can you advise? Rebekah, Project Manager; London
Hi Rebekah, many thanks for getting in touch – I know it can be hard to articulate a great deal of information into a clear and concise document. Having reviewed your CV I can see that there are a few reasons why you are not generating any interest from employers and recruiters, first of all the document is written in the first person which is often frowned upon in a professional environment. The profile doesn’t give the reviewer a clear view of what it is you actually do, this is the introduction into your CV so it is important to make sure it draws the reviewer in to want to read on. The detail about what you were set out to achieve with the projects is quite good, although it is a little long winded so needs reducing. The main issue is with the “responsibilities” bullet points, stating a list such as:
- Business Analysis
- Change Management
- Budget Management
- Risk & Issue Management
Although you will be hitting the mark with some keyword searching, the reviewer has little information to go on in regards to context, it does make for a good starting point, but you should look to add in further information such as with budget management – how much? Do you hold full budgetary responsibility / P&L? How is it managed? By pulling together a short statement, you are telling the reviewer a lot more about how you work and the complexity of the piece of work.
You state a few key achievements which, again, do not tell the reviewer a great deal about the involvement, having since discussed the project you have told me the challenges you have overcome in order to achieve success – now this detail is what makes for a great achievement. Taking these achievements out of the body of the CV and moving them to underneath the profile will highlight to the reviewer how you add value and will certainly set you apart from your peers. I agree that project management is almost a different language and that you need to grasp the lingo in order to gain interest from hiring managers – look back to your formal PM certification/training and start to match the language up to your experiences and you will soon generate some interesting bullets. It is hard not to get too embroiled in the PM language and I know from talking to you that you prefer a more direct approach to communication but striking a balance between the two is key to success.