One key area not considered or talked about in a great deal of project management CVs is the project lifecycle – assuming that the reviewer knows you work through a structured approach is a big mistake. As project practitioners we all work differently, some don’t work through any methodology and governance is none existent. Therefore a great starting point for writing out the remit of each role would be to use the lifecycle framework as a core structure to then build on. Let’s have a look at the project lifecycle:
Initiation – The beginning phase where objectives are defined and a business case is drawn up. At this point a decision whether to initiate the project itself based on a review of core areas such as cost, deliverables, scope, purpose, resources, timescales, structure, impact, etc.
Planning – The project is now assessed in terms of time, cost and resource; as a starting point but should be continuously updated, changed and evolved throughout the course of the project.
Execution – The project actually happens, usually overseen by the project manager and supported by the project team. Activities will be monitored and controlled throughout this phase and regular updates will be presented to the senior management team/sponsors/customers etc.
Close – Like all good things, everything must come to a close. It is especially important that projects are closed down effectively and success celebrated or lessons learnt from failure.
Now take a look at your CV and see if any aspects of the above are actually addressed? I bet there’s a list of skills but no real information or examples; am I right? Then you need to go back to the drawing board and produce a CV which employers want to see and recruiters will fall over themselves to sell you to their clients.
I was approached this week by a new client asking me how recruitment works – having been in a permanent role for some years he is looking to go interim and wanted to know what the formula is to make recruiters sit up and take notice of him. There is no hard and fast rule as such – naturally the recruiter has a list of requirements from their client which need addressing in the CV, if your CV does not touch on these requirements then you will be discarded and often forgotten about. So what actually makes a recruiter work for you? For a start you need to really understand your own skill set and how this works in the project environment, clearly contextualising your experience and the project benefits is key to the basis of a good CV. Making sure you apply for roles which meet your abilities will put you in good stead with the recruiter and if you are not quite right for that role you have a better chance of being remembered for the right reasons, as from the start you have demonstrated your understanding of the role itself and are not just applying for anything.
If you have a wealth of experience managing a diverse range of projects then the recruiter needs to see the projects most relevant to the role you apply for, however this does not mean you need to leave out other information. The trick is to present a summary of the types of projects, complexity, budgets and team size / locations / skill sets, then you need to talk about how you deliver, the difficulties you have encountered and your specific aptitude – you may be great with demanding and difficult stakeholders or you may be great at manipulating data or balancing finances. Everyone is different and what the recruiter wants to know is what sets you apart from others. Talk about key achievements, don’t be fooled into thinking that delivering a project on time and to budget is an achievement – you are paid to do this right! Think about how you got there, what hurdles did you overcome, what have you learnt from the project and what measures have you adopted for future delivery?
All of this information needs to be kept to a maximum 3 page but ideally a 2 page CV, it can be difficult to edit and condense this information which is why a second pair of eyes can be extremely effective. We offer a free CV review at The CV Righter where honest and constructive feedback is presented to individuals – there is no obligation to take up the CV writing service however should you decide to take the service up then you will only be charged for a service bespoke to you. If you do not require an entire re-write then you don’t pay for one. The review is performed by a former project management specific recruiter and will be executed as such which will give you a valuable insight into how recruiters actually view your CV.
The main component of your CV should be the careers history – this is the section which allows you to really sell your skills and abilities. You should look to tackle this by summarising your role and then bullet pointing your remit, ensuring you contextualise the information. It is important for you as the writer to create a mental image for the reader to really get a grasp of what it is you actually do, job titles can be very misleading and I do not condone changing these in your CV so it is important to make sure you are making your description of the role as true to form as possible.
Here’s an example of a role and remit which is not ideal:
Duties: worked successfully within a project team that developed the best scheduling practices to meet client project plans easing project monitoring and control, making tracking of critical paths effective and preventive measures applied to them reducing lead times.
- Working as part of a team within a fast-paced environment, focusing on delivering work to a high standard of client satisfaction
- Assisting in planning, scheduling, resource requirements in compliance with industry, company and regulatory standards
- Responsible for coordinating on site contractors/ subcontractors overseeing activities during the project execution phase
This description is weak as it reads like a job description, we get no real feel for the size of team, types of projects, what methods are used and generally it demonstrates a lack of real understanding for the role.
Now here’s an example which works:
Overseeing and coordinating the day to day running of multiple interdependent IT change projects by supporting project managers and senior managers. Responsible for monitoring and updating all project documentation and MI reporting
- Reporting directly to the Senior Project Manager and supporting a team of 5 PMs in delivering interdependent projects
- Providing an interface between the technical teams (3rd party suppliers) and senior management (internal), being the first point of contact for the provision of information on projects.
- Ensuring that relevant management information is captured, analysed and presented via powerpoint presentations at monthly senior management meetings
These are snippets of job histories; you should look to include further information about what you do with more bullet points. Ideally you would look to perform a skills audit on yourself, list out everything you do along the project lifecycle and start to package these into relevant groups then start to formulate your bullets, ensuring you keep some context (types of projects, size of teams etc.)
Once you have written your most recent role, work backwards adopting the same formula but ensuring you do not just copy and paste details. Repetition is not good in CVs; if roles are very similar then you may decide to talk about different aspects of each role to provide some variety to the reader and also to cover all your competencies. Ideally you would look to have a “master” copy of your CV including everything you have done – you can then strip out irrelevant pieces of information to tailor your CV to specific roles, making applications a little easier for yourself and ensuring you are sending a CV which meets the role criteria.