As project practitioners we strive to manage benefits throughout the project lifecycle to ensure the project outcomes are meeting the stakeholders needs – however when it comes to job applications this key skill is often overlooked. Looking at the job application process as a project (in basic terms) can really enhance your chances of securing that next challenging role. We’ve covered planning and communications in previous posts, today I want to go through the benefits management aspect of the process.
First you should look to establish what the core benefits are you wish to achieve – in some cases it will be “a job” in other cases there may be other factors such as specific challenges (either because it is your specialism or because it is an element you wish to develop in your career portfolio) or money of course. Once you have determined your required outcomes then you should ensure that your actions are met with a constructive and structured approach. This is where research comes into play and some hard work – see the below checklist for ideas on how to strengthen your applications:
- Research similar roles currently being advertised to gain a good understanding of what employers are looking for at the moment, trends and needs change all the time so make sure you are aware of what they are after.
- Match up your CV with the relevant roles – put the CV next to the job description/advert and check off key skills/tools/experience on your CV. Have you addressed the areas required by the employer? Is it clear for all levels of reviewer (i.e. HR, Recruiters, Hiring Managers etc)?
- Research organisations which may be running similar projects etc, develop a list of employers who may be relevant to your applications.
The final part of the process is to ensure you are enhancing your own benefits on your CV – demonstrating how you can really add value to businesses. Think about all the process improvement, enhanced project management capability, team coaching/training/mentoring, reducing bottlenecks, relationship establishing/building/rebuilding, and trouble shooting. There must be a plethora of examples you could share, write a list and use ones most relevant to the role/business you are applying for.
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.
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.
So you’ve created the perfect CV and have been applying for roles only to find a lot of them seem to be put on hold or aren’t quite the opportunity advertised, what else can you be doing to ensure you aren’t missing out on jobs. There are a high percentage of roles which aren’t actually advertised; therefore you need to be doing more than just applying for advertised roles.
Here’s a list of areas which should be on your to do list:
- LinkedIn – employers are increasingly using this business networking site to find fresh talent, avoiding recruitment costs they are making contact with individuals who look like a good fit to the team. Make sure your profile is up to date and not just a carbon copy of your CV, add in some interesting pieces of information which will draw in attention. Also make sure you join some groups and join in the forums, you’ll be surprised how this actually opens doors for you. Not only will you be making new contacts, you might just gain attention from hiring managers looking for solutions to their issues.
- Twitter – I know this may feel like a daunting thing for some but twitter is fast becoming the place for networking, there is a strong PM network which can really give you a heads up to current practices, PM needs and building your network.
- Personal network – put the word about that you are available, people like nothing more than to help each other and you might just find you are being recommended for pieces of work or at the very least, being made aware of roles coming up which have yet to be advertised.
- Events – there’s a fair few free events across the country, even those run by APM have a low fee for their branch events. Meeting other professionals in the field and learning something too – what’s not good about that?
- Agencies – register with relevant agencies and try to make contact with a recruiter to get in their heads, make sure you know what you want to discuss and make a good impression. Databases are vast so it is ideal to be speaking with someone and keeping in regular contact to ensure they are keeping you in mind when new roles come in.
Make an effort to do more than just apply for roles online, demonstrate your tenacity, motivation and professionalism by taking extra steps to secure that next role.