“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.
Why is it so hard to provide a snapshot of yourself as a professional? Well maybe because there’s a lot that goes into what you do, all those behind the scenes bits coupled with this ingrained need to follow an old school recipe of placing buzzwords such as team player and motivated into the mix. Argh!!!!!
Time to leave all of that behind an follow a new but effective pattern – forget all you know about writing your profile and follow the below steps:
- Begin with a list of the core skills which are your strongest and you enjoy the most, put them in order of priority of enjoyment.
- Now look at what you actually do day to day – are you a deliverer, do you support, are you a specialist in a particular area such as risk or change?
- Think about areas that are relevant to the roles you’re applying for: managing/supporting teams/budget management/implementing frameworks/global interfacing etc
- Methodologies used and certifications gained: PRINCE2, APMP, PMI, P3O etc
- What type of projects/programmes do you manage or support?
- What industries have you worked in?
Now you should have lost of notes, put all of it together starting with a description of yourself with a job title and flow through the various specialities and core areas which will draw a strong picture of you as a professional. You only need one paragraph, but make it a powerful one – tell the reviewer all they need to know about you in one concise message.
As a project practitioner it is highly likely you have gained PRINCE2 qualifications and/or worked with the methodology at some points along your PM career path. Employers will still ask for PRINCE2 qualifications and knowledge as it has long been a buzz word in the PM domain, therefore it is important to do more than merely mention you have the PRINCE2 qualification on your CV. It is good practice to use the terminology within your CV to demonstrate that you utilise the methods, also mentioning in your profile that you have used the method alongside other PM methods married up with the experience talking through the lifecycle for your remits. This also applies to those who have lapsed PRINCE2 or haven’t got the qualifications – if you work within a PRINCE2 environment then talk about it, arguably the experience is far more valuable than the certificate alone.
Make sure you spell PRINCE2 correctly and don’t fall into calling yourself a practioner, it’s practitioner – I’ve lost count of how many CVs I’ve seen this spelling mistake on. As with all detail on your CV, you must be careful to ensure you aren’t making mistakes. Not only is it off-putting to reviewers it can also hinder you when it comes to keyword searches, recruiters still use keyword searching and you won’t come up in shortlists if you are spelling qualifications and keywords incorrectly.
Project Management is all about change and ideally success, therefore as a PPM professional, whether you deliver or support those that deliver then you should have a portfolio of successful stories to share. Your CV is the place to do this but being British we often shy away from “showing off” and leave important pieces of information out of the CV much to our detriment. Now I’m not saying we should go all big headed and start listing project after project, taking a sensible approach to talking through the types of projects you’ve delivered with some specifics is fine and also creating a list of Key Achievements which don’t necessarily need to be about projects as a whole, maybe you’ve done something additional to “just” delivering. Commonly project professionals feel it’s these additional things are just part of the job… Well yes they are if you are to be a success you need to be able to break down barriers and troubleshoot but this differentiates good PMs and PMOs from mediocre or not so good ones!
Remember your CV needs to be balanced, don’t just cram it full of project detail, read though my other articles talking about all the different aspects which need addressing within a good project management CV.