Maybe you’re interested in a job as a project manager (PM), keeping projects moving forward and keeping technical staff focused on larger business goals. Maybe you already have a PM gig but are looking for greener pastures – or higher pay.
We have already given you advice on your CV. But after speaking to a number of career experts and those who regularly work with (and hire!) PMs, we came away with some advice tailored to project managers to ensure your resume, LinkedIn profile, and email that you are about to send to your future boss, put all your assets forward. After all, as Cynthia Davis, co-founder of recruiting platform Diversifying.io, says, “A structured, easy-to-follow resume itself shows an ability to organize and deliver information effectively” — and that’s crucial. for success as a PM.
1. Focus on what’s important to your future employer
When you send a resume to a potential employer, you need to tailor it to the company and its industry. That means writing a resume that bridges the gap between what you’ve done and what you want to do in the future, Davis says. “Don’t assume that the person reading the resume knows the systems in place at your current position. Explain how your skills would add value to the position you are applying for. »
“Take out all the jargon, then take out some more,” urges director Elizabeth Harrin
at RebelsGuideToPM, an education and mentoring site for project managers. “I know that many resumes are read by automated services that search for keywords. So you want to include the terms mentioned in the job description, but all internal words or department names, abbreviations and vocabulary specific to your industry should be replaced. with something else. You only have a short time to make a good impression and some of the resumes I read are not scannable at all, as they don’t make sense when you read them quickly due to the technical language. Keep in mind that your hiring manager may not be in the same industry as you and likely won’t know your internal lingo. »
That said, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little technical weed in the area of the business where you are applying. “It’s hard to run a project without knowing what it’s about,” says Lovisa Stenbäcken Stjernlöf, Head of Identity and Governance at Advania Sweden. “I would recommend customizing any resume with technical knowledge in the area you want to work in, rather than adding more project management skills.”
2. The impacts outweigh the responsibilities
A traditional-format resume includes a list of jobs you’ve held and the responsibilities associated with each. But this paradigm doesn’t really work for project management, since a PM’s career is built from a series of discrete projects that can have very different deliverables. One of the near-universal pieces of advice we got from every expert we spoke to: structure your resume around the results you’ve delivered to internal or external clients.
Alan Zucker, founding director of Project Management Essentials, says you should ask yourself a few questions about any commitment you include on your resume. “Describe the business impact,” he says. “How has this project benefited the sponsoring organization? Has it opened up new markets? Generate income? Lower the costs? Consolidate operations? »
Zucker adds that here, too, focus is important. “Be clear and concise when describing your performance,” he says. “You want your experience to be quickly understood. Don’t get lost in the weeds. Remember that most recruiters and hiring managers won’t have the context to understand the details of your past projects. »
How does this philosophy translate into actual bullet points on a resume? Here are some examples for you from Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write:
- Achieved 8% budget savings and 11% increase in customer satisfaction by redesigning the operating and governance model for two BPM application platforms and standardizing the operating based on the ITIL framework.
- 11% increase in customer satisfaction by designing and implementing a customer satisfaction survey to identify improvement opportunities and coordinate system improvements.
- Managed program to optimize IT assets in the Latin America region, generating savings of over $100,000.
3. Be quantitative
You will notice that all of these sample bullets contained numbers. Our experts also agreed that quantifying your accomplishments is key to making your resume stand out.
“Working for 10 months on an e-commerce platform is good because it indicates the candidate can thrive in a busy environment,” says SERP Co Founder Devin Schumacher. more is when the candidate states that in those 10 months they were able to reduce costs by 30% or save time improving processes by a certain percentage.These solid numerical claims backed by real data – which can be checked or verified by former employers or supervisors – really is the best.
“A lot of times I see resumes of the people I mentor and there aren’t any numbers in there,” says Harrin of RebelsGuideToPM. “I don’t know if you are capable of leading a team of 3 or 300, so specify it. It really helps a hiring manager understand if you’re a good fit for the job. Enter as many non-commercially sensitive details as you can, such as project budget, duration in years or months, number of training hours provided, or anything that helps recruiters understand the scope of work you have conducted to date. This is useful because many people have a PM job title but do radically different things at different companies, so it helps to understand the scope of your job.
One thing to be careful about: you don’t want to provide too much many details about your current employer to another company that may well be a competitor. David Ciccarelli, tech entrepreneur and CEO of Voices, suggests that when discussing increases in production or decreases in costs, “display it as a percentage increase or decrease rather than whole numbers to keep finances of your private employer”. On the other hand, Maziar Adl, CTO of Gocious, says you should “try to explain things with real numbers to help the hiring manager gauge the size and scope of your job.” Ultimately, you will need to use your judgment to determine which data is too sensitive to share.
4. Show your certificates
Sara Hutchison is a resume writer with experience working with IT professionals. She also holds a CompTIA Project+ certification herself and thinks you should do a lot more than just list the names of your certificates on your resume.
“I personally found the Project+ Certification Foundations itself to be a great section of my own resume,” she says. “You can write the certification on your resume as if it were a job description, with the issuing authority instead of the company. Your certificate completion date or the years it will be active would go in the dates column.From there, use bullet points to expand on the principles you learned with this certification and use keywords directly from the objective job description.
That said, make sure you know how your certifications or other credentials fit into the big picture of the industry — and don’t try to bluff your way past competent hiring managers.
“I was working with a client recently and his bio read that he was a ‘Certified Project Manager,'” says Hutchison. “But after reviewing the CV I didn’t see any PM certificates. I inquired and learned that they had completed a university program on project management and that’s what they were referring to For me, when I see Certified Project Manager, I think Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Project Manager (CPM) – and these are distinctive certifications that outweigh most. give me a red flag on a resume.You can say you have a certificate in project management, but you shouldn’t say you’re a certified project manager unless you have the PMP or CPM, in my opinion. Also, if you have one of these certificates, be sure to add these letters to the end of your name.
5. Don’t neglect the human touch
Despite all the importance of hard data and rigorous certifications, you still want to be presented to potential recruiters as a real person. “Try to show the human side,” says Adl of Gocious. “This can be done by highlighting the things you are passionate about and the key accomplishments you are proud of.”
This is important beyond just adding some emotional warmth to an otherwise impersonal document. The so-called “soft skills” are actually crucial to succeeding as a PM. “While hard skills are important for employers, proving you have the interpersonal skills to work with and lead teams is also critical,” says Dave Garrett, head of strategy and growth at the Project Management Institute. . “Now more than ever, employers are looking for project managers who are dedicated to solving problems effectively, communicating with colleagues and offering flexible solutions when needed. By demonstrating that you have invested in the training and continuing education in these areas, you will prove to hiring managers that you are committed to learning and advancing your career in project management.
And a great way to show the impact you’ve had on your colleagues is to let them speak out on your resume. “Incorporate end-customer testimonials from G2Crowd, Capterra, or Software Advice,” says Ciccarelli of Voices. “If you work primarily with internal stakeholders, ask for a testimonial on your LinkedIn profile. In either case, the comments are public and verifiable by the hiring manager. Getting testimonials from real people, beyond the numbers, should hopefully be the icing on the cake for a hiring manager deciding who to interview.