Resumes—the daunting page that hangs over your head like a dark cloud. There is no denying that putting together your resume is a task that takes time and patience, but there is also no denying that it is a vital piece of the job-hunting puzzle.
Your resume is a company’s first look at you, your experience, skill sets, potential, and more.
That’s why it’s imperative you put the right emphasis on the right parts of your project management resume to make it shine, and set yourself apart from the crowd so that you get that coveted interview call.
Not sure exactly how to do it? This guide is here to show you the ropes of your project management resume and the non-negotiables that will be your ticket to an interview.
Image Source: Parsi, N. (2016). Top of the pile: resumés done right separate the best project talent from the pack. PM Network, 30(3), 52–57.
Why Having a Strong Project Management Resume Is So Important
There are countless moving parts in the role of a project manager, so your skill set covers a wide variety of things. But most importantly, you are organized. Thus, your resume needs to reflect your ability to organize things well, no matter what the project (in this case, your resume).
What you include in your resume and how you word it determines whether you make the cut for an interview. Here are some of the reasons why a solid resume is your ticket in.
It outlines your skills and experience.
Potential employers need to see if you have the skills required to get the job done. However, simply having the skills isn’t always enough.
If you are applying for a position above entry-level, the company will want to see your experience relevant to the job. They want to know how you’ve performed in the past and achievements you’ve had as a result.
It grabs attention.
Hiring managers sift through a high volume of resumes. And let’s be honest, that can get quite boring and tedious. That’s why they love a resume that stands out and grabs their attention.
The best place to grab their attention is in the top one-fourth of the resume. While it is crucial to have your name and contact information at the top, utilize the rest of that space to do something unique.
This could be a summary, personal logo, a quote—really anything that will get the hiring manager to pause and give your resume more time.
One study by the New College of the Humanities showed that the average amount of time a hiring manager spends on your resume is three minutes and 14 seconds.
On top of that, one in five recruiters reject a candidate before they finish reading a CV or resume, so keep in mind that first impressions are important.
It shows how you could benefit the company.
A company is only interested in hiring you if they can envision you helping them (which is entirely logical).
Simply put, the company has a need, and they are looking for someone to fill that need. So, your resume needs to show that, as a project manager, you have much to bring to the company.
A great way to do this is by using numbers and facts. Verifiable metrics (such as money saved, projects completed, number of people managed, etc.) are a tangible way for companies to see your potential benefit to them.
It ensures you’re a good match for the job.
It’s no surprise that a company wants your skill set, experience, and goals to align with the job. And the resume is the first place to show this.
Rather than your resume being a general project management one that could be used for any potential job in the field, you must cater each resume specifically to each job you apply for.
It can get you an interview.
Your resume is the first step in the hiring process. With it, hiring managers determine whether you are worthy of taking the next step: the interview.
If you don’t make it past the resume test, you won’t make it to the next one, hence our focus on the resume.
How to Improve Your Project Management Resume Today
Now that you understand the importance of your resume, it is time to dive into making your project management resume strong to show recruiters and hiring managers that you are worthy of an interview.
There are several different steps, tips, and tricks involved in making your resume shine.
Write a Strong Headline
The headline on your resume needs to read more than just “Project Manager.” This is an opportunity to throw in a bit of additional information that will qualify you as a great candidate from the very beginning. Recall from above where we mentioned the importance of first impressions? A strong headline is that in practice.
If you only have room for a short headline, it should read something like:
Detail-Oriented Project Manager with [x] Years of [industry] Experience
Seasoned [industry] Project Manager with [x] Years of Experience
If you want to expand a bit more and write a more in-depth headline similar to a summary, here are some examples:
[Industry] certified Project Manager with [x] years of experience owning all stages of a project from inception through closing to deliver projects that exceed expectations and remain within budget.
Results-driven project manager with exceptional management, communication, and planning skills looking for a Project Manager position at [company].
Often, before your resume makes it in front of a hiring manager, it is run through a system that scans your resume. This saves hiring managers a lot of time and lets them know whether your skill set matches the job you applied for.
The way the system works is that it scans your resume searching for keywords that show your experience in project management relevant to the job. If the system finds enough of the important keywords in your resume, it notifies the recruiter that you should be considered.
It’s clear why keywords are so important on your project management resume. The best way to ensure you have the right keywords to pass you through the scanning system is to incorporate specific ones used in the job description.
Because each position and job description is different from the next, you will need to change your keywords with every position. There is no going easy and using the same PM resume to apply to numerous different jobs.
If a term shows up on a job description and you have that experience or skill set, include it in your resume.
Some of the most common project management keywords include:
- Client communication
- Data modeling
- Due diligence
- Executing plans
- Financial analysis
- Gap analysis
- Impact assessment
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Leadership engagement
- Managing client expectations
- Managing conflicts
- Project coordination (PC)
- Project life cycle
- Quality control
- Risk management
- Vendor relationships
Highlight Technical Skills
In addition to sharing your basic skills, you need to demonstrate your technical skills specific to the industry and the job.
One of the essential parts of project management is organization, and chances are high you’ve used project management software to see a project through smoothly from start to finish.
Your potential employer wants to know that you have experience in specific project management software such as those shared here. Make sure to note if you’ve worked with the same or comparable tools that the job description lists.
Different software options are best for different project needs, but the best one for versatile use is Monday.com. Experience in this will impress hiring managers and likely get you moved to the top of the potential hire list.
Having experience in several different project management methodologies will work to your benefit, and sharing your level of expertise in each will help them better see your strengths. Any technical skill mentioned in the job description you have experience in should be highlighted on your resume.
If you received additional technical skills from certifications, training, or seminars, do not forget to share that. The Project Management Professional certification is globally recognized and lets potential employers know that you have a solid grasp on the world of project management and the skills and experience they’re looking for.
Share Achievements Using Metrics
Numbers are part of the job of a project manager. From budgets to deadlines and everything in between, much of your work is measured in numbers. Thus, you need to use metrics when describing your experience.
Whenever you mention a job duty for a past position, try to attach a metric to it. You could talk about the reach of a project, deadlines, budgets, the number of people you managed, and more. Hiring managers love numbers to justify your experience’s claims and see how they may apply to the company.
Pick a Fitting Layout
Most resumes follow a chronological order that displays your experience, starting with the most recent. This is a great way for hiring managers to see that you had no significant gaps in your work history and that you have experience dating back to a certain time.
However, if you are a freelance project manager, then chronological order may not best showcase your experience. If this sounds like you, opt for a layout that shows your most relevant projects first.
4 Best Practices for Nailing Resume Basics
The above are top tips for your making it to the interview round of your next potential project management job. Here are some more general resume tips you don’t want to forget either when putting this document together.
Use Professional Fonts
Nothing will turn a hiring manager or recruiter away quicker than not even being able to read what your resume says. Though you may want your resume’s design to be unique, don’t show your personality through a funky font. Keep it simple and readable. Also, watch your font sizes. If you make the font super small to try to cram everything onto one page, people won’t be able to read it easily and will move on.
Using phrases such as “hard-working,” “team player,” “driven,” etc., is not going to do you any favors. Overused business jargon will do the opposite of impress. Unless you have metrics and achievements to back up these common phrases, stay away from them:
- Go-to person
- Strategic thinker
- Team player
- Value add
Instead of the words above, choose action words that prove your value. Some of these include:
See the difference? The second list is words that are action-driven as opposed to personal traits.
Keep It Relatively Brief
It may be a struggle to whittle down your experience to a couple of pages, but it is necessary. Hiring managers and recruiters view such a high volume of resumes that you want to keep yours concise and to the point.
You do NOT need to keep your resume to only one page. This is an outdated practice that was told over and over before the advent of electronic resumes. But you also do not want a five-page resume monstrosity.
A general rule is one page for recent grads and entry-level jobs, two-ish pages for five or more years of experience, and three pages for senior-level experience and positions.
Include the important things like your skills and experience, but remove things like your GPA, school awards, school clubs, and general interests to save room. Once you have some professional experience, your GPA, awards, and clubs will no longer be relevant.
Grammar and spelling errors are a major red flag to hiring managers, as it shows that you aren’t thorough in your work. As a project manager, it is especially important to show that you are organized and detailed enough to present an impressive final product, which in this case, is your resume.
Read through your resume multiple times, and read it out loud to catch anything that sounds awkward.When you feel as if you can’t possibly look at your resume anymore, ask a trusted friend or mentor to review it to ensure there aren’t any mistakes you missed. This simple step has the power to make or break your first impression for a position. You can also run it through a free proofreading tool online, such as Grammarly.