Optimize Your Resume For Project Management

Trying to get your foot in the door in project management?

Projectize your resume.

project manager resumes - by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr
project manager resumes - by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr

A project manager resume is similar to other resumes, except for one key difference I can recommend. This is one key thing I changed when I began trying to get specifically into the project management field, and did not have enough formal experience yet to rely on.

It doesn’t involve deception. I’ll NEVER recommend you lie on your resume or cv in any way, ever. This is not a “trick”, it is a tip on how to present your own experience if you are seeking a project management related role.

Highlights and Results

I recommend 2 sections for each position you’ve held. A one-sentence description of your job, and then a section titled “Highlights and Results”

For this second section, I recommend a bulleted list with concrete accomplishments and quantitative metrics that are honest and concise.

My own “highlights and results” section is limited to just a handful per role. I keep a separate document with a longer list, and gear the resume for a particular application based on the type of company and environment. Present your real work history and experience in the most appealing way…suit it to the situation.

Here’s the Real Tip For Your Project Management Resume

For the last bullet point, I use it to highlight my project-specific experience. For instance, if I was a team member on a project, I might say something like this:

  • Worked on several project teams
    –Global360 Imaging MIS Project, many small projects enhancing usability, automation, and report distribution, projects related to integrating production systems with MIS systems

If I were a lead on these projects, I would qualify my involvement as “technical lead on several projects” or whatever the right language is for the situation.

And if I had managed these projects, I might use “Successfully managed and implemented many projects” or again, whatever wording makes sense for your situation. If they were not successful projects, don’t say they were.

Want to share your own tips for optimizing a resume for project management positions? Leave a comment below and share!


5 thoughts on “Optimize Your Resume For Project Management”

  1. I wrote an article on this almost a year ago, in reference to creating a resume for a CCO. I used collective intelligence sampling to support my methods, so here’s an excerpt – the entire article can be found @ http://ryangensel.blogspot.com/2008/08/first-steps-create-resume-that-conveys.html

    “So what does a Chief Creative Officer’s resume look like and how should I organize my resume to highlight only those experiences and credentials that are most relevant to the desired position in executive level project management?”

    “Google “resume” + “chief creative officer” and your results will fluctuate between real resumes, real job offers, example resumes, and job announcements, but adding the additional search query “filetype:doc” will provide the best response. I plan to review the resulting documents, take notes on the practices and phrasing that promote coherent expression of work experience, client information disclosure, specialty skills, and entrepreneurial success.”

    “Of the eighteen resume documents downloaded, I critiqued and selected nine to represent my research data. I used Google Documents to create a spreadsheet and record results…”

    PDFs are where the real information is, so find actual working documents to review. Learn what you can, and improve what you have. However, creating an impressive resume still will not secure a job that HR thinks you’re overqualified for. If you’re applying to be an employee, sound like you like to be managed.

    -Ryan Gensel


  2. User Avatar

    Great advice, you guys! As you point out, people are frequently DOING project management/leadership jobs informally even when they don’t have the title. I was told many years ago by a career coach that a resume is a marketing document, not a legal document. Of course the information has to be accurate, but it’s up to us to put ourselves in the best possible light when writing it. One way we can do that is to use job titles that are descriptive of what we did, not necessarily the official title we held. In fact, job responsibilities change far more frequently than job titles these days, and with the increased focus on cross-organization collaboration we can no longer expect someone’s title to reflect their level of responsibility in an organization. For example, when I worked at HP titles were often obscure and difficult for people outside of HP to understand. When I was leading one of the biggest projects of my early project management career, a project involving over a dozen core team members and over a hundred on the extended team, I was called a “manufacturing engineer”. That hardly represented my responsibilities. When I looked for a job with a project management title I changed the job title on my resume to read “manufacturing project manager”, which more accurately described what I did. Of course when you fill out the job application you need to use the official titles that you held in the various companies.

    One final tip: The purpose of the resume is to get the INTERVIEW . . . NOT to get the job. Your resume should make them want to talk with you, not give them the impression that they know everything about you. Make sure there are at least a few stories hinted at there that people will want to know more about. And keep it to 2 pages or less. No matter how fascinating you think your career has been, on average people spend 15 seconds reviewing it. Typically they read the top portion of the first page, then scan through company names and job titles, then flip to the second page to check out your education. That means you’d better have an excellent executive summary at the top of the first page. Here’s a formula I have used to create something comprehensive and succinct. The brackets indicate what you fill in for yourself:

    professional with over years of experience in all aspects of , ranging from to . Accomplishments include , and .

    If you can capture your professional experience in two short sentences like this you’ll capture the attention of a busy professional and also give them three stories they’d like to hear more about when they interview you.

    In spite of this economy, there are jobs out there. Keep hope alive! Survive to thrive!

    Stay Scrappy, Kimberly

  3. Josh, we are in complete agreement! A good behavioral interviewer will draw those issues out, and a well-rounded, senior project manager will naturally emphasize the examples of soft skills and how they contributed to problem resolution and/or project success! As we all know, the people issues are what derail projects, and the best PMs have a grasp of how to manage, lead, negotiate with, motivate, inspire and so forth. Best, Art

  4. Josh, great post and a great service for the PM community. As a former hiring executive and a frequent executive sponsor, I specifically look and interview for examples of the project manager’s work beyond the framework.

    Specifically, I look for attributes of effective senior contributors and informal leaders (which the best project managers are!. These include experience leading difficult and strategic projects; examples of successes and of challenges as an informal leader; ability to present with what I describe as “executive presence” and of course, a relentless focus on and ability to help people and teams get things done. Other elements include adaptability, culture sensing skills and comfort with key performance drives like delivering feedback.

    While my comments might apply more to the interview process, any ability to help those senior contributor attributes stand out on the CV is in my opinion a plus for the project manager.


    1. User Avatar

      Thanks for the great comment Art! It means a lot coming from you. I wonder if you agree with my comments below? (Anyone else, please comment too!)

      As someone who has done a lot of hiring myself and coaching others through their own interview process, I see a lot of people who tend to focus almost exclusively on hard skills. They seek to highlight things like certifications and technical skills again and again.

      To me this is a mistake, unless there is a particular reason for you to go into a discussion about your technical background. The CV/resume lists your technical skills, educational background, etc.

      The interview is an opportunity to give specific examples of your ability to lead and communicate effectively. These soft skills are difficult to convey via a piece of paper, but a conversation is a great place to showcase them.

      For instance, when describing my role as the lead PM for my contract on the LDCM mission I would not talk much about what technologies we use. As a project manager the technical side is very important, but so is the ability to work with the myriad of stakeholders all around me and add value through my relationships with them.

      Participating actively in the conversation through story telling is the most effective way to stand out from other candidates and “wow” your interviewers.

      Josh Nankivel

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