Hi there! If you’re in the project management profession, you’ll know that a PM job is in hot demand out there. Many companies, particularly banks and insurance companies, want to re-focus their strategies, revamp their systems and improve performance. That means they need to implement projects – and projects need project managers.
For those of you looking for project management roles, you’ll know how important a solid resume is.
In this article, I’d like to share with you some tips on writing a great project manager resume. I’ve applied these tips over the years and they’ve helped me clinch manyt PM interview with potential employers.
I’ll also give you sample project manager resume so you understand what it should look like.
The trick to getting a good resume out there is to give enough information to “hook” the employer – but yet not boring him or her with excessive detail. There’s also a unique style of writing that you should apply, so that you sound like the candidate they’re looking for. I’ll elaborate more below, so let’s jump right in and see how to spruce up that resume!
A good resume will help you secure that PM interview you want
Before we delve into the details of how to write a good project manager resume, let’s first understand what a solid resume should comprise of.
In my experience as a PM, both in banks and in consulting firms here in Asia, I find that many PMs write horrific resumes. Yes, that’s a harsh word – but the resumes coming into my firm can be very bad.
What A Bad PM Resume Looks Like
Let’s see what are some of the usual mistakes I see in a resume:
- Lack of an introductory paragraph or executive summary
- A bad (or obnoxious) photograph
- Bad grammar and spelling
- Excessive detail on how projects were done
- Excessive detail on school projects and non-work activities
- “Generic” content, a lack of specific details that demonstrate a knowledge in a domain
- Stating expected salaries in the resume
There are many, many more examples I can list out. If you’ve committed any of the above mistakes, you should try to correct them as soon as possible.
What A Good PM Resume Looks Like
In my opinion, the best resumes are focused on one objective … and that is to demonstrate to the potential employee that you can add value to the company.
That’s it! If you can demonstrate that in a professional manner, I can assure you that your chances of snagging an interview will shoot up. To that end, here’s what I think that a “good resume” should contain:
- Professional Profile and Photo – a short executive summary of your professional life, coupled with a well taken professional looking photo.
- Contact Information – your email and contact number. I usually don’t include an address.
- Work Experience – A list of the companies you’ve worked for, the dates you started and ended at each company, plus the brief role and responsibilities you held at each company.
- Education – your degrees, diplomas, etc. should go in this section.
- Professional Memberships – if you’re part of any professional body, mention it here.
- Publications – if you’ve written any books, papers and so forth – list them out here.
- Awards / Recognitions – any major awards you won should be proudly mentioned.
- Areas of Expertise – your specific industry, solution or specialist knowledge should always be highlighted.
I always mention the above sections in my resume. You’ll see a sample of my resume later in this article. These sections are critical and I think it’s a very solid, compact representation of what you can offer an employer.
Ok, now that we understand what makes up a bad and a good PM resume, let’s delve into some detailed tips on how to write them.
Tip #1 – Avoid Excessive Detail
One important piece of advice I can give in writing a PM resume is this – DO NOT describe all the projects you’ve done before in detail. Instead, learn to summarize. If you’ve worked at Company A and did three projects there, and also at Company B, where you did two projects – you should not list down and describe all five projects.
What I’d do is to list down something like:
Learn to summarize the projects you’ve done in your resume
Case Study:. I worked as a project manager in a global bank here in Singapore a couple years ago. In the resume I submitted to that bank, I listed down every single project I did from the start of my career until that point in time.
You know how many projects I listed down?
I listed down 16 projects! That filled up my resume and ballooned it to eight pages! A career coach of mine later told me he was suprised I got the bank job, because listing every single project and describing each one in detail is a no-no in resume writing.
The lesson learnt? Simple – interviewers are usually senior folks who scarcely have time to run through all details of your projects. You should summarize the project work into one or two sentences per project, at the most. And if you’re so experienced that you have more than say, ten projects in your resume – you should summarize even further.
Tip #2: Use Critical Keywords
One hidden trick that I think is important in resume writing is to use critical keywords.
I’ll give you an example.
If you’re applying for a banking PM role, I’d encourage that you sprinkle words like the following into the resume.
- Oversaw a team of five resources
- Managed stakeholders
- Installed project governance
- Managed scope and implemented change control processes
- End-to-end project management of software implementation
- Software development lifecyle, SDLC
“Domain and Solution Keywords”
- Core banking system, loan origination system, treasury system
- Operating model, strategy implementation
- Worked with credit operations team to gather front-to-back requirements for loan origination, including loan application, collateral apparaisal, credit scoring and underwriting disbursement, etc.
You see how this works? If I’m an employer hiring a PM, I’ll immediately understand some standard PM keywords that you list in your resume – all of which relate closely to project management and the banking domain.
This is crucial. So many job applicants simply write resumes that don’t resound well with their potential employers, causing them to lose interview opportunities. Weave in the keywords your employer wants to hear.
Bring out the keywords that demonstrate YOU KNOW what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Of course, this is granted that it makes sense. You shouldn’t weave words for the sake of just using them – that may end up doing more harm than good.
Tip #3: Not More than 3 Pages
Here’s a good rule of thumb for a project manager resume (and any resume for that matter).
Stick to three pages.
Please – not more than three pages.
In my day job, I work as a Senior PM in a management consulting firm here in Singapore. From time to time, I interview Associates, Senior Associates and Managers.
These have one to five years experience and I find that many of these young candidates write reams and reams of resume content! It drives me nuts!
Please – stick to just three pages in your resume. In fact, I’d prefer only two pages. If you can summarize your work life in just two pages, including your skills, expertise and why you can add value to my company – all written in a professional manner – I’ll more likely than not grant you an interview.
More than three pages just shows me you haven’t bothered to think about what are your critical value propositions and skill sets. Which casts a negative light on your professional profile.
Tip #4: Include A Photograph (A Proper One)
Yes, I’ll admit it. As an interviewer, I look at photographs of my candidates. Does a person’s appearance affect his or her chance of getting an interview?
To me, it does. You may think it’s unfair to “judge a book by its cover”. But I’ll tell you – in the corporate world, people ARE JUDGED by their cover. At least to some extent.
Suppose you give me two candidates whom I’ve never met before.
Candidate A is a well-groomed, pleasant looking male. He’s taken the trouble to take a good photo and put in his resume.
Candidate B has also included a photo in his resume. However, he looks tired and dishevelled and the photo is dimly lit. He looks lazy and disorganized to me.
Who do you think I’d pick for an interview? The answer is obvious – Candidate A!
It’s true that we do judge a book by its cover – up to a certain extent. So my advice is to over dress when in doubt and be as well-mannered and well presented as you can – just in case.
Tip #5: Multi-Language and International Exposure
Ok, another important tip is to include your multi-language capabilities and international exposure into your project manager resume.
These days, employers want their employees to be international in outlook. You no longer want a person who is fuddy duddy and sitting all alone in the corner.
The modern “employee” has to be as comfortable working with an American, European, Australian Japanese, Indian, Chinese, etc.
He or she ideally speaks more than one language and has worked in several countries. And has also travelled quite a bit around the world and understood different cultures.
Highlight these capabilities in your resume. I think they are THAT important.
Honestly, I’d sooner grab a hire who has international exposure and is confident working with different teams from different countries, then I would someone who is extremely well qualified on paper but has been given very little exposure to the world.
Tip #6: Don’t Be Too “Methodology” Based
If you’re a project manager, you’ll know what I mean by “methodology”.
Gantt charts. Earned Value Management. Milestone Tracking.
Project Status Reports. One thousand line project plans.
All these are project management “methodology” and techniques. I know they have their place in projects – and that’s all fine.
What I’m uncomfortable with is the over reliance on these methodologies.
To me, tools and methodology are important – but they should NEVER take the place of fundamentals like communication, scope control, looking out for your team and watching the project horizon for risks.
Reflecting too much methodology in your PM resume will not only make your resume very “dry” and boring, it may show you’re overly focused on project techniques and might indicate you’re forgetting about outcomes.
Case Study: I was once a very “methodology” based PM. I looked at a look of minute detail in project templates and techniques.
I fussed about the font size on my project status slides.
I worried more about the tone of the red / green / yellow colors on my project “traffic light” slides instead of REAL project issues.
I looked at project progress by plotting fancy graphs showing how many things were signed off and how many defects were closed, etc.
It was not until much later in my career that I realized up to 40% to 60% of my PM time was spent on these “minute” things.
The two most important things for a PM to do is to “get out there and get issues resolved” and also “watch out for any upcoming risks”.
I realized that if you spend a lot of time worrying about “methodology” – you’re forgetting the basics of being a PM! So these days, I try to spend time out there with my team FIRST each day, then worry about my status reports later.
Tip #7: Demonstrate Domain Knowledge
One of the most important things you need as a PM these days is domain knowledge. I’ve explained that a couple of times in this website.
Domain knowledge is critical for any project out there. Whether it is knowledge in an industry (e.g. banking, insurance, healthcare), a solution (e.g. operating model design, business case development) or a software (e.g. core banking systems, collateral management systems, treasury systems) – you need to demonstrate that in your resume.
Tip: Find your speciality skill and go deep. These days, it’s never enough to be just a “generic” PM or BA – skilled in “project techinques and methodology”.
I hire a lot of consultants to do FSI (Finance Services Industry) projects in my firm. One of the things I look out for is one or two domain areas they know about – it could be retail banking sales / service, insurance claims expertise – anything like that. If you have some of these domain skills, you will stand out quite a bit from the crowd.
By the way, there are many ways you can increase your domain knowledge – and I’ve written about that here.
Tip #8: Customize Your Resume
Back when I was looking for a job, I recalled that I customized my resume for each and every job application I did.
For example, if I applied to a retail bank, I’d change my cover letter and resume to reflect knowledge like retail sales and services, call centers, campaign management and CASA (Current Account / Savings Account).
If I applied to an investment bank, I’d concentrate on showing in my resume items like – trade lifecycle, settlement and reconciliations, market data and corporate actions.
Every employer wants to know that your experience is a fit for his or her organization.
You’d be surprised how many job applicants DON’T TAKE THE TIME to customize their skill sets to the employer they’re applying to.
They send out “generic job applications” that seem to cater to ANY company out there.
That’s a bad habit.
And it’ll cost you your interviews.
Take the time to just customize your resume and it’ll increase your chances of a successful application – very significantly.
A Sample Project Manager Resume (Mine!)
Having gone through the above eight I’d like to introduce to you my template for a project manager resume. You can download it here.
This is my personal PM resume template and I’ve used it with a lot of success when applying for PM roles in banks, insurance companies and also my current consulting firm.
A couple of comments on my resume template which I think are important.
Well-structured. The first thing you’ll observed is that my resume template is structured.
Like what I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, you cannot just randomly list down job experience.
You start with a “Professional Profile” – which is an exceutive summary of what you’ve done in your career, described in just two to three paragraphs. Keep this section SHORT and CONCISE.
You then go on to “Work Experience” – where you list down (in reverse chronological order) – the list of PM roles you’ve played in different companies.
You end off with “Education”, “Professional Memberships and Certification”, “Publications”, “Awards / Recognitions” and “Areas of Expertise”.
Brief, quantified descriptions. If you zoom in on the example I provided for John Doe, within Project ABC that he project managed while in Company ABC, you’ll see that I provided a short paragraph summarizing his achievements.
“John was the overall Project Manager in a worldwide US$30 million program implementing a Temenos core banking system for a global private bank. He managed a team of 30 resources comprising of … supporting 200+ users in London and Zurich, with operational cost savings of $5 million achieved over a three year timeframe.
If you can, always quantify your project outcomes and experience:
- How many team members did you manage?
- How many documents did you produce?
- Did you achieve the intended business benefits?
- What did those benefits translate to in terms of dollars?
- What cost savings did you achieve?
Three Pages. As you can see, with this format, you can easily contain the resume to just three pages.
Like I said, three pages is the maximum for any resume I look at. You may need to go through a couple of iterations to shorten and edit your resume to fit, but it’ll be a good exercise.
If you find trouble limiting things to just three pages, try to summarize up your experiences more.
In my case, I’ve got twenty projects under my belt as at the time of this writing. Do I describe them all? No! For my tenure at say, Company XYZ, I merely say something like:
Mr Gary Tan was a Senior Project Manager with Company XYZ, based in Singapore. He works with banking and insurance clients in Asia to develop their IT strategy and operating models. During his tenure, he project managed a $10 million core banking system implementation for a Malaysian private bank and also advised several clients in Thailand and Singapore on their enterprise IT strategy and front-to-back banking processes …
This approach helps to summarize up your projects into something more contained, but yet does not lose the essence of your experience in the company.
Wrapping Up …
I sincerely hope the above has helped you understand a bit more about how to write a good project manager resume.
Getting an interview for a PM role in the market can be highly competitive, especially in the banking and insurance sectors.
As a job seeker, you should seek to gain the attention of your potential employer through whatever means possible. And having a solid written resume is one of the most important items to check off.
If you follow the above tips and resume template I’ve provided you, I’m sure you’ll improve your job application and chances of securing that dream PM job.
That’s all I have for now. Until next time, here’s all the best to you in your PM job search!