Creating a resume can be a pain. How can you possibly highlight your entire career and all your skills, experience, qualifications, credentials, and potential on a sheet or two of paper?
According to Glassdoor, the average hiring manager or recruiter spends just six seconds reviewing a resume. That’s right—six seconds!
That’s why learning how to craft the perfect project management resume is an invaluable skill. If you’re having trouble getting interviews or callbacks based on your resume alone, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a project management beginner or have decades of experience, I’ll teach you how to write a resume that fast-tracks you through the hiring process.
Why You Need a Strong Project Management Resume
The average corporate job listing attracts 250 resumes. But just four to six of those applicants will be called in for an interview, and only one person will land the job.
Your project management resume needs to stand out from the crowd to increase your chances of being within the 2% of applicants who get an interview.
Even if your skills and experience are unmatched and you’re the best possible candidate for the position, it won’t matter if you can’t convey that information properly on a resume. On the flip side, you might be underqualified for certain project management roles. But with the right resume, you’ll stand out against other project managers with more experience than you.
5 Ways to Improve Your Project Management Resume
Whether you’re starting from scratch or just want to touch up your existing resume, these are some of the best ways to stand out to hiring managers and recruiters. These five strategies will take your project management resume to the next level.
#1 — Add Relevant Keywords
In the modern business environment, most hiring managers aren’t scanning through a stack of resumes by hand. Instead, submissions are run through software that scans each resume for relevancy to see if the applicant has the right skills for the job. Lots of organizations use recruiting firms as well to help find the best applicants. Recruiters are notorious for using the same approach to narrow the field simply because it’s the easiest way to scan through hundreds of resumes.
Getting your resume in front of a real person is the first step to success, and that won’t happen if the software rejects your application. Adding relevant keywords to your resume will increase the chances that you’ll get past the initial filtering process.
Examples of relevant project management resume keywords include:
- Change Management
- Client Communication
- Data Analysis
- Manage teams
- Manage conflict
- Manage client expectations
- Process development
- Quality control
- Risk management
- Resource allocation
- Scheduling and planning
Every project management position is unique. So don’t stuff your resume with every potential keyword. Instead, you should adjust the keywords based on the job you’re applying for each position to which you apply. When thinking about the relevant keywords for any job, refer directly to the job description. What specific skills and tool proficiencies are they asking for?
Use those as your keywords so that the software sees that your skills match what they are looking for. This adds an extra step to your application process, but it will drastically increase your chances of the resume landing on the hiring manager’s desk.
#2 — Craft Eye-Catching Headlines
Once your resume gets put in front of a decision-maker, that person still won’t read every resume word for word. So the best way to make your resume stand out from others is by crafting solid headlines. What can you say that will make your resume resonate with a hiring manager over others? Calling yourself a “project manager” alone isn’t enough.
Here are some examples of unique project management resume headlines:
- Skilled [Industry] Project Manager with [X] Years of Experience
- [Credentials] Certified Project Manager Exceeding Client Expectations For [X] Years
- Detail-Oriented Project Manager With Exceptional Risk Management and Leadership Skills Seeking New Opportunities in [Industry]
These types of headlines are much more specific and are so much more than just listing your title. You’ll have a much better chance of getting the rest of your resume reviewed if a hiring manager sees a headline like this while scanning through applicants.
#3 — Emphasize Technical Abilities
Besides soft skills and basic project management buzzwords, you’ll need to show prospective employers that you’re qualified to lead teams. One of the best ways to do this is by highlighting relevant technical skills on your resume.
Convey this information on your resume with real examples. You should mention any project management methodologies that you’re proficient in applying to real jobs. Highlight the project management software that you’ve used in the past as well.
This is something that you could change based on the position you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying for a role managing complex projects for a larger organization, you could mention your proficiency using a project management tool like LiquidPlanner.
This would be much more impressive than just naming a simple Gantt chart tool or a Kanban-style board. But if the job calls for simplicity, then highlighting those types of solutions would be the better choice.
#4 — Showcase Credentials and Achievements
Another great way to stand out from the crowd is by adding your most significant accomplishments to the top of your resume. This is especially true if you have any impressive certifications in your field.
For example, the PMP Certification from the Project Management Institute would definitely add value to your resume.
The median salary for professionals with a PMP certification is 25% higher than those who aren’t certified. So not only will your resume be more appealing, but you can also get paid more.
Other noteworthy certifications include:
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
- Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)
- PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)
- PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)
If you have these types of credentials, show them off. If not, then it’s worth it to get certified. Some of these certifications take a bit of time to get, but in the meantime, you can still highlight relevant achievements on your resume. Rather than just listing a previous project, attach some sort of metric to your history that will prove the project’s success.
#5 — Use an Appropriate Layout
Most resumes follow the same layout. While you don’t need to reinvent the wheel entirely, be smart about how things are listed on your resume. Major accomplishments shouldn’t be buried at the bottom of the page.
Usually, a resume lists experiences in chronological order. But that won’t always be the best option if you’ve recently taken time off or worked in irrelevant jobs recently. For those of you who fall into this category, use a layout that highlights your most relevant project management experience first, even if it’s not chronological. For example, instead of chronological, perhaps you have the top section of job experience as “Relevant Experience” or “Project Management Experience.”
An online resume builder like Zety can make this process much easier for you.
The platform has 20+ templates, including options used by over 1.5 million users. But the cool thing about Zety is that you can completely edit the resume to your liking, which is perfect if you want to break the mold.
The Basics of Project Management Resumes
Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of a project management resume at a higher level. The best project management resumes convey the following:
Experience, Skills, and Expertise
Listing your previous jobs won’t be enough if a hiring manager doesn’t understand your skills. This is especially true for anything other than an entry-level position.
You’re likely competing with other candidates who have 10 or 20 years of experience in the same industry. Your resume must showcase the most relevant skills and job experiences to that specific position to stand out from those applicants. Explain how you’ve achieved specific results with previous projects.
For those of you who don’t have a ton of experience as a project manager, you’ll need to get creative. Rather than focusing on the experience you don’t have, highlight the skills and credentials you do have. That’s another reason why having a project management certification can help you land new jobs—especially if you’re a beginner.
Highlight Your Value to the Company
The best project management resumes show hiring managers that you’re a perfect fit within their organization. Your resume should show that you’re in high demand, and the company should be coming after you.
In a perfect world, the decision-maker would read your resume and think to themselves, “We need this person.” Then in the interview, they’d spend more time pitching you about why you should take the job instead of you trying to convince them to hire you.
This is easier said than done. But the best approach here is to do some company-specific research. You will likely need to change your resume based on the job you’re applying for to ensure the information matches the company’s values. You could take this a step further and see who is employed at the company now or had the same job you’re applying for previously on LinkedIn. What do these people have in common? Is there a pattern with previous professionals who had this position before you?
Again, this can be a bit time-consuming. But it will be worth it when your phone starts ringing off the hook for interviews.
Logical Career Summary
A big mistake that people make with their project management resumes is listing irrelevant accomplishments, achievements, or credentials. Your resume should prioritize facts about yourself that are the most pertinent to the job in question.
Your high school GPA, college clubs, and recreational activities aren’t nearly as relevant as your project management certifications and previous management roles. Your six-month stint as an intramural soccer captain can probably be eliminated from your resume. If you think your resume is a bit light and you know for a fact that the hiring manager is an ex-soccer player or something like that, you could try to work that in there. But for the most part, stick to your relevant career accomplishments.
The hiring manager shouldn’t have many questions when they’ve reviewed your resume. Everything should be summarized in a way that’s easily understood.
3 Tricks For The Perfect Project Management Resume
These are my favorite quick tricks and best practices that you can apply to your resume. These actions can improve the quality and value of your project management resume right away.
Trick #1: Don’t Lie
This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often this happens. According to a recent study, 36% of Americans admitted that they lied on their resumes. Of the ones who were caught lying, 65% were either fired or not hired.
Aside from the moral issues with lying on a resume, this can have a detrimental impact on your career. If you develop a reputation for this, then you’ll struggle to find work. Maybe you get the job but are then fired afterward for being underqualified. This will be a huge problem when you apply for your next job.
While it can be tempting to bend the truth, I cannot recommend this. Most companies do more due diligence than you’d expect. If you lie about one of your credentials, certifications, previous management experience, or something else, that type of information can usually be verified with a simple phone call. With so many companies using recruiting agencies to assist with the hiring process, your lies are very likely to be caught.
Trick #2: Keep it Short
It’s a myth that your resume has to be a single page. This is especially true in the modern era, where resumes are sent and reviewed digitally. With that said, don’t submit a 10-page document and expect to get the job. Less is more.
Don’t continue adding something new to your resume every year without eliminating outdated information. As your career advances, you can eliminate old elements of your resume. A 15-year project management professional doesn’t need to have a college GPA, university-level award, or high school accomplishment on a resume. During those 15 years, you’ve accumulated much more relevant achievements that can replace the old ones and keep your resume short. The general rule of thumb is that you do not need anything more than a company and job title if the job was more than seven to nine years ago.
Trick #3: Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread Again
I can’t stress this point enough. If your resume has spelling errors or grammar issues, you’re not going to get the job. Especially when you tout yourself as detail-oriented.
It’s a big red flag if you can’t take the time to ensure your resume is error-proof. If a hiring manager sees that you were careless with this document, they might assume that you’ll take the same haphazard approach to your management style. Ask friends, mentors, family, significant others, and colleagues to review your resume. Running it through an online editing tool will help catch mistakes, too.