How to Create a Project Manager Resume
The dreaded resume. Talk about feeling like a deer in the headlights. When it comes to putting a resume together… that is the feeling many people get when they look down at the blank piece of paper or stare at an empty document on their monitor. Where do you even start?
The fact that you are even having to put a resume together puts you on edge because it means you are in the position of needing to look for a new position. This may be by choice (looking to upgrade your employment) or by necessity (perhaps your company just experienced a downsizing and you were caught up in that net).
Regardless, putting a resume or CV (curriculum vitae, or “life’s course”) together is no fun. The goal of this article is to help you at least decide on a framework you should use when it comes to putting your resume together. We won’t spend a lot of time of what should be in the resume, but more on how it should be constructed and the pros and cons of each approach.
There are two (really 2 ½) main formats of how your resume can be assembled. One is functional, the second is chronological, and the ½ is a combination of the two.
Functional Project Manager Resume
The functional project manager resume focuses on skills (like using enterprise project management tools, risk management, communication and so on) and experiences and downplays the employment aspect of your career. This is good for project managers that may be new to the workforce, or may have had some gaps in their employment history.
Interestingly, gaps in employment are not nearly the black mark that they used to be when employment was high. Nearly everyone has been affected by recent downturns in the economy and understands that even good people were affected by companies going out of business or downsizing.What are some of the pros and cons of a functional project manager resume?
- It focuses on what you know. Rather than being tied to what you did at a certain place over a certain period of time, a functional resume allows you to combine your experience into one package. For example, you may have written use cases in one company, technical manuals in another company, and functional specifications in another company. You can pull all of these activities together under the umbrella of Documentation Specialist and show the breadth and depth of what you have done.
- You tell the reader what you want them to know – It gives you the ability to not have the reader “read between the lines”. For example, they may have their own view of what a Senior Project Manager does, however, in your particular role you went WAY beyond that job title. Rather than get pigeon-holed by someone else’s interpretation of what they think your job entailed, you can explicitly include what you did in a functional project manager resume.
- Use unpaid or non-work experience to your advantage – Many people do a lot of volunteer work with various charities or their church. The reality is that many times this work is harder than a real job! You’ll sometimes hear people say “you couldn’t pay me to do this”, yet, they will volunteer in order to help out. A functional resume will let you incorporate that type of experience into your resume. For example, you may have organized teams of people to complete a particular charity project that spanned over a couple of months. Should the experience you gained from that charity activity be included? Absolutely.
- It’s not the norm – Most employers are familiar with a chronological resume that outlines a person’s work history in a neat and tidy way. They may not be as familiar with a format that focuses on skills and abilities rather than work history.
- A clear career path may not be obvious – Another drawback to a functional resume is that your career path may not be visible to the reader. It may not be readily apparent that you started as a project coordinator, then moved into a Junior Project Manager role, then Project Manager, then received your PMP Certification, then Senior Project Manager role, etc. Be mindful that if you decide on this type of format that you indicate somewhere that you have a certain path you are following.
Chronological Project Manager Resume
The chronological resume provides a job-by-job description of what you did, when you did it, and where. This also has some pros and cons.
- Employers are most familiar with this format – As previously mentioned, employers and recruiters are used to seeing this type of format. It includes your objective, your work history, educational profile and other associations and accomplishments at the end. It’s easy for them to get out of this resume what they are looking for.
- Shows your employability and career path - If there are not gaps between jobs, this is also a useful tool for showing your employability as a project manager. You can show a steady succession of positions and employers. It also will also give some indication of the career path you are on as a project manager and what your future aspirations may be.
- Highlights career gaps and plateaus – The chronological resume will quickly highlight if you have reached a plateau in your career. Maybe you made it as far as Program Manager but then stopped there for 6 – 8 years. This is not necessarily a bad thing, you may enjoy that position and it meets your needs, but it may also raise questions as to your drive and ambition.Something else that is easily figured out from a chronological resume is your age. Sure, employers aren’t supposed to take that into consideration but we know reality is very different. If your first job is in 1972 they may quickly dismiss you as a candidate and put you in the category of “overqualified”. Your age can be figured out on a functional resume as well, however, it won’t be quite as apparent.
- May not call out all that you can do – This type of resume also leaves it to the reader’s imagination as to what you can accomplish. This focuses more on what you HAVE done, not necessarily what you CAN do.
The Hybrid Resume
This one is my favorite as it allows you to maximize on the strengths of both types of resumes for project managers and minimize the weaknesses: You start with the functional side of what you can do as a Project Manager.
Next, you break it down into your areas of expertise that you have acquired over the years.
Perhaps you are excellent at Communication, Planning, Risk Management, and Client Management. Include a header for each one of these areas and include a few bullet points from your years of experience.
Then, include the a brief chronological section to show how employable you are, your career path, and the types of companies you have worked for in the past. Finally, wrap it up with your education and any outside volunteer activities and you’ve got yourself a great start in putting together your project resume.
How Long Should it Be?
Years ago it was important to have your resume no more than 2 pages long and cram as much as you possibly could without that small space. I don’t see any problem with a resume being 3-4 pages long. I know when I look to hire project managers and I come across a resume I like, I really want to dig into the details and understand what that person is about. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you take the time to put your best foot forward. Carefully think through what you put on your resume, have others review it and provide feedback, and most of all, enjoy the search.
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