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How to Write a Winning CV

Have you just seen your dream job advertised? Even if you have all the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience to excel in the advertised role, the company may not consider you for the position if your CV isn’t clear.

A good CV should highlight your professional and educational experience, as well as showing how you can contribute to the organisation. There is no standard template to land a project management job, but the best CVs have several things in common. Here are some points that you should include to make sure the organisation can clearly see why they need you on board:

CV Content

Personal details: Your name should be the document header. Keep your contact details to one phone number and one (sensible) email address. Your address is useful, although you can just give your town/city and postcode. Some people also include their LinkedIn profile address.

Career Goals: A 2 or 3 line profile can link your career objectives to your potential employer’s needs so they can clearly see how you will fit into the organisation and be of benefit to them.

Project Management Experience: Here you should list chronologically your experience. Include dates of employment, company name, job title, roles you have been given within projects, and your project manager responsibilities.

If you’re new to project management, highlight transferable skills and experience, such as communication, problem solving and leadership skills. Mention any training programmes you’ve attended, such as a PRINCE2® foundation course, which demonstrates your commitment to your new career.

If you have considerable work experience, you may want to divide each role profile into two sections: job duties/responsibilities and achievements. Highlight the number and value of projects undertaken, experience of different industry sectors, challenges overcome, successful projects, and methodologies used and integrated. Where possible, quantify with £ or %.

Key Skills: Whether you are IT proficient or a linguist, this is where you should highlight your hard/technical skills. List software packages used as recruiters will be looking for key words. All project managers may use a specific methodology or IT package, but if your CV is going through HR first, they will not be expert in your subject. Make it easy for them by telling them what you do.

Education/qualifications: Start with your most recent qualification and give its title, awarding body/institution where you studied and the date gained. If you have a degree (or two), you don’t need to list your GCSEs or O Levels. Recent graduates should consider including thesis/dissertation title as it shows your area of interest and could provide an ice-breaker for interviews.

Professional activity: Include memberships of professional bodies, any involvement with committees or networking groups, articles you’ve written and speaking engagements. If these are numerous, ensure they’re on your LinkedIn profile and include the link here.

Interests: This shows that you are a well-rounded person and that you are able to cope with work-loads. You should include interests that complement the industry or project management as well as any that show you have gained skills outside the workplace. For example, team-working as part of a sport or musical ensemble, treasurer for a society (showing financial acumen) or management experience.

Keyword Focus: It’s important to make sure your CV is rich in industry-relevant keywords to highlight your capabilities. This could include terms such as PRINCE2, risk management, project management. Be mindful of the acronym trap – always explain them in full, rather than making your CV jargon-heavy. Reflect the language of the organisation to which you’re applying and mirror their phrases.

Employment Challenges: If you have a gap in your CV, explain it – career break, redundancy, job-hunting, travelling – all of these are acceptable.

CV Presentation

Format: A CV is your chance to catch the potential employer’s attention, and you may only have a minute to do so. Use a clear font (Arial or Times New Roman are both standard, Calibri is a little more interesting) and a reasonable font size (no smaller than 10pt). Avoid using tables in the background of your CV as these do not travel well, electronically-speaking. If you do have complex paragraphs, columns and tables, PDF your CV once it is ready to send, thus reducing the chance of it appearing messy when opened at the other end.

Length: While it can be tempting to include all of your experience and education, a CV should not be your life story. Stick to 2 pages. If you have lots to say, make it 3 full pages, but not 2 and a half. Be concise and include the most marketable aspects of your career and skills to grab your potential employer’s attention.

Spelling and grammar: Do not rely on the colourful lines your computer provides as a method of checking spelling and grammar. Re-read your application documents before submitting them. Employers do care about spelling.

Covering Letter or Supporting Statement

Personalise: Your potential employer doesn’t want to feel as if your CV has been sent to multiple other organisations also offering a position. Find out the name and job title of the person you are applying to and address the letter accordingly.

Be Specific: Follow instructions – include reference numbers and where you saw the job advertised. If you are asked to address specific criteria, ensure you do.

Pitch Yourself: The covering letter is the chance to encourage your potential employer to look at your CV. Outline your areas of expertise and back them up with achievements and qualifications. This demonstrates how you can contribute to the business and meet the advertised job specifications. The covering letter or supporting statement is your opportunity to show how you can be of benefit to the organisation, not how this role will help you advance your career, as this sounds like you are viewing their job as a stepping stone and may not stay long.

Availability: Mention your availability for interview

Enthusiasm: Tell them you are interested in the job and their organisation. We all like to hear nice things said about us so tell them why you like them and what attracts you to them.

Your CV is a fluid, ever-changing document. Keep it up to date regularly, especially after project completion so you capture current knowledge, skills and expertise. There isn’t a magic formula for a creating a perfect CV that will get you a project management position, but by following the tips above you can ensure your potential employer considers you for the job.

PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited.