Program managers are tasked with overseeing the fulfillment of larger organizational goals, coordinating activities between multiple projects without directly managing them. When putting together a resume, program managers should be able to demonstrate they can manage multiple projects concurrently while staying within budget and meeting agreed-upon deadlines.
The main two certifications for program and project managers are the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute and the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) from Scrum Alliance. Art Denman, lead technical recruiter for Kelly Technology, said a four-year degree and certifications such as PMI, PMP and Project+ are table stakes in the eyes of hiring managers looking for program managers. Adjust your program manager resume accordingly.
“Because program managers typically have several direct reports, it’s important for candidates to highlight their leadership abilities and experiences in which they have guided a team to achieve a goal while enabling team members’ growth and success,” he said.
Program Manager Resume Template
Building your own program manager resume? Here’s a potential template for you to explore:
Highlight Your Individual Achievements in Execution, Delivery
Dan Publicover, director of talent acquisition at Core BTS, said he finds it most appealing when candidates can summarize a business problem, the solution, and the role they played in the execution and delivery of that solution. “Be specific,” he said. “I suggest treating each project as its own ‘job’.”
In other words, a great program manager resume will show how the candidate drives projects to a successful conclusion. “All projects can go sideways,” Publicover said. “I want to know what you did to get the project back on track. A more useful skill is what did you do to mitigate risks and keep the project from going off the rails."
Jason Deneu, Robert Half’s New York market director, agreed that, because program management can touch on various job specifications (it can be tied into software development or the project management lifecycle, for example), the most important thing when crafting the resume is to orient it specifically towards the job description.
“It's really important to dig into the meat of the role you're applying for, and really take notice of the nuances they have listed there,” Deneu said. “You are obviously never going to fabricate any experience that you have, but you want to make sure that you're bringing out the salient points in the program manager type of roles.”
Taking a Results-Driven Approach to Work Experience
For a professional with five or more years of experience as a program manager, you can put education at the bottom of the resume. Focus on your work experiences.
“It goes without saying, but sometimes you have to say it: You should list your jobs in chronological order from most recent to oldest,” Deneu said. “It's also very important to take a results-driven approach when you describe your duties and accomplishments. Instead of just stating the job function, include meaningful information about how you've benefited a project or the company.”
Publicover agrees; when reviewing a project, he wants to have a sense of the size and scale of the projects. “How many projects are you managing concurrently?” he said. “What are the budgets and timelines? How many team members are involved in the project? Are they on-shore or off-shore resources?"
Change management and end-user adoption is more important than ever to ensure that employees get the full benefit of solution that is being implemented. For that reason, any knowledge and/or experience with change- and adoption-management activities should be included in the resume, as well as certifications from Prosci, a leader in change management frameworks and methodologies.
Gone are the days of hiring managers sorting through a stack of resumes on their desk—it’s all digital. “With that in mind, candidates should not feel obligated to shoehorn their skills and experience into one page,” Denman said. “Two pages is the new one.”
Quantify Accomplishments Using ROI, Other KPIs
Denman recommends paring down descriptions of job experience gained earlier in your career to a maximum of three bullets. “Candidates should elaborate more on experience and accomplishments gained in their most recent role,” he said. “Applicants can also differentiate themselves by emphasizing accomplishments that can be quantified.”
Candidates must demonstrate their ability to deliver complex projects on or ahead of time, on-spec, and at or under budget—the last point cannot be understated. “Leaders expect program managers to realize cost savings for the company, so candidates will benefit from including on their resume examples of programs they have led which have saved money for their company,” he noted.
He said ROI generated, cost savings realized, and projects delivered ahead of schedule are among the important metrics and KPIs that hiring managers are looking for. Adjust your program manager resume accordingly.
Add Eloquence to Demonstrate Communications Skills
Denman added that, while hard skills are important, candidates should also look for opportunities to highlight soft skills such as communication, adaptability, influence (especially when not in a designated position of authority), and cross-functional collaboration.
“These are all important skills that will enable a program manager to succeed in leading complex IT programs,” he said. “As a soft skill, individuals that are creative in the program space are huge, as well, and who can demonstrate problem-solving abilities.”
Listing proficiency in verbal communication is important, which can be put to good effect when writing about your experiences coordinating with teams. “Your resume really needs to be well-written, especially in a program manager space,” Denman said. “You should even come off as eloquent in your speech.”
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