The global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030. That’s attracting people with diverse experiences, skills and backgrounds to the project management (PM) profession. But even in a red-hot market, you still need a project manager résumé that highlights proficiency with a combination of leadership and technical skills, plus business acumen, if you want to grab the attention of hiring managers and land interviews.
In this guide, we’ll cover the major steps to creating an effective project manager résumé. We’ll also look at some things hiring managers want in a project manager, particularly in terms of the right mix of hard and soft skills to lead teams and projects to success.
What is Project Management?
In simplest terms, project managers lead a team to accomplish certain goals. Sometimes those goals are small—for example, fixing an app. The goals can also be more strategic, such as launching a huge platform or product. Whatever the project’s ultimate scope, project managers are usually involved in every step of the process, from initial strategy formulation to iterating the product after launch.
Successful project managers are very good at accurately forecasting the time and budget needed to accomplish their aims, as well as optimizing resource use during production.
Experts generally agree that effective project managers have a grasp on the “four Ps”: planning, process, people, and power. On a more tactical level, the project management lifecycle includes initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. That being said, the exact methodologies for navigating these touch-points can vary by project and industry.
For more information on the philosophy underlying project management, head to the Project Management Institute’s website, which offers lots of helpful documentation for aspiring and current project managers. Educational institutions and online learning portals all offer introductory courses to project management, as well.
Characteristics of an Effective Project Manager Résumé
Whether you’re a seasoned project manager, a technologist interested in switching to project management, or fresh out of MBA school, it’s important to show prospective employers that you can take the lead in motivating others, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and bringing projects to a successful conclusion.
“Having technical chops is an asset,” explained Amy Gies, certified IT résumé writer and founder of Capstone Résumé Services. However, if you make your technical background the center of your résumé, reviewers are going to peg you as a developer or senior engineer, not a leader. Employers want leadership and cultural fit.
While you want to give a nod to your technical expertise, the theme of your résumé needs to center on your leadership skills, leadership style, and ability to influence others and engage in cross-functional collaboration, Gies continued.
For instance, it’s important to convey an understanding of your preferred leadership style, such as transformational, servant, or participative… and to demonstrate how you used your style to deliver results at a certain time.
In addition to proving that you possess the knowledge and ability to execute the duties and responsibilities that span the five phases of a project life cycle (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and closing) there are some other intangible qualities that hiring managers will be looking for. These are absolutely essential to include in your profile and work history sections:
Examples of personal impact: While team success is important, hiring managers want to know how you made a significant and meaningful impact on the outcome of a project. How did you influence the team (such as convincing someone to change an opinion, or overcome problems)? It’s assumed that you will encounter problems as a project manager; it’s how you react and solve them that matters. (For a closer look, many consulting firms including McKinsey look for attributes that correlate with personal impact.)
Cultural alignment: Generally speaking, cultural fit is based on the alignment of values, beliefs, and behaviors between an employee and employer. Researching the company’s culture, knowing the type of culture that enables you to thrive, and weaving connecting phrases and examples into your résumé’s messaging is the key to demonstrating cultural fit. For example: “I find opportunity in adversity”; or “Inside-out thinker and leader. Expert at eliminating team weaknesses and leveraging strengths to move projects forward.”
Proof of results: The most effective project manager résumés are peppered with specific, quantified project details, benchmarking measurements and outcomes. They also describe the impact of projects on organizational performance. If you can’t share confidential information, use dollar signs to describe the scope of projects, Gies said. Depending on the nature of the project, you can also consider using percentage gains to consider growth that’s resulted from your actions.
Unique problem-solving strategies: The best project managers strategically apply divergent, convergent and combining thinking skills to projects. The ability to come up with creative problem-solving strategies can make the difference between project success and failure.
Examples of good working relationships: Hiring managers also want to see that you have the ability to foster collaborative, positive working relationships with diverse people from different functional areas of the company.
Cool projects: Highlight some of the more challenging and impactful projects you have recently led and invite the reviewer to take a peek behind the curtain.
How to Write a Profile Summary
Think of your profile as the CliffsNotes version of your most recent career. “Your profile section should focus on the five takeaways that you want the reviewer to know about you,” Gies noted.
It starts with a personal branding statement that showcases your professional skills, strengths, industry experience and the unique value you offer. It should be followed by a few bullet points or an accomplishment summary, focusing on your biggest achievements or most notable accomplishments. Gies shared this example:
Strategic and high impact global technology program and project leader driving Cloud and enterprise-wide programs and projects for defining and delivering the IT strategy, business analytics and operational capabilities across service, logistics and compliance. Conceptualize, develop, and deliver major growth and infrastructure strategies, including PMO, ecosystem, and governance that increase bottom-line performance for large-scale technology and manufacturing organizations. Reliable and consistent in providing insights to the executive leadership on key technological advancements with relevance to business operations. Proven to build strong productive relationships with U.S. and global industry leaders achieving collaboration and solutions.
•Product Development & IT Program Management: Lead Networking Rack portfolio including New Product Introduction (NPIO, product rate readiness, and new region builds; currently managing a global portfolio of more than 50 unique networking rack hardware configurations at Oracle.
•Infrastructure Development: Managed development and integration of infrastructure across all operational areas including technology integrations, project management, business development, IT governance, supply chain, and program development functions.
•Technology Innovation: Awarded U.S. Patents XXXXXXXX “System and Methods for Managing Changes to a Product in a Manufacturing Environment.”
•Operational Cost Control & Budgeting: Realized $10M in cost savings by leading software/hardware implementation of data collection system (DCS) for a Japanese partner supply chain.
•Leadership Recognition: Winner of ABC Company’s ‘smart factory’ IIoT Enterprise Initiative; Engineer of the Year Nomination – ABC Company.
How to Write a Professional Experience Summary
Work experience is another critical section of your résumé because it connects the dots between your prior projects and the role you’re pursuing, supports your leadership brand, and brings your résumé’s story to life. It also gives the reviewer an idea of how you approach projects, overcome problems and who you worked with.
Under a brief description of each position, describe two to three key projects using about five to seven bullets and the PAR scheme:
- What was the problem?
- What action did you take?
- What was the result?
Here’s an example:
Project Manager, ABC Company 10/2011 – 01/2022
Managed 75+ contracted resources (indirect reports) for a $20M portfolio of projects. Oversaw large-scale technical integrations and information systems projects for VA medical centers across the nation. Responsible for budget and contract deliverables.
Led the development of an enterprise strategy and end to end implementation of cloud-based (SaaS) information systems integrated with VA EHR (VistA and Cerner), and 15+ vendors across 130 hospitals and 500 outpatient clinics.
- Program achieved full integration and implementation of a SaaS product and clinical process efficiencies, reducing the $250M annual spending on sleep therapy devices.
- Secured FedRAMP authorization and collaborated with internal and external departments and federal agencies (GSA, DoD) to resolve program and technical risks during lifecycle projects.
- Negotiated with FDA-approved durable medical equipment vendors to change product according to VA needs.
Final Tips and Characteristics of an Effective Project Manager Résumé
To encourage reviewers to read your résumé, limit the length to no more than two pages. If necessary, create a project addendum and either email it to the hiring manager or use it as a “leave behind” after interviews. Also…
Your résumé must be readable by computers and humans: A .docx file or PDF file is generally compatible with applicant tracking systems (ATS) and human reviewers. If you want to use graphics or images to tell your story, create multiple versions of your résumé; send the ones with imagery to humans, but send text-only documents for the initial screen.
Hobbies or non-work interests should support your branding statement. For example, if you’ve completed personal projects that utilized the skills necessary for the job, by all means include them (along with a handy link) in your application.
Templates are fine: However, to capture the attention of automated and human reviewers, make simple modifications/customizations to match the job description and organizational culture before hitting ‘Send.’ Even better, use a free tool like Jobscan or Résumé Worded to compare your résumé to a specific job description, make changes, add the right keywords, and get past applicant tracking systems.
Be sure to include hot certifications and course-work: You should include top certifications and coursework that demonstrate expertise in project management and business fundamentals and a passion for continuous learning. (In addition, more specialization and skills will allow you to potentially negotiate for a higher salary.)
How Much Does a Project Manager Earn?
A good project manager resume is a key element in obtaining a good project manager salary. But how much do project managers actually earn?
According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Breaking Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, those project managers with between zero and two years of experience can earn a median salary between $42,000 and $71,000. Of course, experience and skill have a heavy influence on that final salary number. Those with a bachelor’s degree, for instance, tend to earn more than those who might have a mix of certifications and completed training courses.
According to the most recent Dice Tech Salary Report, the average project manager salary stands at $120,653 per year (a 1.8 percent increase between 2021 and 2022). That aligns strongly with salaries for other managers, such as product manager ($139,100 per year). With the right mix of skills and experience, that number can climb even higher—and that’s before you consider benefits and perks such as stock options and bonuses.