Whether you're just starting out in project management or you're an expert, your resume is the first glimpse a potential employer will get into how you think, plan, and approach documenting and organizing. This is where it becomes critical for you to do things extremely well, and where it becomes even more critical that you avoid certain missteps. Here is some sage advice from top recruiting and C-level experts to help you build your best project manager resume.

Format, business impact, action verbs

Alexandra Levit, a well-known business and workplace expert, speaker, Fortune 500 consultant, and author of numerous books, offers her list of project management resume do's and don'ts:

  • DO tailor your resume to the PM field. Read relevant samples online and get someone in project management to review your resume draft and provide feedback.
  • DO choose the layout that best suits your situation:

Chronological: Employment history is arranged by the dates you worked for particular companies. (Use this format if you're moving within PM.)

Functional: Employment history is arranged by skills and accomplishments. (Use this format if you're changing careers.)

Investigate what experience is required for your targeted position and then illustrate how you fit the bill. List titles that accurately reflect your job description, even if they're not official.

  • DO use action verbs to qualify achievements (for example, coordinated and evaluated).
  • DO include a section for marketable skills and certifications (for example, PMI certifications, computer and language skills).
  • DO check for typos and inconsistencies in formatting.
  • DON'T focus on what you did in a job, but instead on how that affected the company's bottom line.
  • DON'T put in an objective--it boxes you into a particular position, and it's too easy to sound insincere.
  • DON'T put education dates if you graduated a long time ago.
  • DON'T worry about the one-page rule; it's more important that the resume is easy to read.

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Project manager resume template: A framework for highlighting your skills and achievements

A strong, well-focused resume is essential for showcasing your knowledge and expertise. This template will help ensure that you include the most relevant aspects of your work history and accomplishments so that prospective employers will recognize the value you can bring to their projects. Free for Tech Pro Research subscribers.


Relevance, contributions, measurable achievements

Dr. Elizabeth M. Minei, Ph. D., is the founder and CEO of EMineiConsulting, which provides individual and team leadership consulting services and workplace issues training. Here are some of her suggestions:

  • DO list only relevant work-history projects and timeline. "The rule of thumb is to include relevant information only. Assess each job call and see what the jobs are looking for to gear the resume towards showcasing those skills," Minei said. "Mining the work experience to include only the most recent positions that highlight relevant skills means you can provide a better portfolio of skill set." For example, Minei said she recently had a client who was a project manager within the construction industry for more than 20 years and worked in nearly every facet of construction, from doing cleanup work in his teens to eventually becoming a construction company owner. "When he found a job he wanted to apply for that required more skill in certain elements of project management, we highlighted those projects and those aspects and eliminated items from early-on work experience that did not pertain to what he might be doing if hired."
  • DON'T make the mistake of describing the job you are currently working in by task, rather than highlighting your contributions to the role. Minei said recruiters and employers understand that project managers delegate tasks to team members or complete all logistics of a project. "When these generic position descriptions appear on a resume, the candidate has failed to demonstrate mastery of those skills."
  • DO "Showcase your skills in measurable or descriptive ways. Every bullet point should in some way opt for quantifiable/qualifier line items that indicate your contribution." Minei said. She provides these examples and explanations of how and why you should quantify and qualify key experience in relation to managing a construction project:
Quantify
A: Created semi-custom home building start-up; manage many different types of builds.
B: Created semi-custom home building start-up; project manager for 16 complete builds, five remodels, and four additions.

In example B, she said, the line item is describing both the quantity and the scope of the skill set and also communicates to a potential employer that the candidate has a range of completed projects lending to expertise.

Qualify
A: Managed all elements of the project from start to finish, including logistics.
B: Start-to-finish project completion includes accounting, SOP creation, design creation, estimating, subcontractor relations, lot acquisition, customization, purchase agreements.

In example B, the line item qualifies what "logistics" means and gives a better picture of the range that this candidate can complete.

  • DON'T forget to include relevant awards, certifications, or training--and put them in the right spot. "Awards/certifications/training earned or given for some element of project management (such as leadership awards, technical training, PM education course) should be integrated under the section of the company that they were earned in, rather than lumped together at the end of the resume. This integration gives recruiters and employers a better picture of candidate trajectory and growth. Somebody who earns awards in multiple positions spanning a bit of time demonstrates continued growth," Minei said. "A candidate who keeps up with certifications and training in multiple positions demonstrates the desire to remain current; these are valuable items to demonstrate in project management since so many elements (technology, trends) are rapidly changing."

Final word

My additional two cents: Don't rush through your resume. Leave enough time to let things percolate before sending it off to a prospective employer. You'll only get one shot at this.