How to Apply for Project Manager Job Offers

In case you hadn’t noticed it, the jobs market is in free fall. Somehow, that outrageous situation has come to pass. It’s also true that those of us who’ve been fortunate (or diligent enough) to have acquired professional qualifications have felt the soul-chilling blast of the threat of unemployment much less harshly than others… but we’ve still felt it.

There aren’t that many Project Manager job offers out there. And when there is one, it’s either not a perfect “fit” or there’s far too much competition. Here are a few suggestions to help you apply for those few PM jobs you might come across .

1- Use the sharp-shooter’s approach

Once upon a time, as the story goes, it was perfectly possible to say “I’ve been managing projects” and for the most part, when we were looking for a new position, we could find plenty of job vacancies which more or less fitted our criteria. Nowadays we have to “cut our coat” according to the job description. Putting it bluntly, while you’re waiting for a “perfect fit” for your career plans, more bread won’t be appearing on your table.

This means you need to use your ability to think analytically and laterally to:

  • Determine the specific skillset required by each job vacancy
  • Focus on the part of your experience that demonstrates you’ve ‘been there and done that’

For example, if you have experience in both Production and Supply Chain Management and the job description predominantly looks like outsourcing procurements, then it is worth the effort spent rewriting your resume to focus on the Supply Chain Management and outsourcing aspects (rather than Production) in your skill summary section and your recent job ‘responsibilities’.

When looking for a new job focusing is essential and sending out resumes en masse à la mail-merge style will not be successful. Far better is the sharpshooter’s approach: Identify Target – Take Aim – Fire When Ready

In other words, find the job ad, figure out why you are the best person for it, and then focus on putting that case to the employer in a clear and concise resume. To be taken seriously, it needs to be totally devoid of hyperbole or spurious claims.

For more tips about how to write your resume or to find resume writing professional help visit www.visualresumeonline.com or download their app VRO from the App Store.

2- Don’t wait… get your PMP

Being PMP-Certified is a fantastic boon which should put you head and shoulders above 96% of the other applicants (only 4% of project managers in the US/Canada hold the PMP certification). Consequently you should make clear mention of it in your resume and also dedicate a sentence in your cover letter to emphasize the fact.

Furthermore, you should draw the employer’s attention to how, in achieving your PMP status, you acquired a broad-based ability which transformed you into a highly versatile person. On your resume, ensure your skill summary section describes and illustrates how you can:

  • Initiate and plan projects
  • Develop schedules, calculate cost estimates, and set budgets
  • Control and monitor project quality, staffing, and communications
  • Analyze risks and determine risk response
  • Plan and organize project procurement
  • Execute project work
  • Close the project

Give examples of how you’ve put what you’ve learned into practice since you became a PMP: For employers knowing the theory of Earned Value and Critical Path is one thing, controlling a project and ensuring that its deadline is met and that quality and costs have been fully controlled is quite another.

For more tips about the PMP certification exam and online training courses, visit www.pmchampion.com or download their app PM Certification 2012 from the App Store.

3- Focus on all dimensions of the PM job

You will be aware that the majority of Project Management job vacancies or ads have requirements for technical and social skills. Accordingly you should identify and address these two dimensions even if they are not clearly separated in the ad.

Below is a recent job offer for a PM position in an IT company (company name and references have been changed). Read the ad first:

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 Project Manager

XYZ has been delivering IT solutions to private and public sector organizations of every size for more than 25 years. With a team of more than 500 associates, operations throughout US and Canada, and access to a network of 1000 certified technical resources from coast to coast; XYZ is one of the leading information technology solution providers. XYZ designs, supplies, installs and supports IT infrastructure solutions that contribute to improved productivity, operational efficiency, and overall business performance. For more information, please visit our web site.

Description

The Project Manager is responsible for managing the budget, resources, materials and timelines of complex information technology projects involving multiple systems, business units and stakeholders, through all stages of the project’s life cycle including, initiation, planning, control, execution, implementation and closure.

Responsibilities

  • Negotiating the project plan with clients’ senior staff to establish project parameters and obtain approval for the people, budget, materials and time required;
  • Working with vendors and suppliers to negotiate products, services and costs to execute the projects. Ensuring that all legal and regulatory requirements are adhered to and that the project is completed and implemented on time and within budget;
  • Leading a team of multi-disciplinary information technology and business specialists, established to address clients’ business requirements and resolve system problems. Planning, scheduling and coordinating their work and providing advice, guidance and direction to maintain quality. Establishing performance measures for project members and providing meaningful and timely feedback;
  • Communicating with all stakeholders in the project to ensure information and resources are provided on schedule and to ensure commitments are maintained. Providing sufficient lead-time to external consultants, vendors and service providers to ensure they meet their commitments;
  • Ensure attainment of customer satisfaction and quality metric objectives;
  • Contribute to responses to RFQ’s, validate pricing and estimates created by pre sales teams, act as the single point of contact from the company for clients during projects;
  • Providing regular updates and reports on the progress of the project to clients’ senior staff and all stakeholders.

Qualifications and Requirements

  • University Degree in information technology, business or finance
  • PMP certification
  • At least 3 years of demonstrated success in managing projects and across multiple areas in Application Management and IT Infrastructure Management
  • Requires excellent project management and communications skills
  • Management and leadership skills and experience
  • Multi-vendor experience
  • Portfolio knowledge and skills
  • Proficient communication and organizational skills
  • Effective prioritization
  • Ability to motivate
  • Technology experience
  • Budget and financial management experience
  • Demonstrated success at building team relationships and partnerships across organizational lines
  • Change Management experience

XYZ is an equal opportunity employer. 

If you are looking for an opportunity to be part of a well-established, dynamic, and growth-oriented technology organization that is committed to delighting each and every customer, continuously improving its business performance, and that values its people above all other resources, we invite you to submit your resume in confidence. We would like to thank you for your interest. Please note that all submissions will be assessed, however only suitable candidates will be contacted regarding this opportunity.

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The simplest way to do apply for this job is to make up a table in an Excel spreadsheet and list all specific requirements of the job in two distinct worksheets.

For example under Technical Skills include:

  • University Degree in information technology, business or finance
  • PMP certification
  • Technology experience
  • Budget and financial management experience
  • Change Management experience
  • etc..

And under Social Skills, include:

  • Management and leadership skills and experience
  • Ability to motivate
  • Demonstrated success at building team relationships and partnerships across organizational lines
  • Requires excellent project management and communications skills
  • etc..

Then in a separate column, for each of these lines write down your own abilities and how they relate your past experience to this job.

This approach will:

1- help you prepare a more targeted resume and cover letter for this job offer

2- force you to think hard about your “elevator pitch” during the interview where you have to demonstrate that you are a perfect match for this position.

Yes, all this would involve some effort on your part, but one or two applications done in this way are more likely to result in success than hundreds submitted ‘en masse’.

The whole time you’re preparing your resume and cover letter, you should be thinking about the interview and the questions you’re likely to get asked. It’s a fact that through carefully aiming an application, the candidate can largely control the interview questions.

 4 – Research, Research, Research

If you’re going to avoid creating a cookie cutter resume, you need to know something about the company you are applying for. Your resume shouldn’t just be focused on the job they’re advertising, but the company itself. Each company has their own corporate culture. You need to show that you fit into theirs.

An engineering firm and a consulting firm aren’t going to ask you the same types of questions. Their needs are different and their questions will reflect those needs. As much as possible, you want to answer those questions before they ask them; so that they say to themselves, “This sounds like the kind of person we’ve been looking for.”

So, what do you need to know about the company? Basically, everything you can find out. Use these questions as a checklist for your scavenger hunt:

  • What is their main product or service?
  • Who is the end-user of their products or services?
  • Have they received any new contracts recently (check the press releases on their web site)?
  • What type of organizational structure are they using for managing projects (functional, matrix based, projectized)? This can greatly impact the limits of your authority and responsibility as a Project Manager.
  • Do they have an active PMO (Project Management Office)?
  • Whom will you be reporting to and what is their Project Management background?
  • Who are the main stakeholders in your project (government, private industry, environmental groups, etc.)?
  • Is the Project Manager expected to have a strong technical knowledge about their product, or would there be support staff (engineers and technicians) working on the project team? What type of industry specific training do they provide?
  • What Project Management tools does the company regularly use (MS Project, Primavera, SAP)? Is the PM expected to maintain and update these tools, or is it done by others?
  • What IT platform they use?

Many of these questions can be answered by a thorough review of the information that’s on the company’s web site or through search engines. The time you spend researching these answers will help you to develop your resume in a way that is much more focused on meeting their needs. Some of the questions can become topics of discussion during your interview and for showing more interest in the company.

5 – Gather information about your past projects

The ammunition you’re going to use to make an explosive resume and cover letter are the projects you’ve managed or coordinated before. What you are selling is your experience and your ability to get things done. So, dig up every bit of information you can about your past projects and review it; looking for successes and accomplishments that you can use to impress the hiring manager.

While your experience might be product specific or even industry specific, you don’t want to leave the hiring manager with that idea. Project management is project management, whether for aerospace or the medical field. While you may not have specific knowledge about aerospace, your Project Management experience still carries over.

As much as possible, avoid being product or industry specific, unless the product or industry that you’ve worked in before aligns well with the position you’re applying for. Whether in your resume or in the interview, steer away from being specific and direct yourself towards being more general; showing how your accomplishments and experience can provide a benefit towards their company and the project that they need managed.

6 – Create a “WOW” factor

For every position that you apply for, you must assume that 100 other qualified people out there are seeking that same position. With this overwhelming deluge of applications to sift through, the average resume may only receive a minute or less. Your resume and cover letter has to catch the attention of that hiring manager in that little time, or it just ends up in the scrap pile.

Companies that are hiring want to know what you can do for them. They’re assuming you meet the basic qualifications, or you wouldn’t have bothered sending your resume in. A lengthy work history and education only shows that you’re qualified, it doesn’t have any “Wow factor.” You want them to look at your resume and say, “Wow, look what they’ve done. I want to talk to them.”

How do you wow a hiring manager? By showing off your accomplishments. Have you saved $200,000 on a project? Then you’d better let them know that. Did you negotiate a claim that brought back $150,000 to the project? How about finishing projects before the scheduled due date? Make sure you tell them. What huge hurdles have you had to overcome in a project, yet still completed it? Make sure you brag about those too.

When you tell a prospective employer about what you’ve accomplished in your previous jobs, they start thinking about what you can do for them. That’s what you want. Remember, your resume and cover letter are sales documents. Their job is to get you an interview. To do that, you need them to go “Wow.”

 

 

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