project manager writing a resume

It All Comes Down to Pain Points and Keywords

Folks like software developers and engineers have it easy when it comes to resumes: They can list languages they code in, link to projects they’ve completed, etc. It’s a little tougher for project managers. So much of it is about…well, project management! Going back to the gold-standard definition, it’s getting things done through other people. And that can be hard to pin down succinctly enough for a project management resume. Here are a few tips to help:

What to focus on

Think about pain points

The “how” of project management is getting things done through other people. The “why” of project management, on the other hand, is making the project’s progress and completion look seamless to all of the various stakeholders. What are the most common and/or annoying things that have come up during your projects? What things would your manager have had to deal with personally if you weren’t doing the job? These are the project management pain points you solve, and they’re somewhat universal. Your list will probably include things like missed deadlines, poor work quality, contentious relationships between the team and the project owner, etc. The first step to a killer project management resume is to think in exactly those terms: How your project management skills have solved your employer’s problems – or, better yet, kept them from ever coming to their attention in the first place. That’s what your project management resume should highlight — the skills that enable you to solve those pain points.

But don’t forget ATS

More than 70 percent of today’s job openings are filled through applicant tracking systems (ATS). Why? The primary reason is that recruiters get more applications than they could possibly review personally. Applicant tracking systems provide the framework for a database recruiters can use to identify potential candidates. But ATS systems are designed for recruiters, not applicants. They simply respond to the recruiter’s search terms. That means that qualified applicants might not be picked up if they don’t use the same keywords as a recruiter.  For example, many ATS systems treat acronyms differently than they treat the words they stand for. So the system your prospective employer uses might not recognize that “MBA” as the same as “Masters of Business Administration.”

The solution

Like it or not, you have to deal with your prospective employer’s ATS first. If you don’t, your resume might never make it to a real person. The key is to do it in a way that will still catch the eye of a recruiter once it gets past the ATS. That means going back to the beginning of this post and thinking about the skills you used to resolve the pain points associated with the projects you’ve managed. The next step is to take those skills – the things that would interest human recruiters – and compare them to the skills listed in the job description of the position you’re applying for. See which keywords in the job description mean about the same thing as the skills you used to resolve pain points, and put those words in your resume, along with specific accomplishments, especially those that can be quantified in terms of sales generated, time saved, etc. Sure, that means you’ll have to customize your resume for each job opening. But that’s the best way to ensure that your resume showcases your strongest skills – which is what a recruiter will be looking for – while doing it in a way that an ATS will recognize. 

Sound like a tall order? It can be, but services like Jobscan can help. Jobscan analyzes both your resume and the job description to see how well they match. Next, they give you detailed suggestions on how you can optimize your resume’s chances of getting past the employer’s ATS. You’ll get recommendations for making sure your resume is structured in a way that an ATS will recognize – like the MBA vs. Masters of Business Administration example – and for making it more closely match the keywords recruiters use when they search. If you’re starting your resume from scratch read through Jobscan’s comprehensive resume writing guide for a complete look at the process. 

Got a job in mind? It’s the perfect opportunity to give Jobscan a try. Stop by today for a free analysis to see how your resume measures up.


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