When it comes to getting that next-level role, your resume is a key foundational document to show others that you’re poised to take it on. Often times that next-level role means a jump from individual contributor to manager, a move that places many job seekers in a Catch 22 – wanting to become a manager but struggling because they don’t have the leadership experience listed in the job description.
When I work with clients looking to position themselves for management roles, I focus on several key areas of the resume – the headline, summary statement, job title and experience sections.
My goal? Craft language that suggests to the reader that while the candidate may not have had direct reports, they certainly have the experience necessary to succeed.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll use “David,” who, after years as an IT Project Manager, came to me looking to secure a role as a Project Management Organization (PMO) Director. While he had led dozens of teams and initiatives in this capacity, they never reported to him.
David’s original resume did not have a Career Headline at the top of his resume. This forced the reader to jump down to his job titles – which included roles as an IT Analyst, Consultant and Project Manager. Without a title, it was hard for the reader to know that he was aiming for a PMO Director role.
His new resume features a headline front and center. Note that it is larger in font size than the rest of the document – a technique that naturally draws the eye. It also helps to set the stage as to what David’s career story is going to be about for the rest of the document.
By referring to him as a Senior Project/PMO Director – I’ve accurately called attention to the types of roles he has done, as well as those he capable of doing. The tagline that follows speaks to his contributions that align directly with his goal of leading PMOs.
The good news is that David’s original resume included a lengthy summary statement. Many don’t – which can leave the reader scratching their head trying to figure out which roles are best suited for them.
The bad news? IF someone took the time to read it (they may skip it over as it was super long) they’d see he was clearly a seasoned project manager BUT would not have a clue about his years of matrixed leadership or that he has worked in a PMO environment.
Over 18 years of solid technical background combined with proven track record of success in designing, building and rolling out multi-million dollar strategic and tactical IT projects in complex multi-vendor environments. Expertise in software lifecycle management with emphasis on integration, change management and business process redesign. Demonstrated strengths in initiating, planning, executing and managing large scale projects on time and on budget.
This revised statement achieves 4 goals:
#1 It speaks directly to his work in PMOs, and suggests he has served in a leadership capacity –as a C-Suite partner and by indirectly leading large teams as a Project Manager.
#2 It incorporates messaging that speaks to 2 points (Agile expertise, ability to create dashboards) that I identified in job postings and that were not present in his original resume.
#3 It allows the candidate to cast a wider net by informing the reader that his skills are transferrable across industries.
#4 The formatting allows for more information to be articulated in a skimmable fashion.
When titles differ from company to company or don’t exactly explain what you do. I recommend tweaking for clarity, and to show how experience lines up with aspirations. Here’s what I did for David’s:
Sr. Scrum Master
NEW & REVISED TITLE:
Senior Scrum Master – IT PMO
The revised title clarifies that David’s previous work occurred as part of a PMO, something that would never have been clear otherwise and that helps to further position him for PMO leadership roles.
I’ve included the BEFORE and AFTER for one of David’s roles here, to show how the use of design and language can elevate David from a project manager into a candidate more than capable of taking over a PMO.
Took over five “troubled” projects that had been underway for over three years, successfully completing them within ten months.
- Defined Scrum and Kanban processes, procedures, KPIs, and best practices that are now utilized across XYZ Company.
- Led Kanban awareness, training, rollout, and adoption across IT departments and defined metrics for continuous improvements.
Created roadmap from concept-to-training for IT PMO Agile transformation in partnership with IT SVP. Led pilot that earned team’s reputation for excellence – overcoming corporate leadership resistance and leading to Agile methodology embraced today as best practice.
- Led turnaround of 5 at-risk projects – successfully completing them in 10 months after 3 years stagnant.
- Drove Kanban awareness, training, rollout and adoption with defined metrics for continuous improvement across enterprise technology organization.
Note that I added a section before the bullets and used strategic formatting (in this case bolding, blue font and italics) to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that his role 1) dealt specifically with PMO transformation and 2) was done in collaboration with a senior IT executive.
Furthermore, I used bolding in both bullets to call attention to the portion of his accomplishments that required leadership skills.
As you can see, I’m a proponent of incorporating MS Word’s graphic design functionality to help tell a client’s story. In David’s case, I made use of strategic color, bold, stylistic bullets and lines – but the possibilities go well beyond this!
When it furthers the story, I’ve been known to incorporate endorsement quotes from LinkedIn, graphs, charts and even industry icons or corporate logos.
A few points to keep in mind where design is concerned:
#1 ATS can’t read graphs or charts – really anything inside a box. Therefore, if you plan on using any element like this, you’ll need to ensure the material in the box is also available elsewhere in the text so that ATS can read it.
#2 The more traditional the industry, the greater the need to be constrained in your use of design elements and color choices.