Project Manager: Education, Job Hunting, Interviewing, Résumé

There’s always a need for a good project manager. In simplest terms, these professionals must oversee projects from beginning to end; the role requires a mix of technical knowledge and soft skills that take years to fully master.

Project managers guide projects from the initiation stage, through planning and execution, all the way through monitoring and closing-out. They must be organized, adaptable, and good at solving all kinds of thorny, multi-variable problems.

Soft skills are particularly important: Project managers must communicate to higher management and other stakeholders why the project is required, as well as timelines and resource estimates. That requires quite a bit of finesse. Plus, they have to direct and manage work during the execution phase and beyond, which can mean handling many kinds of diverse personalities on a team.

Typical Job Posting

A typical job posting for a project manager will require certain things from a candidate, including:

  • Keeping the leadership informed of project progress.
  • Setting project strategy and keeping the team aligned toward goal.
  • Serving as an interface between customers, team members, and stakeholders.
  • Ensuring consistency of methods and approach.
  • Maintaining project timelines and activity schedules.

In addition, many companies’ job postings will cite working knowledge of Agile as a requirement, since Agile methodology (or some aspect of Agile; a hybridization of methodologies is also big in some companies) is often employed to see projects through to completion.  

Project management is a rapidly evolving field, and it pays off for project managers to keep aware of the lingo and trends. For example, the traditional project-management impulse to adhere to a single methodology has given way in the past few years to hybrid frameworks (if the project demands it).

Education/Training/Certification

There are a number of certifications that demonstrate your competency as a project manager. For example, there’s the ever-popular Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which is offered by the Project Management Institute. Some organizations also like project-manager candidates to have an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certificate. 

Other certifications that can help:

In addition, any number of schools will offer programs in project management. Many project managers hold an undergraduate degree in business or management, and then supplement that degree with the aforementioned certifications. In a technology-industry context, many project managers start out in a more technical role before graduating into full-on project management. 

Typical Project Manager Interview

During a job interview, project managers should take care to avoid using outdated terminology; they should also prepare to offer up examples of previous projects, effective team management, and “big wins.”

During an interview, a hiring manager will likely try to evaluate the following:

  • How much project complexity you can handle.
  • How you stand up under pressure.
  • How you deal with team members who aren’t pulling their weight.
  • How you manage budgets.
  • How you communicate with senior management.
  • How you create a project plan.

Before heading into the interview, review and ensure that you’ve prepared answers (with example stories) to all of those types of questions. In addition, make sure that you demonstrate both a firm grasp of technical aspects and soft skills/empathy.

What to Include on a Project Manager Résumé 

When you’re designing your project manager résumé, make sure that you tailor the bullet-points in your experience section to highlight your communication and goal-setting skills, in addition to your accomplishments. For instance, you might want to point out how you delivered projects on-schedule and under budget, or how you identified particularly tricky problems and innovative solutions.

When building out your experience section, clearly delineate your career progression—show that you’ve managed progressively larger and larger teams, and taken on more and more responsibility; that will impress both recruiters and hiring managers.

Make sure that your certifications are all listed, and that you list all technical skills relevant to the job: hiring managers will expect that you can talk to any technical members on your team in their language. Good luck!