The Project Management CV – Keyword Bingo

I think most of us have probably played the game ‘buzzword bingo’ or its more well-known potty mouthed named version (thanks wiki for giving me a polite option). You know the one, make a list of all the latest buzzwords and the next time you’re in a meeting, just keep ticking them off as they get announced. Anyhow, it got me thinking about how we can help project practitioners write a better CV and no, it’s not about littering a CV with the latest buzzwords!

So what is keyword bingo in relation to a project management CV?

It’s simple really. When you’re applying for a new job, take the job specification and make sure the project management keywords in it are also prominent in your own CV.

There, told you it was simple.

The problem is a lot of project practitioners have either never thought about it or they’re against it by what they see as dumbing down their CV.

The simple truth is when you’re looking for a job on the open market and choosing to apply for jobs via job boards, Linkedin or direct with a company, keywords really matter. They matter because none of these methods enable you to meet a real actual person first. They all rely on how well you present yourself on paper first.

I’ve already talked about the use of technology in modern-day recruitment and where machines are concerned, keywords are what fuels them. When the machine says yes, that’s when you have the opportunity to a real actual person.

It sucks, we know

That’s why I always say to people, if you’re not willing to learn and play along with the rules of modern recruitment, don’t use any of the methods like job boards, Linkedin or direct with a company. You can choose another way, for example through building a good network.

So, it is what it is

If recruitment today means using a CV to crack the machine, let’s just go along with it and play by the rules.

Back to project management keyword bingo

Here’s a job I’ve literally just taken from doing a keyword search for “project manager” on the Jobserve website:


The person most likely to get this job will have these keywords in their CV:

  • Project Manager
  • Document
  • Financial
  • Software
  • Management
  • Consulting
  • Workflow
  • Solutions
  • Data
  • ERP
  • Back Office
  • Berkshire

Makes sense right?

As an example from a lot of project management CVs we see everyday, a lot of them will fall at the first hurdle because they don’t know how to define themselves. For a job like this we would get people who class themselves as Finance Managers, Solutions Architects, Programme Managers, PMO, IT Managers and so on. Their opening profile line would use one of these titles rather than what the job is looking for – which in this case is a PM.

Now I will get told when someone rings up to complain that I’ve not shortlisted them and how could I possibly not because “I have everything you’re looking for”.

This is me. “Er, well, your CV doesn’t actually show me that you’re a project manager”

I’m not interested in the fact that you’ve worked in tech roles in ERP. I’m looking for a PM, not a techbod.

They might be PMs but on paper I’m not sure what you are unless you tell me. Problem is I’ve already earmarked someone who does look right on paper and I’m pursuing that.


Using keyword bingo alongside your project management skills

We are not saying that your CV should contain random keywords all over the place. And we’re certainly not saying put in keywords that indicate you have experience in something when clearly you don’t. That’s fraud and a waste of everyone’s time.

Adding keywords in still has to make sense when a human reads it. I still want to be able to see the context of your skills and experiences so just listing keywords might be great for a machine but rubbish when a hiring manager reads it.

It’s about finding the balance. It’s about caring enough about your applications to take a minute, read the job specification, find the keywords and then read your own CV to see if there is enough of those keywords in there.

Remember the machine is looking for a keyword match on the first scan.

If the keywords aren’t there, rework it.

Take 5 minutes to do a decent job rather than just sending a generic CV. Take the time.You may as well give each application your best shot.

And then bingo! You’ll start seeing a lot more interest, I guarantee it. You’ll be onto the next gate which is when people are interested in talking to you and the machine has been put back in its box.




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