Listing projects on your resume helps make your job application stand out. You can draw a recruiter’s attention to your skills, teamwork, leadership, and achievements.
Here’s how to showcase your projects on your CV (as we call a resume here in the UK, and I’ll use both terms interchangeably in this article) to make it clear what you are capable of. I’ve included some examples below so you can see how to phrase your resume sections.
In this article:
- What projects to include on your resume
- 1. Decide how to present the projects
- 2. Identify the skills you want to highlight
- 3. Identify projects that used those skills
- 4. Write project descriptions that evidence your skills
- Tips for writing about projects on your resume
- Challenges of including projects on your resume
- Benefits of including projects on your resume
What projects to include on your resume
What types of projects should you include on your application for a new role?
In my experience as a hiring manager, I want to see the relevant experience that applies to the job. If you are a software engineer, show me your software projects. If you work in legal project management, talk about your process improvement initiatives or projects relevant to the job you are going for today.
You don’t have a lot of space on your resume, so pick a few projects that help you demonstrate the skill set and experience that most closely match the requirements for the job. These could be:
- Work projects: Initiatives you have led or taken part in as part of your job responsibilities in other roles.
- Personal projects: Things you have led or volunteered on that show what you are capable of in a different setting.
Personal projects could include community service, volunteering, and participation in local politics or interest groups. This type of work is great for showing your personality, and proactiveness as well as providing evidence of different skills.
Think carefully about whether including personal projects and side hustle projects as part of your professional resume. List them if they help show what you can do but if they don’t naturally give you the opportunity to highlight your skills, you might be better off using the space for something else.
OK. Ready to include work projects on your resume? Here’s how to do it.
1. Decide how to present the projects
I put this as the first thing to do as it was the hardest thing for me. I wanted to keep my resume to 3 pages, and including projects meant something else had to go.
In fact, 3 pages are kind of long. Make space on your existing resume or if you are creating a new CV from scratch, put the section into your document.
You have two choices about how to include projects on a resume:
- Create a separate section and list your main, relevant projects in there
- List one or two projects under each job title.
If you are going for a project-based role e.g. a project manager, I would create a section for projects and highlight your main achievements there.
You can put the section before or after your chronological list of roles. If you are going for a project management position, I would include it before your job history. If you are going for a different type of role, you can fit it in wherever you think makes the most sense.
If projects are incidental to your work, list your main job responsibilities as you would normally. Then use bullet points to describe the project(s) you want to highlight while you worked in that role, or write a short paragraph if that works better for your formatting.
Action: Make the decision about how long you want your CV to be and what type of layout you are going to use.
2. Identify the skills you want to highlight
Projects give you the opportunity to use a variety of skills. The trick to making your resume stand out is to make sure the projects you choose are the ones where it’s easy to see the relevant skills.
So… first, you have to know what specific skills you want to show off.
Luckily, this is relatively easy as most job descriptions will include a list of technical and soft skills and competencies they expect candidates to have. For example:
- Leadership (you lead the project)
- Teamwork (you worked on the project team)
- Decision-making (you provided data to help make decisions or were the person making the decisions)
- Communication (you gave a presentation about the project or wrote project reports or briefings).
You get the picture.
Action: Review the job description or person specification for the role and pick out the main skills that are relevant. Match the skills to the specific job.
3. Identify projects that used those skills
Next, go through your work history and pull out the projects that show you using those skills in the most significant and “biggest” way.
For example, perhaps you’ve contributed to lots of project budget planning as part of projects but only lead the effort to create a project budget from scratch just once. If one of the key skills required for the role you want is budgeting, make sure to mention the project where you led the budgeting work.
The more recent the project, the better. However, if it makes sense to highlight a project from a while back because it is directly relevant to the role, include it.
In my experience, it’s best to include a variety of projects. That gives you more opportunities to show project highlights from a range of experiences. If all your projects are very similar, that might pigeonhole you into a certain role (which you might want to do, so take that advice under advisement).
Action: Make a project list so you know what to include.
4. Write project descriptions that evidence your skills
Finally, write a few sentences about the project. Phrase it in ways that provide evidence of your skills.
Let’s assume the skill you want to show is process improvement.
Involved in work to deliver a new sales pipeline process and workflow software that supports it.
Led a cross-functional team of 5 to redesign the sales pipeline and implement process improvements. In 6 months we delivered the software and process changes that created time savings of 11% and improved the returning customer rate by 5%.
In the good example, I’ve used the keywords ‘process improvements’ and ‘process changes’. Many resumes are read by machines and filtered through keyword software before they even get to a human. Include industry-relevant
Action: Write a project description for each project that you are going to include.
What to say about each project
The most important thing you need to do is determine what skills are required for each project. This will help you and your interviewer realize that you have the right experience for the job, so there’s no need to go into a lot of detail when describing each project.
Avoid company-specific acronyms and terminology that someone outside of your field wouldn’t understand.
Use the STAR format if you have space:
- Situation: Why the project was required or why you got involved.
- Task: What you were specifically responsible for or what you were asked to do.
- Action: What actions you took, and what you did in the situation.
- Result: What happened at the end, what you delivered or how you overcame problems.
Give an overview of what happened during the project and how it went with regard to its success or failure — whether it was completed or not completed, and what obstacles came up which needed to be overcome in order for it to happen successfully.
The STAR format is mainly used for interview prep and responding to competency-based questions, but the same approach is a great way to craft short project descriptions for your resume.
Have an upcoming interview? Prepare with our How to Prepare for a Project Management Interview ebook.
Tips for writing about projects on your resume
List the number of people on the team, the budget, the benefits, and the impact. Try to come up with concrete data points.
Why? This helps potential employers understand the scale of the work you are capable of leading and whether you are a good match for their role. Someone who has experience of leading a team of 10 might struggle when asked to lead a team of 200, but would be bored in a team of 2.
Led a team of 15 to deliver a $1.2m project that reduced the lead times for shipping by 20%.
Use action verbs
Action verbs describe what you did. Be as specific as possible such as:
- Designed (a website, a solution, a process)
- Created (a product, a process)
- Standardized (processes, workflows, ways of working)
- Recruited (colleagues, vendors, volunteers)
- Chaired (meetings, events, functions)
- Coordinated (something)
- Planned (the effort, the meeting, the event)
- Scheduled (the work)
Keep it short
Why? You haven’t got much space to impress on a resume (have I made that point already?? ?).
Led the marketing workstream (3 internal staff and 2 suppliers) for a web redesign project. The project was completed on time and on budget and improved customer retention by 22% over 12 months.
Include the dates
List each project with a start and end date, alongside the company name.
Why? This helps your interviewer size and scale your past projects.
- I worked full-time on this project for 20 months.
- I joined the time for the design and build phase and worked part-time on the team for 6 months.
Challenges of including projects on your resume
A project-based resume is going to have less space for you to talk about what you did in each individual role in the ‘traditional’ sense. You will still list each job title, company, and the dates you worked there along with your key responsibilities while in the post, but you don’t have to include as much as some of the important information will be covered in the project section.
You don’t want your resume to feel disjointed. If you think it does, another way to format the document is to list key projects under each job title.
It can be hard to include data points. I would say that if you don’t have the data now, start collecting it for the projects you are currently working on so you can include it in the future. If you can’t share benefits, project budgets and so on, try to include these data points:
- Number of people in the team
- Length of time you were on the project
- Number of hours of training delivered (or another delivery-related outcome – remember, this is to help recruiters see what scale of project you can lead)
- Number of customers or users affected
- Something specifically related to your role on the project e.g. number of contracts updated (legal project), adverts/social media posts/engagements (marketing project), products sold, etc.
Benefits of including projects on your resume
A project section is an excellent way to show off your skills. If you have had a less-than-traditional career, perhaps with several jobs at the same time, or as an independent contractor, freelancer, or managing side projects alongside your day job, listing projects helps provide a structure to your job history.
A project-based resume is a good way to show what you’ve done in different sectors in a relatable way if you are a career changer going for your dream job. It’s pretty easy to draw parallels between project management in one industry to another, and many of the soft skills will be relevant. Projects can show you are the best candidate, even if you don’t have any direct experience in that particular field.
Including projects makes your resume more interesting. So much work is project-led these days that it’s important to show you understand how work is delivered and what it takes to implement changes or improvements.
Project descriptions on your CV give the interviewer something to talk to you about. When I was interviewing candidates, it was always useful to have a hook for questions. For example, I could ask about how they demonstrated a skill on a particular project, or how their past experience was relevant to this role.
How to show off your project management skills
Up until this point, we’ve been using projects to show off your ‘general’ skills – as a way to highlight to future employers that you have a range of skills best evidenced through your project work.
But what about your ability to lead projects themselves? Project management is a core skill for many job roles.
Write about your project management experience as you would any other skill. Break it down into the components and processes of project management. For example, find a way to mention these technical sub-skills of project management:
- Scheduling and task allocation
- Risk management
- Issue management
- Change management
- Requirements elicitation and management
- Working with specific methodologies e.g. PRINCE2, Scrum, SaFE, Kanban.
Should I include academic projects on my resume?
You can include academic projects on your resume if they help demonstrate relevant competencies for the job. For example, they may show your leadership skills, and ability to work with people from different organizations or highlight your specialist knowledge in a certain field.
How can recent graduates include projects on their resumes?
Use the work experience section of your resume to highlight your project experience. Include the important details from academic, volunteering, or professional projects. This can give you a way to add more to the chronological format of your resume. Link to an online portfolio if you have one.
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