Project Management Keywords in CVs

We all know how ‘modern’ recruitment works in the UK.


Keywords are king.

They have to be.

Recruitment systems that hold hundreds and thousands of CVs have to be filtered in some way.

It’s just like Googling. You have to start with some basic keywords of what you’re looking for.

It’s a start. It’s a way to reduce the number of records to something manageable.

Something manageable that a human can then deal with.

Humans want to deal with the ones that are more likely to be the right person for the job.

Recruitment works exactly like that.

It’s no secret.


Play the Keyword Game

Recruitment is all about the keywords – it’s a game.

Get the right keywords in the CV (and in the right context!) and match what the recruiter or job advert is asking for.

Those are the rules.

In a recent recruitment drive for a Senior Project Manager – Digital Transformation we decided to share some insights of the game to some of the people who applied for the position.

Here’s a basic overview of the job to give you the general idea:

‘We are seeking a Senior Agile Project manager who can take up a 6 month contract which is tasked with the delivery of the UK Export Finance (UKEF) Digital Portal which is a priority project and a cornerstone in the wider UKEF Digital Programme.

In role you will be working with a third-party development agency, and in an Agile environment and take on the responsibility of leading this delivery.

Technical experience of building a Digital Portal into a secure, government, landing page is desirable and you will be able to show experience of delivering in both an Agile and PRINCE2 environment.’

Keywords for Project Managers

We had a lot of responses.

So we had to whittle those down to something manageable.

First up, let’s see who applied and had the word “Agile” in the CV:

  • 87% of CV’s contained the word ‘agile’

So that doesn’t help us a lot.

Take a look at the other obvious ones:

  • 47% of CV’s contained ‘senior project manager’
  • 22% of CV’s contained ‘digital transformation’
  • 12% of CV’s contained ‘agile delivery’
  • 9% of CV’s contained ‘agile project management’
  • 8% of CV’s contained ‘agile project manager’
  • 1.5% of CV’s contained ‘senior digital project manager’

So we shared these stats with the people who applied.

We thought it might help them with future applications.

If they understood a little more how recruitment works at the moment, they could make some tweaks here and there in the CV.

Feedback from Project Managers

Here is the first piece of  feedback from a Project Manager when shown the stats about the keywords:

It is a pity that people do not get an opportunity to progress at all past a recruiters idea of what words should be stated! Do you know what a Senior Project Manager for Digital Transformation actually does? Or have you ever been one, to know that your 2 candidates were the best two? Or just that they know how to play the keyword game!!!!

And here’s another one:

I just wanted to mention that this feedback is the best I have ever received in my many years as a contractor.

And another:

It’s interesting to see such stats. Did you get a chance to review my profile ? or was it screened out?

And finally:

Clearly, there is a competitive pool of Senior PM’s/Programme Managers out there in the market place and hence anything a prospective candidate can do to raise their profile or demonstrate experience, etc., is helpful.


That’s all we ever hope to be, giving useful advice for project practitioners when it comes to the project management marketplace.

So would you welcome feedback like this for an application you made for a job? How about knowing before you applied just how well placed the keywords were – or not appearing at all?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

project-management-careers-clinicLooking for advice in your project management career? Why not try the project management careers clinic. Want to know how your CV performs for keywords? Book a career clinic and receive an overview of your CV as part of the service.

Fuente: Camel blog (Project Management Keywords in CVs).