PMO Flashmob Talks PMO Careers

2015-05-21 18.01.14Last night’s PMO Flashmob was the Second Birthday Party, that’s a whole two years of PMO Flashmobbing, 24 get-togethers, marauding over so many different pubs and venues all over Central London.

It was good to see so many familiar faces as well as new people. It was good to hear from the ‘old-timers’ about some of their previous PMO Flashmobs, which one they first came to, what it was like walking into a PMO Flashmob for the first time and thankfully being quite surprise at what a friendly bunch of people it is. Thanks to you all for supporting the PMO Flashmob over the last two years and thank you for your generosity of spirit in sharing your PMO lives with others and being such great networkers.

So the second birthday. It couldn’t be a party without the cake, and its thanks to a PMO Flashmobber who couldn’t be there for sending such a fab cake. Thanks to Jonathan from Gower for a lovely gesture!

The Best and Worse PMO CVs

At this Flashmob we wanted to steer the conversation towards our careers. There were two elements. One, we had a selection of eight real PMO CVs available for people to look at. The idea was to get some understanding of what people thought a good PMO CV was. Because of my own day job at Arras People I see literally hundreds of PMO CVs and I wanted to share some insights into what a good CV is in the marketplace and what’s not so good. The group was asked to take a look and mark down which was their best one and the worse. Because of the nature of what I was sharing i.e., someone’s real CV with their personal details removed of course! I’ll be sharing the outcome of that in a message directly to the people who were there last night. If that’s irritating because you weren’t there last night, don’t despair, we had another activity on the go last night too.

What Keywords Do We Have

One of the things that frustrate people when creating a CV is knowing what they should include and which bits to leave out. On the other side of the table are people like recruitment agents and hirers who get frustrated because they can’t get to the right person because their CV doesn’t use really good targeted keywords that help define a person on paper. Let’s face it, if there are hundreds and thousands of people on a database, it stands to reason that using keywords in the search term is the main way recruiters work.

With that in mind, we asked the PMO Flashmobbers to think about the two different parts of their job – the technical side and the behavioural side – and to think about the keywords that they would use in order to get picked up for the right kind of jobs they would look for.

The Technical Keywords of PMO

Here’s the raw output for this element:

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Let’s take the most common aspect of PMO work, the one thing that every single organisation would ask for when hiring a PMO person…. reporting.

In a PMO CV, regardless of the type or level of the position, reporting would feature pretty much at the top of your details about your experience. It makes sense, that’s what all organisations want to see, so you show what you have to offer in that key area straightaway.

Incidentally in the eight sample CVs were had on the night, two of them didn’t mention the word ‘report’ or ‘reporting’ in any way at all. A couple more lead on ‘governance’ as their opening key skill area which was fine because reporting came second or third.

From the keywords captured on the night can you spot reporting? See where it is. Interesting isn’t it how something so important to a PMO practitioner is there almost as an afterthought. Sure we have other keywords that surround reporting, for example, ‘analysis’ and ‘Excel’ but are these the keywords that someone would use to find you?

In a word, no. A typical keyword string for me, when looking for a PMO person is something like this:

“PMO” AND “report” AND “month end” AND “progress”

I’m looking initially for anyone with PMO experience who provides a reporting service, probably doing a month end reporting cycle which will include something like progress or status reports. For me, it narrows down my 3000 people to probably about 1500.

If I’m looking for a PMO Analyst I might include the word ‘analysis’ and if it’s specifically at a programme level I might include something like ‘dependencies/dependency’ or ‘benefits’

That would give me a shortlist of about 20 I can work with.

The trick here is to include keywords around the reporting you’re actually doing. You should include the types of reports you’re pulling, when you’re doing it, what you are using to do it and what kind of analysis you’re providing.

Now you’re probably thinking, that all sounds a bit detailed. If I do that, I’m not going to have enough room to put other stuff in. This is a classic situation of focusing too much on what you want to do rather than thinking about what your audience, the reader wants to see. It’s always about what they want to see. The CV is about sales and marketing, give the customer what they want and all that. So chances are the last few bullet points on your current CV are probably a waste of time. Take this from one of the sample CVs:

‘Co-ordinates information and communication of XXX programme at all levels with XX’

What a waste of time that sentence is for any useful keyword. So why not improve on the important key areas and drop the useless sentence?

The Behavioural Keywords of PMO

Let’s take a look at the more difficult aspect of including meaningful behavioural keywords that should be included in the CV. Here’s the raw output for these from last night:

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With behavioural keywords we use them in two different places. We include some in the personal profile and within the career experience area. In the personal profile it is more about how we are as individuals therefore writing something like a great communicator, team player, yadda, yadda is not considered to be individualistic because a lot of people use these types of things in a personal profile. It’s what I call ‘fluff and puff’ words.

Behavioural keywords in the profile are often incorporated into the ‘how’ you do something, for example, ‘proactively manage’, ‘coach and mentor’, ‘build relationships’, ‘pragmatically xx’, ‘lead xx’, facilitate xx’, ‘collaboration’ and so on.

In the careers experience area your focus should be on the many relationships you are managing, influencing and supporting. If you think about relationships upwards, to senior management, what are the behavioural skills here? We have to mention the word ‘stakeholder’, which surprisingly didn’t make our list. What about to our programme/project managers? Third party suppliers? The finance department and so on?

Words such as influence, negotiate, facilitate, challenge, mentor, diplomacy, support are all words that give insight into how we provide our services and whilst a recruiter or hirer might not specifically search on these words, what it does give is an insight into your level of seniority or advanced nature of your behavioural skills in a work environment when the CV is read.

So what we have is the technical insights into WHAT we do and the behavioural side that shows the HOW we do it.

Here’s a final example from one of our sample CVs, here’s a line that we can improve and beef up:

‘Provide advice and guidance and templates to Project Managers including PM toolkit and governance documents’

A few changes to provide a more professional way of writing it and getting in buzz keywords like ‘community of practice’:

‘Established a community of practice to provide mentoring support for project managers within the business, services included creating a project management toolkit of project management processes and templates to improve consistency in the delivery approach’.


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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob. She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast


  1. Reporting is an interesting subject as what was asked for on the night was technical skills. And one could make a good argument that reporting is NOT a technical skill. As it is not the reporting that is the important part more what you are reporting on such as dependencies or benefits. An understanding to do with month end and what s important to know is more important to me than know that you have all items listed on a page in a random order.
    Just having an understanding about how to produce a month end report for financials does not necessarily give you an understanding of how to produce a month end report for risk. So for my money it is better to have an understanding of risk and/or financials because I have assumed that if you have that understanding as part of that on how to report and analyse them.

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