Episode 138 – Trends in Top Talent – Navigating the Job Market

Episode #138
Original Air Date: 10.04.2021

33 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Cate Murray

Do you need a career change? Are you hiring top notch talent? If you’re recruiting new hires for your team, or if you’re in the market for new opportunities, you’ll appreciate Cate Murray’s well-qualified advice. In this episode, Cate advises on current job market trends occurring across industries and the latest shift in the remote work scenario. You’ll also hear recommendations for project management job candidates in regards to skills and technology. One of the challenges that project managers are facing today is acquiring and retaining top talent on their project teams. Listen in to hear hiring tips on how to attract top talent as Cate describes the identifiable traits of top performers and what causes one to lose those candidates.

Listen in for Cate’s excellent advice on how to attract interest from possible employers. We tackle the subject of effective networking and creating a winning LinkedIn profile. Cate also shares recommendations on showcasing your ROI, optimizing your resume to beat the Applicant Tracking System, evaluating your network, and developing a network engagement plan that will get you noticed.

As Director of PMO Solutions, Cate is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO, Business Analysis, and Agile Practice. Cate holds her PMP, CSM, and Scrum@Scale certifications. She is a Professional Development Author for MSSQLTips.com, a Speaker at PMI® Professional Development Day events and chapter meetings, and a Speaker on the Project Summit*Business Analyst World conference series.

Learn More About Our Course: Attracting Top Talent: First Contact

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"...you now have six seconds to get somebody’s interest on your résumé. It actually dropped from around eight seconds to six seconds. So people are making a split decision when they look at that first page if they want to move forward with you."

- Cate Murray

"... make sure that you audit your network, think about where am I spending my time, if any, and who else could I be reaching out to that potentially is involved in the community that could help me along this path."

- Cate Murray

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The podcast by project managers for project managers. If you’re recruiting new hires for your team, or if you’re in the market for new opportunities, listen in for Cate Murray’s well qualified advice. Hear recommendations on current job market trends, tips on how to attract and retain top talent, as well as how to attract interest from possible employers, optimizing your resume, and developing a network engagement plan.

Table of Contents

01:36 … Current Job Market Trends
02:40 … The Interview Process
03:19 … Prescreening Process
04:16 … Project Management Skills and Technology Demands
08:25 … Shifting Work Scenario Opportunities
10:25 … Top Talent for Project Teams
13:22 … Keep Candidates from Losing Interest
15:06 … Traits of Top Performers
17:17 … Retaining Top Talent
19:47 … A Culture of Recognition
20:10 … Training and Development
20:43 … Effective Networking
23:10 … LinkedIn Profiles
26:09 … Give Your Résumé a Facelift
28:05 … The Applicant Tracking System
30:26 … Showcase your ROI
31:00 … Contact Cate
31:55 … Closing

CATE MURRAY: …you now have six seconds to get somebody’s interest on your résumé.  It actually dropped from around eight seconds to six seconds.  So people are making a split decision when they look at that first page if they want to move forward with you.

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m Wendy Grounds, and in the studio today with me is Bill Yates.  We’re very excited today to introduce Cate Murray.  She is the director of PMO Solutions, and she’s responsible for managing nationally based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO Business Analysis and Agile Practice.  Cate is also a regular speaker at PMI Professional Development Day events and chapter meetings.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, Wendy, I’m excited to have Cate talk about this topic with us because it just seems so timely.  The job market is hot.  One of the challenges that project managers are facing today more than ever is getting top talent.

And then another opportunity, another angle of this we want to look at with Cate is, okay, what if I am a project manager, and I’m just looking for new opportunities?  You know, I can work from home, work from anywhere now, more than ever so in my entire career.  So what’s out there for me, and what can I do about it? 

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah.  One thing to note is Cate is going to reference a number of very helpful links in our conversation.  And we’re going to have those in our show notes.  You can take a look at the transcript to find all those links.

Hi, Cate.  We’re so excited to have you with us today.

CATE MURRAY:  Hi, thanks so much for having me.  I’m looking forward to it.

Current Job Market Trends

WENDY GROUNDS:  There’s a lot that we can talk about, and I’m hoping we get time to cover all the topics that we have today.  I was looking at your résumé.  You have over 16 years of experience in IT staffing and services.  What are some trends that you have seen across the industries with this competitive job market?

CATE MURRAY:  Yes, it is definitely a talent market right now and extremely competitive.  I honestly don’t know the last time I have seen candidates that have had so many opportunities on their plate to choose from.  The one thing which I think everybody’s aware of that’s dramatically changed since COVID is of course the demand to work remotely, along with the increase of roles allowing it.  So this really does create significant challenges for those companies now requiring onsite work, or wanting their people back in the office, as less and less people are willing to be onsite in a full-time capacity.  And most can shop around to find a fully remote opportunity.  So that’s really the first piece.

The Interview Process

The second thing that we are seeing is a drawn-out interview process is a huge deterrent for candidates.  And we’re seeing companies that are requiring anything more than two interviews, they’re losing candidates.

BILL YATES:  Wow.  How about that.  Man.

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah.  And I think candidates are tired of having to jump through hoops, and they’ll move on to find another opportunity.

BILL YATES:  Huh.  Because, to your first point, the market is so hot right now with opportunities, people are like, okay, forget you.  I don’t have time for that.

CATE MURRAY:  Seriously.


CATE MURRAY:  I had two conversations with hiring managers yesterday about that because they had a multistep interview process.  And I said, “You’re going to lose good people.  It’s just the reality of the job market right now.”

Prescreening Process

BILL YATES:  Wow.  So quick follow-up on that.  What’s your advice to those companies who are like, oh, but we love our process because we’re able to go deeper and deeper.  What’s your advice to them?

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah, so I think if there are prescreening questions that they can give us, we can take on some of that.  That’s usually what my recommendation is.  But then, you know, if they maybe want to do a panel interview for the second round, that is a great way to get more stakeholders in there and knock it out in two steps if they require it.

BILL YATES:  That’s a great point because I know, I’ve been on both sides of it, and it can be frustrating if it’s like, okay, I’ve already answered all these questions.  This is the third person that I’m answering these questions for.  So a panel interview always sounds intimidating, but it’s pretty effective, pretty efficient.

CATE MURRAY:  It is, absolutely.  I had a girlfriend actually who just completed seven rounds of interviews with a company for them to tell her they went with another candidate.


CATE MURRAY:  So, you know, that’s just really frustrating.  So I think really anything beyond three is just crazy.

Project Management Skills and Technology Demands

BILL YATES:  Wow.  So what advice do you have for project management job candidates in terms of skills and technology?

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah.  So I oversee our PMO and Business Operations area.  And a large part of my role is talking with clients across our national account portfolio regarding their current openings and their demand plan in the future.  So I look at a lot of job descriptions.  I discuss a lot of openings.  And I have a lot of conversations with hiring managers on a weekly basis.  And there are a few things that really stick out in every conversation that I have.

The first one is Agile, and I think people are probably sick of talking about Agile.  But it’s a reality; right?  There are very few pure Waterfall shops anymore.  So they want somebody that has some type of Agile framework, maybe who’s even acted in a Scrum Master role, but can still act in a project manager capacity; and then also has worked with some of the tools like Jira.  By far the most common that I hear regularly.

The other thing is, now that most of us are virtual in some capacity, collaboration tools are very important.  So, you know, Teams, Mural, Trello, Slack.  And I would say, last but not least, strong communication skills.  I think it’s even more important in this virtual world that we live in because we can’t walk into the stakeholder’s office and have a conversation with them.  So how are you effectively communicating, creating buy-in, in this virtual capacity?

And I think from a project management perspective, if you’re unsure about the trends in your area, in your space, what are you doing about that?  You know, there are a lot of ways to identify the trends.  You can talk to recruiters in your skill set.  What are the trades or technologies that you’re seeing from customers?  You know, pay attention to job postings.  Are there certain things you’re seeing like, wow, a lot of job postings now are including an aspect on data or data science, data analysis?  What does that mean?  Does that mean I need to learn SQL or Tableau or have advanced Excel skills?  So just make sure that you’re doing a little bit of that homework on your own and identifying those trends as you see them come up.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that way you’re not surprised or caught off guard during an interview by something.  And the last thing you want to do during an interview is fake it; right?  You know, oh, sure, Tableau.  Sure, I use Tableau all the time.  They ask you a second-level question, and you’re like, uh.

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah, yeah, if you can create a Dashboard.  And you’re like, well, actually, I don’t know how to do that.  But, you know, I think that does bring up a good point because if you’re seeing in job alerts or in job postings that certain trends are popping up, or certain technologies, that allows you the opportunity to create a training plan around it, even going to watch a video on YouTube to see how something works.  Maybe it is like a tool that you already have, and there are some transferable skills there.  So keep that in mind as you try to keep pace with the changing technologies.

BILL YATES:  You brought up Agile, too.  And, you know, as a company, one of our primary things that we do is prepare people to pass the PMP Exam.  So we’re all about exam prep.  We’ve been doing Agile for a long time, both within our company and also teaching it and all that.  So when we added that to the exam prep material, it was kind of a natural thing for us.  But we found so many, let’s say, architects or engineers who do traditional project management, who are going for the PMP, and they’re intimidated by Agile.

And so for us it’s been a little bit of a, okay, you don’t have to be intimidated by Agile.  It’s actually a very cool process to understand and think about how can I incorporate some of that into some of the traditional practices that I have.  And of course PMI calls that “hybrid.”  So the same point is, if I’m applying for a job, and I see Agile or Scrum or something in the job description that I’m like, oh, my gosh, you know, don’t be intimidated by that.  If the job is purely just for a Scrum Master, then okay, maybe that’s not in your wheelhouse.

CATE MURRAY:  Different story.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, different story.

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah, we always tell candidates to follow the 80/20 rule.  You know, hiring managers put everything under the sun in the job description.


CATE MURRAY:  And a lot of them aren’t trained on writing job descriptions.  So if you meet 80% of the qualifications, apply for that job and then come up with a plan for that 20% that you’re missing.  And again, it may be doing simple research, watching a training video.  But that goes above and beyond, shows the manager that you took the initiative.  “Hey, I don’t have this piece, but let me tell you what I did and what I know about it” can go a long way.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.

Shifting Work Scenario Opportunities

WENDY GROUNDS:  Just over a year ago we were shifting to working from home and a lot of online work.  And yet things are changing all the time.  So how are you finding things are shifting once again in the whole work-from-home or work-from-anywhere type of scenario?

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah, so I think it’s been really interesting because not only has it opened up the talent pool for our clients, but it’s also allowed project managers, for example, the opportunity to work for clients that they never would have had the opportunity to, pre-COVID.  Which is really great.  And I think traditionally the roles in my space are roles that customers wanted onsite, and they didn’t think it was possible, like how am I going to have a project manager work effectively remotely?  And I believe we’ve pretty much proved across all skill sets that, with the right tools, with the right support, anybody can work effectively and be productive, even if not more productive, because we’re not sitting in traffic.  Other elements are not coming into play.

But I really do think it’s a great opportunity for candidates and for clients, you know, to allow some type of remote flexibility.  The one thing that we’re really starting to see lately is the rates for candidates.  Normally a candidate living in San Francisco would not be interested in working in a lower collar market.  But I do believe that the rates have started to shift up across the board because of the remote opportunity.  So people are willing to consider things that they normally wouldn’t have prior.  So that’s been an interesting trend that we’ve really observed this year specifically.

Candidates are saying – and again, less so in my skill set, but I’m thinking about more development skill sets.  But developers are saying, hey, if you can’t pay West Coast prices, I’ll go find somebody that is.  Right?  Like you can’t pay based on location anymore because most people are remote.  So it is really creating this interesting dynamic where people can ask for more money, in all honesty.

Top Talent for Project Teams

WENDY GROUNDS:  All right.  We want to move along to talking about recruiting top talent for your team.  And we want to focus it on project managers.  So do you have some good tips for project managers who are looking to get that top talent on their teams?

CATE MURRAY:  Yes.  And I love this topic.  My coworker and I actually present on hiring tips to attract top talent.  And the first thing that we always coach individuals to look at is why are you losing candidates to begin with?  And is it a lengthy process, right, a rigorous interview process like we talked about?  Are there too many cooks in the kitchen in the interview process?  Did you provide poor marketing on the role?  They don’t know what they’re getting into.  Are the requirements lists unrealistic?  Like we also talked about, does the money not align to the market value?  What else is going on?  So I think that is the first thing that you need to think about is why you’re losing those candidates, and then do a QA on that process of why you’re losing those candidates.

But when you think about attracting candidates, the other very important piece is have you created your cultural goals and your targeted traits?  What are you looking for in future employees?  What’s important to you?  What’s going to make your team excel and take them to the next level?  And then did you create some type of candidate scorecard around that target culture, or what it is that you’re looking for?  You would be surprised how many clients I work with that have no consistency across their interviewing process.  They don’t have a scorecard.  They don’t even know how to begin creating a scorecard.  So that’s something we do work with customers on, as well.  That’s kind of the first piece.

The second is understanding the candidate motivators.  You know, not everybody is motivated by rate.  In fact, sometimes that’s third, fourth on the list.  It’s what is the exciting project or program they’re going to be working on?  Is it a really interesting tech stack?  You know, is it something that’s going to change the industry?  Those are things that can be much more attractive to people.  And then as a hiring individual, how are you projecting that?  How are you marketing that information out into the world?

I’m sure we’ve all looked at job descriptions where we’re like, this tells me absolutely nothing about it.  This is so bland.  There’s no information on here.  So make sure that you’re really defining the priorities of the world, the expectation, why somebody is going to want to work there, and really selling your company and your team, if it’s something that you truly believe in.  So I think that marketing the job effectively is a piece that’s often missing from the process.

And then essentially it’s your job, when you get somebody in for an interview that you really like, whether you got that from a recruiting agency, or you got that from internal HR, it is your job to sell them on the role.  Make sure that you take the time to answer their questions.  You talk about the team.  You talk about the culture, the potential of the company, where you guys are going.  Those are things that candidates are interested in and it’s important to make sure that you’re addressing.

Keep Candidates from Losing Interest

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  You’ve got to have your game together.  If it’s going pretty well, great, you know, follow the script.  If it’s not, and you can sense it – and to your point, if you’re losing well-qualified candidates, if they’re just losing interest, then you need to fix it fast.

CATE MURRAY:  You need to do some self-reflection.  You know, if you’ve had back-out after back-out, declined offer, there’s a reason why.  You’ve got to find out, like, what are we doing wrong?  How can we improve our process to make sure that we’re keeping people interested?  And I think you bring up a great point.  If you’re talking to someone, and you’re like, oh, my gosh, this person’s a rock star, move quickly.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, you’ve got to close it.  That’s right.

CATE MURRAY:  You know, get that offer out, same day if you can.  Ask them, hey, I know the job market is competitive right now.  I’m sure you have other irons in the fire.  Where do I stand?  If I’m number two, why is number one number one?  Can I get to number one on your list?  You know, those are things to make sure that you’re having, those discussions with candidates.

BILL YATES:  So Cate, this seems so natural to me because through the interview process, if I’m the project manager, and I’m interviewing you for a position on the team, it’s kind of like we’re having a tryout; right?  You’re getting a sense from, okay, what’s this person’s style?  How well does he communicate?  Is he willing to ask me those difficult questions or awkward questions of, hey, what’s it going to take to close you?  But those are good; right?  Then you’re thinking, well, this might be somebody that I can work with on a project. So it’s almost like an opportunity for the two to get to know each other even as you’re recruiting.

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah, absolutely.  And it’s all about transparency.  If you’re really interested in somebody, again, the job market is so hot, you’ve got to move quickly.  So be willing to have these, like you said, little bit more difficult conversations, if it’s somebody that you want on your team long‑term.

Traits of Top Performers

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  So Cate, let’s talk about who we want on our team.  Think about the traits of top performers.  As project managers look at resources, what should they be looking for?  What traits should they be looking for?

CATE MURRAY:  A few things come to my mind.  I mean, the list could be very long, but I’m going to try to highlight my top items here.  I think solution-oriented is important.  And managers want people that are going to come up with ideas.  Even if those ideas don’t work out, they want to know that you’re thinking, not just in the now, but in the future.  You know, how is this going to affect us one month from now, three months from now, a year, two years, et cetera.  And then you’re coming up with interesting ideas to solve problems.

I think the next is – I’m going to lump it under culture contributor.  But there’s a lot of things that go under that.  How is your attitude?  How is your personality?  And how do you get along with the team?  You know, are you somebody that is building the team up, or are you tearing them down?  Especially now that we’re remote.  We want people that are building the team up.

And I think my team in particular, we’ve always been distributed and always been remote.  But we make it a point to celebrate the small things.  And if somebody does really well, we send out props.  And it doesn’t have to be our manager that does it.  All of us take ownership of that.  And I think it goes a long way for team morale.

The other things are, are you responsive, and are you available, especially, I think, I’ve had a lot of hiring managers over the past year tell me the one thing that’s been tough about the virtual piece is, if somebody isn’t used to working virtually, it can be a challenge.  They can sometimes unfortunately take advantage of that.  So are you available when your team needs you?  Are you on Teams?  Are you getting on the video?  I always find it frustrating when I’m on a video call, and there’s one person not on video.  I’m like, what’s going on there?  Why can’t you get on with the rest of us?  So that’s something to keep in mind. 

And then honestly I think just are you somebody that is resilient, and do you take ownership and fail forward?  Again, maybe that falls under “solution-oriented.”  But are you willing to ride out the hard times?

BILL YATES:  Great list, yeah.

Retaining Top Talent

WENDY GROUNDS:  We’ve talked about some hiring tips, and we’ve talked about identifying those traits.  If we have these top-talent project managers and team members on our team, how do we keep them?  How do we keep them from moving to something better?

CATE MURRAY:  Yes, absolutely.  So first there are two things that I think are very important before we even start this journey of retention.  And the first one is did you communicate the why?  I think you guys might be familiar with Simon Sinek.  He has a great talk on this.  But it’s how leaders inspire action, and do your employees understand the why behind what they do.  And there are so many people out there that they know what their company does generally, but they don’t know the core values.  They don’t know the project that they’re working on, how it follows up into a larger initiative.  Where are we trying to take ourselves in years to come?  So I think that’s important, communicating the why behind everything that you do, what your team does, what your company does, and so on.

And then the next thing is do you understand your employees’ motivators?  I talked about this a little bit before.  But you have to understand what makes your employees tick because I guarantee you it’s different from employee to employee.  You know, and asking things about why did you leave your last job?  What made you accept this opportunity?  What excited you and interested you in joining our team?  And really understanding what makes them tick and why they went with you over somebody else.  So I think that’s really, really important to start things off.

And then once the employee’s in the door, I am a big fan of regular one-on-ones.  Again, especially now in a virtual environment.  I haven’t seen my boss since March of 2020.  So, you know, we make a point to have a regular cadence.  I have a regular cadence with a gentleman that works for me. 

And some of that is life talk, and some of that is, hey, how are things going?  Is there anything I can take off your plate?  What’s the number one thing you need right now to be successful?  What don’t you have that’s hindering your performance? 

So really making an effort to understand your employee, know them and talk to them on a regular basis.  I understand, if you’re somebody that manages 50 to 100 people, that can be quite challenging.  But there still has to be some type of regular cadence with anybody reporting to you.  It is a must.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.  And a quick word of advice on that, if somebody has that many people that report up to them, then they need to delegate that; right?  They need help.  You can’t really have more than six or eight people that you’ve able to maintain that face-to-face with.

A Culture of Recognition

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah.  And then the other two big things are, are you creating a culture of recognition?  And I say that, and I don’t mean just like, “Great job for doing your job.”  We all got hired for a reason, you know, we have job duties that we have to perform.  But how are you recognizing your people?  Do you have a recognition program?  Is that something that you could enhance?  Because that goes a very long way in building a strong culture.

Training and Development

And then the second is training and development, especially today’s workforce.  They are all about training and development.  And what opportunities are you offering, both inside your corporation and outside of your corporation?  Ask your employees, hey, what are some technologies that you think learning would help do your job better?  Could you send them to a conference once a year?  You know, a lot of things are virtual right now, and they’re deeply discounted, which is a really great time to take advantage of training development opportunities.  Then again, what are you providing to help enhance and grow the people that work for you?

Effective Networking

WENDY GROUNDS:  Another thing, could you just talk to us a little bit about the importance of networking and effective networking?  And how can project managers increase their network?

CATE MURRAY:  What I will say about networking is you 100% should be doing it.  There is no excuse.  And I always tell people, the worst possible thing that could happen is that somebody says “No,” or “I can’t help you.”  I get it.  We’re all afraid of rejection.  But that is the worst possible case scenario.  Think of all the good possible scenarios that could happen, such as you landing a new job or getting introduced to somebody that could change your career path forever.  So it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get over it, and you’ve got to do it.

What I would start off doing is evaluating your network and develop some type of network or community engagement plan.  And that can look like a lot of different things.  Are you involved in any user groups or any local associations?  If not, how are you going to find a user group or an association to get involved in?  Even if that is attending one meetup user-group a quarter, start somewhere.  I think you’ll find the more events that you attend, once you find the right group, the more engaged and the more benefits you’re going to see from it.

And then think about like what other opportunities or avenues are there for you to share your talents with the world?  Skills-based volunteering is something I see a lot of project managers getting involved in.  Everybody needs project management in their lives.  There are a lot of nonprofits out there that need help.  So that’s something to really look into.  So definitely just make sure that you audit your network, think about where am I spending my time, if any, and who else could I be reaching out to that potentially is involved in the community that could help me along this path.

And then I think next with networking, if you’re somebody that’s looking for a new job or looking to change careers, you do probably want to have a few key recruiters or HR contacts that you’re working with.  And it’s very important to vet those recruiters, and check them out on LinkedIn.  Ask for referrals.  Ask them how many PM roles do you see in a week?  What clients are you supporting with PM openings?  You know, make sure there’s somebody that’s really skilled in your skills.  That’s going to be really important.

LinkedIn Profiles

And then again, I think LinkedIn is a great avenue for networking.  We can talk about a LinkedIn profile because, my gosh, I think I could spend hours talking about that.  But that’s something where you definitely want to optimize your LinkedIn profile.  It is by far one of the first places hiring managers go to look to check you out.

BILL YATES:  I’m so tempted in this conversation with you to go deep into very small points.  But you bring up LinkedIn and how hiring managers check it out.  So do you have quick advice for, let’s say, what are the top three things you should not be doing with your LinkedIn profile?

CATE MURRAY:  Okay.  Let me answer that in a couple of ways.  So first you need to do an online image audit.  Are you portraying what you want to portray to the world?  What is your brand?  Think about that, and check everywhere.  If you’re on Facebook, if you’re on Instagram, I guarantee people can find you.  So just make sure that you’re portraying what you want to portray to the world.  LinkedIn is a professional site.  So I always encourage people, don’t get political on there.  It’s fine to get personal, but there’s a difference.  So, you know, I think share a big win, share exciting things that have happened, but try to keep some of that other stuff out of it.

Now, in terms of your profile, the biggest things that hiring managers are looking for is a quality picture.  It’s a very big red flag if, A, you are not on LinkedIn to begin with; and, B, if you don’t have a quality picture, it looks like you were out at a nightclub.  So again, get a quality picture.  The other thing is think about when you go to LinkedIn, where is your eye drawn to?  And it really is, it’s that picture, it’s that tagline.  Make sure that you’re optimizing your tagline.  And maybe it’s “Expert project manager, PMP,” whatever you want to say.  But that’s something, make sure you’re filling that out.

I would definitely get recommendations, relevant recent recommendations.  And what I always tell specifically project managers is think about when you had a large deliverable or project completed, that’s a great time to ask your stakeholder, ask your manager, if you know you did a good job, ask them to go write a LinkedIn recommendation for you.  That validates your credibility as a project management professional.  And then optimize that tagline at the top.  LinkedIn should really be a mini-summary of your résumé.  Your résumé’s a more enhanced you of your career.  And LinkedIn should be what I kind of call the CliffsNotes version of it.  And the big concern when I see somebody’s résumé and then I go to LinkedIn, and it’s totally different.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  That’s…

CATE MURRAY:  That’s a big red flag.

BILL YATES:  That’s a great point, Cate.  Yeah, you’re right.  Those two should be in harmony.  One should be a summary of the other.  And that’s a great takeaway for folks who are thinking, wow, I haven’t looked at my LinkedIn profile in forever.  Or the flip of that, I update LinkedIn every month; but, man, I haven’t touched my résumé in three years.  Start with LinkedIn and make sure that your résumé matches what’s there.

CATE MURRAY:  Absolutely.  They really should complement each other.

Give Your Résumé a Facelift

WENDY GROUNDS:  Which leads us into the résumé, what are things that you would look for on a résumé?

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah.  So I love project managers.  I have my PMP.  But one thing that project managers tend to do on their résumé is they put everything on there.  And let me tell you, hiring managers are not reading past the first two pages.  You have a 10-page résumé, please, you’ve got to get it down to two to three pages.  I’m sure it was great what you did 15 years ago.  If it’s not relevant to the role that you’re applying for, get rid of it, guys.  Right?  So that’s kind of the first thing.

Nowadays it’s really interesting because you really do have to format your résumé to beat the ATS, the Applicant Tracking System.  That is a real thing out there.  Again, I have a lot of tips on that.  But I will say that gone are the days when you can just send one résumé to 20 different jobs.  You truly have to customize your résumé for each job that you’re applying to.  And that doesn’t mean you have to rewrite your résumé, by any means.

But if you’re applying to a role, for example, that’s requiring Scrum, Kanban, and Jira, and it mentions it in the job description, it is in your best interest to, on your résumé, put in your keyword section, if you have this:  Scrum, Kanban, Jira.  Where you used it in those specific roles:  Scrum, Kanban, Jira.  Even doing another Skills Summary section; right?  There’s a lot of opportunity to include that.

So it’s all about looking at the job description, figuring out what are the key terms/technologies that are listed.  And if you have those skills, making sure that they show up multiple times throughout your résumé.  And there are optimization tools out there, like Jobscan’s an example of one.  But, you know, I think it has to be in a readable format for the ATS.  And I would avoid different fonts and sizes and bolding and italics.  Like it’s just you want something that is pleasing to the eye to read.

The Applicant Tracking System

BILL YATES:  For those who are not familiar with it, describe this ATS a little further?

CATE MURRAY:  Yes.  So basically an ATS is an Applicant Tracking System.  It typically is the first line of defense into a company.  So before even an HR representative reads it, it is going through a system and saying, like, yeah, this person matches up 85% or more.  Perfect.  Moving them on.  And honestly, that’s just the reality of it right now.  So the other thing you can do, we just talked about this in networking, if you know somebody at the client that you’re interviewing, hey, I just submitted my résumé through the portal.  Would you by chance be able to introduce me to the HR representative or the hiring manager?

Because unfortunately we hear a lot ATS is a little bit of a black hole.  But it’s really important that you identify those buzzwords.  That could be anything from technologies, job title, certifications, industry experience.  And then you are putting those buzzwords in your résumé.  Again, you could have it in certification placement, technical skills summary.  You could have it listed under each job where you utilized it.  It’s just an opportunity for you to optimize it even further.

And I will say it’s very interesting, my coworker and I just did a presentation on this, you now have six seconds to get somebody’s interest on your résumé.  It actually dropped from around eight seconds to six seconds.  So people are making a split decision when they look at that first page if they want to move forward with you.  Isn’t that crazy?  But when you think about it, like I looked at a résumé, like I noticed there are certain things that I look for right away.  And if I don’t see those, I’m kind of like, oh, okay, well, maybe I saw some of this stuff.  I’ll look a little bit deeper.  But if there are certain things that are missing completely, I’m moving on.  So it really is a reality in today’s job market.

We have a whole career resources page on Apex’s site that I would highly recommend people looking at.  There’s information on LinkedIn.  Résumés.  Interviewing prep.  Like so much of this stuff, it’s just I’m really passionate about career services.  So I love these topics and love helping people because I just think there’s not a lot of information out there, and hard to navigate this world.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  This is really helpful.  And it’s changed.  Not just in terms of technology, but working remotely.  How do you communicate effectively now versus when you used to walk into a room and shake hands with people?  It’s just very different.

Showcase your ROI

CATE MURRAY:  Yes.  And I think the last thing as it relates to project managers and résumés is make sure that you’re showcasing your ROI.  I can’t tell you how many times I talk to hiring managers and say, hey, you know, the résumé looked great, but I want to hire the person on their team or like the person that they worked with.  People want to see, like, what were your direct contributions?  What process improvements did you make?  Did you help launch a large product?  Who benefited from your work?  So be thinking about those.  I think of it, you know, like the numbers and the data, that’s the kind of stuff that people are interested in on your résumé.

Contact Cate

WENDY GROUNDS:  Cate, if our listeners are looking for more advice, can they reach out to you personally?  And what is your company that they can reach out to?

CATE MURRAY:  Yeah, so I work for Apex Systems. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and just mention that you heard this on the podcast.  I think that would be ideal, just so I can connect the dots.  And then we do have an amazing career resources page.  I mean, there is so much great content.  There’s videos, there’s articles, and there’s chat lists.  It is scary navigating the job market right now.  So we’ve really made a very serious effort to put out a lot of content that we know is going to benefit job seekers.  So I can absolutely help connect you.  We also have a career coach that we can have folks talk to, you know, and do résumé reviews, things like that.  It was really important for us to make sure that we’re helping educate the community on this.

BILL YATES:  This is great.  Thank you so much for spending this time with us and sharing all this insight.

CATE MURRAY:  Oh, you’re welcome.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, this is great.

CATE MURRAY:  I love it.  I love talking about these things.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, we can see.  It’s just been so great.

CATE MURRAY:  Thank you so much.


WENDY GROUNDS:  And that’s it from us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.

Now for our chance to give back.  You just earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com.  Choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.

Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

Links from Cate Murray:

Career Resources site

Recruiting Top Talent & Retention:

Article: A Managers Guide to Attracting and Hiring Top Talent

Webinar: Shaping Your Hiring Process to Attract Top Talent (Hiring / Job Description / Interviewing Tips for Managers)

Article: Why Managers Lose Top Talent after Three Months

Webinar: How To Keep Great Employees From Quitting with Gabrielle Bosche

Top Performers:

Webinar: 15 Traits of Rockstar Performers


  1. Webinar: Five Modern Day Resume Truths & How To Overcome

2. Webinar: Creating a Resume that Beats the Applicant Tracking System

3. Webinar: Building a Strong Resume – 10 Sections to Include

Article: How to Get Your Resume in Tip-top Shape

**this article has TONS of helpful links on many of the topics we discussed today!

My co-worker, Erica Woods, and I are also professional development writers for MSSQLTips.com and we wrote this comprehensive Resume Cookbook for Job Seekers with another great contact of ours, Jeff Baird (a certified body language expert – how cool!).

Folks can check out our Author Profiles if they want even more helpful content!

Cate Murray

Erica Woods


Article: Land More Interviews: Beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Webinar: Your Interview Prep Action Item List


Article: Eight Virtual Networking Strategies

We also have a webinar series called Toolbox Talks and many of our webinars are worth PDUs!

5 responses to “Episode 138 – Trends in Top Talent – Navigating the Job Market”

  1. Mashanda Ruffin says:

    Very helpful tips for recruiting talent for project managers

  2. Alvaro Storbeck says:

    Very interesting facts and excellent podcast – suited not only for PM’s, but also for anyone hiring or wanting to be hired. Thank you!

  3. Tammi B says:

    Thanks for the tips provided here, especially the one on keeping resume & LinkedIn in synch. Very good advice.

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