How to Write a Project Manager Cover Letter

How to Write a Project Manager Cover Letter

How to Write a Project Manager Cover Letter

Updated 16 November 2020

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Project management is a multi-skilled profession. If you’re working in the field, you’ll need to demonstrate a range of capabilities that ensure the successful initiation, execution and completion of any given project.

It’s also an incredibly exciting and versatile occupation. Throughout your career, you may oversee a broad range of activities in various industries, or pursue career growth within a specific sector, such as IT, construction, or oil and gas.

That said, it all starts with an application, and whilst you may be well-versed in getting things done, the prospect of selling yourself to a potential employer can be daunting.

This article offers advice on how to craft a persuasive project manager cover letter that makes you a standout candidate, no matter where you are in your career journey.

What Is a Project Manager Cover Letter?

Anyone applying for a role in project management will be required to outline their skills, qualifications and experience with a resume, and then substantiate their suitability with a well-crafted project management cover letter.

Combined, these two documents give an employer an overview of:

  • Who you are
  • Your interest in the role
  • Why you feel you’re a suitable candidate
  • What you can bring to the hiring organization

Like most occupations, competition for project management roles is fierce.

You may feel you have the confidence and charisma to succeed at an interview, but to get there, you need to put forward your project management experience in a way that sets you apart from potentially hundreds of other applicants.

Whilst your resume provides background information on education and work history, which may be very much akin to that of other candidates, your project manager cover letter is your opportunity to expand on this detail in a persuasive manner that sees you through to the next stage of the recruitment process.

In most cases, your project manager cover letter will be written at the request of an employer as part of your initial application. However, you may also opt to write one voluntarily as a speculative cover letter addressed to any business or organization that may have a project management opportunity in the near future.

Whatever the circumstances, you should pay careful attention to its structure, tone and content.

In the next section, we explore what you should be looking to highlight before providing some project manager cover letter examples.

What Should a Great Project Manager Cover Letter Include?

Project management requires such a broad range of skills that it would be impossible to demonstrate them all individually within the content of your project manager cover letter.

For example, just some of the skills expected of a project manager include:

Instead of trying to cram examples of each into a one-page document, try and showcase achievements that imply these skills were the driving force behind your accomplishments, whilst highlighting the more specific capabilities hiring managers will be on the lookout for.

Think about ways to demonstrate the following:

  • Budget management – Whatever project you’re involved in, you’ll be responsible for making sure it comes in on or below budget. Show your potential employer how skilled you are in this area with quantifiable examples. These could include a cost-saving exercise or new vendor selection that saved $X amount, or how you adapted a project and lowered projected expenditure.

  • Performance analysis and reporting – As a project manager, you need to show you’re in control at every stage of the process, and that involves continual analysis and reporting. This could relate to the performance of your internal team, external vendors or the project as a whole. If you have an example where you’ve identified a workflow problem, taken steps to resolve it and have relevant data to support the case, use it in your project manager cover letter.

  • Industry software knowledgeTechnical skills like information security and data analysis are useful to highlight, but even more so is your project management software proficiency. Mention any platforms you have experience with like Slack, Basecamp or Trello. These skills show you’re able to hit the ground running.

  • Project management methodologies – Organizations of all shapes and sizes are continually looking for ways to do more with less and streamline operations. A key part of this is the implementation of agile project management methodologies such a Kanban, Waterfall and Scrum. Hint at your understanding and experience of these practices and, again, if you have examples of them in action, use them.

Of course, the above only applies if you have the relevant background. If your fresh out of college or project management is a career change for you, you’ll need to adapt your approach accordingly.

Where this is the case, you’ll typically be applying for a lower-level position, so don’t panic that you don’t have high-profile project management experience to lean on, it won’t be expected of you. Instead, focus on aspects of your experience that show your potential.

For example, you may have been involved in budget management or costing responsibilities, or you may have implemented a new initiative that increased staff productivity. Even if they weren’t related to a large-scale project, it’s still relevant experience.

You may have led a small team on an internal project. Again, you may not see it as comparable to full project management, but if you can demonstrate your understanding of the complete project lifecycle, how you saw it through from start to finish and the soft skills that allowed you to do so effectively, you’re presenting yourself as a strong candidate.

The key thing to remember is that hiring managers will have to sift through hundreds of cover letters, and if yours is a carbon copy of everyone else’s, it’s likely to go unnoticed.

When recruiting project managers, employers are looking for candidates that get things done. It’s the whole purpose of the role after all.

So, instead of compiling an overview of your communication, organization and leadership skills, show them in action with real scenarios, real problem solving and real results.

Project Manager Cover Letter Top Tips

1. Be Concise

A standard cover letter should be no more than a single page. Obviously, this does not allow for an in-depth description of a complete project, nor should you look to give one as an example.

Pick out highlights of your achievements, keep them on point and focus on the benefits they brought to your employer or any other project stakeholder.

2. Use Keywords and Phrases

Before writing your project manager cover letter, pinpoint keywords and phrases within the job description offered for the role and weave them into your content.

For example, if the ad refers to the implementation of Agile and Scrum, be sure to reference your experience with such methodologies.

If it requires PMP certification, state if you hold or are working towards this.

This will help hiring managers connect the dots between what they need, and what you can bring to the table.

3. Prove You Understand the Role

Again, refer to the job description here. Project management is such a broad occupation and every position will have unique requirements and interested parties.

Your project manager cover letter needs to show that you're attuned to the specifics of the role. You may not have directly comparable experience, but you should be able to draw on key points that show you understand what is being asked of you.

If you do have a relevant background to the role on offer (for example, project management in a healthcare setting), be sure to make this apparent. Market knowledge and connections will give employers confidence in your ability to get the job done.

4. Show Enthusiasm for the Hiring Organization

Do your research and align your project manager cover letter with the goals and corporate culture of the hiring organization. Express what it is about working with them in particular that excites you and share any knowledge you have of their achievements.

A successful appointment won’t just be based on the right skills and experience. It will also involve finding the right culture fit.

If you can suggest this exists, you’re one step closer to the interview.

5. Back Up Your Claims

A project manager cover letter that simply alludes to your expertise won’t gain you any attention. You need to back up every statement with evidential information.

For example, don’t state that you have 'a unique ability to motivate, increasing productivity and collaboration across multiple teams.' Show this in action with something you can evidence.

6. Don’t Forget the Soft Skills

Although we’ve made the point of focusing on more specific project management capabilities, it’s important to keep soft skills in the back of your mind and ensure they’re apparent throughout your cover letter.

In the examples you choose to highlight, make it clear that things like multi-tasking, time management or negotiation were a major part of the activity.

These are areas you’ll be expected to excel in, so prove it within your content.

How to Write Your Project Manager Cover Letter

Now you know how to approach your project manager cover letter, it’s time to start pulling it together.

Each section is demonstrated individually below. The project manager cover letter examples provided are geared towards the construction industry but can be adapted to suit any sector.

Section #1 – The Opening

Where possible, your cover letter should be addressed to the hiring manager directly. If this information is not available in the job advert, do your research and find out who you’re talking to.

This gives a far better impression than addressing it to whom it may concern.

Open with a clear indication of the role your applying for, and a hook that shows you’re a suitable candidate.

For example:

Dear Mr Smith

As a PMP certified Project Manager with eight years’ experience in the construction industry, I was thrilled to learn of the opening for Construction Project Manager with EcoBuild.

This opening sentence is short, to the point and leaves the recipient in no doubt as to what the letter concerns and why you’re a candidate worth consideration.

Section #2 – What Makes You Suitable

Now it’s time to expand on your resume. Be careful not to repeat it, but instead give the reader a more detailed insight into your experience and be clear on why you’re interested in working for them.

Use language taken from the job description, words that demonstrate action and, most importantly, highlight your achievements with quantifiable evidence.

For example:

I’m on the lookout for a new and exciting challenge that aligns with my belief that construction should, first and foremost, be ethical and environmentally aware. I began my career as Project Assistant with Construction Co. Within three years, I had progressed to the role of Project Manager, adopting an Agile-Waterfall methodology that facilitated efficient and effective teamwork throughout the entire project lifecycle. In my post as Project Manager with Construction Co., my most notable achievements include:

  • Reducing projected spend on Project X by 12% through supplier negotiation.
  • Automating workflow with the rollout of PlanGrid for cross-team collaboration and auditable documentation for all stakeholders.
  • Achieving 100% buy-in on a new eco initiative, with the company on track to reduce carbon emissions by 20% in the next two years.

Here, the applicant shows enthusiasm for the hiring organization which, in this hypothetical scenario, is a sustainable construction company.

The letter then goes on to explain a brief career path and provides demonstrable evidence of some noteworthy achievements.

It makes mention of a commonly-used project management methodology in the construction industry as well as sector-specific software, showing the applicant has the relevant background and knowledge.

It also hints at the key competencies hiring managers will be on the lookout for, like leadership, problem-solving and negotiation.

How to Write a Project Manager Cover Letter

Section #3 – What You Can Offer

In this next paragraph, focus on what you would bring to the company if selected for the post.

For example:

My experience has taught me that bringing a successful project in on time and on budget requires more than strong leadership. It takes full stakeholder understanding, in-depth industry knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking. To that end, I endeavor to keep up to date with state legislation and governmental policy, as well as tracking the efforts of construction industry leaders across the world, the knowledge of which will be a great asset in helping EcoBuild meet and exceed its goals.

This section shows a clear understanding of successful project management, as well as demonstrating that the candidate has a keen interest in their line of work and hopes to use their knowledge to help meet company objectives.

It’s a good indication that the individual is committed to being part of a wider team, not just focused on their own long-term career goals.

Section #4 – The Closing

End your cover letter with a closing statement that reiterates your interest in the company and what you hope to achieve from your correspondence.

For example:

I’ve had a vested interest in your company for some time now and was particularly impressed with the eco-credentials of Project Y in 2018. I’d love the opportunity to bring my own ideas to the table for further discussion and feel my skills, experience and business ethos perfectly align with the role on offer.

Thank you for your time and I hope together we can build a better future.

Sincerely,

Applicant A

This is a strong closing that shows you’ve done your research on the company and feel you have something to offer with regards to their future.

Example Project Manager Cover Letter

Now let’s pull all the elements together to see the structure and flow in action:

Dear Mr Smith,

As a PMP certified Project Manager with eight years’ experience in the construction industry, I was thrilled to learn of the opening for Construction Project Manager with EcoBuild.

I’m on the lookout for a new and exciting challenge that aligns with my belief that construction should, first and foremost, be ethical and environmentally aware. I began my career as Project Assistant with Construction Co. Within three years, I had progressed to the role of Project Manager, adopting an Agile-Waterfall methodology that facilitated efficient and effective teamwork throughout the entire project lifecycle. In my post as Project Manager with Construction Co., my most notable achievements include:

  • Reducing projected spend on Project X by 12% through supplier negotiation.
  • Automating workflow with the rollout of PlanGrid for cross-team collaboration and auditable documentation for all stakeholders.
  • Achieving 100% buy-in on a new eco initiative, with the company on track to reduce carbon emissions by 20% in the next two years.

My experience has taught me that bringing a successful project in on time and on budget requires more than strong leadership. It takes full stakeholder understanding, in-depth industry knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking. To that end, I endeavor to keep up to date with state legislation and governmental policy, as well as tracking the efforts of construction industry leaders across the world, the knowledge of which will be a great asset in helping EcoBuild meet and exceed its goals.

I’ve had a vested interest in your company for some time now and was particularly impressed with the eco-credentials of Project Y in 2018. I’d love the opportunity to bring ideas to the table for further discussion and feel my skills, experience and business ethos perfectly align with the role on offer.

Thank you for your time and I hope together we can build a better future.

Sincerely,

Applicant A

Of course, the above project manager cover letter sample only applies if you have solid experience.

If you’re a college graduate, you’ll need to tailor your approach slightly.

See our article on how to write a graduate cover letter for more guidance here.

Final Thoughts

A good project manager cover letter is not simply a rehash of your resume. It’s a carefully crafted document that shows your capabilities in action.

As a project manager, it not only your job to see a project through from start to finish, you’re also responsible for a range of activities along the way. Make these the core focus of your cover letter to show you understand exactly what’s involved in the whole project lifecycle.

Most of all, talk with enthusiasm and optimism. It’s the best way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.