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Why You Should Keep a Project List/Deal Sheet

project list

Being able to show your specific experience can make your candidacy


So the headhunter calls ... you’re intrigued by the opportunity and interested in taking the next steps. They ask you to expeditiously send over a few things because the search is moving quickly.

The first thing they ask for is your resume. No problem, right?  Since you began your career you've been following the advice of counselors, mentors, and peers; you’ve been keeping your resume up to date, refreshing it every few months or at least at every job change or promotion.

The second item the recruiter asks for is a separate document, detailing your specific projects or transactions - what's known in the industry as a project list or deal sheet. You don't have one prepared, but a few of your most recent projects come to mind and you figure it shouldn't be that hard to write them up. You tell the recruiter you'll have something put together in the next day or so.  Then you get back to your current job.

When you finally make the time to compile your project list, this is where writer's block meets procrastination at its finest. The first one or two projects are easy to remember, but now you've got to do some research for the others. It seems like a lot of work to mix into your busy schedule, for a job opportunity you don’t know all the information about and might not be interested in pursuing past the next conversation. Should you really go through the effort since you already have a job you like (for the most part)?

The answer is a resounding: YES! If not for this opportunity, you should have it for the next.


Why a project list makes a difference

Let’s face it: resumes have a lot of padding  Don't get me wrong - resumes are very important. They show the framework on which your experience is built: your employers, positions, dates of tenure, career progression.  But often 50%-75% of space in a resume is taken up by lists of duties that are common to every candidate applying for a given position and are basically unnecessary filler, as most people reading your resume know what a Project Manager or a Staff Architect or a VP of Acquisitions does.

I'm not saying you can't include that information, but you can't rely on that to set you apart, either; particularly since your resume was probably composed using a commonly available template (and it should be in a fairly standard format). The project list is the “sizzle,” though. It’s what tells a hiring head you either have or haven’t done the work they do. It lets them know you have prevailed through the rigors of a tough closing or an extended entitlement process. It’s your battle scars.

If you asked most hiring heads (and recruiters) seeking project or transaction-oriented professionals what they automatically look for when reviewing a resume, they would tell you it is a list of projects or deals. Employers “buy” experience, and they want candidates who can demonstrate that they've done the relevant types of projects or transactions the requisite number times.

Interviewing is a time-consuming process, and most hiring professionals will prioritize meeting with candidates based on confidence in their experience. Most employers are going to want to know that level of detail about your experience at some point. Putting it in their hands at the outset not only significantly increases your chances of being interviewed, it also eliminates the hurdle of putting a list together as the process becomes more time-sensitive closer to them making their selection or wasting the time interviewing and being excited by a great cultural fit only to be rejected because you haven’t done the “right” work.


What a project list should look like

A 6-column spreadsheet with some basic data and minimal frills can make or break your candidacy. Here's a starting framework::

  1. Project/Deal Name
  2. Location
  3. Project/Transaction Type
  4. Financial Scope (transaction amount, development cost, etc.)
  5. Physical Scope (number of units, square footage, etc.)
  6. Your Role (lead, support, etc.)


Make it a habit

Once you have your list put together, you have to keep it up to date. Start saving all the details about your projects or deals as they happen in a “career folder” on your home computer or cloud drive, so that every 6-12 months when you update your resume you can easily update your project list at the same time. You’ll thank yourself when that dream job comes up and you don’t have to scramble or miss out because you weren't prepared.

After all, you never know when I might be contacting you with your next great career opportunity.

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