How to Market Yourself as the Ultimate Product Manager

There are two specific questions we find ourselves answering at almost every event and coaching call. First one is "How do I become a product manager?" and the second one is "I don’t have any PM experience. How do I get into product management?". The answer is always the same: You don’t need a product manager title to get into product management. Everyone has been a product manager at some point in their career. Still can’t recall that time? In this article, we will show you how to become a product manager by correctly framing your professional experience!

Before you interview with any company you have to prepare your pitch. This pitch has to clearly outline the transferable skills that you have acquired throughout your career. Here’s an example pitch that we provide to our members :

“I have {x} years of experience in product management. I started at {company}, where I was doing {something related to product management}. I left because of {this reason}”.

The point you to communicate here: You have a story about how you transitioned into product management. To tell this story, you must build the framework of your story first.

Frame Your Story

You are the hero of your own story. When you land your product manager role, you are consistently going to hear this statement: Product managers tell stories. To become a product manager, you need to learn to tell your story. Use this framework to craft your story:

The Setting/Flashback — This is where you set the scene by telling the recruiter the names of the companies that you worked at as well as a general overview of your most significant projects. Make it comprehensive, but not exhaustive, since you will get into more details in the next two sections. Note that in this section you’re answering the what, when and where of your professional background.

Template: “I’m here now, I started {x} years ago when I was at {Company A}, mainly working on {Greatest/most relevant project you worked on}, supporting {the business division that you were working with}. I realized that I really enjoyed {the kind of function/work/business division you were passionate about at the time} and decided to pursue my passion at {Company B} as I saw more opportunity for growth there.” Slowly build the story to how you got where you are today.

Rising Action — Go backward and talk about how you are currently doing product-related tasks and transition into how you got your current role. Then, talk about previous positions until you’ve exhausted any historic product relevancy. This section of your pitch focuses on answering the how. You should also include a simple KPI to indicate the success of your product. This way, you’ll show your interviewer that you have proven success at delivering products.

Template: “I’m currently working on {your current and/or most relevant project},    supporting {business division}. I work in a cross-functional team, which consists of {any kind of people e.g. engineers, QA testers, business analysts, scrum master} and orchestrate the product’s development end-to-end. My responsibilities include interviewing my clients and understanding their needs, documenting what clients said and sharing it with the rest of the team and following agile principles to organize meetings to discuss requirements and check progress. We rolled out the first version of our product {time when the first version was released to customers} and data coming from the customer suggests that {a key KPI} increased by {percentage, or any other relevant unit of measurement}.”

**Note -We know everyone is coming from a different background and there is no one size fits all solution. If your past experiences were more focussed on a specific phase of product development, for instance, business requirements, be sure to add a couple more sentences to this template to demonstrate your experience. Make sure to establish a breadth of experience to prove that you’re experienced with the complete product pipeline.

The Conflict/Climax — After you’ve given your backstory and built up your experience as a product manager, we reach the climax of your professional story, which reveals the reason you are leaving your current company. Tie this back to your initial pitch and remember, you are the hero, you are the protagonist. This section of the pitch should answer the why.

Template: “While I have learned a tremendous amount and gained incredible skills, I realized that I should be looking for more opportunities to get a chance to work with larger teams and broader projects. I now have the confidence that I could deliver products and I believe it’s time for me to expand my horizons.”

What to Watch Out For

This template should be the story that you should be comfortable with sharing in your first-round interviews. Does it sound like an elevator pitch to you? It should because this template is designed to showcase your previous accomplishments. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your story as much as possible. Your pitch shouldn’t take more than three minutes and it should cover the main aspects of your product manager resume.

Confidence is key here. Product managers are expected to confidently describe and answer any questions regarding their products. They need to have the ability to describe complex products in a couple of sentences and answer specific questions in greater detail, if necessary. Successful product managers know when to get into detail and when to remain broad. You should approach your pitch the same way, but the product, in this case, is your professional background. Pitch your product with confidence.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t give too much company context or rely l on too much technical jargon. Instead, focus on yourself and your role. You should sound like a product manager and you should use a product vocabulary. So what does that mean and where do you find that product vocabulary? Keep on reading, we got you covered.

Product Vocabulary to Use In Your Story

Product vocabulary relates to the language and phrases used in product management. Here are some of the keywords:

    • Stakeholder consensus:  If you have worked with multiple people, you have done some kind of stakeholder consensus.
    • Customer empathy: Being close to the product’s end users. This could also mean being close to users in general of a product/platform you worked on, and having to understand their pain points.
    • Cross-functional teams: A group of people with different functional expertise working towards a common goal. In most cases, a cross-functional team consists of a product owner/product manager, business analysts, engineers, data scientists, UI/UX designers.
    • Requirements and Documentation: It might sound like a tedious daily routine but gathering requirements and documenting them in a clear manner is a key skill that many, if not all, interviewers are looking for. Make sure that you include terminology related to requirements such as user stories, acceptance criteria, features, epics and documentation such as BRD (business requirements documentation), Confluence (a document sharing software designed to share key documents with the rest of the team) or any other related technology.
    • Agile/Scrum Rituals: While there is no imperative for all teams to apply agile or scrum rituals, most interviewers would like to see some kind of daily routine practiced by product managers to see that they have a proven method of tracking progress. Daily standups, where members share their progress, impediments, daily goals, or sprint demos,  and the team presents its progress to the stakeholders, are some common rituals that every interviewer would like to hear about.
    • KPIs: KPI stands for key performance indicators, and as the name suggests, these indicators show how the product is doing. Different products have different KPIs and you should be able to come up with at least two relevant KPIs for your story.

How to Relate Specific Points in Your Resume

Find a specific example that you can apply to your background and professional history, mix in some product vocabulary, and you’ll start to sound like a product manager on these calls. Interviewers will look at your resume and pick specific points for you to elaborate on. 

 To review: You need to look at your own resume and craft your story. Then, develop your pitch and have your product vocabulary ready.

Pitch Example

Now let’s think about a specific case. Imagine you’re an Email Account Manager applying for a Product Manager role. How can you use this product vocabulary specific to your background? How is this related to Product at all? How do you transition this into Product? What’s your reason for leaving?

Here are some approaches:

  • “Identified key product-marketing opportunities = Led flagship team for brand utilizing our people-based marketing capabilities.”

So you identified an area that could have been utilizing something, but utilizing what? People-based marketing capabilities. Great, you’ve found a product-marketing opportunity. The product than could be the team. So you created the product, which in this case is the team, to market your brand.

It doesn’t specifically have to be a software product, in this case, because you are transitioning. You are building up the story to the point that you are a product manager.

  • “Managed and maintained partnerships”

This means you were extremely client facing and had direct customer interactions, where you were documenting feedback, documenting the customer pain points, leveraging products and data to hit KPIs. What are the KPIs? Maximizing revenue. What were the tools used? Email inventory.

  • “Directly implementing HTML”

You were working with engineering for implementation of these products.

  • “Acted as the lead contact for the director”

Perhaps that means that you managed other people who come to the director and you had to balance and prioritize different interests.

So the pitch here is: “I worked at {Company}, where I was identifying key product-marketing opportunities. Here, I managed and maintained partnerships that we had with our current clients so I was extremely customer-facing and had direct customer interactions with representatives of {client companies} where the core KPI to hit was maximizing revenue.”

Here, you’ve crafted the story of being a Product Manager.

Start by saying, “In my product role, or as a product owner/manager/strategist, I owned {these products}.” If you’re not comfortable saying you owned products, take a product or project that you can speak naturally and take something that you can break down into detail when you are asked for examples. If you choose a product that is not software or something that you didn’t own completely, that’s fine too.

Pick an area of the product development life-cycle which you were responsible for. Walk the recruiter through specifically what you did. Focus on ideation and discovery. “I did {this}.” If you can walk through an entire part of the development life-cycle of the product, even better.

For the next part of the life-cycle, “I did this for {another product}.” The key point is to communicate competency and sound like a product manager. Remember to use product vocabulary because many first-round calls are recruiters using a checklist. You must hit these key areas to make the second round.

Make the Connection

Draw from a specific instance in your background to support areas of your resume that connect to product management responsibilities. Here are some common questions and ways you might approach answers during a product manager interview.

What have you done to document and gather requirements?

This is a key attribute for a product manager: being able to document and being able to write requirements from the business stakeholders and communicate that to the engineers.

How do you manage different stakeholders you have to work with?

Either different stakeholders you have to work with directly, peripherally, or just email once in a while.

Have you worked in Agile or managed “sprints”? 

Sprints don’t always need to be applied to engineering and can be applied to teams such as marketing to coordinate their marketing activities. Also, Agile is actually done differently in many different organizations so you can be flexible in how you apply this to your experience too. For example, “At {Company}, our sprints were organized in a three-week cycle. We don’t believe in rigid cycles but we do this instead…” The point of a sprint is to produce something usable, within a short timeframe, get feedback, learn from it, and implement improvements to its next iteration.

Have you ever defined, met or exceeded KPIs and OKRs? 

These are essential objectives and determining success from them. Look up other job descriptions and ask yourself, “Have I done this in any capacity at all?”

Generic descriptions are easy, but you must find specific examples in your background to support when you prepare for first or second round calls.

At the end of this exercise, you may be surprised to find that you were a Product Manager all along.

Need more guidance on polishing your pitch? Be sure to watch our ultimate guide on making the perfect pitch video here.

Want more? Check out our go-to guide to dominating your first-round interviews!


Please schedule a call today or RSVP for our next event to see how Product Gym can help you land your next Product Manager job.

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