We know for a fact that the one thing everybody hates about job hunting is writing and revamping their resume. If you were given a chance, you know that you can do the job, so why spend so much time on your resume?
The truth is, your resume is the only thing that recruiters and hiring managers can use to evaluate your professional background. Therefore, it is essential for your resume to communicate how your background is a great fit for the product manager roles you want.
A good product manager resume will not only land the job, but it will also grab the attention of resume readers. Think of your resume as a product, and the recruiter as your end-user.
Your resume should deliver the best end-user experience among competing products (aka other people’s resumes) by clearly showing how your professional experience has prepared you for the role.
In this article, we will show you everything you need to know to write a solid product manager resume to grab the recruiter’s attention. Note that this is the same format we have been teaching our members to land product manager interviews. As you can tell from our success stories page, a typical Product Gym member lands at least 10 new interviews a week, all thanks to their resumes!
Here’s everything we will talk about today:
- Resume Format and Layout
- More on Formatting Your Resume
- Content and Optimization
- Backstory (Your Narrative or Origin Story)
First thing’s first, you should add some life to your resume. While the content is the most essential deliverable here, there is no reason why it shouldn’t immediately grab the hiring manager’s attention.
Nowadays, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and any word processing resource provide more than enough options for professional, yet original looking resume templates. Do some research and see what’s out there.
While the options are nearly endless, we recommend starting simple: Google “product manager resume” and take a look at some of the templates that pop up. Career development sites such as Zety have great examples of resume templates specifically tailored for product managers.
Looking at these will not only give you a good idea of what a typical product manager resume looks like, but also provide a few real product manager resume examples to get you started.
From past experience, we can confidently give you the following quick tip, so you don’t actually end up making a bad impression with an overly decorated resume.
PLEASE REFRAIN FROM CHOOSING RESUME TEMPLATES WITH FRAMES ON THEM. Those are the worst. Let’s not torture the person that has to read this, okay?
After doing your research, narrow down your options to 5 to 10 resume templates. Many template sites on Google give you the option of downloading the template you chose. Some even have real examples of resumes that make use of the template, which is even better when you start editing the content!
If you’re still struggling to find the right template, try experimenting with different fonts. Font testing can be a real game-changer if used properly. Comfortaa is a clean and simple font that is perfect for product manager resumes.
Remember: Stay away from Times New Roman. This is 2020 and you are not Peter Parker responding to a position from the classifieds section of the New York Times. Calibri is nice, but it’s been widely overused.
Be unique and think of your personal branding. Something very small like changing your font can really add some color for the person that’s sorting and sifting through hundreds of resumes. With the right font choice, you can make a positive impression on the recruiter right from the start!
When it comes to the ideal product manager resume, do yourself a favor and REMOVE your biography and summary from the top. No one will read it. Hiring Managers are interested in getting to the heart of the information FAST.
Yes, it looks a little boring; but there are tons we can do to spice this up. Right below your email, you should place your Linkedin profile URL. If a recruiter likes your resume, they will look you up on LinkedIn to learn more. Make it easy for them to find you and they will spend more time learning about you instead of trying to discover your LinkedIn profile.
The following list of bad resumes represents the best way for your resume to get tossed in the shredder. But why? They look pretty good? Are you not supposed to differentiate yourself from the competition? Of course!
But let’s go back to user experience. The person reading your resume is sorting through 500 resumes a day. That’s no joke! Don’t believe us? Let’s have a little experiment.
Post your product manager job on Indeed and LinkedIn and wait for your phone to light up like a Christmas tree. Hundreds of resumes will flow into your inbox in the first couple of days. Now try reading all of them, one by one, line by line.
How long can you keep yourself focussed? Not long, right? Recruiters do this on a daily basis and therefore their reading – or more like skimming – speed is in the order of magnitude of SECONDS (not even minutes!).
And after speaking to more than 500 internal and external technical recruiters that conduct hiring for the leading technology companies across both coasts, we know for a fact that their eyes only roll one way: it starts off on top and center then they scroll all the way to the left and work down.
As you skim through resumes, notice the first thing you read to determine how well the candidate fits for the position.
Now that you know how your resume gets treated and how much competition it faces, it’s time for you to optimize the content and play the numbers game.
Before we jump to the next section to talk about the kind of content you should be including in your resume, let’s recap what we discussed here so that you’re clear about the resume format!
We have shared with you a lot of things to think about and if you got lost while reading, it’s okay! You can watch our video guide on improving your resume. We also have additional insights here on how to format your LinkedIn profile and cover letter to sync up with your resume and to get noticed more by the recruiters!
As we will continue our discussion in the next section, we want you to remember that there is no point in polishing your resume for a single position; you could be using that time to have a solid resume in hand and apply to multiple positions, which would drastically raise your likelihood of getting an interview.
Content is the bullets you have in your product manager resume and it must be optimized to get attention. There should never be more than five to six bullets per position and they should contain very broad wording.
You want to sell your product management expertise either with hard skills or soft. For those of you reading this from a non-technical background do not feel discouraged.
There are plenty of product managers out there that do not code and they are killing it on the job and the job hunt. You can write more than enough hard skills even if you don’t know coding or come from a technical background.
Think about optimizing a website; your resume is no different. You should channel your inner product manager and think about all the times that you had to take on similar tasks throughout your career.
Let’s start with a couple of hard skills examples to see what we can include to prove the recruiters that you have the necessary experience.
When it comes to hard skills think of things you do with your hands or things you physically go out and hustle to get done. Here are some good examples to get you started:
- Managed mobile product development in a fast-paced, Agile environment, working closely with developers and stakeholders to ensure successful product and feature launches
- Prioritized backlog with ready-to-go feature requirements so that developers are never blocked
- Guided product priorities, product plans, and overall product strategy
- Worked with sales and marketing to understand the market potential and competitive landscape
- Captured customer needs, product scenarios, user stories, and stakeholder feedback to create new and improve existing products
- Created and worked with design resources to create wireframes and design comps in order to guide engineering efforts
Did you notice the vocabulary we included here? These are some very essential concepts, that you are expected to know and apply as a product manager. We cannot imagine a good PM resume without keywords like, “prioritization”, “stakeholder management”, “product roadmap”, and many more!
For the ones that are coming from a non-PM background, finding out what these words are and using them in their writing and conversation can be challenging.
So where do you find these words?
We highly recommend reading a couple of well-written product manager job descriptions. They contain nearly all of the keywords that you should be using!
We particularly love this job-posting from Google, as it contains everything you should know about product management practices:
All the underlined words here should be a part of your resume and your interview conversation. Sometimes, companies take the extra effort to include a description of what their product managers do on a daily basis:
These examples should show you that hard skills do involve a wide range of tasks that are beyond coding. You can also include quantifiable examples to show the impact of your work to your recruiter.
If you are still not clear as to what to include in your resume as a hard skill bullet point, don’t worry! Many novice product manager candidates come to us with the same question and so we have created the following video to help you out:
When it comes to soft skills, these are bullets that exemplify your skills as a leader and/or communicator, such as your ability to collaborate. Collaboration is used a lot in these bullet points! Here’s a solid list of examples for soft skills:
- Identified operational and support requirements and facilitate their implementation
- Communicated with other cross-functional areas, sharing product plans, identifying possible issues and concerns, and collaborating to address them
- Facilitated and supported product training and launches
- Contributed to broader technology strategy; give feedback to technical teams building products on top of the infrastructure
- Discussed the architecture/technical decisions made in the squad
- Interfaced with the rest of the technology organization to understand opportunities, requirements, and priorities to ensure the right focus of the team
Soft skill bullets are not easily quantifiable hence verbs, like identified, communicated, facilitated, contributed, and discussed, are often used.
Unlike what many believe, soft skills form the backbone of your personal brand and story. As a product manager, you should be very good with communication and teamwork and therefore these skills are as important, if not more, as your hard skills.
One good way of emphasizing your soft skills is talking about how you worked with technical teams to get tasks done. Many product managers are expected to have this experience and therefore using the soft skills section to expand your work history with the engineering team is a great opportunity.
If you don’t know how to put this in context, make sure you watch our video on how to answer questions about your work experience with engineering teams:
The art here is how you present this information. There should never be more than 4 to 5 bullets per position. If you got promoted to another position (ie. Product Manager to Senior Product Manager), add that as a totally separate position.
Even if you were doing the exact responsibilities, chances are there are more than 10 bullets you can use to define your scope of work. Give each position a good ratio of 2:1 or 3:1, i.e. there should be at least 2 to 3 hard bullets for every soft bullet you list.
If you are coming from a non-technical background (ie. finance, management consulting, or sales and etc…), soft skills are THE MVP for you. That’s the only space you can dominate because stakeholder management is probably something you do very well at this point.
Anybody that says that you need to customize your product manager resume for every position you apply to doesn’t know much about making a transition and clearly did not or will never face the challenges you do in making the transition into product (or any career path honestly).
If you can’t achieve scale with your resume, you are in deep trouble. Why? No matter how much you love that company, how much you think you are perfect for the role, and think you will have a shot by simply just knowing somebody that works there, you are not the only one applying.
You do not know if they are actually reading your resume. You have no clue how urgently the position has to be filled or if they even have the intention to fill the vacancy (there are quite a few cases where the company posts a job but doesn’t even bother to interview). They do not owe you a response. They may never read your resume.
One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is cherry-picking. Let’s face it, what has cherry-picking companies led you to? How many times have you interviewed last month during your eternal wait for that email from Spotify recruiting?
Be honest with yourself.
On top of this, we genuinely hope that you know for a fact that you are not the only one who wants to have that product manager position at Instagram. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Harvard (not even counting the other colleges) graduates or Goldman associates who would kill (hopefully not literally) for that job.
It’s wild out there and there is at least one thing every person can offer. You are not the only perfect fit. So stop dreaming and get your resume out to as many places as possible. Just because you won’t land a job at Instagram doesn’t mean that you should abandon your dream of becoming a product manager.
What is your origin story? Every great empire in the world has some sort of origin story, which helped legitimize their rule over the common folk. What is yours?
It is highly unlikely somebody started doing product management right out of school. There are no product manager degrees for undergraduates. So, how do people become one? They took whatever work experience they had related to product management and put it into the spotlight.
Whether you are coming from a PM background or otherwise, this is where marketing yourself is encouraged. Why? Because your reader sorts over 500 resumes a day, meaning that everybody is after the same thing as you are!
Did you take a rough headcount the last time you visited a PM meetup? That’s right! You are not the only person trying to make this transition, so spice things up! Every tech hub in the US is full of people who graduated from top schools and worked at top companies. The competition is fierce and the only way of shining through hundreds of already bright individuals is by having a very solid and interesting backstory.
If you have been struggling with your backstory and don’t know how to craft one, you can watch out this video we have for answering the notorious “Tell me about yourself question”. The answer to this question is straight-up taken from your resume so you should write your resume to address this very commonly asked question.
You have to do this. This is your brand right here. This is what makes you more awesome, unique, or different from all the other people that are literally gunning for the same job you want so dearly.
So, take the time to think through your career and identify all the professional experiences you had that can articulate your product manager side. As we stated before, writing a solid product manager resume is a one time task and you have to do it right to see it’s results.
If you have more questions about writing a solid product manager resume or the whole job hunt process, you are more than welcome to attend our weekly live webinars! Check out our Eventbrite page to see what topic we are discussing next and come prepared with questions!
If you need one on one coaching to write your product manager resume, we are here to help! Schedule a call to get a second opinion on improving your narrative, and how we can teach you to outmaneuver your competition.