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How to Become a Product Manager: Top Tips and Strategies

There could be any number of reasons why you’re not succeeding on your Product Manager job hunt. Still, we’re fairly certain the main challenges you face in mastering how to get a Product Manager job fall into a couple of key categories. We’d wager you’re either struggling with landing more interviews, fumbling the interview experience, or failing to convert interviews into offers.

Or maybe it’s simply that you’re stuck trying to boost your confidence? At least 50% of the questions we get here at Product Gym are, at their core, related to confidence. Whatever the case may be, there’s a solution you can apply to improve your job hunt and land the Product Manager job you’re after. Here are actionable strategies you can apply on how to get a Product Manager job.

What Makes a Great Product Manager?

So what is the Product Manager role? Product management is an occupation that draws upon a variety of different skills and disciplines — you’re going to be overseeing a product from ideation to launch. That includes defining, building, launching, and iterating. Not to mention coordinating the teams working on the product and communicating with external stakeholders.

Each individual product management role will have its own quirks and responsibilities depending on the industry or the seniority level. You’ll need to understand the role that you’re applying for and what it will demand from you.

Generally speaking, there are five key traits — or in other words, soft skills — that make for a great Product Manager.

5 Traits the Best Product Managers Have in Common

  1. Be an expert Communicator: as a Product Manager, you should be able to communicate your desired message to anyone, at all levels, to all different types of backgrounds. In such a role, there is often a large level of ambiguity for various stakeholders, so you need to be the team, knowing that you are able to answer questions and put people right when they approach you.
  2. Flexibility: Be open to ideas. Through the needs of the business, technical feasibility, user research/UX, and your own product intuition, you should be able to decide what makes a good product and what sets it apart from the competition.  
  3. Being efficient in planning and documenting: You’ll be working with a variety of stakeholders, so you will need to relay different messages depending on who you’re talking to. You need to keep everyone informed and on the same page. You’ll need planning and organization to keep up, and documentation to keep it straight.  
  4. Effective and nurturing leadership: Developing a product is a taxing and lengthy process. More than anything, it’s a team effort. Therefore, effective leadership is a must. 
  5. Conflict resolution: A huge part of your job is being able to mitigate risks. But, have the mindset that you won’t always get the result you expected. You won’t be able to completely avoid conflict — that’s beyond impossible — but you can anticipate the needs of your team, your stakeholders, and your customers. You’ll want to avoid unnecessary conflict, but you’ll also need the ability to deal with those that are unavoidable.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Product Manager?

Soft skills are the backbone of great product management, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the hard skills too. Specifically, you’ll need a handful of technical and business skills to be a great Product Manager. Follow along with the most important skills to get a Product Manager job in this video:

Technical Skills for Product Managers

  • Product management fundamentals: Think of it as Product Management 101. Understand what the role comprises, the key terminology, and what the main responsibilities are for Product Managers.
  • Understanding frameworks: What are the standard operating systems used in product management? You’ll need to know how agile, scrum, and waterfall work. Along the way, you’ll want to understand the prioritization frameworks and methodologies used at your company.
  • Understanding technical product management: While you don’t need to know how to code or have a background in software to be a great Product Manager, you do need to know how to communicate with your technical stakeholders. This means you need to have a grasp on the “what” and “why” behind the technical decisions being made, if not the “how”.
  • UX research: As a Product Manager, you don’t need to understand the type of research that the UX team is doing. You just need to have an understanding of the role that UX researchers play on the team. We are seeing more and more companies prioritizing UX researchers and bringing them into the product management interviewing process, so it will benefit you greatly to familiarize yourself with the role. 
  • Understanding Data: It will be helpful in your job hunt and your position as a Product Manager to have a very basic understanding of data science. Beyond just pulling data for creating relevant dashboards, a very entry-level understanding of data science has become more attractive to recruiters over the last year or so.

Business Product Management Skills

  • Product Strategy: you need to set up and understand the strategy for your product’s success. Product Strategy will look different depending on the company and the product itself, but learning what it is and how to apply strategy in a general sense will give you a foundation to use when you dig into your specific role.
  • Product road mapping: After setting the strategy, the Product Manager is tasked with laying out the roadmap. You will need to identify where you are and where you need to go.
  • Prioritization: Prioritizing tasks, responsibilities, and portions of your time in a day can be the make or break factor in your success as a Product Manager. Most PMs make use of prioritization frameworks to help them structure their development of this product management skill.
  • Product marketing: A large part of being a Product Manager is understanding how best to market your product. You have to know your target market intimately to be able to bring success to your company. General knowledge of marketing will take you a long way in both your product management interview and your career.
  • Conducting A/B testing: Knowing how to conduct A/B testing is a key skill for great Product Managers. You will need to draw more than one hypothesis and test them against each other on a daily basis.
  • Marketplace management: Markets are ever-changing and volatile environments — and an unavoidable part of product management. Having the necessary skills to identify changes in the market and adapt accordingly will be wildly beneficial as a Product Manager.
  • Metrics and dashboards: Understanding and setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) within product management is essential, as is establishing and managing the dashboards. It is a skill that needs to be established as soon as you interview for the role.

​​Top Challenges of Landing a Product Manager Job

As the product management industry grows, the number of jobs is inevitably increasing, so why is it so difficult to get a product management job? We did a survey and collected the most common challenges our members face on the Product Manager job hunt. Here are the top 6 reasons why becoming a Product Manager is so difficult, and what to do about it:

Are you struggling with any of the challenges listed below? Click the links for resources on how to problem-solve your job hunt!

I Don’t Have the Right Background or Experience

“I Need More Interview Practice”

How Do I Deal with Difficult Interviewers?

How Career Coaching Can Help You Land a Product Manager Job

At Product Gym, our career coaches apply a simple four-step framework to land our members the Product Manager job they’re looking for. With this structure and the support of the PG community, both aspiring and veteran PMs have increased the number of calls they receive for interviews. The process also leads to more interviews converted into offers.

Here’s how the magic works:

1. Optimize

From the best techniques for writing a cover letter to building an attractive Product Manager resume, the first step our coaches focus on boosting your credibility and professional branding. We’ll help you optimize your application with:

  • A resume designed to beat the ATS
  • A cover letter that shows your culture fit
  • An optimized LinkedIn profile that aligns with the above
  • A 30-second personal pitch that sells you as the best possible candidate

At Product Gym, we provide branding workshops, resume reviews, and the tools you need to take your professional branding to the next level.

2. Apply

Product Gym members apply for 20+ Product Manager jobs weekly, and often average 9+ interviews in any given week. By perfecting your application strategy and interview approach through practice and experience, you’ll build the confidence and expertise you need to wow the recruiter and interviewers at your dream company when the time comes.

Of course, our tried and tested application framework is paired with tools, tips, and interview support that all come together to form a job-hunting strategy that really works. And our coaches are with you every step of the way.

3. Convert

Once you’ve lined up your interviews, it’s time to zero in on converting those round ones into round twos, and so on, all the way to the Product Manager job offer. It’s no secret that our coaches focus on the Product Manager interview process here at Product Gym: we’re there to help our members learn how to ace every step and every question — including behavioral questions, technical questions, case studies, salary negotiation, and more.

4. Learn

When should you start building your product management skillset? Before you apply? When you’re on the job? Honestly, transitioning into product management can be a long journey. We encourage Product Managers (whether you’re a first-timer or an industry vet) to start learning at the beginning and continue on past the finish line.

You likely already have skills that translate well into a Product Manager role: keep sharpening them, and find the gaps where you can learn, grow, and practice new skills to become a better Product Manager every day.

We want to make sure our members show up skilled and prepared for their interviews and their first day on the job, which is why we offer 20+ technical and business courses taught by industry experts.

5 Strategies You Need to Try for Getting a Product Manager Job

1. Job Hunting: A Numbers Game 

It’s a well-known fact: you’re going to have more of a chance of landing a product management job if you’re applying for more roles. If your focus is on how to get an interview for more jobs, you want to focus on quick wins. For example, apply for positions that don’t require extensive copying and pasting or that allow you to link directly to your LinkedIn account with your resume.

The key here is to avoid breaking momentum. When you apply for one position at a time, you’re losing momentum.  Three and a half hours later, you only applied to maybe one or two positions and it becomes a demoralizing challenge.

Job hunting is a numbers game. Let’s show you how to apply to 50-100 positions in under an hour.

2. Take a Business Development and Sales Approach

  1. Open an Excel sheet
  2. Label the worksheet by the location or the date that you applied to the positions you’re about to list
  3. First Column: Put “Status”. This is where you will track it as Applied, Rejected, Interviewing, Followed Up.
  4. Second Column: Put “Position”. This is where you will copy the position that the job posting is asking for, whether it’s Product Manager, Senior Product Manager, Product Owner: B2B, etc. This will help when you get on the phone and you can quickly reference what position you applied to. Especially if they have multiple Product positions open
  5. Third Column: Put “Link”. This is the direct link to where you will apply. Make sure you find the actual site copy the job position link paste it onto where the Excel sheet is and once you get 50 or 30 then you want to apply to all the positions at the same time

Source out all of the positions directly from the company website even when you use LinkedIn, Glassdoor and all those other job boards, unless the companies use those job boards exclusively to manage their recruiting. You’ll know this when you try to go to their site, click on Careers or ‘We’re Hiring” and it takes you back to the job board posting.

3. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up 

By really making good use of the Excel spreadsheet created in the step above, make sure your effort is rewarded, because you have invested time in researching and applying. Follow up on your efforts: you’re not going to be blacklisted for getting back in contact or finding out about the success of your application. What’s a better solution? Waiting and hoping they get in touch with you? No — instead, follow this guide: 

First and Second Follow up

  • 1st Follow-up: 5 business days after the application: The first thing you want to do is set a schedule to reapply for the position that you applied for the week before. Be sure to apply directly on the company website. If you find yourself unable to apply for the role, a quick workaround to apply for the position is by altering your email address.
  • 2nd Follow-up: 10 business days after the application: If there still is no response, reapply again with the same steps outlined above.

Third Follow up

12-15 days ​​business days after the application, reach out to the product team directly on LinkedIn. Look up the company page on LinkedIn and click “See all employees”. There will surely be many contacts on there, so focus on contacts that are located in the city of the position you applied to. The people that you want to reach out to specifically are people with the title Chief, Head, Vice President, or Director of Product. You want to connect with all of them and include a message where it says “Add a note”. Here’s what your note should say:

Hey X!

I am reaching out because I applied to the Product Manager position you have posted twice on the company website and never heard back. Can we chat for 15 minutes this week?

Your Name

4. Strip and Rip

There is another benefit for you for reaching out to Chiefs, Heads, Vice Presidents, or Directors of Product. These people have been Product Managers elsewhere and that means those companies may be hiring for Product Managers too. Through this methodology, you will likely learn about companies that you have never even heard of before. They just may be working on Products that you have always had an interest in.

5. Working with Technical Recruiting and Staffing Agencies 

Lastly, you can consider working with Technical Recruiting and Staffing Agencies.

Staffing agencies are paid a fee, usually, a percentage of the candidates’ first-year annual salary. This fee is paid for by the company working with the agency. Companies use recruiting agencies because they either do not have a recruiter working internally, or they need the resources that only a specialized recruiting agency can provide.

In essence, recruiting agencies have resources most internal recruiters do not have because their end product is recruiting. Agency recruiters are incentivized to get you the most money possible because the more money they get you, the more money makes in commission. The commission structure varies from agency to agency and is also dependent on the recruiter’s standing within their own company. More seasoned recruiters are better skilled and thus earn more.

Keep in mind: since agency recruiters are incentivized by the commission, they may not have your best interests at heart. They will no doubt do their utmost to help you secure the position that you interviewed for, but that position may not always be the right fit for you.

How to Become a Product Manager: Top 7 Job Hunting Tips

Whatever strategy you choose to use on your way to getting a Product Manager position, there are some best practices you can always employ. Keep these tips in mind when looking to become a Product Manager:

1. Always Apply on the Company Site

The best way how to get an interview with any given company is to submit your resume and cover letter directly on their website. Here’s why:

  1. Recruiters are incentivized to look at their own internal recruiting software first before they go to sites like AngelList, Indeed, Monster, BuiltinNYC, and anywhere else that they posted. They pay money to each syndication of their job posting to these aggregators. They manage cost by saving on the referral fee if you came through those job boards
  2. Another reason is that when a position is already filled, the first thing they do is remove the posting from their own internal website. They’re not going to be bothered to take down this position from all these other aggregated sites because it’s added work. So you’ll end up spending a lot of time applying for positions that don’t exist.
  3. You want to be able to communicate that you found their position directly on their website because you are interested in it. You weren’t just randomly job hunting and you have a genuine interest in this position.

2. Prepare for the Interview Ahead of Time

But before you go to apply on the website, prepare yourself for the application process by answering these questions:

  • What is an app or product that you like using? Why?
  • What is an app or product that you don’t like using? Why?
  • How would you improve the app or product that you like?
  • How would you improve the app or product that you don’t like?
  • In less than 150 words tell me something interesting about yourself

Save these questions in Notepad so the formatting doesn’t change and you can copy and paste directly from notepad to the text boxes that ask you these questions.

3. Generate More Interviews

By generating more interviews, you’ll gain more data concerning what the market (the interviewers) are looking for and begin filling out your personal pitch to address these pain points.

To this end, the first thing you should do every day is to send out applications. Before you begin any other task, spend the first hour of your morning submitting your resume to job openings. 

Don’t shy away from smaller companies or even ones you have no interest in working with at the end of the day, these act as another chance for you to go ahead and rehearse your pitch more thoroughly. The more you practice, the more information you’ll get about what your users are interested in and the better your pitch will get.

Go after each and every business. It’s all about scale, so go out and apply for every job you can.

You will get more comfortable the more you force yourself to be uncomfortable. If you work at it long enough, your confidence during an interview will grow.

4. Ask for Feedback

One of the biggest obstacles people face when refining their answers to interview questions is that they’re not getting feedback. Without this, you don’t know what pain points the interviewer is trying to solve. You don’t know what they need from you as a candidate, so you can’t properly position your experience. 

During the phone screening, it’s up to you to find out what the interviewer wants to see and what they don’t want to see. You should start off by ask them what it was about your resume that drew their attention. If they’re not familiar with your resume, instead ask them how they would describe their ideal fit for the role. This way, you’ll learn exactly what they’re looking for and you can customize what you say accordingly.

Most interviewers will be upfront with their responses, and even if this isn’t the company for you, this information will help you refine what goes on your resume and in your personal pitch. To continue the metaphor of you as a product, this is how you learn what main features (what areas of your background and experience) appeal most to your end-user. 

You can even take your questions a step further. Inquire how long the position has been open, how many candidates they interviewed, and why or where everyone else has failed. This is where you may find something in their answer that reads like a red flag, which will prevent you from progressing further in the process.

5. Don’t Get Too Preoccupied with Perfecting Your Resume

Your resume doesn’t act as the end-all-be-all as to whether or not you land a Product Manager position. If you procrastinate until your resume is flawless before applying, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to practice your pitch and subsequently miss out on premium positions. If you go through a handful of interviews and find that your resume needs to be refined — it’s not too late to do it then! But how will you know how to revise your resume if you don’t gather the information about what recruiters and interviewers want to see from you?

Keep in mind: even with a resume that needs a little extra attention, you can still move on to second-round interviews if you’re able to communicate the value you can bring to the company.

6. Don’t Put All Your Hope in Mock Interviews

It’s a common scenario to see people fall into the loop of relying on mock interviews to prepare themselves for the real thing. However, we’ve frequently come across people who were fantastic in the mock interviews yet were unable to convert that experience into the actual interview. 

This lack of transferable skills is because people typically conduct mock interviews in a secure, supportive, and pleasant environment where everyone seems to be in a sociable mood. Unfortunately, in the actual interview, you’ll be dealing with people that are testing you, that have their own agenda, and who may be looking for specific reasons why they shouldn’t hire you. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a sociable interviewer, it’s still your responsibility to display that you have the competence to help that company make money. 

The bottom line is that the best way to improve your interview skills is to go on more real interviews. Mock interviews can be helpful, but they shouldn’t replace the real thing in terms of practice.

7. Don’t Rely Only on Networking

Take a look at how many MBAs are (or were) in your class. While your buddy might be able to suggest you, the most they can provide you is one vote towards securing you a position in a company. Having that one vote is nice, but it’s only one out of the 15-20 votes that count in a Product Manager interview. 

Here’s a stat from our co-founder Rich, from his days as a Product Manager recruiter: only 2% of Product Manager hires are from referrals. No one will take a chance on a PM position because it is so vital.

Networking can work as a strategy if you have some previous experience as a Product Manager, but there’s a specific way to go about it and it takes a lot of dedication.  

Ultimately, networking shouldn’t be your main strategy to get through Product Manager interviews. If you don’t scale and conduct additional interviews while waiting for referrals, you won’t be successful in the recommendation interview.

How to Network for Product Manager Jobs

If you’re coming into the job hunt with some previous experience in product management, networking with recruiters could be a helpful alternate strategy to get your next Product Manager job. Here’s how to do it:

Networking: Step One

The first step to networking success is to make a ‘Tier 1 companies’ spreadsheet. You need an organized contacts list to ensure that you are connected with a sufficient number of Product Manager Recruiters. The first thing you should do is to divide the companies into different tiers. 

Examples of Tier 1 companies include FAANG as well as Twitter and Airbnb. Examples of Tier 2 companies include Square and Uber. Tier 3 companies are exciting startups that you believe have the potential of becoming a tech giant. Applying for a wide variety of product management roles increases your chances. 

Step Two

Now you have the list prepared, your next step will be to find the recruiters for these companies and the links to their social media accounts. You should be following the content they publish, meetings they organize, and most importantly, the announcements they make — it is essential you engage for them to benefit you later down the line.

Step Three

Recruiters make hiring announcements to look for the talent they need, and this is your time to shine! (Note that these job postings may not necessarily be for Product Managers.) If you know anyone with the qualifications they are looking for and can refer that person to the Recruiters, they will be more inclined to help you as you helped them.

Granted, you may not require that Product Manager role in the immediate future, however, you should already be starting to build and maintain relationships with networkers – this means when the time comes around for them to hire a Product Manager, they’re well aware of you and your experience.

How to Get a Product Manager Job: Step by Step

1. Find the Job Posting

The best way to find a job posting is to ensure that you’re frequently checking and using platforms such as LinkedIn. If there is a specific organization that you want to work for, make sure you’re constantly checking their job listings. Start your search with our exclusively curated Product Manager job board.

2. Craft your Resume 

The Hiring Manager will typically look at your resume first. Be sure to highlight your relevant job experience and your Product Manager skill set, along with any qualifications involving the specific responsibilities and tasks listed in the job description. If you can demonstrate previous quantitative results around those parts of the role, definitely do so.

Before crafting your resume, check out our free webinar on resume writing. We’ll walk you through the process of building a resume that you can use for a range of Product Manager roles.

3. Perfect your Personal Pitch

Your next step is to demonstrate your product management skills by writing a pitch that outlines the Product Manager position’s key responsibilities. You’ll need your personal elevator pitch polished and ready for the interview process, where you’ll use it to position your history and experience in the best possible way.

4. Apply!

Now it’s time to submit your application. Remember to apply directly through the company site! But don’t stop there — if you know any employees at the company you’re applying to, see if they’d be willing to give you a referral. Also, our step-by-step recruiter networking methodology can help you secure that initial interview.

5. Remember to Follow Up 

You don’t want all of the hard work that you’ve channelled into working on your resume and your job application, to then fall at the final hurdle. Yes, rejection isn’t nice, but your other alternative is to not know where you stand in regards to getting the job.

How to Become a Product Manager Job: Talk to Us

If you’re struggling to get a product manager job, it helps to have some support. Product Gym is a lifetime membership program for Product Managers, Product Manager job hunters, and product people of all sorts. Getting people jobs in product management is our bread and butter: that makes us very good at assessing where you’re at in your job hunt and equipping you with the knowledge and skills you need to overcome the hurdles of the job hunt and kickstart your dream career in product management.

If you’re starting out on your job hunt, you need all the resources you can get. Check out our Product Manager job board for the freshest roles that are open right now.

What are the best companies to work for as a Product Manager?

Many people will cite FAANG companies as being the best companies to work for when it comes to product management. However, the “best” company depends on what you’re looking for when it comes to authority, wage, and desired experience. However, across the best places for a Product Manager role, there are common elements: high levels of responsibility, great company culture, and professionalism. Some companies that have these elements in spades are Uber, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, and Microsoft.

Do you need an MBA to become a Product Manager?

The simple truth is that having an MBA may look great on a resume, but it is not a prerequisite to becoming a Product Manager. You don’t need an MBA to get a Product Manager job. However, the answer to whether or not you should get an MBA ultimately depends on your personal goals. Do you want to educate yourself and build a network through MBA alumni? Or do you want to break into product management and get a job as soon as you can?

Will getting a Product Manager certificate help me become a Product Manager?

You do not need a product management certificate to become a Product Manager. Generally, the only time you should think about getting a certification is when you are on the job and you would like to know how to do your job better, and your employer pays for it. Having a certificate may help you gain theoretical knowledge about the role, but it will not help you land more interviews and thus won’t necessarily help you get a Product Manager job.

Does building your product management Portfolio help you get a Product Manager job?

The short answer is no, working on side projects to expand your portfolio will not help you get a PM job. Why is this? The main reason is the amount of time and effort that you put in that won’t necessarily produce effective results on a job hunt. It is much better to spend time that you would have channelled into a side hustle on practicing case studies or going on interviews. 

Where are the best places to work in product management?

There will always be recommendations for the “best” places to work, but it really is dependent on what kind of Product Manager role you want and for what company. In the US, some of the best tech hubs for Product Managers are New York, Seattle, San Diego, Austin, Portland, San Francisco, and Atlanta.