When considering how to get an interview at the company they want to work for, many people try to apply to one position at a time. They customize their cover letter and resume each time. It seems obvious, but this is not the answer when asking how to get an interview!
This is not the right strategy because when you’re customizing and applying one at a time, you’re spending too much time on one application that recruiters may or may not even read — unless you have a background that actually matches one-to-one with the job description, the company, and the industry. And that’s difficult to do. If not, it’s likely that your resume and your application won’t even make it to the first page of their recruiting software.
What should you do instead? Here’s how to get an interview at as many companies as possible to maximize your potential Product Manager job offers. In this guide, we’ll go over the following strategies:
How Career Coaching Can Help You Get More Interviews
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make Applying a Numbers Game
What you want to do is try and apply to as many positions as possible. Numbers will increase your chances of getting a callback or an interview with the recruiters that you are reaching out to. It strictly a numbers game: this is how you’re going to be able to apply to 50 – 100 positions in under an hour.
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.
Take a Business Development and Sales Approach
- Open an Excel sheet
- Label the worksheet by the location or the date that you applied to the positions you’re about to list
- First Column: Put “Status”. This is where you will track it as Applied, Rejected, Interviewing, Followed Up.
- 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
- 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.
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Focus on Quick-Wins
If your focus is on how to get an interview for more jobs, you want to focus on quick wins. This means applying for positions that don’t require extensive copying and pasting or that allow you to link directly to your LinkedIn account with your resume.
This includes companies that use job portals like Jobvite, Greenhouse, BambooHR, LinkedIn direct, Indeed, etc. As you’re applying to these positions, you’re going to find that many of them use the same types of software. You’re going to also find that software such as Taleo and ICMIS is extremely cumbersome. Don’t break your momentum when you get to those positions. Apply for them one at a time in the end or simply just copy and paste from a template that you’ve created for this specific software.
Gamify Your Application Success
Lastly, know that this is the best experience that you never want to have again. This is a time-consuming process so you must find a mental model that allows you the motivation to move forward. Whether you want to set a target when you’re watching TV, getting ready for the day, during work, or otherwise, this is arguably the most important part of the process that you need to be consistent with.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up Methodology
Do yourself a major favor and get more out of the spreadsheet of positions you have already applied to. You spent the time searching, sourcing, and applying. Many people assume that if they re-apply to the same position that they may end of on some blacklist. First of all, there is no truth to that. Secondly, even if there was, what other choice do you have? Wait, hope, and pray? Waiting is not a strategy and neither is hoping or praying your way into a Product Manager job. It simply does not work like that.
First Follow Up: 5 Business Days After 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 by altering your email address.
For example, let’s just say that your email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Change your email to email@example.com. In the event that the company replied, the email will go back to the former. All you have to do is add a period anywhere in your Gmail address and you will be able to receive emails directly into your main Gmail account. A heads up: this works for Gmail, but it may not work for other email domains.
Second Follow Up: 10 Business Days After Application
If there still is no response, reapply again with the same steps outlined above.
Third Follow Up: 12 – 15 Business Days After Application
Go reach out to the Product Team directly on LinkedIn.
Be a disruptor! You can not wait indefinitely for them to respond. There may be multiple reasons why a company is not responding. They may not have urgency right now for a number of reasons. For example, another role might be more urgent than the Product Manager position you saw posted. The recruiter may be preoccupied and is not passing your information along. Another reason may be your resume is just trapped under an avalanche of resumes that are above yours. You have no control over any of this, but you do control your effort.
Here is exactly what you want to do: Look up the company page on LinkedIn and click on See all employees.
There will surely be many contacts on there, so you want to be sure that you are only focusing on contacts that are located in the city of the position you applied to. You will find this bar on top and click on All Filters.
If the company is large enough with there will surely be multiple offices you need to update the location of the position you want to land.
You also want to Type in Product under the Title search bar to only view contacts that are Product Managers at this company.
You will now see a list of people that are working as Product Managers in this organization. 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 is how the message should read:
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?
We accomplished a few objectives in this one single message contained within the connect request.
First, you are showing this person respect for their internal process by stating you have applied directly on their company website, twice! Why? If somebody reached out to you on LinkedIn wanting to work at your current company right now, what is the first question you will likely ask this person? Probably something along the lines of, “Did you apply to the position already?”, because if the applicant’s information is not even inside the systems of the organization then any further conversation is irrelevant. Furthermore, it would probably be the first thing you suggest that other people do immediately if they have not done so already.
Second, since you have not heard back from the recruiter, that means you have not yet been rejected from the process. Every day there are applicants who get rejected and because they are such big fans of that company they find new ways to wiggle their way back in looking for how to get an interview. It is tasteless for someone to do so, but it does happen: you’re letting them know this isn’t the case with you.
Strip and Rip Methodology
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.
But you are probably thinking if these companies are hiring for Product Managers; why is there no posting on a Job Board?
Working with Technical Recruiting and Staffing Agencies
The last option of how to get an interview that we will mention for this article before going into the biggest challenges of getting an interview is working directly with Technical Recruiting and Staffing Agencies. These people are great to network with. Think about it: if a company is contracting an agency to find you they are pretty adamant about hiring a Product Manager.
How Staffing Agencies Work
Staffing agencies are paid a fee, usually, a percentage of the candidates’ first-year annual salary. This fee is paid for by the company that is working with the agency and will not hurt or affect your salary in any way. 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 dependant on the recruiter’s standing within their own company. More seasoned recruiters are better skilled and thus earn more.
How to Get an Interview Through Recruiting Agencies
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 or company may not always be the right fit for you, nor do they always align with your professional goals and aspirations.
Inquire about the roles you interview for through Staffing Agencies. Understand that there agencies that specialize in staffing for Product Manager positions and those that do not. This is also dependant on the specific recruiter that you are working with. There are Recruiters that Product Gym has worked with in the past that our members have found to be very helpful: not all Technical Recruiters are out to put you in the wrong position.
How to Get an Interview: Your 7 Biggest Challenges
What do you do if, after you’ve played the numbers game, you are not seeing as many positions come up. How do we solve this challenge? To be honest there is nothing we can do to create more openings in the market. What we can do is develop more funnels addressing how to get an interview, so you have more chances for more jobs at the companies already considering bringing on a Product Manager.
The initial challenge you will have is finding out where these other Product Manager openings are located.
Challenge 1: Where to Find Product Manager Positions?
One of the biggest challenges of how to get an interview for your Product Manager transition is just the lack of Product Manager roles that are posted on the market. As you may well know, a company can have as many as 22 Software Developers and may just have 1 Product Manager. The PM role is not in abundance in comparison with other roles in technology. In fact, there are almost always going to be more roles in other domains than Product Managers. There will be more Quality Assurance (QA’s) than Product Managers, more Designers than Product Managers, and pretty much any other role you can think of including Sales and Marketing.
The Solution: Create New Interview Funnels
The reason why you are not getting more interviews is that you are only getting your interviews through a few funnels. Mainly, this means LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor. You need a better strategy. You need more funnels.
There is no other choice: only 10 to 20% of the Product Manager positions that are posted on LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor are actually hiring. For another job board to add to your list, check out our exclusive Product Manager job board: we put this together using our insider knowledge and extensive PM network.
Challenge 2: Recruiters Don’t Respond to Your Application
You need to access this challenge through the eyes and perspective of your end-user, which in this case is the recruiter. This is the first person your beautiful resume is going to land first. This person is extremely busy and is recruiting for a minimum of 12 to 15 roles at any given time for teams across the organization. That’s right, they do not just recruit for technology roles and even if they did; they do not just recruit for one department. They are recruiting for everyone, which means developers, project managers, designers, data people, and anybody else you can imagine. They can not and do not spend an undefined amount of time recruiting for just any one role or department.
Many times, a recruiter’s weekly deliverable is to hand over 3 to 8 resumes to a hiring manager before recruiting for another hiring manager. If you did not get a reply, then chances are they did not even review your information. Think about it, if you found 3 to 8 decent resumes within the first 29 resumes you sifted through 80 or more resumes in your inbox, would you be motivated to review the rest of the pile? The answer is probably not.
Another reason why recruiters do not respond to your application is that they are not serious about hiring, which leads us to:
Challenge 3: Companies Aren’t Serious About Hiring Product Managers
What do you need in the interview more than anything? A company that is ready, willing, and able to make an offer; because they are serious about hiring a Product Manager immediately. More often than not, just because a company has posted for a Product Manager position on a Job Board or career page does not always mean they are serious about hiring. Why is that?
One of the biggest challenges in staffing is having to fill a role for somebody that just quit the organization. Companies spend a lot of time and more importantly “money” on recruiting, retaining, and developing their talent; so it always hurts the organization when somebody says they want to leave. Giving companies who just lost somebody they valued only 2 weeks to find another person either internally within the company or outside the company is not a realistic expectation.
In the case of Product Managers, this fact is doubly true. Hate it or love it, many professionals venture into Product Management to start their own businesses. They either have ideas that they do not know how to launch or are trying to figure out what their business idea will be while learning practical Product Management experience. Therefore, companies know when they hire Product Managers, that this person will most likely leave at some point. The question thus becomes, when are they leaving?
Read the rest of this article to learn how to develop other funnels for more interviews. There is nothing you can do about this challenge. It is a part of the game and you have to learn how to manage your own expectations. However, what you can do is learn whether or not a company is serious about hiring by asking some specific questions during product manager interview process, verifying whether or not they are ready, willing, and able to hire.
The purpose of this article to provide clarity on what challenges hiring teams to have in recruiting for Product Manager roles and solutions you can use to work around these challenges.
Challenge 4: Companies Looking to Hire Don’t Post on Job Boards
Another challenge hiring teams have is dealing with the insane fees they have to pay LinkedIn, Indeed, and/or Glassdoor or any other job board they choose to post on. These platforms allow companies to post jobs for a fee. The more jobs you post, the more fees you pay. Many times, there are additional add-on services that do not help hiring teams generate more relevant candidates. What happens? You post a role on Indeed and although there are people that apply immediately to your posting, a lot of these resumes are just plain bad. This causes hiring teams or recruiters to spend more time sourcing resumes rather than fulfilling other responsibilities.
A great question to ask on your next interview is, “How many resumes did you have to sort through before you found mine?” and “What is it about my background that made you want to schedule a call with me?” The answer to the first question is sure to be a lot.
You want to capitalize on this challenge by first building a list of places these Chiefs, Heads, Vice Presidents, or Directors of Product have worked at before as Product Managers.
In fact, it is not even important whether they worked at those companies as Product Managers in the past because those companies might still hire Product Managers. Create a new spreadsheet and start building a list. Before long you will easily build up a list of 100 to 200 companies.
Next, search their website career page to see if they are hiring. If they are, go back to the standard protocol: apply and follow up.
If they do not have a position posted, that does not necessarily mean that this company is not hiring. It just means nobody has gotten around to posting the role. Hiring teams procrastinate on posting roles all the time.
Challenge 5: Companies Procrastinate on Posting Positions
The reason is that once the position has been posted there will be an outpouring of applications, many of them very bad. Technical recruiters and account managers from staffing agencies start blowing up the phones of anybody and everybody that may play a part in hiring for this position, and the majority of the applicants that make it to the interviews will be a complete waste of time. This is why companies favor internal hires — people that already work at the company but on different teams — or internal referrals.
Separate the list of companies that are hiring right now versus the companies that are not. From the list of companies that do not have a Product Manager role posted, reach out to the Chiefs, Heads, Vice Presidents, or Directors of Product. Connect with them on LinkedIn and send this message:
Hey (Manager Name),
I am reaching out to you because I am a big fan of what you guys are doing right now. I did not see a Product Manager position posted and wanted to inquire if you are guys planning to bring on anybody new.
I am also open to having a conversation with you guys even if you not currently looking for someone.
This message shows a lot of respect for the hiring team. It shows that you are actually interested in what they are doing rather than just trying to update your LinkedIn profile saying that you work there. In addition, it also shows that you have done your due diligence before reaching out: this shows even more interest.
There have been seven Product Gym senior members that have landed Product Manager jobs using this exact methodology. There are no guarantees, but at least you are increasing your chances and knowledge of how to get an interview through another funnel that most people would otherwise not go the extra mile for.
Challenge 6: Recruiters are the Last to Get Hired
Early bird gets the worm. Have you ever stopped to think about companies that need a Product Manager, but do not know where to start looking — or how?
Recruiters and Internal Talent Acquisition people do not produce revenue. Hence, they are the last to be hired in any startup. In established organizations, Internal Recruiters are the last to get the fancy computers, new Microsoft office, perks, and basically everything else. So, imagine a startup that just received funding. If none of the people in that startup have done any hiring in their previous careers, how are they going to hire new people? Often, newly funded startups will pay Staffing or Technical Recruiting agencies a fee to help them onboard much-needed talent.
This is where you come in. Going after positions that are posted is necessary, but that is low-hanging fruit. You need to reach out to companies that have not posted their Product Manager position yet. How?
Form a Google news alert for tech companies that just received funding in your local area. Use this message to reach out to them:
Congrats on securing X amount in Series ______. I am a big fan of what you guys are doing right now and would love to talk to you about possibly joining your Product team.
Can we chat Tuesday or Thursday / Monday or Wednesday (always space out the days to two days apart) at 11:30 am (this has proved to be a great time because people are waiting to go to lunch)?
If you are living in a big city right now you are sure to generate an extra interview a week from this methodology. The best part though, if you are first then the competition will not be as fierce as a posted position. In all the techniques of how to get an interview, this one promises results. But we urge all of you to be consistent with this methodology.
Challenge 7: You Fall Through the Cracks
There simply is not enough time to interview everyone. There are bound to be others like you who may be qualified for the role but fell through the cracks. Moreover, if the recruiter (gatekeeper) does not pass your resume through then the hiring manager has no way of actually knowing you are interested.
The whole recruiting process as a whole is flawed. Think about it! Hiring teams are reviewing your resume and in 2 to 5 minutes have to decide whether or not they want to have a 20- to 30-minute phone call with you, if they want to grill you for 3 to 5 in-person, and if they want to work with you for the next 18 to 24 months. There just is not enough time for the hiring side to really get to know you.
A great strategy for how to get an interview is simply networking your way in. Going to Meetups is another way to develop a new funnel to secure more Product Manager interviews. Make a list of Meetups and make an effort to attend. Go there with resume and cover letter in hand be ready to ask for the interview.
Hey, I am a big fan of what you guys do! I saw a Product Manager opening and came here to ask you for an interview.
Be bold! Yes, this is kind of scary and there is no guarantee this is going to yield you interviews all the time, but we have seen this work before. A few months ago we had a Product Manager from WeWork present at our New York Campus. Our event staff clearly noticed that many people came because they are interested in joining WeWork as a Product Manager.
Make a list of all the Product Management Meetups there are each week and attend them. You can find these Meetups of course on Meetup.com, but there are other sites as well. Here is a list of other websites that would be aggregating not just Product Management, but also other technology Meetups:
How to Get an Interview With Product Gym
If you’re looking to generate more Product Manager interviews, it helps to have some support. Product Gym is a lifetime membership program for PMs, PM 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 kickstart your dream career in product management. And that includes supporting you through the interview process.
If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of Product Manager interviewing strategies, get in touch with us! We’re offering free career coaching sessions with our in-house team of PM Recruiter experts. We’d love to hear from you.