Tailoring Your Resume For Product Management


ow you tailor your resume is extremely important to landing that glorious Product Management gig. Did you know that from the wording alone, an employer can determine if you are ready and at what level you should be placed? I can speak from experience, that when you are looking at dozens of applications in a day, the details matter. Here, I’ll walk through some of those details so that when your resume lands on the desk, it’s pure gold.

By far the most common mistake I see on resume’s from folks looking to get into the product and even seasoned PMs is listing what they did for a company instead of what results they drove. This one is huge, it’s easily the difference between being considered for an associate position vs a senior one. Product Management is all about outcomes, not actions.

To help illustrate this, let take the following example of a task-based list:

  • Led team of 5 cross-department coworkers building new landing for iOS to increase payer conversion
  • Worked on improving user registration enhancements
  • Organized and led three new business ideas for the CEO to expand the company offering

Overall the above is passable. Not amazing, but looking at this, the candidate has some leadership experience, has some basic understanding of interacting with senior management, and on something that requires a basic understanding of funnels. Depending on how the interview goes, this person might be good as an associate or intern level PM. Now let's take a look at the same three points, but applying our output-based view.

  • Chaired cross-functional team of five on new iOS landing, enhancing payer conversion by 5%
  • Directed user registration flow enhancements resulting in a 10% increase in daily new registrants
  • Orchestrated three new products from ideation to launch, expanding company market share by 20%

Huge difference right? They both say the same thing, but one has more colorful wording, and the most important part, puts focus on the outcome of the action mentionedLooking at this, the candidate appears to be seasoned. They definitely know what they are talking about. If interviews go well, this person is likely senior level.

Aside from the colorful language, there are some other important changes to note on the above. Notice that for the numbers, if it isn’t an outcome, it is written out. This is done to further draw attention to the outcome.

Speaking of colorful language, note the use of the action verbs. Particularly what I like to call executive keywords. The word executive is defined as,

having the power to put plans, actions, or laws into effect

which as a Product Manager is exactly what you do. Executive keywords are the action verbs that when read tend to convey a sense of grand scale and leadership, “Chaired”, “Directed” and “Orchestrated.” Words such as these implicitly plant the idea of executive leadership, which further frames how you are perceived as a candidate. Again, you will need to back that idea up in the interview process, so be prepared!

In Product Management, you build the product around the needs of a particular type of user or customer. Your resume should do the same. Take the time to research the company you are applying for, based on the job description, try to gain an understanding of what problem they are trying to solve.

Then, tailor what goes into your resume to speak to that problem and showcase the successes that show you are the solution. This is true of any resume, but I feel like this approach is especially true when applying for Product Management positions.

It’s very tempting, particularly when you’ve been at a company for a number of years, to try to list all of your accomplishments during your tenure. Don’t. At most only have your top three. Treat the resume as a hook, you want it to look delicious like your favorite piece of candy, but theirs only one piece. So to get more, they have to talk to you. This also helps keep your resume short and sweet. Even with years of experience, ideally, you don’t go beyond 2 pages.

A resume may be your one and only line of communication with the company looking to hire. Treat it like a product one-pager, you need to convey the key points about yourself and your value proposition in a language the hiring manager will understand on one page. So when tailoring your resume for your next PM gig, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Focus on the results
  • Use executive keywords
  • Treat the resume creation process as you would a product
  • Keep it short and sweet, save the details for the interview

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