Having worked in product management and related fields for over 8 years, I’ve screened hundreds of resumes. Here are 5 tips on how to craft your product manager resume.
1. Better UI leads to better engagement
Your resume is not only the first impression, but it’s also a product made by you. Like any product, do you prefer one with a clean and aesthetic UI (user interface ) that communicates the value proposition?
Does your resume have an easy to read and well-formatted template? Does it delight the viewer or drain their eyes? We know a recruiter only spends 7 seconds on your resume. A stand-out template might just make the hiring manager or recruiter pause few more seconds. The definition of a good template depends on the company and the role you are applying for. In my career, I have mostly targeted consumer product companies where UI is integral to the product experience. Thus the template (see below) I used works — it is clean, easy to read, and the pop of color makes it stand out. A great template only gets you so far; in the end, content is still the king.
2. Less is more
How should you structure your resume? Your resume has one goal and that is to convince the viewer that you have the product manager skills needed to do the job. Your want to show the overlap between your existing experiences and the experiences required by the job. Anything else is a distraction.
Limit your resume to 3 sections.
Basic information — Include your full name, email address, phone number. Do not include a photo. There are plenty of articles on why you shouldn’t, here’s one I found. Addresses, personal websites, and LinkedIn/Github are optional. You likely already included them in your application. It’s not necessary to repeat it.
Experiences — This should be the main focus and the meat of your resume. You should concisely describe the overlap of your experience from your work/side hustle/school projects and the experience required for the job you are applying for. More on this later.
Education (if applicable) — Include your higher education degree if applicable. This section should have less emphasis than your experiences.
Remove irrelevant experiences and sections. It’s better to focus viewers on relevant experiences that convey your fit than to distract them with irrelevant experiences. If you want to add an accomplishment and skills section to your resume, try to incorporate them into your experiences. I.e. instead of writing “Proficiency in SQL” as a skill, describe in your experiences section what you used SQL to accomplish and the impact.
Keep your resume on only 1 page. If your resume is longer than 1 page, practice your PM skill — cut and prioritize. For everything you list in your resume, ask yourself, “Does this add or distract the viewer from understanding my PM-related skills and experiences?”
3. Find your strengths
Before you fill out your resume, it’s worthwhile to reflect and find your strengths. In the book Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris discusses the importance of focusing on strengths, instead of trying to fix all your weaknesses. Based on your past experiences, what do you excel at and enjoy doing? This clarity will help you find a job at a place that values your strengths. This will increase your likelihood of success in your next role. I didn’t have a technical background, instead of trying to learn how to code. I spent more time reflecting and honing on my strengths:
Collaborative — From my job as a consultant where I was miserable working alone at a client’s site, I knew valued and enjoyed teamwork. Thus I highlighted experiences working cross-functionally on a team and influencing the team without authority.
Customer-focused — Whether it was working as a tutor in college or launching a new product, The most rewarding moments for me was always when I solved a user problem.
Expertise in education — I got my master's in education and have experience launching educational products.
Strength finding is essential to determine where you will find success. It’s also an opportunity for you to be intentional with where you might not be a fit.
4. Solve the hiring manager’s problem
One of the most important jobs of a product manager is to understand users and their problems. In the job search process, the hiring manager is a user who needs a solution.
Understand the user need — What’s the hiring manager’s need and how can you help them? Your best resource is the job description. For example, you might find through the job description that the hiring manager needs someone who can:
Set goals, evaluate the trade-offs, and execute
Lead cross-functional teams and influence without authority
Be user-focused and data-informed
Focus on how your experiences can solve these problems and highlight your strengths — For my first product role, the hiring manager and the team wanted someone who can help them launch a 0–1 educational product. I showed in my resume my track record of launching education apps.
Use their language — Use the job description or the companies career page to understand and use their language. For example, Spotify used the term squad to describe their teams, if you’ve worked in a similar squad structure, use the same language.
5. Use the [job] + [impact] formula
The most common mistake people make is to only list out their job descriptions without showing the measurable impact.
Use the job + impact formula — For each position, describe concisely the job you’ve accomplished AND the impact. When possible always quantify the impact, for example:
[Job] Distributed content on new technology platforms + [Impact] increased monthly new user by 30%
Use action verbs — Start the formula with action verbs whenever possible; such as achieved, initiated, led, drove, etc. You can also use the action verbs the hiring manager uses in the job descriptions, remember “use their language”? Taking the previous example, if I used an action verb:
Led content distribution on new technology platforms which increased monthly new user by 30%
For each position you’ve held, lather, rinse, repeat.
Now you’ve done the heavy lifting, it’s time to add the final touch. Attention to detail is key for a product manager. Make sure you have no grammar or spelling mistakes by running your resume through a spellchecker like Grammarly. Are all your punctuations and capitalizations consistent? Double-check that your dates of employment are accurate. Have a friend read it over.
That’s it. I hope you learned something new that you can use to craft your resume. Like all things, a good resume is an iteration. It will take a lot of reflection, time, and rejections. Remember, you only need one “yes” and a good resume is the start.
You got this!