Getting a Job as a Product Manager

A client approached me recently saying, “I’m a product manager, but I can’t seem to get a job. I’ve responded to many job postings without success. I’ve heard back from a few but have only had a couple of interviews, and I didn’t move forward to the second round with either. It seems that there are a lot of open positions, but I can’t snag one of them. What am I doing wrong?”

The answer is never simple, so I ask a number of questions to ascertain where in the application/interview process this person is getting bogged down. Since she mentioned that she hasn’t had much response to her applications, the first place I look is her resume. Is she telling her story in a compelling manner? On the other hand, she did land a couple of interviews with that resume. What happened?

Her problem could be with her resume since she isn’t getting a high rate of return there, but she also hasn’t performed well enough in interviews to get the job. There’s also a middle area commonly known as the black hole where resumes fall after you’ve applied online. In a series of blog posts, I plan to lay out helpful instructions for each of these three areas: 1) resume, 2) strategy or what I call “getting your foot in the door,” and 3) interviewing. This post will focus on how to write a killer resume.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to tailor your resume to each specific position. It must immediately capture the attention of the hiring manager as he/she will only give it a 15-20 second glance to decide whether to reject it or to continue reading. Many clients tell me that they don’t want to bother with customizing every resume, that they draft very specific cover letters that address the specifics.

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It’s true that your cover letter should be well written, short and to the point, directly addressing your relevant qualifications in a way that will compel the hiring manager to take a look at your resume. However, the truth is that the vast majority of cover letters are never read, even when one is expressly requested. And most of those which are read are done so after the reader has found something he/she likes in the resume. With only a short amount of time to sift through hundreds of applications, most hiring managers and even HR will go straight to the resume, and it must be able to stand alone.

In the initial 15-20 second scan of your resume, the reader will most likely focus on the top 1/3 of the first page. Anything they need to know about you regarding your fit for their job should somehow be expressed in this space. That is why I recommend using a Summary of Qualifications or Profile section at the top to outline these key points in bullet form. I also advise that for each of your jobs, you include only relevant experience so as not to cloud the picture and make it difficult for the reader to see pertinent achievements. A resume is a marketing brochure, not a historical document.

Before you begin, review your target job description carefully and identify the four or five most important criteria. What skills/experience do they need most? For each of these priorities, write a statement that illustrates your ability to carry out that function. These statements should appear as bullet points in the Summary/Profile section.

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In the Professional Experience section in which you describe the positions you’ve held; again include only those achievements that are relevant to your target position. You may have some terrific accomplishments that you’d like to share, but if they don’t have anything to do with the job at hand, you’re going to confuse the reader. Make your statements concise and be sure to highlight the positive results of your actions. What impact did you make? How did you make a difference?

I believe in using what I call the People Magazine philosophy of resume writing, as compared to The New Yorker or Vanity Fair whose articles go on and on for days. In People as in the USA Today newspaper, for each article, there is a headline, a sub-headline, and a few sentences. It is easy to grasp the key points without making a huge commitment of time. Keep in mind that the purpose of a resume is not to get you a job; it is to convince the hiring manager to invite you to interview.

Don’t forget…carefully proofread all your documents – resumes, cover letter, thank you notes, and emails. Nothing is worse than saying you have excellent communication skills when you have grammatical or spelling errors.

Contact Mauri at 415-391-1794 or mauri@careerinsiders.com.

Mauri Schwartz


Mauri founded Career Insiders, a career consultancy, to help companies attain mission-critical talent, heighten executive visibility, and for individuals to achieve their career goals. She has had outstanding success providing executives with personal branding materials and coaching through personalized attention, ensuring that each client’s accomplishments are translated into an image that is uniquely theirs. She drives creative executive talent acquisition strategies, conducting full-cycle recruitment of top talent – higher quality, more quickly, and less costly. With a keen interest in knowing what makes people tick and how businesses work, Mauri dives into learning everything she can, treats every client as if they were her only client, and it shows in the branding success that her clients achieve. She enjoys her work and makes the collaboration fun. .


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