I recently posted an offer to help fellow product managers with any questions they have. This resulted in around 15 calls for help, all but two shared the same theme of “how can I get my next PM job”. Some had previous XP in PM, others had none. It would seem that many were struggling with their job hunt and that a PM position in a company was a holy grail for many. After looking at their CV and Linkedin profiles I was able to help each one with my insights as a VP Product doing the hiring but also as a colleague. This story is aimed to share my insights with those of you who are struggling with their quest for the holy grail. As the header suggests, this story will focus on your “landing page” — the CV (and Linkedin profile).
You can find a lot of tutorials of all sorts that tell you how to write your CV, I will focus solely on product managers (while it should fit all) and will try to keep it as pragmatic as possible.
Tip #1: You Are The Product
Searching for a new job is like offering a service to customers. Think of yourself as the product and your CV as the “Landing Page”. It should be focused, with a clear CTA of getting them to call you. Think of the job hunt as a funnel. The CV is just the first step of the funnel. Next would be the phone interview, then hopefully a few face 2 face interviews and maybe even a home assignment. Track your progress through that funnel so you know what converts and what needs fixing. Think like a PM. Do A/B testing, focus groups and what not to make sure your CV converts well.
Tip #2: People Are People
Many places use automated tools to filter through hundreds of applications, but once you pass this initial step, a real live human being will look at your CV. For that part, you need to understand that the reader of your CV is a person. That person uses heuristics to quickly determine if you are a good candidate or not. You need to help that person stay focused, see a clear picture of who you are and what you can offer them. Here are a few dos and don’ts:
- Name comes first, it’s the “logo” of your CV. Don’t hide it, minimize or put it side by side with your email address. Obvious yet I’ve seen things…
- Tell a story. Make it short and to the point while ensuring there is one thread that goes from one line to another. Don’t know how? Hire someone to do that for you. A mistake I see often is when trying to show the recruiter everything you are, a kind of spray & pray, hoping something will hit. that’s bad UX.
- Formatting matters. Use Bold and Italic only when needed. In many cases, it’s a distraction (see?) that will only confuse or annoy the reader. If it’s important, try bringing that up sooner. Don’t use highlights.
- Use bullets wisely, if you’re not sure what that means, talk to a writer and improve your writing skills.
- Don’t glorify your past, show you are ready for the future. If you are looking for a PM position, don’t write Project and Product Manager. It’s confusing. Write 2 CVs if needed.
- TMI is a real problem with many CVs. People forget CV is relevant mostly at the top of the funnel. Once they convert (to a phone call) you will have an opportunity to tell more about yourself. CVs that are concise and relevant will convert better.
- Looks aren't everything, but if your CV is messy or too colorful don’t be surprised if your UI skills are questioned. Keep your CV clean and elegant.
Tip #3: Life is a Journey
Everyone has a story about someone, somewhere, who leaped from a support agent position to VP Product. It’s not you. Don’t sell yourself as Mr. (or Mrs.) know-it-all. Show your learning path, if you had a mentor, make it apparent. It might be during that time you worked closely with the CEO on that project or when you were a junior PM in that company. Whatever the path was — if someone was there to show you the ropes, make it known.
Tip #4: Be True
Know that recruiting a PM is a very very very sensitive process, one that can make or break a company, and I can’t stress that enough. Companies are usually very cautious when recruiting for a PM and you should be aware and respect that. Being true serves not only the company you applied to, but also yourself. There are a few points to consider:
- Write about what you believe you can deliver. Don’t lie to yourself (it’s also good for other use cases) or to your next boss.
- Don’t contradict yourself. If your current (or previous) position was Junior PM, don’t tell me you also lead the product vision or road map, it’s not believable.
- Give credit when credit is due. it’s not believable if you say you did UX/UI, market research, customer success, requirements, prioritization, A/B testing, sales training, BI, sprint planning and more. It’s better to say you worked with UI/UX team to improve usability and functionality or maybe reviewed product requirements with the QA team.
Tip #5: Market yourself
I already mentioned you’re the product manager of yourself (you are the product). but you are also the marketing guy (unless you have someone to do that for you). To establish your expertise use media such as YouTube, Medium (see what I’m doing?), blogs, podcasts and more so people can recognize your skills. Make sure it provides value to your audience — can be a review of some tool PMs use or an in-depth look into how your company (with your help of course) reduced churn by 25% in 5 easy steps. Be active in the community and earn a name for yourself.
A good CV shows a career path from the recent past to the near future. It should reflect (truthfully) on your inspiration, aspirations, potential and skills, not a brief history of you. Go to work.