The rising demand for product managers, especially at technology companies, is attracting candidates from technical and non-technical backgrounds. However, because the roles a product manager may play vary widely by company size and industry, coming up with a great résumé that will impress hiring managers and recruiters is like trying to hit a moving target.
In a tech context, product managers often have a complicated job. They must figure out (and prioritize) business and customer requirements, shepherd the product through its development and maintenance lifecycles, and communicate effectively with all kinds of stakeholders, including those from upper management and engineering. That mix of skills is a key reason why product managers can unlock superior compensation.
For product managers applying for new positions (or others approaching the role for the first time), it’s helpful to think of your resume as the product. When crafting it, apply your product management skills and strategies, especially your knowledge of user experience best practices, advised Cliff Flamer, certified résumé writer and CEO of BrightSide Résumés: “Think about how reviewers interact with your résumé and how the information is being consumed to craft a customized résumé for each job or industry you want to apply to.”
In this guide, we’ll cover the major steps for creating a standout resume for this complex role, as well as delve into some of the qualities and skills that hiring managers look for when evaluating product managers.
Showcase Both Sides of Your Brain
Since product management sits at the intersection of engineering, design and marketing, hiring managers are looking for someone who can straddle multiple worlds, Flamer explained. The ability to balance big-picture and detail-oriented thinking and actually evolve ideas from concept to production is the central message you want to convey in your resume.
A startup may be looking for someone to create a roadmap, manage the entire product development lifecycle and code the product, while an established company may simply need someone to manage or create modules for a core product. For this reason, its important to demonstrate how your skills are relevant to the specific job and give examples and context.
Another way to provide clarity is by explaining what type of product manager you are, noted Lucy Chen, career coach to product managers and executives and ex-product lead at Oculus/Facebook and LinkedIn. Examples include technical product manager, data product manager, software product manager, growth product manager, consumer product manager and so forth.
Conveying mastery of the end-to-end product management process and ability to execute right and left-brain activities starts in the profile section at the top of your resume. For instance, Flamer crafts a short, to-the-point summary statement explaining who the candidate is and the value they offer, followed by keyword-rich bullet points that provide examples of industry-specific in-demand hard and soft skills. He provided this example:
Technology Product Manager & Support Systems Designer with 10 years’ experience in all aspects of Product Development, from ideation and requirements through design, development, integration, testing, commercialization and support.
Full lifecycle product management work, with deep testing/validation and training for sophisticated imaging and analysis software, device firmware, touch-screen controllers, and embedded systems.
Additional expertise designing learning modules, knowledgebases, and support tools, including wireframing and prototyping an SQL-based bug-reporting and querying database.
Strong cross-functional coordination of onsite/offshore engineering teams, product partners, and stakeholders, while consistently gathering client feedback to ensure a seamless user experience.
He then addresses the technical aspects of the job (i.e., the skills and methods that are needed to design, create and implement technical solutions that meet the business requirements). Tip: Adjust the positioning of the categories and corresponding skills in the toolbox to match the job requirements.
Methods: Agile Development, Project Management, Product Management, Product Commercialization Process, Six-Sigma Lean Principles, ANOVA and Statistical Modeling (for testing)
Software: MS Project, TeamGantt, Jira, Trello, Salesforce, Zendesk, Siebel CRM, MS Excel, MS Access, JMP, Quantstudio, Minitab, Matlab Scripts, Flowjo, CODEX Analysis Manager, MAV
Hardware: Controllers, Microscopes, Semiconductor Sequencers, Multiplex Imaging Platforms, Eye-Tracking Systems, Electrophoresis Systems, qPCR Machines, fMRI Scanners
What Did You Ship?
“What did you ship?” That’s what hiring managers want to know when they review the work history of prospective product managers. “Product management is about delivering impact,” Chen noted.
Hiring managers want to know if your initiatives were actually implemented and what impact they had on users and the organization’s top and bottom lines.
Therefore, its best to focus on high impact projects and quantify the results of your work in some way, whether it’s citing the increase in revenue generated by a product or the number of products you were responsible for in relation to the total portfolio.
Reviewers will be looking for specific information about the process you used to develop a new product and the results, Chen continued. Make sure to include the following components when describing prior roles and projects:
- Roadmap prioritizing
- Feature scoping/specing
- Cross-functional partnership with design
- Data science
Provide context for the reviewer, especially if you’re changing industries. For instance, consider using a functional title and placing your actual title in parentheses to make it past applicant tracking systems and human reviewers. Also, classify projects by type such as product, service, software program, tool, etc. Explain names of obscure tools or systems that the reviewer may not be familiar with. Here’s an example of an easy-to-understand work history:
ABC BIOSCIENCES 2017-Present
Product Manager | Support Director
Took charge of Agile design, engineering, commercialization, and support for flagship product line. Mastered ABC’s systems, software, and equipment as well as partner technologies to craft an integrated solution, bolstered by a self-created intranet knowledgebase. Shipped final product in Q4 2019, sparking heavy demand and a 3-month waiting-list.
product: Instrument Management Software
Fluidics control system software that integrates with 3rd-party fluorescent microscope firmware to automate reagent loading and image capture.
system: Intranet Knowledgebase
Internal product support platform, based on KCS and integrated with Salesforce and Jira.
Final Tips and Characteristics of an Effective Product Manager Résumé
To increase the chances of your resume being read all the way through, limit the length to no more than two pages. Stick with simple, unadorned formats, which help focus the reader on the content.
Match the job description: To capture the attention of automated and human reviewers, make simple modifications/customizations to match the requirements in the job description—including the hard and soft skills, organizational culture, and industry expertise—before hitting ‘Send.’ Even better, use a free tool like Jobscan or Résumé Worded to compare your resume to a specific job description, make changes, add the right keywords, and get past applicant tracking systems.
Provide work samples: Providing a link to nonproprietary samples or a portfolio that reflect how you work and communicate with technical and non-technical audiences is a plus.
Be sure to include certifications and coursework: You should include top certifications, as well as coursework that demonstrate mastery of product management fundamentals and must-have technologies. Indicate that you’re always interested in learning something new. Note that listing side projects is critical for recent grads or career transitioners with limited hands-on experience. (In addition, more specialization and skills will allow you to potentially negotiate for a higher salary.)