How to create a Product resume that rocks

Adrienne Tan

If you missed out on what is now arguably the most popular resume workshop ever, you’ll be happy to know we’ve summarised the top tips for job searching for Product Manager roles, so read on fellow Product people.

I first attended a resume workshop as part of the Product Women group back in 2018. It was the first time we heard tips from Petra Gross, now GM Digital Product at Woollies’ X, and 4 years on, Petra continues her dedication to the community. In 2016, there were roughly 10 of us around the training room listening, making notes on printed copies of our resumes. This year we had four times as many people packed into the Brainmates HQ as Petra and Lenka Chadaj, Senior Digital Recruiter from Hudson Sydney, emphasised how important your personal brand is to your career – as well as some other great tips.

Your personal brand is the most important thing to nail.

Your personal brand is almost more important than practical product skills. For example, a high competency in Jira is not going to make you stand out to Petra (among the hundreds of resumes landing in her inbox daily) and it’s not going to demonstrate the edge or passion that she seeks for new people joining her team.

The spectrum of skills in Product Management is so broad, especially since most people come to Product from another discipline, that having most or all of these skills doesn’t really set you apart.

Product manager skills

So, what is it about you that is different and what do you love?

Do you specialise in customer experience? Do you love speaking with customers to understand their problems? Or do you specialise in service design and creating seamless supporting processes to deliver amazing experiences?

Whatever your angle and background…your passion is your brand. You then need to show how this passion is infused through your experience and capabilities.

“Your statement of your personal brand needs to be at the very top of your resume,” says Petra.

Here are their other top tips:

How long should my resume be?

“The fewer pages the better” says Petra. “And please NO cover letters! Anything that you would put into a cover letter you can put into your personal brand statement.”

I have gaps in my career history, how do I represent that?

If you have gaps — career breaks, parental leave, any of the above — that’s not an issue. Just be transparent and leave no unexplained gaps that could leave questions in the mind of the hiring manager. Instead, simply declare “Travelled Europe (dates)” Or “Parental Leave (dates)”. This will make it much easier for a hiring manager to focus on your skills, brand and capabilities, and prevent you from being removed due to unanswered questions.

My last job was not what it promised but I don’t want to be negative on my resume…

Petra advises, be honest about jobs that didn’t turn out as planned or promised. It shows you are genuine about your experience and your Product career.

How much resume real estate should I allocate to my previous company descriptions?

A common blunder is not describing what a company does, or at least the industry. This creates work for the hiring manager to research whether you have exposure to the right industries or companies for the job in question. If you’ve worked for companies that are not big brands, a short succinct explanation and industry will reduce effort for the hiring manager. If you have worked for a big brand, even better — put the logo in.

Lenka suggests that it’s also worth mentioning whether you’ve worked in Waterfall environments as well as Agile. This can still be important (and valued) by companies as they continue to transition.

I’ve been at one company for most of my career is this going to reflect badly?

No, not necessarily. In this situation call out role changes so the hiring manager can see your progress. It demonstrates that the company you worked for bought into and invested in promoting you.

There are so many product jobs and Quick Apply is sooooo tempting?

Please stay away from Quick Apply, says Lenka. You should customise your resume for each and every position. “I am on the receiving end of how LinkedIn packages up your resume, and sends it to a hiring manager” says Petra. “Please do not do it”.

I’ve been waiting weeks for a response and haven’t heard back — do I contact the hiring manager?

Even if (for whatever insane reason) a hiring manager has agreed for their details to be in the job ad, please do not reach out to them directly. They are going through a recruiter for a reason. Reach out to your contact/recruiter and follow up regularly. The cycle can include four rounds of interviews after shortlisting the resumes, then typically a four-week notice period, which means the hiring cycle can be eight weeks or more, so be patient.

Design thinking is super huge right now, should I super charge the visual design of my resume?

No. Even if you are, in fact, a designer with awesome skills, please do not apply graphic design to your resume. This will not give you an edge against Product Manager resumes and can in some cases be harder to read and understand the formatting. A simple white background, with white margins and double line spacing is preferred as it’s easier to read. The quality of the content is most important. Please don’t use anagrams or fancy formatting for software skill competencies.

Any other tips or tricks for Product Management job searchers?

We often talk about the STAR approach for interview responses to behavioural questions, but this is actually a fabulous way to structure your resume experiences underneath each role. The hiring manager wants to understand what the situation was in that position at that company, what tasks were required, the actions you took and the results you achieved.

Also, list your availability on the resume to take phone calls with recruiters, says Lenka. You will be surprised how much of our time is taken leaving messages or how often we are on the receiving end of you answering the call in the stairwell or running into a quiet room at work. List your availability so we can get you at a time that suits you.

Are you trying to land your first job in Product, or wanting a new challenge?

Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan | Author

Adrienne is Co-Founder and CEO of Brainmates and Co-Founder of Leading the Product. She has been championing Product Management since 2000, earning international recognition for raising the profile of the Product Management profession. In this capacity she regularly consults to the Asia-Pacific's top businesses and speaks at business and Product events around the world.

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