How to get hired as a Product Manager

We’re in the process of hiring UX designers and Product Managers, so I’m currently looking through a lot of resumes. I’m finding the breadth and depth of UX resumes really impressive — there are a ton of great people looking to make a shift at the moment. But on the Product Management side, not so much. I don’t want to believe it’s because most Product Managers suck. I just think there is a big supply/demand issue in this area at the moment.

But not just that, I also think that Product Managers need to write better resumes. Designers have, for the most part, figured out that it’s more about showing than telling. It’s easy to go to someone’s sites and portfolio to get a sense of what they’re about. Product Managers still appear to be stuck in the “Let me tell you how awesome I am” rut, though. This is a generalization, of course, but what I’m mostly seeing right now is resumes that excel at vagueness. It’s not uncommon to see a sentence like “Applied world-class methodologies to create a successful customer-centric product”, or some variation of that. What does that mean?

It’s great to see proof of success, yes — stats about conversion improvements, etc. are extremely useful. But hiring managers need more than that to assess Product Managers. We need to know how you think. We need to know how you approach problems, how you work, what methods you like and don’t like, and why. And for some reason most PMs I speak to seem surprised by those questions and have trouble answering them.

I’ve now gone so far as to send a short list of questions to our HR department. I’ve asked them to forward these questions on to potential candidates, and send their answers to the hiring team along with their resumes. So I wanted to share those questions here in case it’s useful to PMs looking for a new opportunity. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some of the questions Product Managers need to be able to answer at any time of day or night:

  • How would you describe your ideal product development process? Please share details including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Roles and responsibilities within the team
    • How to develop a strategy and vision for the product
    • How to decide what to build, and when (include thoughts on different prioritization methods and, in your experience, what works best)
    • Development methodology
  • In your experience, what are the most important characteristics of a good Product Manager?
  • In your experience, what are the conditions for success that have to exist in an organization for a Product Manager to be successful?

This is one of those classic “there is no wrong answer” situations. The absolute answers matter, but what matters more is the thought process. I want to hire PMs who think about these things. PMs who have an opinion on UCD vs. ACD. On Kano vs. KJ prioritization. On user stories vs. job stories. I want to work with people who read and think and build, and have found a way to balance those different activities effectively.

So, if you’re looking for a Product Management role, communicate those things to the recruiter and/or hiring managers. I’m pretty sure it will get you an interview. Oh, and if you want to move to Portland to help us make better healthcare software, and you have good answers to those questions, let me know!