A question I often hear is: How should I start my job search in product management? Should I work on my interview skills? Practice product exercises? Should I update my resume? What should I do?
I think about the job search process a lot. Here’s a process I recommend as you search for your next product management role:
Explore your interests
If you’re not sure about what role/company you’re interested in, start with these steps.
Company research. As you’re working on your resume, look at the companies you might be interested in. Do you know anyone that works there, that can refer you? What roles in particular are you interested in? Those job descriptions can be helpful guides for how to write your resume. Once you’ve figured out what roles you like, you can start reaching out to employees in those companies. You want to define “target companies” that you can focus on.
Informational interviews. These go hand-in-hand with company research, and are a great way to get more insight into companies. Informational interviews are also helpful when you’re not sure about which type of product role you’re interested in. Deciding between a startup and a larger company? Talk to PMs at both and ask about their experiences. It can also be a helpful way to develop relationships within the various companies, as you learn which ones you’re interested in.
Prepare your resume
Once you have an idea of what roles you want, spend time on your resume.
Start with your resume. Look at job descriptions that you’re interested in and use similar language and don’t be afraid to steal verbs. Recruiters will tend to skim your resume to make sure Define your personal metrics. Take a look at the most common feedback I give on PM resumes. Your resume needs to be ready-to-go before you ask for referrals at your target companies.
Get feedback on your resume. Have others review it, ideally folks who work in a similar role, or who are familiar with the requirements of the target companies. Incorporate the feedback. PM slacks often have channels where you can share your resume and get feedback, such as #resume-career-advice in Women in Product and #resumes in PM HQ.
Personal connections are the most powerful way inside a company, especially in Silicon Valley.
Start reaching out. Once you have a solid resume, reach out to connections at target companies. If you have the roles you’re interested and a resume ready to go, you can ask for a referral or how you can get in touch with the hiring manager. Don’t apply before you’ve reached out, as companies have various processes for referrals. My experience has been that I am unable to refer someone who has already applied. Make it really easy for people to help you, such as by writing an email with the role you’re interested in and why you’d be a great fit (See “How to ask me for a referral”).
Attend events. Product management-focused events, such as meet ups and talks, can be an excellent way to develop connections. When you meet new people at these events, you’ll want to be specific about what you want. When someone asks what you do, you can say something like “I’m current a PM at X company, but I’m looking to move to a company where I can have a larger impact, ideally a startup.” Putting what you want into the world really does help. If you make an impression, someone may think of you when they hear about a relevant role.
Follow up. If someone doesn’t respond in a week or two, reply to the message you sent to see if they need more information from you. Getting hired is just like being in sales; there’s no shame in following up. You’re building a funnel when you’re applying to jobs: lots of applications, which become leads (interviews), and ideally close the opportunity to become hired.
Prepare for the interview
Get ready for interviewing. Once you’ve been referred, you’ll need to immediately start prepping. This can involve preparing your stories (ie talk about a time you disagreed with an engineer), and practicing for product exercises. When I was preparing, I used the book “Cracking the PM Interview” as well as online resources with interview questions, such as Glassdoor and Indeed. I had a Google Doc with my answers written down, in order to help me get more comfortable with them. I also sat down with various apps and wrote down my feedback: what I would change, what I liked, what I didn’t, why, etc. The questions in “Cracking the PM Interview” really helped me figure out what to focus on.
Show your appreciation
Send thank yous. As you attend interviews, send thank you emails to everyone involved in the process, from HR to whoever interviewed you. Even if you don’t get the offer, this is still a way to establish a friendly relationship. I’m connected on LinkedIn to folks that interviewed me and I didn’t get the role; maybe we’ll work together one day in the future. If people helped you during the job search, thank them as well. If someone gave feedback on your resume and you accepted a new job, let them know.
This process may need to be repeated as you search for a job. For example, if you find that you’re more interested in a different type of role, you’ll need to adjust your resume and begin to seek out new informational interviews.
Best of luck on your job search!