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Building the Perfect Resume for a Product Manager Role

Last updated:
7th Nov, 2017
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Building the Perfect Resume for a Product Manager Role

A resume reflects your career and extracurricular achievements in a written format. It is the first peek a recruiter or hiring manager gets into you, during the selection process. Unfortunately, many get filtered out at this stage, irrespective of their actual potential. It is almost criminal to devoid oneself of opportunities by killing chances just because of bad resumes. This blog aims at providing ingredients for writing the perfect resume to bag a Product Manager role. However, some of the general principles apply to other roles as well.

These are the points you should keep in mind while writing a resume for a Product Manager Role:

Let go of your ego

No, this blog is not about self-help or spirituality. So then why am I talking about letting go of your ego? That’s because this is an essential step towards preparing yourself to write your resume. Many of us are proud achievers (nothing wrong with that!) which limits us from selling ourselves in the most effective manner whereas resumes are all about selling ourselves in the job market. Hence, even if you are a super achiever in your current organisation, no one outside knows about you. You will be initially screened and judged by your future employer based on the few sentences you have written on a page or two.  

Accumulate achievements

Do not jump to writing your resume directly. As part of prep work, recall and write everything that you have done and achieved in your career. Add significant extracurricular activities that you were a part of. Do not filter out content at this stage just because you think it is not important! Also, do not worry even if you are not able to articulate the achievements properly yet. We will get to that later.
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Quantify, highlight and use power verbs

Quantifying your work is of utmost significance for any aspiring Product Manager. It does not matter what roles you have been in – Technologist, Operations, etc, or what work you have done. Trust me, everything can be quantified. Explain all the technicalities of your work, also communicate your superlative efforts to solve complex problems.
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Once you have written down all achievements and responsibilities, rephrase all the points to show business impact. It means nothing to a recruiter if you cannot show business impact. Metrics are the common language Product Managers interact with. So, you will have to write your resume in a language which is understandable to the recruiter or hiring manager.

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Highlighting is done to lay extra emphasis on certain content in your resume. You want a recruiter to definitely look at some of these points. This is achieved simply by making certain content bold so that they stand out. This does not mean that the other content on your resume is not important. It’s just that if a recruiter is in a hurry, then this way you can ensure that they should definitely not miss your most important achievements. However, this also does not mean that you should go overboard with highlighting.

Too much highlighting defeats the purpose of highlighting.

Power verbs are used extensively in resume writing. They communicate your points more strongly than the normal verbs. For example: “Developed a module…” has more impact than writing “Wrote a module…” Similarly, “Led…” has more impact than “Worked…” Power verbs appear mostly at the beginning of the sentence. You can find an extensive list of power verbs on the internet. As you are re-phrasing your resume points, use power verbs wherever possible.
Now, let discuss the above concepts together and help you assimilate them through a simple example. Suppose you are a coder and have been performing a mundane job of bug fixing. Let’s see the two different articulations of the same CV point:

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Version 1: Was Responsible for maintaining the XYZ module written in ABC tech stack.
Version 2: Single-handedly fixed XX critical issues with XYZ application, resulting in an actual and potential saving of YY hours of downtime.

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Which of these do you think will make the cut? The point is simple. You may understand the technical details of your work, but the recruiter or hiring manager may not and, more importantly, they are not interested. They will think of just a simple question. “So, what? What did you achieve and how did you measure it?” If they do not get this answer, it is the end of the story.

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Recruiters spend an average of less than 15 seconds to scan through the resume. You need to make an impression within these 15 seconds; always remember this fact!
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Do not ignore extracurriculars

Career achievements are certainly the most important aspect of your resume. However, it does not mean you should filter out non-work achievements of your life. Extracurricular activities help establish a well-rounded personality with qualities like leadership, determination, team player, etc. The principles of resume writing remain the same for any section in your resume.
Most of us waste the space on our resume by not properly articulating the extracurriculars. Watching or playing cricket can be your hobby, but it’s not an achievement. Include a point on extracurriculars only if you can quantify and exhibit certain qualities through articulating how did you excel in the activity/what did you learn, etc.
For example, “Led a team of 10 volunteers to raise INR 20K charity fund for an NGO” is a much stronger point rather than stating “Was an active member of the NSS (National Service Scheme).”

Reviews and iterations

Once you have properly articulated the CV points, arrange them in chronological order. Be sure to highlight spikes (anything extraordinary such as National or State Level Swimmer) in your resume. Keep the resume as short as possible, preferably not more than a page or a maximum of two. This will help you to sort your CV points in the order of importance and leave out those that are not so important. You will have to go through multiple iterations before you can finalise a resume. No, it is still not done!
Once you are satisfied with the resume, share the resume with your peers, seniors and any experts in the role you are applying for or the relevant industry. Ask them to review and provide feedback, if they are willing. Advise the reviewers to review the CV in 30 seconds because a recruiter will do the same. This will ensure you get valuable feedback as your reviewers will not be blinded by the biases and help you build the perfect resume. Bear in mind, though, not all feedback should be incorporated. You will have to make a judgment call as, after all, it’s your resume.
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Avoid extremes and be honest

Make certain tweaks to the resume (but do not completely rewrite) based upon the domain and the Product Manager Role you are applying but avoid going to extreme lengths for the same. For example, one of my B-school batchmates had six completely different versions of his resume for the Product Manager Roles he was applying for. Such extreme steps are a waste of time and completely meaningless, showing a lack of focus. This might show up in your interview, even if you somehow screen through the resume selection stage.

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I don’t need to emphasise the importance of quantification any further, but you need to be honest. It may not be fully accurate, but an estimation (due to lack of mechanisms or tools for direct measurement) based on valid reasons is always recommended, however, remember that you can’t pull out numbers from thin air.I can assure you, that if you apply these principles of resume writing, you will definitely get a better response in your job hunting. Also, these will transform your thought process and mindset while writing a resume. These transformations will also help you convert interviews for Product Manager Role well.Lastly, I would like to wish you the best in your future endeavours and happy resume writing!

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Vivek Karna

Blog Author
Vivek Karna is currently Senior Product Manager at Fintech Startup, NeoGrowth and Heads Customer Experience and Technology Products verticals. He has done BE (ECE) and MBA (Finance & Marketing), IIM Lucknow. He had started his career in Technology with Oracle back in 2006. His expertise lies in Financial domain and has worked in top notch MNC banks such as Goldman Sachs and HSBC across multiple domains - Commercial and Investment Banking. He is also an avid runner & trekker and has trekked to Everest Base Camp.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1How to get a job as a product manager?

Most recruiters prefer experienced candidates with a background in technology as well as business management skills for product management roles. This is the reason why engineers with MBA degrees are usually the prime choices for such roles. However, if you have a certain domain experience (such as technology), then all you will need to do is acquire the remaining skills through supplementary or certification courses. The most important thing to get these roles is to have a resume that reflects the desired qualities for these profiles, including the qualifications and required experience.

2Is it possible for freshers to get product management roles?

It is possible for freshers to get product management roles, albeit at junior management levels, providing that they have the requisite skillset. For instance, product management roles usually require candidates to have an understanding of technology as well as business management skills including data analytics, financial accounting, marketing via digital channels, strategy and more. Thus, if you are an engineer with an MBA or a PGDM degree from a reputed institute, it is certainly possible to get a job as a product manager. You can also choose to pursue certification courses in product management instead, to bolster your resume and get the desired job profiles.

3What are the important keywords for a good product manager resume?

Keywords are literally, the “key” to get calls for any desired job profile, including product management roles. Thus, if you are looking to get calls for interviews pertaining to such roles, it is crucial to ensure that your resume has the requisite keywords such as “product management”, “project management”, “financial analysis”, “data analytics”, and so on. If you are an engineer or an MBA graduate (or both), or if you have acquired a certification in product management, it would be advised to have these qualifications reflected within the 1st two lines of your resume.