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🚩 Red Flags To Look Out For in Product Management Job Postings

If you’ve renewed your dedication to getting a Product Management job this year (whether it’s your first ever or a move to greener pastures) job postings are a minefield! The perfect job posting paints a picture of who the company is, what it’s like to work there, what they expect from the position, and should give a sense of the benefits.

Sometimes, companies can inadvertently tell you some pretty important things about themselves…through red flags.

(PS. These red flags are things that applicants will be on the lookout for! If you’re a hiring manager trying to attract the right people, check out: Hiring A Product Manager: Job Posting Templates)

🚩 It’s a Project Management job, not Product Management

This red flag stems from the same problem; a fundamental misunderstanding of what Product Management is. In the grand scheme of things, Product Management and Project Management are fairly similar (and it’s a shame that they’re both known as PMs). But there are some very important differences between the two roles.

If you see a job posting for a so-called Product Management role, but the responsibilities are all focused on making sure things are done on time and within budget — and there’s no mention of usual Product responsibilities — it’s not the job for you.

Real Product Management job postings will be asking for cross-functional collaboration skills, user research, roadmapping, owning the backlog, working closely with engineers, and an understanding of tech. If those things are missing, the company is looking for a Project Manager, and they just don’t know it.

🚩 The responsibilities are vague

This stems from the same problem, that some companies still don’t truly understand what Product Management is or what a Product Manager can bring to the table. If the responsibilities listed in the job description are very vague, getting hired for that role will probably result in either of the following:

  1. You’ll have no work to do
  2. You’ll have too much work to do…and none of it impactful

If you get hired for a vague job role, the company won’t have a clear picture of what they expect you to do. You might find yourself sitting around, twiddling your thumbs and wondering what you’re supposed to be getting on with.

Or, you’ll become the catch-all for the tasks that no one else wants to do. Product Management sits at the intersection of business, design, and technology. But that doesn’t mean that a Product Manager is the odd-jobs person who picks up the slack in all of these areas! Sure, you can roll up your sleeves and help out when needed, if you have the expertise. But a Product Manager has their own job to do. And a company should know exactly what that is before they hire one.

🚩 Suspiciously high ‘earning potential’

Applicants are usually appreciative of companies being upfront about the salary range for their open positions, but pay close attention to what’s being advertised.

It’s normal for salaries to be decided based on the level of experience and expertise of a new hire. But if a company is advertising between $60,000 and $160,000 for a Junior Product Manager role, think very carefully before applying. It’s highly unlikely that anyone actually earns the higher end of the salary range, and a company that uses dishonesty to attract talent from Day 1 is probably going to be a pain to work for!

And if they are telling the truth, it’s likely that there’s no standardized process for deciding salaries. You might find yourself earning significantly less than your coworkers who do exactly the same job as you, all because your powers of negotiation weren’t as strong in the interview stage.

Check out: How to Negotiate Your Next Product Manager Salary

🚩 You have to work for your interview

It’s normal in the tech industry, when you reach a certain level or are vying for a role at an extremely popular company, some kind of take-home task can be expected as part of the process. But there is a limit to how much you should expect to do for free.

Most legitimate take-home tasks shouldn’t take more than a few hours, with the option of spending as much time on it as you feel like. If a take-home task is going to take you a minimum of a whole weekend, you’re being taken advantage of.

It’s not unheard of for companies to ask applicants to complete a task related to their product, and then implement their ideas without ever hiring them!

When you get through to the later stages of the interview process, it’s typical to see take-home tasks, especially at larger firms. But be wary of companies that ask you for homework before you’ve even had a face-to-face conversation with anyone.

🚩Too much experience for an entry-level role

It’s very much a chicken-and-egg problem. How do you get Product Management experience, if you can’t get a job without Product Management experience? Be wary of the companies that exacerbate the problem by asking for 4 years of Product Management experience for an APM position.

The Product Leaders we’ve spoken to on our podcast, and through our events all say that skills and capabilities are more important than official PM experience. So we know that there are plenty of roles out there that are accepting people from all kinds of disciplines that have those core skills.

Be wary of a job that asks for 10+ years of experience in Product Management for a seemingly ‘entry-level’ role. In these roles, you’ll have Head of Product responsibilities on a Junior Product Manager’s salary.

🚩 It’s one-sided with a lot of requirements

Jobs are a two-way street. Employees provide their time, dedication, experience, and knowledge. And in return, companies provide a salary, and other benefits that may include healthcare, education, pension plans, equipment, PTO, etc.

Good companies that care about their people understand the importance of this two-way street. These are the kinds of companies that you can build the foundations of a great career with.

So beware of the companies that aren’t excited to tell you about all the great things they’ll offer in exchange for your hard work. If a job description has a long list of expectations and requirements for the role, but they don’t highlight what you’ll get apart from a salary, that’s a red flag!

Working for companies that expect the world from you and don’t feel obliged to give you much in return is a miserable experience. You’ll have to fight tooth and nail for benefits that most of the industry has as a standard.

Companies that care about their people will be excited to tell you about their flexible working hours, dog-friendly offices, free gym passes, unlimited PTO, and any other wonderful things they do to keep you happy and healthy.

(Speaking of, did you know that Product School was listed as one of the best remote-first places to work by BuiltIn? So trust us, we know a thing or two about keeping our people happy!)

🚩 “Work hard, play hard.” “Bring your whole self to work.”

It’s great to see so many companies starting to bring their culture and their personality to their job roles — it helps to give a sense of what the team culture is like.

But a few industry favorite cliches like ‘we work hard and play hard’, and ‘we bring our whole selves to work’ are starting to reveal some pretty toxic workplace culture traits.

Let’s look at a few translations:

“We’re a family.” = “We’ll make you feel guilty for taking time off/wanting to leave/not working overtime.”

“Work hard, play hard.” = “Work hard, then feel excluded for not being a party bro.”

“Bring your whole self to work.” = “We’re going to make you feel like your job is such an integral part of your personality, that you’ll never want to leave us.”

If you think we’re exaggerating for comedic effect…OK, we are a little bit. But it’s true that many workplace cultures are less than ideal. Culture has to be built consciously, and it’s not something that just happens. Companies who use these phrases in their job postings might unintentionally be revealing that their culture is something that happens by mistake, and whether or not you fit into it entirely depends on how alike you are to the current team.

It’s great to be friends with the people that you work with, especially in Product where influencing without authority can be greatly helped by strong working relationships. But some companies rely on the friendships fostered between coworkers heavily, and don’t put a lot of effort into cultivating safe and inclusive spaces for everyone. It can end up leaving teams operating like high school cliques.

How to Find a Product Management Job That’s Right For You

When you’re trawling job boards and LinkedIn, it can start to feel like there are thousands of Product Management jobs out there, but nothing that’s quite right for you. Especially when so many of them are full of red flags!

So what can you do to find your perfect match?

  • Rethink what your ‘perfect’ job looks like. If you’re not having much luck finding anything, your search criteria might be a little strict. Have a think about what really matters to you, and try to broaden your horizons.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re searching for jobs on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to contact the person posting the job you’re looking at. They should be happy to take your questions, or point you to someone else who can. If not…that’s another sign not to waste your time on them.
  • Go beyond the job boards. Job boards are great, but there’s nothing like community for opening doors. Get networking, and attend events like The Product Career Fair.
  • Try looking for remote jobs. Perhaps you’re already doing this, but if you’re still limiting your search to companies that have offices near you, think about the possibilities remote work presents.

Further your job hunt by getting your free copy of Hired, the last book you’ll ever need to read about getting a job in Product Management.

Welcome to the Product School community!

Want to get more involved? Take your Product career to the next level, with a Product Management certificate.

Or help us take Product Management into the future, as we build the Product Manifesto together.

This article was also published on The Product Management Blog, where we share tips, tricks, and industry deep-dives for PMs of all levels.

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Global leader in Product Management training. 1+ million product community. Our instructors are top PMs working at Google, Amazon, Netflix, and more top tech companies.

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Carlos G de Villaumbrosia

Carlos G de Villaumbrosia

CEO at Product School — Global leader in product management training

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