Nail Your Product Manager Resume

Learn what companies like Google, Facebook, Uber, etc. look for in a resume and get through to the phone screen. Marie Kondo the sh*t out of your resume.

Niya
Niya
Apr 7 · 8 min read

Resumes are the first (and often last) chance you have to make an impression. Recruiters and hiring managers take an average of 6 seconds with each resume they view so you better make it count.

At Candor, we’ve helped over a hundred PMs create and polish their resumes. There are some common pitfalls and tips every PM should know.

But, before we start- what are employers looking for in a PM? Someone who can:

  • Articulate what a winning product looks like.
  • Rally the team to build it.
  • Iterate on it until they get it right.

We recommend you read this great article by First Round on what makes a great PM before you start working on your resume.

Your resume should be fully focused around selling your being able to deliver flawlessly on these 3 points. To that end, you should focus on clarity, brevity, context and layout — in that order.

Clarity

Think elevator pitch, not life history. Your resume, as a whole, should clearly answer — “why you?” and not “what did you do in the last 10 years?“. Top companies like Google are looking for superior communicators and candidates often struggle striking a balance between clarity and proving they’re the right fit.

Let’s get started:

  1. Write a one sentence no-thrills description of what you did at your last three jobs.

Here’s an example of how to do that well:

2. Think of three to five examples in each past job that prove you were exceptional at either identifying a win, rallying the team or iterating/ optimizing to get the product right.

Examples that don’t fall into our key areas should not make it into the resume. Be careful- it’s easy to get crazy metrics- driven here. But trust me, NO ONE wants to read this 🤢🤮:

Example of bad explanation

3.Have a friend or colleague read what you have so far, before it becomes your resume.

Ask them to answer these two questions:

  • Can you describe what I do and what makes me good at it?
  • What do you feel is my greatest accomplishment, after reading this?

If the answer us no (and maybe, long pauses and awkward face all count as “no”), go back and rewrite it. If someone who knows you is not crystal clear, forget ever getting through to a recruiter or hiring manger.

Brevity

In a desire to be understood, PM candidates often want to communicate contextual details and what started as a quick description of past experience, turns to a sea of bullet points, each a paragraph long. What is worse, adjectives start creeping in and before you know it, your resume is a hybrid between a CV and a cover letter.

How to get a human to read your resume:

  1. You’ve got one page, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted…

Multi-page resumes are a no-go. Yes, even if you’re the most accomplished PM ever. Yes, even if your friend told you she applied with a 2 page resume and it was fine. DO NOT DO IT 💣

2. Your resume is not a cover letter

It is generally a (very) bad idea to include a “ professional summary” or “objectives” section at the top of your resume. There is one exception — folks with untraditional backgrounds ( engineer>PM, for example) get a free pass on one sentence to help orient the recruiter if your experience is not clear cut.

Below is an example of bad execution to review together.

Here are the reasons why this approach is not effective:

  • Density and length make it feel overwhelming to read
  • It’s a combination between sentences and buzzwords, which is incomprehensible
  • Formatting is not intentional

Lastly, here’s an example of a strong execution — clear>brief> objective

3. Don’t play keyword bingo.

It’s important to highlight skills that make you competitive in the marketplace or give you a unique advantage. Be careful, this is not an inventory of everything you know how to do. If you speak Bulgarian and you’re applying for a job at Facebook in Menlo — that’s not a resume -relevant skill.

Technical skills 🔩

  • Prioritize listing these
  • Only include them, if you’re proficient — don’t list python if you’re not prepared to talk about the libraries you use
  • Please don’t put “ Google Docs” or “ MS Office”, unless you want your recruiter to say ”thank you, next”

Applications 🧭

  • JIRA/ Tableau type tools are only helpful to point out, if you’re coming from a small startup, little known company or untraditional background.

Soft Skills 👯

  • It’s usually a red flag if you list things like “ stakeholder engagement”, “requirement analysis”, etc. separately. These should be woven into your job description. It’s often misunderstood that you have to list these for algorithms to catch them — please be mindful that resumes are eventually read by a human. Hiring managers see keyword bingo mostly as a red flag against the maturity level of the candidate.

Up for some bingo? How many of these are on your resume?

“Other” 🌀

Things your hiring manager sees as a red flag

🚩Various additional levels of certification ( Udemy, Coursera, etc.)

🚩List of conferences or hackathons you attended

🚩Competitions you participated in, but didn’t win

🚩Side projects ( unless you’re a student applying for APM type program)

🚩Volunteer activities taking up a significant portion of the resume

Context

Marie Kondo the sh*t out of your resume — every word needs to align with our 3 key areas of you being able to:

  • Articulate what a winning product looks like.
  • Rally the team to build it.
  • Iterate on it until they get it right.

Now that you’ve practiced articulating your experience, accomplishments and skills in a clear, brief format, it’s time to contextualize them to the job you want.

  1. Make a short list of PM jobs you want

Learn as much as you can about the culture of the company, the team and the product. It’s good practice to write a short description of why you want to work there. Then look at your experience and ask “ why would they want me to work there”. Practice re-writing your bullet points to fit that answer.

2. Pull the keywords from the job description

Identify 3–5 keywords from each job description you want to incorporate into your resume, without being obvious. We recommend having a few versions of your resume — usually one per company, depending on the products you want to work on.

Layout

We’re now ready to format your resume! I know, I know — it took a lot to get here, but keep in mind being a Product Manager for a top company is highly competitive and highly compensated. It will be worth your effort in career trajectory and $ to do this right.

The product you’re selling is you. This needs to be perfect.

High lever formatting

  1. Invest in a high quality font.

Google has some great options for free. If you want to splurge- Avenir is magical and so is Qanelas

Qanelas Font Examples

2. Resist the urge to use logos of any kind

Taken from a resume of a senior PM candidate

3. Avoid flashy visual elements, especially if they don’t read clearly.

Is this 2 machine learnings and 4 excels? What does it mean? Send help!

4. Avoid multiple columns of text. It’s extremely distracting for your recruiter, who is trying to scan your resume in less than a minute.

Devil’s in the details

Name and address block

  • Your name should be 2x — 4x larger than any other text on the resume and use a bolder font
  • List a phone number and email, exclude physical address ( even if you’re international)
  • Linkedin and GitHub are OK, avoid all other platforms

Experience

  • List no more than 3 past jobs that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
  • Follow this format for listing each job:

Product Manager, Facebook

NOT Facebook, Product Manager (France, European Union)

  • Include the years you were there, no months
  • 4 bullets max. For most candidates, we recommend having the first bullet be the 1 sentence description of your job we worked on earlier. For very senior candidates, we recommend a narrative format that avoids bullet points almost entirely.
  • Each point should be 2 lines, max

Education

Follow this format and only list most recent 2 degrees.

Harvard University, MS Computer Science ( 2009)

If you’re a recent grad, or have not graduated — your education background should be on the top of your resume. For everyone else- it should be listed on the bottom.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you have questions or need help writing or reviewing your Product Manager resume — email us at hello@teamcandor.com

Already interviewing? Book a FREE session with PMs from top tech companies like Google, Facebook, AirBnB, Uber, etc with this link https://teamcandor.com/interviewing

For more information about Candor, find us at www.teamcandor.com

TeamCandor

Master the hardest career conversations in tech.

Niya

Written by

Niya

Co-Founder, Candor

TeamCandor

Master the hardest career conversations in tech.

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