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How to get a job as a Product Manager
We have worked with hundreds of product managers on optimizing their job search to find the best possible job. With each success, we’ve realized that the job search is a winnable game and we wanted to share our data-backed steps with you.
If you are interested in the added benefit of mentoring and coaching from industry experts, join Pathrise.
Step 1: Learn the right skills
If you are looking to break into product management, you need to make sure you have the right skills so that your resume checks the boxes and impresses the recruiter. There are a lot of tools that you can use online.
General Assembly has a 10-week part-time or 1-week accelerated product management course. Students can attend online or on-campus.
Product School is an 8 week course to teach students the fundamentals of product management. Students can learn online or on-campus.
Udacity is most well known for their nanodegree programs, which they offer in product management.
edX is a nonprofit massive open online course (MOOC) with almost 3000 courses. They have partnerships with major universities around the world.
Coursera offers courses, specializations, and degrees from reputable universities. They range in price depending on the commitment.
Udemy is an online platform with courses in a variety of subjects. They have thousands of product management resources, ranging in topics and levels.
For more options, we’ve compiled a list with an overview of each of these platforms, or you can click through for more in-depth information.
Step 2: Look good on paper
Once you have the skills down, you need to create a resume that is strong enough to impress the recruiters, who are often only looking for 6 seconds to start. When you are writing the content of your resume, it is important to keep in mind:
The impact of the work you did should be highlighted.
Quantifying your results is one of the best ways to showcase this.
Providing context to your statements increases recruiter interest .
To put this into perspective, here are some examples of revisions of resume experience bullet points or project descriptions in order to improve their strength:
Conducted market research, analyzed 60+ seed-stage startups, and built valuation models to optimize opportunity identification process by 20%
Researched and analyzed market trends for startups.
Worked with team to decrease company waste.
Led team of 5 interns to develop a Flask application that scraped internal Slack channels to map out leftover foods, decreasing company waste by 20% and employee hunger by 50%.
We’ve written a product manager resume guide that you can review to ensure you are hitting the right points as well as a guide to optimizing your LinkedIn for success in your job search.
Step 3: Find the right opportunities
You can save time by narrowing down your search and only applying for positions that are right for you. We recommend that you ask yourself a few questions so you can get a sense of what you like before you dive into the job boards.
Am I happier in a big, well-established company or a small startup?
Do I like having a wide range of responsibilities or do I prefer to work on 1-2 main tasks?
Am I better working with others or alone?
We ranked and rated even more product manager job boards that you can use based on your preferences.
Step 4: Follow up applications with cold emails
Just sending applications into online portals is not going to get results. But, adding a compelling cold email to each application can triple your response rate. So, how do you make that happen?
Find a recruiter, hiring manager, or senior team member from the company on LinkedIn
Use a free service like Clearbit or LeadFinder to get their email address
Write a compelling, concise, and personalized cold email
Sample Cold Email
I hope you’re doing well! My name is [your name] and I’m reaching out because I recently applied for the [position] position I saw on [platform] and noticed you are a [role] at [company].
While I am not sure if you are the right person to contact, I wanted to reach out to you specifically because I was interested in the work you are doing, specifically [something from their LinkedIn or something the company is working on]. I am an experienced product manager looking to use my skills at a mission-driven company and I believe I would hit the ground running and be a great fit for your team.
I would appreciate the opportunity to learn more about you and the company. Would you be free for a 15-minute call, either at [timeframe 1] or [timeframe 2]? In advance, I have attached my resume for your review. I really appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.
All the best,
Check out our guide to cold emailing, which includes even more tips on how to find recruiters' and hiring managers' emails.
Step 5: Practice for technical interviews
Practicing the right way for technical interviews can double your interview performance score. But how do you know what to practice and how do you know you are doing it correctly?
Always start with clarifying questions
Know how to get help
Sometimes, interviewers make a question intentionally vague. Especially for case study questions, it’s important to clearly define the business use case and metric. For example, if a company asked you to investigate “why sign up rates have declined,” you can ask questions such as:
1. Over what time period did the decline happen and during which months?
2. How are we defining sign up rate? What is the numerator and denominator?
AKA – getting a hint. Some interviewers really hate the word, “hint,” so a better approach is to say something like, “my assumptions are X and Y, I’m thinking of doing Z. But I’m struggling with solving [specific problem].” You can also ask collaborative questions like,
1. I was wondering if you had any thoughts.
2. Do you think I’m going down the right direction?
3. Do you think my assumptions are incorrect?
Most of the questions will be in one of the following categories, so make sure you have a good sense of these topics:
- Personal taste/experience
- Technical knowledge
- Market sizing/estimation
We compiled a list of 130 product management questions from real tech companies that you can practice on.
Step 6: Research each company
Behavioral interviews not only require a good understanding of yourself but also the company. Beyond the classic strategy of taking a look at Glassdoor, there are a few key pages that you're going to want to read on the company website.
The About Page
This is where you can learn about the company mission, history, the solutions that they are using to accomplish their mission, and their goals for the future. When you are preparing your elevator pitch, include how you fit into their mission as your conclusion.
The Jobs/Career Page
This is a great place to find information about what kinds of candidates they want and the qualities that go into successful candidates at this company. Now that you know what they want, you can add that to your answers and show them that you are a strong candidate.
The Culture Page
Sometimes these pages are called Culture or Life at Company Name, like Life at Stripe, but you can usually find them easily. This is a great place to learn the company values, which you can insert into your responses so they know you fit in with the culture. Some companies, like Amazon and Netflix, will even ask you about the values, so it is extremely important that you are informed.
We compiled data on 200+ tech companies that you can review as you prepare for your interviews, including not only the information above, but also interview questions and insider knowledge on interview processes:
Step 7: Prepare for behavioral interviews
After you have researched the company, you can add that information into your behavioral interview responses to make them personalized and ensure the culture fit.
To start, prepare your elevator pitch. Start with this structure and modify as you see fit:
1: Education or Expertise
This gets the ball rolling and lets the recruiter know what type of positions are a good fit.
Introduce yourself, your major, and your graduation year. For more experienced folks, start with a general description of your area of expertise.
Talk about the past work that you have done in previous positions, internships or even volunteer or extracurricular organizations and activities.
This is the critical part of your pitch. It shows the breadth of work that you've been able to accomplish.
If you don’t have much experience, or if you have especially impressive personal work, projects can impress the recruiter.
Optionally, supplement your elevator pitch be mentioning 1 or 2 personal or professional projects. Any side hustles will show initiative and capability.
End with a preview of your response to “why this company” by adding how you fit with their mission.
This lets you end in a strong way and connects you to the company. It makes them understand that you're interested in this job for more than just the paycheck.
You should also prepare for your behavioral interviews the same way you would your technical interviews. Practice the types of questions you will see by writing down responses and saying them out loud to yourself in a mirror or to a friend. You want to sound polished, but not rehearsed or memorized. Here are some examples of popular questions from tech companies:
Talk about a time where you had to make a decision in a lot of ambiguity.
Describe a situation where you had to lead a group that had difficulties. How did you handle it?
What would you do if you don’t know the solution for a certain problem and nobody can help at the moment?
For more questions from real tech companies, check out our list of 45+ behavioral interview questions.
Step 8: Know your worth and negotiate
With negotiation, the most reliable way to get results is if you stay quiet throughout the whole process. Never mention a number or even a range because if you do, you might end up pigeon-holed. If you are faced with these gotcha questions, try deflecting with these responses:
Q: What are your salary expectations?
“You know, I haven’t fully considered that yet, I’m just really excited about this company right now and am really focused on these and other interviews.”
Q: Do you have a minimum salary requirement?
“At the very lowest, my livable minimum to just be financially sustainable is $80,000 and outside of that I'm willing to be flexible. However that is just a logistical minimum, I would hope the salary would be justified based on my performance and value.”
The average compensation for a product manager is
When you do finally receive an offer, make sure you take a deep breath and get off the phone. We suggest negotiating over email because it lets you take your time so you don’t get flustered. You can see examples of collaborative statements and an annotated negotiation email template in our guide to negotiation.
Looking for more? Pathrise can help
With the above steps and resources, alongside 1-on-1 support from their mentor and coach, job-seekers in Pathrise see great results. There's a ton more information and tactics that you can utilize to succeed as a job-seeker today, and our fellows benefit a lot from them.