After completing a product manager bootcamp or certificate program, many students hope to launch a career by landing an associate product manager job. But, many people are applying for the same positions, including people who may even have previous product management internships at top tech companies. As a bootcamp grad, what steps can you take to make sure that recruiters and hiring managers notice your application?
From our experience helping product managers land their dream job in tech, we have compiled our most important tips and suggestions.
1. Build up your resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio
Before you start applying for jobs, you need to have a standout resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio. On their resumes, many people accidentally downplay their impact on an organization by writing grunt statements that just describe what they did like, “Worked with teams on map app launch.” Instead, you should focus on impact statements, which highlight what you accomplished, how you achieved it, and why your work made a difference for an organization. An example of a strong impact statement is, “Led design and development team from implementation through launch of an office map app that increased on-time meetings by 75%.”
These statements should also include numbers that quantify your results, when possible. Think about how many hours you saved the company or what percentage of an old process you replaced, for example. Even if you don’t have results, you can still quantify the scale of your project or the size of the team you helped manage. Think about the amount of scenarios you handled, the number of people you supervised, or how many different teams you worked with so you can provide context to your work.
In addition, be sure to include past work experiences that relate to product management on your resume. Product managers work with cross-functional teams, so if you have experience in sales, design, coding, data, or business, you should emphasize those skills as well. This helps convey that you have a strong understanding of the people you will be managing and the work that they do.
With more space than your resume, you can optimize your LinkedIn by going in depth on your previous projects and work experiences. Include links to your online portfolio, website, and other projects, but make sure to add a description for each one. In addition to framing your accomplishments in a larger narrative, building out your LinkedIn allows recruiters to find all of your hard work in one place.
Next, you need to build a strong product management portfolio that includes 3-6 case studies highlighting your past experiences, projects, and skills. Your portfolio should include examples of team management, communication, project planning, and risk management. Each case study should address the main problem, what actions you took to solve it, and the final results. Consider recording your results in a spreadsheet so that they are easily scannable.
Each organization and role requires slightly different experiences, so double check that your portfolio reflects the company’s needs, the job description, and what unique skills you can bring to the table.
As a bootcamp grad, you will likely have projects from your program that you want to include in your portfolio. You should definitely do that, however, many of your peers will be applying to the same jobs with the same projects, so make sure that your portfolio includes new and unique side projects as well.
Focus on developing your own ideas and testing prototypes to demonstrate that you are capable of envisioning and creating a product that meets users’ needs. Find new startups or nonprofits that you can help out, so you can add those projects to your portfolio. If you can’t find someone to work with, consider planning a smartphone app, building a wireframe, or creating a PowerPoint with a case study or project proposal. No matter what you decide, your projects should highlight skills such as A/B testing, Agile or Scrum management, strategy and operations, need finding, idea validation, and other essential product manager skills.
2. Know what positions match your background and skills
Associate product managers come from many different backgrounds, including engineering, marketing, UX design, sales, and more. Apply for the positions that match your skills to become a product manager. While associate product managers need to have some understanding of the different stakeholders in tech, certain positions require expertise in one field, like software engineering or UX/UI design. In addition, some roles entail creative & design thinking, whereas others demand rigorous technical skills, so make sure that you are narrowing down your search and applying to the right type of role.
3. Network by sending cold emails
With so many people from such different backgrounds applying to associate product manager jobs, bootcamp grads should send compelling cold emails to recruiters, hiring managers, and fellow bootcamp alumni to improve their chances of being noticed in the initial batch of applications.
Use LinkedIn to find the people who will be looking at your resume, Linkedin, and portfolio. Focus on those who have something in common with you, if possible, such as a shared interest or hobby. Or, often a stronger connection would be someone who graduated from the same bootcamp that you attended. They will have a better sense of your background and will be more likely to offer assistance. To find their email addresses, you can use tools like Clearbit and Leadfinder. You can also directly add them as a connection on LinkedIn, just be sure to always include a personal note that highlights your commonality and your desire to learn more about their current position and career trajectory.
To help facilitate this process, many bootcamps have alumni groups on Slack, LinkedIn, and Facebook, as well as other useful job-seeking and networking resources, which are available through their career centers. It is quite common for career coaches to maintain an updated list of where their alumni work, so be sure to reach out to them, especially if you are looking for a connection at a specific company.
4. Research the company to prepare for behavioral interview questions
As you start to prepare for your phone screens and behavioral interviews, do not underestimate the importance of understanding a company’s culture, including their values, missions, and products. You probably have used Amazon to buy something online, but you should still spend the time to research the company before doing a phone screen or interview.
Take a look at their About page, where you can find useful information about the company’s history, initiatives, and goals. Amazon is especially helpful because they provide their leadership principles directly on the page. Study these because you will likely be asked about them in your interviews. If you have an interest in helping small businesses, for instance, you should connect this mission to your past experiences and future goals in your elevator pitch and behavioral interview responses. This will demonstrate how you fit with the company’s culture and what unique perspective you would contribute to the team.
Our list of 47 behavioral interview questions from real tech companies can help you brainstorm and think through how you would tailor your answers to match your background with the company’s culture.
5. Practice for product manager technical interviews
Because your main product management knowledge may be through your bootcamp or certificate program, you might have less professional experience than other applicants. Performing well on your technical interviews can help you overcome any gaps in your experience.
Many interviewers will ask questions that are purposely vague, so be prepared to take about 30 seconds to brainstorm some clarifying questions, like “Would it be ok if I wireframe this out first?” As you move through a question, explain the steps you are taking. This allows you to add background knowledge along the way. In addition, include context statements, which tell the interviewer your reasoning behind making a decision and signal that you understand what you are doing.
If you hit a roadblock in your thinking, you can ask for help, but be careful about the way you do it. Some interviewers shy away from hints, so instead, pose collaborative questions, like “Do you think any of my assumptions are incorrect?” or “Do you have any thoughts about this decision, given my assumptions?”
Your technical interview questions will generally cover the following topics:
- Personal taste
- Prior experience
- Market sizing/estimation
You will need a strong understanding of these fundamentals, so be sure to meticulously study each one. To help you prepare, check out our list of 130 product manager technical interview questions from real tech companies.
6. Prepare questions for your interviewers
As someone who is new to the field, you can convey an understanding of core product management principles by preparing questions to ask in a product manager job interview. Posing thoughtful questions can emphasize your enthusiasm for the company’s products and culture as well as your dedication to learning more about product management strategies and skills.
By following these tips, you should be well on your way to landing a job as an associate product manager. If you are seeking additional help from mentors who will work 1-on-1 with you on every step of your job search, join Pathrise.