Let’s Go Job Shopping: What A Product Manager Needs To Have On Their Resume

by drjim on April 19, 2010

It Turns Out That Your Resume Is Still Your Best Form Of Self Advertising

It Turns Out That Your Resume Is Still Your Best Form Of Self Advertising

As the global recession starts to fade away, product managers who are searching for a new job are starting to feel some new hope and product managers who still have jobs are starting to get the itch to take a look around at what other opportunities there might be out there. Sounds like it’s time to get some resumes in order…

Overall Format

A quick search of the Internet will reveal suggestions for a large number of different formats for resumes: classic, modern, etc. What is the right format for you? Sure, if you are applying to a progressive firm, a novel formatted resume might be eye catching, but since you can never tell what they are really looking for I’m going to suggest that you stick with the classic format.

This means that you should start out with your contact information and follow it up with a summary statement. After this you should list out your career in reverse chronological order (what you’ve done most recently is always the most interesting). Each job needs to be described by a list of bullet points. Wrap things up by listing your educational accomplishments.

Things That Need To Be In Your Resume

Ok, so clearly your resume needs to be both well-organized and easy to read. The person who will be reading it will probably be moving quickly and if your resume is hard to read, they won’t read it. Depending on how long you’ve been working, a three-page resume is just fine – you’ve probably done a lot and so there’s a lot for you to document.

We live in a world where more often than not resumes now get scanned by computers before a human ever lays eyes on them. What this means is you’ve got to write your resume in such a way that a computer can process it correctly. This means that you’ve got to load it with keywords that recruiters would be using when searching for candidates. You can figure out what these keywords are by taking a look at job descriptions for the types of jobs that you are looking for – work the words used to describe the job into your resume.

In the world of product management we use a lot of acronyms to describe technologies and certifications. Feel free to include the acronyms in your resume, but make sure that you also spell them out at least once.

Three Things To Avoid

It’s all too easy to get caught up in worrying about what font to use and how to cram everything that you’ve done into as small of a space as possible. However, spending too much time on things that don’t matter can easily let a product manager skip over three things that are important. Here they are:

  • Include Enough Detail: As we cut and trim the descriptions of what we’ve done in the past, we can accidentally cut out too much information. You should view your resume as telling a story about how you’ve advanced in your career. The goal is to show a prospective employer that you have the ability to grow in any role. Make sure that your resume has enough details about what you’ve done in each position.
  • Don’t Be Ambiguous: The older a product manager gets, the more likely it is that we’ll start to fudge some of the information contained in our resume. Leaving off dates such as when we graduated from college is a common technique in order to obscure our age. Don’t do it, if the company decided to hire you they’ll verify your degree(s) and so you should include graduation dates to begin with.
  • Grammar Counts: Those squiggly red lines and green lines that show up as you are typing up your resume in Microsoft Word really do mean something. No matter how impressive your past accomplishments are, if your resume is littered with misspelled words or poorly constructed sentences then that will take away from how you are perceived.

What All Of This Means For You

In this age of Internet everything, product managers might think that all that it will take to get their next job is to have an account on every social networking site out there. It turns out that the old standby, your resume, is still an important communication tool.

Not only does it matter what work experiences you’ve had, but how you structure your resume and what information you put in it are what will make it work for you. Make sure that you include the essential details about your past jobs, eliminate any ambiguous information, and make sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

Every job that you apply for ends up being a competition between you and other candidates. In order to give yourself the best possible advantage, you need to make sure that your resume does a good job of clearly telling your story. Follow these suggestions and you’ll be well on your way…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Help

Question For You: Which do you think is more important: what you’ve done recently or how many job experiences you’ve had?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As product managers who live in troubling times we are always trying to do two things: hold on to our jobs and make our product more successful. One of the best ways to do both of these, or so we have been told, is to go out and get an MBA. Maybe it’s time to look for a better way to accomplish what we’re trying to do…

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Berman April 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I think that it is a combination of your job experiences (breadth) plus your recent accomplishments (depth) in looking what is most important on your resume.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson April 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Rob: Good point. Keep in mind that depth is probably of more interest to your next employer than your job experiences. That means that when you have to make that painful trade-off between the two, job experience should win…

Reply

Casey July 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Regarding loading up your resume with keywords so a computer can read it…

Do you really want to work for a company where real people don’t read your resumes? Any company that’s so huge that they can’t take a minute to have a recruiter or hiring manager at least scan the incoming resumes, isn’t serious about attracting and hiring top talent.

My alternative advice (take it, or leave it) is to make your resume more personal and reflective of who *you* are as a *person*. Allow yourself, and the way you would speak to a real person, to shine through on your resume, and the right company will want to talk to you.

Just my 2 cents.
Casey

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Dr. Jim Anderson July 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Casey: you make a good point; however, I’ve got to say wait a minute. Especially in a down global economy you get a lot of “junk” resumes sent in for every job opening. Who’s got the time to sort through all of that? Using a scan as a first step is probably just good business. Where I thing we agree is on what the next step needs to be: the human touch!

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Jonathan April 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm

As I’ve held several PM positions, I find that listing the skillsets for each one painfully redundant, so I moved that to my cover letter, leaving my resume free to focus solely on accomplishments. Even without the cover letter, the accomplishments show that the candidate does know how to get the job done.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson May 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

Jonathan: good point! Ultimately the person who will be reading your resume is really trying to answer one question “could you do good things for them”. Do you think that dollar values should be included in your list of accomplishments or is that too over the top?

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