Product Manager Job Hunt: Do You Have The Cover Letter Covered?

by drjim on June 14, 2010

It Turns Out That A Cover Letter DOES Count When You Are Applying For A Job

It Turns Out That A Cover Letter DOES Count When You Are Applying For A Job

When it comes time for you to go looking for your next Product Management job you’ll be facing a major decision. I’m not talking about if you should use online resume services or go with a headhunter. I’m not even talking about if creating a more technical or a more business-focused resume is going to land you that next job. I’m talking about something even bigger – the question of whether or not you should create a cover letter when you send someone your resume.

The Purpose Of A Cover Letter For A Product Manager

The product managers that I’ve been talking with seem to be split down the middle on this issue. Many of them have decided that since their resumes are just going to get scanned in and then checked for keywords, why bother with the cover letter? Others realize that by including a cover letter they have a better chance of setting themselves apart from everyone else who may be applying for the job and that’s got to be a good thing.

All cover letters are not created equal. Product managers who are applying for multiple jobs need to realize that a cover letter can help them stand out from the crowd. Each letter needs to be both brief (keep it short!) and custom tailored to both the job that is being applied to as well as the employer who will be doing the hiring.

Rarely do any of us grow up hoping to become a product manager. We often just happen into this profession. This is something that may need to be explained in your cover letter.

How A Product Manager Can Customize A Cover Letter

In order to make your cover letter read like it was written for the person who is reading it (and not like you copied it out of some book), you’re going to have to customize it. It turns out that this really is not all that hard to do.

An easy way to customize a cover letter is to make a reference to the employer’s products or services. Another way is to make a reference to some information that they have on their web site such as their latest press release. If neither of these seem appropriate, then you can do some research and make a reference to something that is going on in their industry.

Your ultimate goal here is to take the time to customize your cover letter to support the position that you are applying for. This means that in the limited space provided you should take the time to show how the work that you’ve done in the past has prepared you for this position better than anyone else out there.

The real power of a cover letter is that it allows you to put all of your work experience into context for the person who is reading it – you get to explain why you are the best candidate for the job.

What A Product Manager Should NOT Put Into A Cover Letter

Right off the bat I hope that we can agree that any obvious errors such as misspellings or grammatical mistakes in your cover letter will count against you. These simple-to-avoid errors show sloppiness and lack of attention to detail on your part. This is why you always want to get someone else to read over your cover letter before you send it off.

Form cover letters are also a big no-no. What product managers seem to forget is that the people who will be reading our cover letters do this for a living. That means that they’ve probably seen just about every form cover letter out there. Take the time to write a custom cover letter!

Once you’ve got one cover letter written, you might be tempted to reuse it. Don’t! Since much of the job application process has been digitized these days, using the same cover letter to apply for more than one position will be found out quickly and you’ll be out of the running.

One final thought, although much has been written about the power of a hand-written letter that is delivered by the postal service, it turns out that recruiters just like the rest of us live and die by email. If your cover letter can’t be forwarded to the hiring manager by the recruiter, then it loses much of its power.

What All Of This Means For You.

Applying for a new product management job can be a nerve racking experience. In order to boost your odds of success, take the time to create a cover letter to send along with your resume.

Make sure that you create a custom cover letter that matches the position that you are applying for. Spelling errors or trying to use a form cover letter will end up counting against you.

Getting your next job is often a numbers game: you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. If a well-done cover letter can help your chances of getting the job, then I say go for it…!

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

Question: Just how long do you think a cover letter should be: half of a page or a full page?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It is the time of year that a product manager’s thoughts turn to … searching for a new job? During the global recession, things were so bad for so long that most product managers were just trying to hold on to the jobs that they already had. Now that things appear to be slowly getting better, the calls from the recruiters are starting to ring once again. Will you be ready when you get a call?

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