The purpose of this blog post is to advise those looking to enter Product Management how they can best position themselves to increase their chances of landing an interview. 

Ever Googled “Product Management”? If you have, you’ll agree that it doesn’t take long to discover the following diagram, initially described by Martin Eriksson in his article What, exactly, is a Product Manager?’ 

This is a highly simplified explanation of the role of the Product Manager – but it is a very useful starting point for anyone looking to enter the field. So, what does it tell you? 

Business

In a previous blog post, I described the broad range of responsibilities that a PM has. The PM ties it all together and needs to always wear a business hat. You must understand the goals of your organisation and how the specific projects on your roadmap will help the organisation meet those goals. Particular responsibilities of the PM include: understanding problems, sizing opportunities, building the business case and measuring impact. 

When applying for Product jobs, your CV should shout the following things: 

  • You are proactive
    You are happy to take ownership of different projects and guide initiatives from conception through to launch (e.g. working on a side-project) 
  • You are able to work with others
    Product Managers have to interact with numerous different stakeholders on a daily basis – you can’t go it alone  
  • You speak in terms of impact
    If you can, always try to quantify your contributions. For example, Increased membership by 50% over 9 months”.

Tech

First thing’s first – you won’t be coding. *Breathes sigh of relief* 

And you won’t need a computer science backgroundmost of the time. Some teams may require a PM with a technical background if they are working on highly technical products e.g. building APIs 

However, having a basic knowledge of programming will help you stand out from the crowd. The reality is that PMs work very closely with engineers and you need to be able to keep up with what they’re saying.  

When looking at the above diagram, I identified ‘Tech’ as a weakness of mine. I had completed rather limited development apart from building a few WordPress websites. So I signed up to a Codecademy Intensive course called Building Front-End Web Apps from Scratch where I learned Javascript and React and completed projects integrating with the Spotify and Yelp APIs. You can see my fancy certificate here. 

Does this mean I can code? Absolutely not. However, completing this course showed a willingness to learn and definitely helped me get through initial screenings. 

User Experience

Working with designers is a very enjoyable part of the role for me. Specifically, this involves conducting user research, mapping out the user journey, brainstorming solutions, prototyping and getting user feedback. 

It’s important to understand what makes a ‘good’ user experience – but this is really something that will come up at the interview stage. 

Working with designers is highly collaborative, so again it is vital to show experience of working effectively with others. Also, if you have any design skills – e.g. you know your way around Sketch – definitely highlight this on your CV. Personally, I’m very interested in design and learned about basic Graphic Design, UX and UI using Affinity Designer. 

What other skills do I need to have? 

Analytical. It will be quite rare that you come across a PM job description that doesn’t mention the need to be a SQL expert and be intimately familiar with tools such as Tableau and Google Analytics. There are tonnes of courses out there that will teach you basic SQL. Having strong analytical skills will definitely be looked upon favourably by employers. 

Anything else to help me prepare? 

It’s really important to understand exactly what you’re getting into. There are numerous courses out there where you can learn about Product Management. As a general introduction to the field, I would recommend the following course on Udemy – Become a Product Manager | Learn the Skills & Get the Job. I completed this course myself when I began looking into Product Management and found it to be very helpful. 

And that’s all there is to it…

Besides a whole lot of luck. When applying for internships, I only got one interview. Luckily for me, that was enough. I always think that the very first step of the application process is the toughest for candidates, as you have no control over how recruiters interpret your experience and fit. Hopefully this blog will help some readers position themselves better to land that first interview. My next blog in this series will outline what to expect in the PM interview process. 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to have my next blog post sent straight to your mailbox, please subscribe to my mailing list below. As always, feel free to reach out to me at simon@simoncurran.com.