As the business world begins to find balance in a new normal, the most exceptional changes are occurring within systems people used to take for granted. Finding your first product management job is similar, in many ways, to the pre-pandemic process, but there are also some distinct differences.
Freshly minted professional product managers may, for instance, be required to conduct interviews virtually. Employer and employee priorities have changed. Companies are cutting down on office space, and job seekers are increasingly interested in remote work opportunities.
To launch your product management career in today’s market, manage your job search, and your personal brand, as you would any product — with agility, creativity, and rigorous market research.
Search and research
With online job listings, it’s not difficult to find product management jobs for which to apply, which also means stiff competition for open positions. It may be necessary to complete up to 10 times as many applications today than prior to the pandemic, and the latest recommendation is: If you meet at least 60% of the qualifications listed in the job description, apply. More applicants can also mean longer, more extensive hiring processes. Be prepared for long waits and thorough interviews.
Research is a fundamental part of professional product management, and it’s a useful skill for job hunting as well. Take an in-depth look at every company you schedule an interview with, so you’re on firm ground discussing company products, product lines, and product management needs.
To stand out in an increasingly crowded candidate pool, and tilt the odds in your favor, tailor your résumé, cover letter, and other contact materials to each specific company, position, and hiring manager. Leverage any network contacts for recommendations, references, and inside information that will add to your advantage, and be sure to list relevant educational achievements and professional certifications prominently on your résumé.
Iterate your interview approach
Virtual meetings are often more convenient for both employers and applicants, and they are increasingly popular, particularly for initial interviews. While similar to an in-person interview in many ways, virtual interviews pose potential challenges for the uninitiated. To adjust your approach for a phone or video interview, research and practice skills specific to virtual interviews, such as professional phone etiquette.
Set aside a quiet, well-lit space, and practice with the specific video conference platform chosen for your interview. Familiarize yourself with video and audio settings, and choose a simple, appropriate background. If you intend to use a virtual background, keep the space behind you clear of anything that may interfere with your background image.
Traditional interview rules still apply. Dress professionally, practice proper etiquette, and avoid distractions during your interview. Limit noise, prevent interruptions, and prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer. A smooth virtual interview shows effort, preparation, and genuine interest.
After each interview, evaluate what worked well — and what still needs work — and use what you’ve learned to hone your approach for the next interview.
Follow up for feedback
The follow-up process remains largely unchanged. Regardless of the result, remember to thank potential employers for the opportunity. Send an email to express your appreciation, and follow up periodically to maintain a presence in the hiring manager’s mind after a promising interview. Don’t be overbearing, but don’t let yourself be forgotten either. If you don’t receive an offer, ask your interviewer for feedback, and apply valid, constructive criticism to your next round of applications (i.e., product presentations).
Be the product
Treat finding a job like product management, with you and your professional skills as the product. Do plenty of research and preparation, focus on what employers — your target market — want, and showcase what you do best. Remember, one good interview isn’t the end of the line. Follow through with the process and iterate your approach as many times as necessary to achieve an optimal outcome.
Hiring processes have changed, and the product management field is recently subject to an influx of applicants. Manage and market yourself as the product every employer needs to succeed.
To learn more about launching your product manager career in today’s complicated job market — and the importance of professional certification for product and brand managers — visit aipmm.com.