How to Get a Job in Product Management

I believe Product Management is the #1 role that contributes to the success of a company! Especially in Covid times, we’ve seen how the whole world needs to change and adapt to new circumstances with a lot of uncertainty.

So, great Product Managers are needed! But how do you get into Product Management? 🤔

The internet is full of articles and videos on nailing the Product Manager interview. You also find a lot of content about landing a job for big companies such as Google, Amazon, or Facebook.

Why focus on the big companies and compete against thousands of applicants? There are gazillions of other great product jobs out there!

In this article, I’ll share with you simple and new ways to help you identify which company will be a great fit for you and how to land “the” job without all the experience!

It’s structured in the following way:

  1. Finding the right industry & job
  2. Polishing up and targeting your Product Manager CV
  3. Preparing for the Product Manager interview
  4. Cracking the Product Manager (PM) interview

Become a Product Manager and Find Your Industry

It’s a tough challenge to get into Product Management without experience. Nevertheless, it’s possible. It can be even easier if you’re well-prepared.

We’ll take a look at the 3 most important points to help you in finding the right product job. First, we need to take a close look at what Product Management is as well as the role and responsibilities.

Understand What Product Management is About

I believe you have done your research already and you know what Product Management is. However, I’d like to stress some points many people might overlook. There are great books out there that talk about Product Management and the role of a Product Manager like INSPIRED. Bear in mind that such books talk about the perfect state of a product and engineering organization.

Reality always looks different!

More than 70% of companies don’t have a product vision, strategy, or roadmap. They expect you to do it. Many teams don’t work in an agile fashion and are autonomous. There’s a lot of top-down decision-making out there. You have to talk to many people to make changes to the product. You’re not the boss of your team members. And...

...that’s totally fine.

I’m not a big fan of the word “change management” but you can and should make the change as a Product Manager. Be aware that a Product Manager role requires a lot of energy and focus from you. You’ll learn to deal with pressure, uncertainty, chaos, and people. It won’t be easy but I’m sure you’ll make it! 😉

I highly recommend my very first article about the 4 experiences I learned when I became a Product Manager. It contains key learnings and wrong expectations I had when I started working in product.

With that said, let’s jump into the practical part.

Identify the Right Product Manager Job for You

There are a few questions that I recommend asking yourself when you’re looking for your first product role. Please don’t just think about them. Take a pen and paper or Google Docs and write down the answers:

Why do I Want to Become a Product Manager?

“Always start with why” is a great quote from Simon Sinek. What’s your “why” and what makes you so excited about product?

What are My Strengths and Which Ones Would You Like to Develop?

Do you have a technical background? Do you love design and user interfaces? Are you good with numbers and data? What do I want to learn in the near future?

What Industry Would You Like to Work in?

That’s one of the key questions. What industries are you interested in? Don’t answer with: “I’ve no preferences.” or “I like them all.”

Be specific and choose your top 3-5 industries.

If you’re struggling with finding an answer, you can also ask yourself which products you like using? That might help you identify the industry.

In Which Environment Would I Like to Work?

Are you more of a start-up person who likes working closely with your colleagues and sharing a lot of responsibilities? Do you prefer structured environments in bigger companies? Are you more interested in big projects working in B2B or do you like to change the lives of end customers (B2C)?

Answering these questions will help you n to further narrow down your job search.

Once you’ve got the clarity you need, you can start searching for your first job opportunities. And once you find some...

✋ Don’t Apply Right Away! ⚠️

These are your hot leads.🔥

I recommend first applying to some other jobs you might not be that interested in to train and gather some interview experience.

A while ago, I recorded a short YouTube Video that summarizes this chapter. Feel free to take a look ;-)

Start a Side Project to Land a Job as a Product Manager

You may have heard that some companies prefer junior people with some experience. That’s true. Nevertheless, there’s a way you can gain experience in a short timeframe.

You don’t need to build the next Facebook or Amazon. There are some great ways that can help you to make important product learning. Here are some examples:

  • Build your own personal website
  • Start a blog about a topic you’re passionate about
    • Start a newsletter
  • Build landing pages to sell a product or service
  • Become an active member of a community or club
    • Open and grow your own Facebook or Reddit group
  • Start a book club and read cool books
  • Host a podcast (maybe together with a friend)

I could go on for hours...

Let’s pick, for example, the website project. Do you code it by yourself or are you going to use a website builder like Squarespace or Wix? If you go with a website builder, which one do you choose? There are many factors to take into consideration, like pricing, usability, SEO, the community behind it, etc.

You need to do your research and make decisions based on it. That’s how product management works. These are things you can bring up during an interview if they ask you about your website. That shows you can dig into a topic and that you are business or tech-savvy.

At the end of the day, it’s not about building a website or Facebook group with +100k visitors and members. It’s about the fact that you built something by yourself from scratch.

If you spent the next 30 days, every day, for 1 hour on a side project, how many new things will you’ve learned afterward?

These are experiences no one can take away from you.

Give it a shot. It’ll help you learn and grow! 🚀 If you want to learn more about learning a job I recommend listening to this podcast episode.

Polish & Target Your Product Manager CV

There are great templates out there on the internet. However, you should ask yourself who are you writing your CV for. Who are your target groups and what are their needs? As a Headhunter or Hiring Manager, you read through hundreds of CVs per week. On average you only have 2 minutes to review a CV and make a decision.

What can you do to stand out? And what should you not do?

Let’s start with the dos.

Your CV should be easy to read. Use space and make sure all your experiences are listed vertically in one column. That’s the easiest way to read it. If you put your achievements in two columns on one page that might look fancy but is hard to read.

White space is the new line. 😎

Make sure you list the most relevant topics in bullet points and highlight your key achievements and learnings. Be specific!

Bad example:

Introduced a new feature to increase sales

Good example:

Developed and launched a credit card checkout and increased the conversation rate by 15%.

If you’re not able to explain specifically what you’ve done and why you’re out. The art of Product Management is good and clear communication in written and verbal form.

If you don’t have a lot of background you can dive deeper into things such as your side projects. I recommend not only focusing on your overall learnings. Make them specific to the job you are applying for.


You apply for a job as a Junior Product Manager in eCommerce. One of the requirements for the position is analyzing and working with data to find ways to increase the conversion rate.

Let’s say you’ve created your website. Here you could highlight that you analyze your website with e.g. Google Analytics and manage to decrease the bounce rate for your best article by doing XYZ. Or you increased the clicks on a specific page by changing ABC.

There are some things I recommend not doing in your CV

🚫 Don’t try to squeeze everything onto one page in case you’ve got a long vita. As mentioned, use some space and make sure your content is easy to read and highlights your key strengths and achievements.

🚫 I have a very strong opinion when it comes to ratings like 5/5 Jira, 4/5 Scrum, 3/5 German, etc.

Don’t do that!

What does 5/5 Jira mean? Are you sure you know everything about Jira? There are always people who know more and might grill you during the interview. That’s why I’d suggest highlighting them as your core skills without adding the rating.

The same applies to languages. Use standard terms such as German B1, English C1, etc.

🚫 Don’t fake your CV! I know that there are jobs out there people would love to have. However, I’m a big believer in being honest. If you worked for 2 years as a Product Designer and got promoted to Product Manager for another year, don’t say you have 3 years of experience as a Product Manager. People will find it out anyway at some point. You also don’t want to be lied to by a company. Even if you’ve done a PM job during the time working as a PD you can still mention that during the interview process.

Honesty is the best policy! ❤️

Target Your Product Manager Job Application

Instead of practicing mass applications, I recommend being focused on your hot leads as mentioned above. Therefore, I’d update my cover letter and CV for each application.

Let’s take a look at an example fintech Product Manager role (copied from Trade Republic):

  • Gain deep insights into the mechanics of a high-performance fintech bank and immerse yourself in the fast-paced environment of the global stock trading industry
  • Manage your own key projects and develop new trading functionalities from scratch
  • Be responsible for analyzing and managing new trading features from concept to launch and gain deep product, project management, and banking experience
  • Manage and extend our external partnerships within the field of trading, settlement, and regulatory services
  • Understand the trading ecosystem, competitor landscape, and customer needs through research and stay ahead of new and upcoming fintech innovations
  • Be the voice of the customer to make informed product decisions and bring best-in-class features to our customers
  • Collaborate closely with our Engineering, UX, Operations, Legal, Marketing, and Business Development functions to ensure successful product launches

I’ve highlighted a couple of key points on the responsibilities of the role. Everything is important but there are a couple of keywords that you shouldn’t ignore. The following things are crucial for this role:

  • Data & insights
  • Project management end-to-end
  • External partnerships (negotiation)
  • Market research and domain expertise
  • Decision making
  • Collaboration

If I were applying for this role, I’d highlight the above topics in the interview process/cover letter/CV.

Let’s say you’ve no experience but you built your website with a newsletter and you made some money with affiliate links.

You can highlight that you managed your own project from scratch. Your affiliate links prove that you can work with external partners. And so on…

There’s one more thing: Try to use the same vocabulary from the job ad in your cover letter or resume. People always compare your CV to the job ad. The more matching points they can find, the higher the likelihood you’ll make it to the next round.

Preparing for the Product Manager Interview

To land a job as a PM you need to have a basic understanding of product and engineering processes. It’s crucial to understand how to plan and build products. The same goes for collaborating with Engineering Teams and stakeholders.

How can you learn the above in a short time period? I’m a big fan of self-education. There are many great resources out there like books, blogs, podcasts, and courses. The vast amount of information and sources can be overwhelming sometimes.

If you’d like to learn about product planning you can start with my article about user stories and epics. Alternatively, you can sign up for my newsletter which is focused on agile practices, strategic planning, product discovery, and more.

Next to the Product Management craft, you should be able to pitch yourself. Make sure you’re authentic. When people ask you to introduce yourself they listen carefully. The way someone talks about themselves says a lot about a person. If you’re not sure you can always train with friends, colleagues, or a Product Coach.

What’s your sales pitch? 🤔

I’ve interviewed hundreds of Product Managers and I’m regularly shocked by how many people come unprepared for an interview. Since you know exactly where you want to work (your hot leads) I’m sure you’ll do a much better job while you prepare for the interview.

There are a couple of non-negotiables when it comes to the PM interview preparation that should be done:

  • Check out the homepage of the company (e.g. “About us”)
    • Use the product/do signup (if possible)  
    • Take notes about things that are unclear or you don’t understand about the product/company
  • Google the founders/C-Level or others
    • Check also YouTube for talks & interviews
  • Check out social media activities
    • Figure out what customers think about the product (review etc.)

Overall that’ll keep you busy for one or two hours. I believe that’s a very good investment if you really really really want to get the job. 😉

There’s one more expert-level tip I’d like to share which one of my mentees recently did and it helped him to land a job. He applied for a healthcare company and he figured out that the competition had launched multiple new features.

Therefore, he created a slide deck with 13 pages highlighting the pros and cons of the competition. Next to that, he added suggestions on how the company he applied for could answer with better features that might better solve the problems of their customers.

He shared that presentation with the VP of Product upfront whom he contacted via Linkedin.

He walked the extra mile. He got the job!

But be careful. If you do something like this, your presentation and information must be on point. He added a lot of data and spent a lot of time analyzing the market (about 10 hours in one week).

Make sure you understand the company and product and if you don’t, I recommend preparing questions for the PM interview.

Cracking the PM Interview

You can find on YouTube great mocked PM interviews for companies such as Google or Facebook. However, not every company interviews like the big players. Therefore, I’ll focus in this chapter on some basics that will help you stand out during the interview.

Answering Interview Questions on Point

It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. What matters is what you say and how you say it. Great Product Managers are great communicators. I recommend always being brutally honest, transparent, and clear in what you’re saying.

One great framework is the STAR framework which might help you to put forward clear answers to interview questions focusing on 4 aspects:

  • Situation: Explain the situation and circumstances of your example
  • Task: Describe your role & responsibility in that situation
  • Action: Explain exactly what steps you took
  • Result: Share the outcomes of your actions

BTW: Sometimes managers use the same framework to ask precise questions especially when they want to dig deeper.

Next to using the framework, I find it always great to keep sentences short. Make sure you don’t squeeze 1000 pieces of information into one sentence. Take your time and break it down. Make full stops. That’s what PMs do.

At some point in the process, people will ask you questions about how you work with others. When it comes to the collaboration topic, they want to find out if you’re a team player. Therefore, it’s necessary to use the word we instead of I.

Always Be Honest

It’s common for leaders and managers to want to figure out what you don’t know. No one is expecting you to know everything. It’s fine to admit that you don’t know certain things. However, if you’re in a situation like that, it’s important to follow up on what the answer or solution is. That shows you’re curious, humble, and willing to learn.

Ask Good Questions

It’s not only about your answers, it's also about the questions you ask. I’ve created a list of great questions you can ask to leave a good impression and (most importantly) learn new things.

Try Company-Related Questions:

  • What’s the company vision and where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?
  • How many people are you planning to hire in the next [number] month for department [name]?
  • How are you planning to change/evolve your current business model? (considering you’ve understood it)
  • What’s the current focus of the leadership/C-Level team?
  • What makes your competitor [name] so strong?

Or, Product Related Questions:

  • How do you measure success for the feature [name] you are building currently?
  • What’s the Northstar KPI/main indicator for feature/product [name]?
  • How big is the team working on [project] and in which setup/framework do they work?
  • What do your customers like most about the product/service?
  • What do your customers miss the most/what’s the biggest pain point to solve?

Questions for Yourself:

  • What’ll be the biggest challenge for me when I start working as [title]?
  • What book(s) should I read before I start working here?
  • What’s the career path for (e.g.) a Junior Product Manager?
  • How are new Product Managers onboarded?

You can also ask personal questions about the person who’s interviewing you. People love to talk about themselves. But be careful with that. It’s a business meeting and not a private conversation.

One More Secret to Find Your PM Job

You might have noticed that I haven’t added CV examples or cover letter examples in this article. I did that on purpose.

Do you think your future boss or company will provide you with a template to define a product strategy? Or a roadmap? Or a template on how to solve conflicts?

They won’t. There’s no silver bullet to success. You can’t lose 50 pounds by going to the gym once.

Product Management is all about self-empowerment. Great product people are willing to fail, learn, and reiterate. Persistence was and is always the best way to succeed.

The path is the goal. 🧘

Therefore, it’s up to you to do the research and write your own application documents.

I wish you all the success in your job search! If you’d like to talk about your progress you can always reach out to me on Linkedin.