Stakeholder Management
How do I build a winning product manager resume that lands an interview, without a Top University CS or MBA degree?
Question from Poonam
How do I build a winning product manager resume that lands an interview, without a Top University CS or MBA degree?
Answered by Ravi Mehta
Founder & CEO of Outpace

The unfortunate reality is that recruiters spend very little time with each resume as they decide who to screen for a role. In about 60 seconds, a recruiter will determine whether you are qualified for the entry level they are looking to fill.

I've hired about two dozen people into their first product role. Every one of their resumes had what I like to call the Scent of a Product Manager (not nearly as alluring as Al Pacino's movie Scent of a Woman, but important nonetheless).

Although you haven't had a full-time PM role, there are ways to position yourself as a high potential, qualified candidate. Let's look at five ways you can use to add a great signal to build a winning product manager resume. 

# 1. Complete a PM Course

As a first step, it's a good idea to take a course designed for new PMs, such as Reforge's Product Management Foundations or Product School's Product Manager Certification. These programs are well-regarded and demonstrate that you've invested in the foundation necessary to be a great PM. In many ways, they are more useful than full-time Computer Science and MBA degrees which don't cover Product Management in as much depth as a dedicated program.

# 2. Help a startup for free

Your first PM role doesn't need to be a paid role. Startups are resource constrained, and many would welcome the help. In order to do this well, you need to be clear about where you can add the most value. Often, you can draw from prior experience. For example, if you've worked with financial services companies, you are uniquely qualified to help a FinTech startup define, launch, and optimize their product.

#3. Launch your own product

The proliferation of powerful no-code tools mean that its easier than ever to create a valuable product. You can build and launch a product in a matter of weeks. For example, after reading an article titled "How I launched a profitable product in 3 hours", I created and launched and launched a product in a couple of weeks that helped me learn about SEM, SEO, and rapid prototyping tools.

Congrats, you've not only landed your first product role, but you've also launched a product! This is a fantastic signal to have on your resume about your readiness to take on a full-time product role.

#4. Write about a product-related topic

The big problem with resumes is that they all look the same — recruiters & hiring managers scan resumes for keywords (like the names of recognizable companies, well-known schools, or experience with relevant tools) to help them differentiate between stacks of similar resumes. But, there's another way to stand out.

Very few candidates link to material about themselves — because they haven't published anything to link to. I'll almost always check out a website, Substack, or Github profile if one is listed. I can immediately get a window into how a person thinks that is much more three dimensional than the rigid bullet-point format of resumes.

So, pick a topic that you are passionate about and start publishing your work. You can link to it at the top of your resume and even include 1-2 article snippets (title + brief) in the Outside projects section at the bottom of your resume.

#5. Rewrite your resume with clear PM signals

Steps 1-4 are designed to expand your PM foundation. Now that you've taken those steps, its important to re-write your resume so that the "Scent of a Product Manager" is really clear. Put emphasis on the experiences that best prepare you for your first full-time product role. Make sure that keywords, like "analytics, product requirements, custom research, etc." are used throughout your resume.

I'm including some additional references below. Product Management is different than a lot of careers — there are no gateways into the profession, and you don't need "permission" to become a product manager like in other fields such as law and medicine. Companies look for PMs that have the requisite skills and — more importantly — the drive to build and launch great products.

About the author
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Ravi Mehta
Founder & CEO of Outpace

Ravi brings years of executive leadership experience to his coaching conversations, focusing on radical candor and evidence-based strategies.

  • B2C
  • Startups
  • Fortune 500 Company
  • Product Management
  • Software
  • Business Leadership

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