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Valentine Eke on improving your PM resume, avoiding interview mistakes, and not giving up
Product State Q&A
Valentine Eke is a Product Manager at MarketForce. He has experience building products across 5 African markets and writes Valentine’s Newsletter. He was formerly Customer Success Analyst and Product Manager at Ajua.
Valentine’s Newsletter / LinkedIn
EC: What are some high-impact resume improvements PMs can make to get more interviews and find their ideal next role?
VE: Finding your next PM role can be challenging, especially in this current environment. Here are 5 resume tips to help you find your next role.
Demonstrate impact over responsibilities.
The experience section on your resume should focus on your impact — rather than your job responsibilities. Your PM accomplishments should be written in the X-Y-Z format used by Google recruiters:
‘Accomplished [X], as measured by [Y], by doing [Z].’
‘Led a team to build a mobile app’ can be rewritten as ‘Led a team of 4 engineers, 1 Designer to build a mobile app resulting in 30% revenue increase.’
Use strong verbs (e.g. led, designed, prioritized, researched), and not soft verbs (e.g. assisted).
The example below is color-coded to highlight strong verbs (red), impact (yellow), relevant skills (blue), and technical skills (green).
Customize your resume to the job description.
When hiring, recruiters include the required PM skills in the job description. Make sure to tailor your resume to show recruiters that you have the skills they’re looking for.
When possible, your resume should be one-paged — and in black & white. Recruiters receive hundreds or thousands of resumes per job opening. You need to show achievements that will interest the recruiter in moving you to the next round.
Showcase your PM skills.
Recruiters scan your resume to know if you have the basic skills for the job:
Working cross-functionally, prioritizing the backlog, etc.
You do not need to have a separate skills section. Instead, simply sprinkle your relevant skills in the experience section.
Leverage transferrable skills.
If you haven't worked as a Product Manager, you will need to convince recruiters that you can excel as a PM.
Show skills you used in other roles that are relevant to PMs — talking to customers, making data-driven decisions, etc.
EC: What are mistakes PMs can’t afford to make during interviews?
VE: Here are 7 mistakes to avoid in PM interviews.
Not focusing on customers.
To excel in PM interviews, you need to focus on a customer segment. The customer segment you choose determines the solutions you will suggest.
For instance, tackling WhatsApp improvements for teens will be very different from improving WhatsApp for the elderly.
Not clarifying questions.
PM interview questions can be ambiguous. A possible interview question may be as simple as ‘Improve Instagram.’
A great way to answer this is to:
Reduce the scope — for example, to a particular geography
Agree on a goal
Agree on constraints
Breaking down ‘Improve Instagram’ using the three steps above turns it into something more specific: ‘Increase user retention on Instagram for teenagers in the US.’ This is now an easier problem to solve!
Answering questions without brainstorming.
Never dive into interview questions without pausing for a few minutes to think. Pausing to brainstorm helps you structure and improve your answers.
Suggesting minor improvements.
PM interviews are an opportunity to show creativity. Do not be scared to use new / developing technology to solve the interview questions. If ChatGPT might solve the problem, run with it and defend your thought processes.
However, make sure your solutions solve the pain points of your chosen customer segment.
Not trying out the company's product.
Before the interview, make sure to use the company's products. Signup as a new trial user, and note down customer pain points. An interview question could be your strategy to improve their products.
Lack of structure.
Interviews can be strenuous. Due to the tense environment, you might leave out important details. Structuring your answers helps you avoid costly mistakes — and allow interviewers to follow your thought process.
Popular interview frameworks include
STAR: Behavioral questions
Porter’s 5 forces: Strategy questions
Not engaging interviewers.
Interviewers do not only assess your knowledge. They also evaluate if you are fun to work with. Your goal is to build a connection with the interviewer.
Smile. Ask for their thoughts. Never talk for 5 minutes without getting feedback on your direction.
EC: What are some of your biggest lessons learned as a PM that you wish you could go back and let your younger self know about?
VE: Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned.
If a job does not pay a lot of money, but it can pay in learning and experience, please take it. Hiring managers are looking to hire Product Managers who can make a quick impact. I refused two side PM jobs that offered me a token. The PM jobs I refused would have prepared me for bigger PM roles.
Mentors speed up the transition process. If you can't afford a private mentor, Leverage public mentors who share their valuable PM experiences on Linkedin.
PM certifications are great. However, certificates do not mean PM skills.
Learn PM skills that may differentiate you.
Shoot your shot.
If you have the right skills, internal transitions are an easier way to land a PM role.
If you already have product colleagues,
Get close to them.
Register your interest in Product management.
Volunteer to help out with tasks like talking to customers and presenting findings.
Build side projects.
Side projects will contribute to your portfolio and help you build execution expertise.
Designers and Engineers have portfolios that showcase their skills.
PMs are not required to have a portfolio. Having a portfolio — and including side projects — might differentiate you.
By the way, you do not need to code to build a side project. Some no-code tools you can use are Bubble and Webflow.
Above all, do not give up.
I'm rooting for you.
“Finding your next PM role can be challenging, especially in this current environment. Your resume should focus on your impact — rather than your job responsibilities.”
- Valentine Eke
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