Q&A: How do I make my CV stand out?

Q&A: How do I make my CV stand out?

I’m asked questions about product management from time to time. Here’s one I’ve answered recently:

Hi Jock,

Thanks for your message. I was reading your book, Practioners guide to Product Management and I could really relate to a lot of what you have written from my experience with PM.

I am currently looking for a new PM role but there is so much competition because of the pandemic. I have seen 300-400 applications for each position. I talked to someone at Facebook and they said that my profile is good.

The only thing that is problematic is that my CV might not even be looked because of the number of applicants right now. They were pretty sure that if someone gave my CV a read I would make it to screening. Do you have any suggestions on how to stand out as a PM in these turbulent times?

Wish you a great weekend.

Thanks,
U

Read on for my reply!

Hi U,

Thanks for reading the book! I’m glad it was relatable to your own experience.

Making your CV stand out can be tricky. The reason for this is that you’re never 100% sure what the recruiting company is looking for in terms of candidate experience.

I may be just be gruff, but I would avoid quirkily designed résumés. Recruiting managers will have literally hundreds of CVs to sift through. It helps their flow if they can find the information they’re looking for in the expected places. Good product managers should anticipate the needs of their audience.

You haven’t said where you’re applying, but you may also want to consider applying to companies other than Google, Facebook and Amazon where there is less competition. It’s easier to stand out in a smaller crowd :-)

Because you can’t guess what recruiting companies are looking for, my advice is always to be true to your experience rather than trying to second-guess what they want. There are some things you can do to fine-tune your CV to increase your chances of getting through the initial sift.

1. Have a headline that sums you up in a few words.

2. Then provide short summary (1 paragraph = 3 sentences) at the top that highlights your most relevant professional achievements. This will be the first thing the recruiter will read. You need to make sure the impression they will get is that you are a capable product manager.

3. Career history: give 1 sentence explaining what the company did, then a few bullet points describing your key achievements and main responsibilities. Keep achievements near the top of the list and quantify them where possible. Don’t forget people stuff – stakeholders and team interactions.

4. If you have a long career history, only provide detail for the most recent couple of jobs. Stuff you did 10+ years ago will be less relevant – unless you tend to spend 10+ years in one job at a time!

5. It will be assumed you can do product management, so there’s no need to list out every single thing you can do as a product manager.

6. I would personally keep out information about family / marital status. It’s not strictly relevant, and including it may bias the recruiter (unconsciously or otherwise).

7. Share a few interests or hobbies you’re passionate about at the end, or some interesting side hustles you may have on the go. Keep it brief, though.

8. Ensure your CV fits legibly on 2 pages and no more. One of the aspects of being a good product manager is being an effective communicator. This means you will be judged on your ability to create a concise, relevant and easy-to-read CV.

I hope the advice helps, best of luck :-)

Cheers,

Jock

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Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner’s Guide to Product Management
by Jock Busuttil

“I wish this book was published when I started out in product management”

Keji A., Head of Product

Read a free excerpt

Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker. He has spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. His clients include the BBC, University of Cambridge, and the UK's Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS).In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, a product management consultancy and training company. He is also the author of the popular book The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management and the blog I Manage Products.

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