What you need in a good product CV (part 1)

What you need in a good product CV (part 1)

For the last Product Management role I recruited for, I had over 200 applicants submit their CV to me, and of these, approximately 90% of them had the job title “Product Manager” somewhere within it. 

If I spent 5 minutes reading each CV then I'd have spent the best part of two full days just reading the CV.

In order to get through the task of sifting through the applicants I needed to find shortcuts to the information that I needed in order to progress and get my task done.  And I'm not alone, recruiters everywhere are inundated with applications now that it's possible to apply with just a couple of clicks. 

From an applicant perspective, the downside of one-click applications is that you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.  Your CV needs to jump out as being the answer to my prayers.

How do you do that?

1. Always, and I mean always, provide a cover letter if asked

The cover letter is the chance to shine in a way that is targeted to me as an employer, so make the most of it. 

Do NOT copy and paste a standard cover letter and send it to me, as it shows that you’re trying to save time and you aren’t willing to put the effort in. Don’t tell me about things that aren’t relevant to this role, because if you do I’ll think you haven’t read the job description properly.I've had people simply write “not applicable” when asked in an online form for a cover letter. I can tell you now, if you're asked for a cover letter then you need to provide it. If it wasn’t applicable we wouldn’t have asked for it! Missing it out again looks like you weren’t willing to put the effort in, and you’ll quickly be in the ’no’ pile.

2. You need two pages of clearly formatted information

There are many articles that advise that a CV needs to fit on one A4 page, but I tend to disagree.  One page just isn't enough to tell me all I need to know, and if you've fitted it on one page then you'll have 50% of the chance of telling me something that I need to know.

When it comes to formatting this is the thing that is going to allow me as the recruiter to scan through the page to find the information that I need to know in order to get you into the maybe pile and not into the no pile.

Use heading styles, use indentations, use bullet points.  Multiple columns can work in order to group text. 

Don't write large paragraphs of text. Don't have your text be too small.  Don't have inconsistent formatting through your CV. Don't have any spelling or grammar errors, as there is no excuse in this day-and-age.

3. Provide a well written, testable personal summary

Similar to a cover letter, a personal summary is a chance to show off skills and highlight what kind of a product person you are.  The challenge here is to focus on practical, real-world skills and achievements, and not hide behind superlatives and fluffy language.

If you describe yourself as a “Go-getting, high performing team player” I would assume you're trying to make yourself sound more dynamic than you actually are, and it seems vague and self congratulatory. Who says you’re high performing? Who says you’re a team player?

Whereas, with a “Leader of multi-functional development teams, with a top 5 annual performer rating” I can see success and skills that can be easily tested .

Your summary should be one paragraph long and give the reader an impression of who you are, and if they read nothing more on your CV they'd be able to get a gut feel that you've got what it takes to do the job for them.

What skills does the recruiter need to know about you above all else?  What achievements show that you can do the job in their company?  What value will you be bringing to their business.  

If you can encapsulate this in 3-4 sentences then you'll have got the recruiters attention.

There's more ... 

Of course, there's more to it than this, and I'll take a look at work experience and the specifics of what product skills you need to be displaying in part two of these posts.

Need someone to take a look at your CV?

If you're trying to get your CV sorted and need a second opinion, then let me see what you've got.  You can always send me a copy of your CV and I can give you three bits of advice on how you could go about improving it.