Hey Recruiter, Project Manager ≠ Product Manager

BY MARTIN ERIKSSON ON JULY 29, 2011

I just got off the phone with a recruiter who somehow managed to bypass my bullshit detector long enough to actually pitch me a job that was “a perfect fit for my profile”.

First of all, stop talking about my profile you perv.

Second of all, I AM NOT A PROJECT MANAGER! Where on my resume does it say that? Pretty much every job I’ve had since college has been in a product role and I don’t even mention the word project on there!

Thirdly, after my withering silence makes you realise you’re blatantly uninformed, don’t try and wriggle out of it by offering me a Programme Manager job instead. Still not it. I know it starts with “pro” but still not it.

The cliche is that product managers say what to build, and project managers say when it will get built by – and while that is oversimplifying it slightly it’s still true.

Product managers are all about combining creative insight with data, designing new products and optimising old ones, and representing the users internally. It is inherently a creative job, and requires almost diametrically opposed skills to a project manager.

Project managers, bless ’em, are all about planning, organising and executing. Not something product managers usually excel at. As the saying goes some of my best friends are project managers – but damn if I’d want to do their job.

So the next time a recruiter tries you for a project manager role – which is about as appropriate as trying to making their next phonecall with a fridge – clearly say the following as calmly as possible “If you knew your stuff, you’d know Product Managers don’t do Zeta Operations”, and then hang up. It’s hard not to keep a grin on my face knowing my little recruiter friend is digging through Google looking for some pseudojargon before they call another product manager.

Martin Eriksson

About MARTIN ERIKSSON

Martin Eriksson has 20 years experience building world-class online products in both corporate and start-up environments for global brands such as Monster, Financial Times, Huddle, and Covestor. He is the Founder of ProductTank, the Co-Founder and Curator of Mind the Product and currently a Product Manager at large, advising and mentoring startups while writing Product Leadership, How Top Product Leaders Launch Great Products and Build Successful Teams (O'Reilly, 2017).

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