Practical tips when looking for a product role by Nick Charalambous "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs April 04 2021 True job hunting, job interviews, product management career, Product Management Jobs, ProductTank, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 798 Product Management 3.192

Practical tips when looking for a product role by Nick Charalambous

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In this ProductTank London talk, co-founder of recruitment consultants Few&Far Nick Charalambous runs through what makes a good product CV or resume, how to nail an interview, and the art of proactive searching.

Few&Far (formerly Knowit) has worked with a range of businesses, including Tesco, JustEat, Transferwise and Typeform, and Nick has been recruiting in the product space since 2009.

Nick starts with something of an aside, asking if people know what they want to be doing in 10 years. He says that people don’t have these types of objectives in their working lives, though as he points out, “you wouldn’t build a business without having a mission or objective, so why do you not have the same thing for your career?”. He’s developed some collateral around this – available to download from his LinkedIn page – and explains that there are three routes you can take, entrepreneurial, career, or portfolio.

What makes a good product CV?

The first step on any of these routes however, is a good CV. Remember that:-

  • A CV is there to get you an interview, the interview is what gets you the job.
  • It’s a document that highlights the experience you have that’s relevant to the role you’re applying for, it’s not a list of everything you’ve done.
  • Bear in mind who the reader is. They might not be a product person, so make the basics obvious.

Achievements and responsibilities are the most important parts of a CV and Nick suggests you keep them separate. Achievements show your impact, and responsibilities talk about what you did. “It makes a nice narrative and grabs the reader,” he says, “a CV needs to be digestible and make the reader want to read on.” Nick demonstrates how he worked with a candidate to improve their CV and shows the impact this made on their ability to land interviews.

How to nail your interview

Interviews have many variables, so Nick focuses on key commonalities to help you prepare for an interview.

  • Do your research. This is key, so make sure you use the product.
  • Read up on the company so you understand its funding, launches, latest news and so on. Look at the LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting. Do you have any common connections? This preparation is very useful for small talk.
  • What is the problem the company is trying to solve? This isn’t always available on a job description but you should be able to get a sense of it.
  • Ask your recruiter. They will know what’s important.

Nick then looks at how to tell your story. There are plenty of frameworks for this, but his favourite is STAR – situation, task, action, result – because it creates a natural narrative.

He suggests preparing a bank of interview answers, and outlines what he thinks are the four most common scenarios that you’re likely to be asked about and should prepare narratives for. They are:

  • Difficult stakeholder/conflict
  • Developing a new product or feature
  • Working with an engineering/ design team
  • Failure – interviewers want some honesty here

When the tables are turned and the interviewer asks if you have any questions you should:

  • Avoid questions where the answers are on the job description or website
  • Ask if there are any concerns about your experience or if there’s anything you can clarify
  • Ask what success in the role looks like and how it would be measured
  • Ask why the interviewer joined the company and whether it has lived up to expectations.

The art of proactive searching

Proactive searching creates more opportunities for you and helps to grow your network. Start by aligning your CV and LinkedIn profile. The more detailed your LinkedIn profile, the greater the chance you have of being found in searches. You can then begin to grow your network.

You also need to “put yourself out there”, so this means you should comment on articles, publish blogs, and attend community events and meetups. It’s easy to find a mentor at these sorts of events.

Finally, Nick says that while the Covid pandemic has made people nervous, more and more non-digital businesses are being pushed to innovate. There are more jobs than skilled candidates, and the now-widespread acceptance of remote working is opening up even more opportunities.

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