How To Land a Job at a Digital Product Company
FROM A CV TO AN INTERVIEW: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO LAND A JOB AT YOUR FAVOURITE COMPANY
If you want to land a job at your dream digital product company, you have to understand what employers look for.
The secret to playing your cards right lies in knowing how to pitch yourself to employers. The market is at its busiest in over two years. More people are applying for roles, so you need to stand out to the companies you’re applying for.
However, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. Many people underestimate how much effort it takes to get a job. You can get stuck in a rut if you don’t take the right steps.
Don't fall into this trap. Let me share my best tips as someone who has been recruiting in the digital product space since 2009.
MAKE YOUR CV WORK FOR YOU
Do you try to outline everything you’ve done in your CV? Or send the same CV to every role you apply for?
I see these mistakes happen way too often. You need to remember what your CV is actually for:
“Your CV has one role, and that’s getting you into the interview.”
To do that, you need to highlight the experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for. It shows that you have thought about your skills and taken the time to understand the role.
1. Remember who the reader is. People fall into the trap of thinking that the person reading their CV has the same skills as them. They could, but it could also be a CEO, a Talent Director or a recruiter.
2. Everyone has varying levels of knowledge - they may have hired candidates in your particular field and understand the job, or they may not. That’s why you need to make sure that the basics are obvious.
3. Look at the job description and make sure the key skills they are asking for are in your CV.
1. SEPARATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS FROM RESPONSIBILITIES
The crux of your CV is your experience section. The best practice is to separate your job achievements from your responsibilities, so you can quickly create a strong narrative about why you’re the right person for the job.
A CV needs to be digestible, it needs to grab the attention of the reader and engage them to make them want to read on.”
2. FLAUNT YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Achievements show the impact you’ve made. Listing them in your CV can also highlight your main strengths - which is important when applying for any position.
These can be delivery of a specific product, increase in the user base, but the best ones are focused on commercial outcomes. They answer the question: ‘What was the commercial impact of the achievement?’. That way, your reader will be able to translate this commercial element into their own business. It gives you a far greater chance of being included in the interview process.
3. TELL A STORY THROUGH EACH ROLE
Responsibilities are about what you were doing in a specific role. It’s easy to put a tremendous amount of content here, but try not to. It’s important you use this as an opportunity to tell a story and create a narrative to help engage the reader in a concise way.
CV CASE STUDY: IMPROVE YOUR APPLICATION-TO-INTERVIEW RATIO BY 3X
One of my candidates had an experience in product through his own business but hadn’t done it in an any other role.
Here are some changes they made on their CV:
- Their summary was generic and unclear, with nothing about them -> They changed this to summarise the type of Product person they were, an overview of their experience and what they were looking for next.
- They only listed their experience timeframes in a yearly format -> we added the months too - example: May 2018 - Jun 2021 instead of 2018 - 2021.
- There was no description of the start-ups they worked for. Not everyone will know what the companies on your CV do -> They wrote a line underneath the company name explaining what they do - example: a SaaS accounting platform.
- They squished all their experience in one paragraph under each role -> They adapted this and separated their top achievements to grab the reader’s attention, split their responsibilities and emphasise the most relevant ones.
INTERVIEW PREPARATION TIPS FOR SUCCESS
HOW TO RESEARCH THE COMPANY YOU'RE INTERVIEWING WITH
1. Use their actual product
If you go into the interview without ever using the product, clients and recruiters will see it as lazy. They want to hire someone who has a high level of curiosity where they want to download the product and see how it works. If it’s a B2B business, email the person who’s arranging interviews and ask them to give you some sort of trial so you can experience it.
2. Look them up on Crunchbase and find news articles
There you will find out the funding the company has received, when has it received, who were the VCs, are there any recent product launches or any other news. This can also help by arming you with some relevant small talk that breaks the ice and sets you apart.
3. Research your interview on LinkedIn
Look at the background of the person you are meeting on LinkedIn. Look for common connections. Check the company out too. See if you can get an understanding of the structure of the company by looking at people in it.
4. Ask your recruiter
They will know what’s important.
BECOME BETTER AT ANSWERING INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
HOW TO ANSWER BEHAVIOURAL QUESTIONS USING THE STAR FRAMEWORK
For behavioural questions (“Tell me about a time when…”), I always recommend the STAR framework. It naturally creates a narrative, allowing you to tell a meaningful story about your previous work experience. It also prevents you from blabbing on and helps you give a focused answer.
Situation - Set the scene and try to be as specific as you can - When did this situation happen? Who was the company? Who were the stakeholders? What was the structure of the team you were in? What was your role?
Task - What was the problem? What was your responsibility? It’s best to actually say “The problem was…” to create the structure.
Action - Explain exactly the steps YOU took to address it. It’s about what you did - they are not looking at hiring your team.
Result - What were the outcomes of your actions? Ideally, you made some commercial impact on the business - saved or made money. If you can bring that into your answer, it is going to carry so much more weight.
“ It’s hard to know exactly which questions you will get. But to avoid trying to come up with examples on the spot, make sure you create a bank of different interview answers ready to go. This is going to make you feel way more comfortable and far more prepared for interviews.
Here are the 6 most common ones:
- How did you handle difficult stakeholders/work situations/co-workers - This one is very common. You can use the same answer for any sort of conflict or leadership experience.
- Tell me about a time when you led a project / developed a new product or feature - If you’re in a product role, you’ll sometimes be asked this question differently way - “What’s the product you are most proud of?”
- Failure/weakness - It’s really important you have a good answer to this. Your interviewer doesn't want to hear about how hard you work or how you’re a perfectionist. Make sure there is a level of honesty and learning, because that’s what they want to see.
- What’s your favourite digital product? What would you add / remove?- There isn’t a right nor wrong answer, however, your interviewer is looking for certain things such as your communication style and the right product mindset, which depends on the business. Make sure you consider competitors, pricing, customer experience, the problem they’re solving as a business and try to add a level of creativity to help you remain memorable.
- What are you passionate about outside of work? Tell me about it. - Often asked at the end of the interview when a candidate thinks the official interview is over. The idea is to generate some sort of insight into the personality of that person and to see how someone is good at selling an idea and to get them excited about it. It’s a core part of the Product Manager role!
QUESTIONS YOU CAN ASK AT THE END OF AN INTERVIEW
Never underestimate the importance of your questions for the interviewer. Avoid questions you can find answers for in the job description or the website. It’s lazy and doesn’t show a level of commitment.
Here are some that I suggest:
- Are there any concerns you have about my experience and is there anything I can clarify for you? - This is a great question that allows you to address concerns they may have, then and there. Why wait to receive the feedback after they’ve made a decision?
- What would success look like in this role, and how would it be measured? - This question will give you an insight into whether the company understands Product or if you are being set up for failure.
- Why did you join the company and did it live up to your expectations? - Don’t ask a Founder this though. This question will help you get an understanding of the problems they need help with and the team dynamics. Don’t be afraid to probe and get a sense of what culture is actually like. The more honest the interviewer, the better!
NAVIGATE THE HIDDEN JOB MARKET
Did you know that over 70% of roles available in the market are not advertised? That’s why just applying to already posted jobs is not the only way to go.
Being a proactive job seeker means that you’re scouting out opportunities before they ever grace a job board or company website (link). This creates more opportunities for you, less competition, and helps grow your network.
Here are top 5 tips I have for you:
- Align your CV and your LinkedIn profile - The more detailed your LinkedIn profile, the greater the chance you have of being found in searches. This is because it helps the LinkedIn algorithm to prioritise your profile.
- Grow your network - But don’t be that spammy person who people write posts complaining about. It can feel daunting, but personalise your invites. I was terrified too in the beginning, but once results come back, your confidence will skyrocket.
- Do your research - If you send a clearly thought out a message that shows you’ve done your research, there is a greater chance that you’ll get a response.
- Engage with relevant content - Like with most things in life, you need to give in order to receive. So if you give relevant people your attention and leave thoughtful comments, it will come back to you. It allows you to put yourself out there to be seen and form deeper connections.
- Attend community events and meetups - Online or IRL, events and meetups are the easiest way to find people you want to connect with and scout out a potential mentor. Mentors are one of the most effective ways to drive your career forward and learn. Events provide an informal way of creating those connections.