A product manager is like a parent to a new product. She oversees the product’s infancy and development stages before helping the product work out kinks and problems. Then, when the time is right, she helps the product enter the consumer world, where -- depending on how good a job the manager did -- the product will flourish or fail. Writing a good cover letter for a product manager position requires you to demonstrate your awareness of the stakes of the position through identifying your experiences, proving your readiness, backing up your claims and presenting yourself as something more than just another job applicant.
Identify Your Experiences
After you’ve identified the position to which you are applying, you should transition immediately into the educational and professional experiences you have that have prepared you for it. Try to repeat language used in the product manager job description. For example, if the job description asks for someone with skills in product development and managing a diverse workforce, you might write “While developing a new sneaker model, I oversaw a diverse team of designers.” Pick out your experiences that best match the skills the hiring company is looking for.
Prove Your Readiness
As a managing position that oversees a product’s life cycle from development to marketing, new product managers must hit the ground running when they start at a new company. To prove your readiness, you should indicate a general management plan for the product you’ll be working with or point to your experiences that indicate you are an extremely fast learner. If the job description indicates that you’ll be managing a new computer program, you should indicate a very broad path for that program’s life cycle. For example, you might write, “The product will require several months for development and internal testing before it can be ready for a soft release that will take place about a half of a year prior to its official release date.” If the description doesn’t indicate the product, include an example of a product you previously managed.
Back Your Claims
The best way to provide evidence of your claims about your experiences and expertise is to include a set of other professionals -- both supervisors and subordinates -- who can vouch for your qualifications. Though you will likely include letters of recommendation with your application materials, you can name names in your cover letter. For example, you might write” When developing (Soda Company’s) latest diet soda, designer Bill Popinski and I developed the now-iconic logo, which our marketing team, consisting of Jane Adspace and Suzie Commercial, successfully transformed into print and television ads.”
Keep the Conversation Going
Your cover letter is an opening salvo in the life cycle of your application. You should indicate that you have more experiences and expertise to share with your reviewers in an interview. Be forceful about this. Write something along the lines of “In addition to these general ideas, I’m interested in outlining a more specific management strategy with you in a meeting.” Write like you’re assuming you’ve got the job. This will indicate your readiness in tone alone. By insisting to the reviewers that you keep the conversation going, you present yourself not as just another candidate, but rather as the company’s next product manager.
- Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach; Paul V Anderson
- The Product Manager's Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed as a Product Manager; Stephen Haines
Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.