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Surviving and Thriving in the Current Product Job Market

Written by
Alastair Preacher Alastair Preacher
CPO, Advisor and Mentor
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Navigating the current Product Management job market, whether as a candidate or a recruiter, is not straightforward. But there are ways you can make it easier on yourself and increase the chance of landing that next dream role whilst maintaining your sanity in the process.

In the eye of the storm: The product management job hunt

Let's face it, the product management job market is going through some pretty turbulent times. With a deluge of candidates flooding the market, tightening budgets, and a shift towards combining senior product roles or prioritising commercial roles over more customer-centric ones, standing out has never felt more like finding a needle in a haystack. And when seasoned pros with over two decades of experience struggle to even snag an interview, and CPO roles have over 500 applications in a matter of days you know something's got to give.

The heart of the problem: Broken hiring

The hiring landscape, to put it mildly, is in a bit of a mess. Stories of poorly managed interviews, ghosting, sexism and ageism are rife, painting a picture of a process that's lost its human touch. If you've thrown your hat into the ring only to be met with silence or outright rudeness, know you're not alone. The system is creaking right now.

Getting your foot in the door for an interview is arguably the toughest hurdle in the current job market at any level. With hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications per role, the odds seem daunting. Gone are the days when a great CV, a decent cover note and a message to the recruiter on LinkedIn gets you an interview.

"If you've thrown your hat into the ring only to be met with silence or outright rudeness, know you're not alone"

Alastair Preacher, CPO, Advisor and Mentor

Light at the end of the tunnel: Tips for candidates

But fear not there are things you can do. Plus, whilst it’s easy to paint a negative picture and latch on to the bad news, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Nor is it the first time the job market has been tough.

Whilst some of these tips may seem obvious, it’s easy to let some best practices slip. Here are a few nuggets I’ve found useful over the years that will help you navigate these choppy waters:


Getting To Interview
  • Customise Your Approach: Tailor your application to each role. Whilst I wouldn’t advocate a wholesale CV change every time. Subtle CV wording changes to reflect those used in the job description will help with some AI screeners (if used) and will resonate with time-poor recruiters and managers looking for highlights to jump out.

  • Clearing the Biggest Hurdle: If you were a hiring manager with hundreds of applications piling up, how would you prioritise? The first place most start is with referrals. So as a candidate, use this information. Prioritise applications where you have a connection. Focus on leveraging your network to find an "in" or spend time building connections that can provide one.

    I know from first-hand experience that this approach works. After being rejected for a Product Director role at CV screening stage, I was subsequently able to secure an interview following a referral from a connection of a connection. I was upfront about my situation, shared my conviction in how I could add value to the company, and asked if they'd be willing to discuss my profile with the recruiter. They agreed and their endorsement paved the way for an interview invite, overturning the initial rejection.

    You could even go so far as to only apply for roles where you have a connection. Whilst you may feel you’re limiting your chances, like with building products, focus can really pay off.

    Remember, it's not just what you know, but who you know—and how you harness that knowledge to your advantage.

  • Building Your Personal Brand. Everyone always talks about how in a sea of candidates, standing out is crucial, if only to stay on the radar of recruiters. Yes clearly this is true, and whilst this comes easy to some, others not so much. For me, it took a while to figure out what I wanted my personal brand to be and how to do that authentically without feeling completely cringe. I started my Product Tapas newsletter, because A) I thought the Product world needed an easy-to-digest, shareable newsletter that summarised the weekly goings on in the Product world (I do see the deep irony here that the solution to too many newsletters and podcasts is to create another one) and B) I wanted to learn more about GPTs and AI so what better way to do it than getting stuck in and using the tools to create the newsletter. The knock-on benefit is I now have a pretty decent opinion and perspective on what’s going on in the Product world and can talk about it pretty easily.

    Some people love LinkedIn, others prefer IRL networking and speaking engagements, others mentoring. But you don’t have to just have to be on the panel to get involved. Ask interesting questions, have an opinion, speak to the panellists for their advice. Just getting out and about will help you gain confidence that you have lots to offer the community and you’ll find your corner or niche you want to go deeper in. Such platforms not only allow you to refine and articulate your experiences but also to listen and learn from others, enriching your own perspective.

The best advice I can give here is just to try a few things, test what you like and what gives you energy. Because this is the trick, you need to enjoy it for it to work, then it will come naturally and flow from there.


Optimising Your Effectiveness
  • Beyond LinkedIn: It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole of endless scrolling on LinkedIn, often leading to discouragement, distraction and an inevitable drain on your mental health.

    If this is happening to you, diversify your job search. Platforms like Otta and dedicated job boards offer a more focused environment. By segmenting your job search time and limiting distractions, you create a more efficient and less overwhelming process.

  • Stay Organised: It goes without saying, keep track of your applications and follow up. Persistence pays, but keeping on top of everything is impossible without some sort of system.

    I seem to spend my life in Notion so I built a CRM-like tracker system to keep on top of my job searches. Tools like this can help you organise applications, contacts, and follow-up tasks, ensuring you stay on top of your search without getting overwhelmed. Documenting interactions and planned follow-ups can significantly enhance your efficiency and effectiveness - a key step to keeping on top of your mental well-being.

Preserving Mental Health: Strategies for Resilience

On the topic of mental health, job hunting is mentally exhausting at the best of times. In a market like this, it’s especially tough.

  • Managing Your Energy Levels: Find out what energises you and schedule time to do that. Whether it's something active like going for walks, the gym, doing some sport, or more socially oriented like going out with friends, contributing to community discussions, or just speaking to someone for an hour - understanding what recharges you and making time to do it is one of the most productive ways to maintain balance and improve your wellbeing.

  • The Power of Community: You’re not alone in this, far from it and so for many, the power of community can really come into play. Participation in support networks, like product-focused Slack groups (e.g. Product Mind), can provide solace and solidarity. Engaging in honest conversations, sharing experiences, and supporting one another can make all the difference.

    Personally, I found mentoring immensely rewarding. Feeling useful is something it's easy to lose when you’re not working, so giving something back not only keeps you active but helps you stay on top of things when you’re out of it day to day.

  • Be prepared to navigate the shitshow. If my experiences are anything to go by, you will get ghosted, a lot. Roles will get pulled after 6-8 rounds of being the preferred candidate with great feedback.

Sadly, you also won’t always get feedback, even after interviews. Then when you do, sometimes it won’t make any sense at all. I got turned down for a role because the CEO didn’t think I was up to managing more than 10 product teams or expanding into international markets. This is despite having managed many more previously. Oh and the role in question looked after 4 teams in one country and the topics of growth and market expansion were never even discussed 🤷.

There’s not really a lot you can do about these, other than shrug, reflect and move onto the next. It’s crap, but treat it as a lesson in resilience.

  • Plan your time: Staying busy doesn't necessarily mean you’re being productive. Sitting at home on your own constantly checking LinkedIn isn’t going to help. Plan your job-hunting, be focused and then take time away from the screen.

Overall it’s important to keep perspective. You will find another job, Product Management isn’t dead, there are roles available at all levels - it may just take a bit of time.

Remember this too shall pass, but it's also okay to recognise when you’re finding it tough and to seek support and take time for self-care.

For the Hiring Managers: Mending the Process - A Call To Arms

Whilst this article is very much focused on candidates, I do have a plea to those on the other side of the equation. Spend five minutes to look at your hiring practices and ask yourself how would you feel if you were on the other side of them? A simple question with a wide impact.

If your answer is yes, fantastic. Thank you. You are well on your way to ensuring a respectful and efficient process, recognising it isn't just about filling a position; it's about building relationships and ultimately a stronger team.

But, if there is room for improvement, consider taking the time to walk a mile in your candidate's shoes. Perhaps it's time to streamline your processes, communicate clearly, and remember, that a little empathy goes a long way.

Wrapping up

For anyone in the current Product Management job market, life is tough. But there are strategies you can adopt to simplify the process and enhance your prospects of securing your ideal next role, all while keeping your stress levels manageable.

At the heart of it all, take the time to be more structured and methodical to help you navigate the practicalities, whilst maintaining optimism and energy so that you’re at the top of your game when the interviews come.

This isn’t meant to be collectively exhaustive and certainly not prescriptive - but hopefully provides some ideas to help you through the process. I’d love to hear back from those who have other tips or tricks you can share to add to my list.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alastair Preacher

Alastair Preacher
CPO, Advisor and Mentor

Alastair is a seasoned product leader with multi-sector experience across strategy consulting, FTSE 100 giants, scale-ups and start-ups, including co-founding a Web3 payments business.

Forever restless with the status quo, he’s launched and re-engineered products at their core and optimised product portfolios.

Known for creating products that meet changing customer needs for maximum impact. His recent ventures in fintech and Web3 include co-founding a revolutionary fiat-to-crypto portal and building an award-winning SME lending platform.

From corporates to startups (zero to Series C), he’s architected the growth of both teams and entire businesses. Whether it's leading fully remote global teams or growing a business from 40 to 100 in under a year, he’s developed frameworks and processes that enable efficient and sustainable scaling in various settings.

Alastair is also the creator of the Product Tapas newsletter so please subscribe at https://producttapas-newsletter.beehiiv.com/ to keep up to speed on everything going on in the Product and Tech space in a weekly 5-minute digest.

Alastair is currently doing advisory work while looking for his next full-time challenge. Get in touch for a chat on how to drive efficiency, scale, improve customer experience or innovate in product management.

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