Product manager cover letter: step-by-step guide

Product Management is a hot field. Top tech firms and start-ups recruiting PMs routinely receive 500+ applications for a single position. Candidates usually don't know this, but the most competitive step in the recruiting process is the cover letter and resume screening. That's where more than 60% of candidates get eliminated.

So how do you do it? How do you craft a PM cover letter that gets you interviews at top tech firms? What do these firms exactly expect to read in a PM cover letter?

Because here is the thing. PM cover letters are actually different to application letters for other jobs. So, let's step through the product manager cover letter basics and writing tips you should be aware of. And let's also review a cover letter sample that landed multiple PM interviews.

  1. Basics
  2. Top writing tips
  3. Google letter sample
  4. Q&A


Additional resources
If you haven't already done so you should checkout our free product manager resume guide. It's packed with writing tips and also includes a resume example that landed interviews at Google.
1. Basics

The first step towards writing a strong application is to understand why some tech firms and start-ups ask for a cover letter in the first place. And what specific skills hiring managers will be looking for in your letter.

PM cover letter basics

1.1 Why ask for a letter?

Let's put ourselves in the shoes of a hiring manager for a second. What are the top three questions you want to answer before investing your time and your team's time into interviewing a candidate?

  1. Have they had a strong impact as a PM or in another role before?
  2. Product management can mean different things at different companies. What aspects of product management are they interested in?
  3. Have they thought about why they want to work for us and not another company?

If you answer these three questions in a structured and impactful way, the hiring manager reading your letter will be thankful. They'll easily know whether you could be a good fit for their team. This is why every cover letter should be structured as follows:

  1. Why you?
  2. Why product management?
  3. Why firm X?

The second reason some firms ask for a cover letter is to test your writing skills. PMs write all the time: product requirement documents, emails, power points, user stories, etc. They spend 50% of their day writing. And a lot of the time their job is to summarise very large quantities of information in a succint way.

This is exactly what you have to do in your cover letter. You have to a) look back on all your past experiences, b) select the relevant experiences to convince the reviewer that you are the right person for the job and c) summarise all these experiences in a way that's easy to read and digest.

Cover letters are a disguised writing test. Your objective when you write one should be to answer the questions above and to demonstrate the PM skills hiring managers will be looking for.

1.2 What skills to demonstrate?

We've extensively discussed what skills you should demonstrate in your PM applications in our product manager resume guide. In summary, you should highlight a mix of technical skills including:

  • Strategy
  • UX / UI design
  • Coding
  • Digital marketing
  • Data analytics

And also soft skills including:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Organisation

Your cover letter shouldn't simply repeat what's in your resume. It should focus on the most relevant aspects of your achievements for a given company and expand on them. The two documents should complement each other.

In general, your resume will be similar for all your different applications. But customising your cover letter to each company is a good idea as it enables you to select the best parts of your experience for each firm.

2. Top writing tips

So how do you make it easy for your reviewer to put your cover letter on the "Accept" pile? We have put together the 10 tips below to make sure you can achieve this and avoid common mistakes.

Top 10 PM cover letter tips

Tip #1 Keep it to one page

One of the unwritten rules of cover letters is that they should not be longer than one page. The trick to achieve this is to only select the MOST RELEVANT experiences from your resume and to summarise them. The points you decide to highlight should clearly demonstrate that you are or would make a great product manager.

Tip #2 Standard format and font

It's tempting to use an eye-catching font and format. But it's actually a bad idea. You only risk your hiring manager thinking: "I've never seen this font, it looks really weird. Who is this person?" Your cover letter should stand out because of its content, NOT because of its format. Stick to standard format and font (e.g. Arial, size 11).

Tip #3 Go beyond the resume

A common mistake we see applicants making is to simply repeat what's on their resume in their cover letter. Instead, you should use the letter as an opportunity to expand on those bullet points which are most relevant to the specific job you are applying for. Your cover letter should complement your resume, not repeat it.

Tip #4 Network, network, network

This might sound surprising but a big part of the cover letter is how much networking you have done. Having talked to people from the firms you are targeting has two benefits. First, they might recommend you to the hiring manager. And second, you can mention you know them in your cover letter which increases your chances of getting an interview. In fact, your chances of getting a PM offer at Google increase from less than 1% to about 5% when you are referred by a current employee.

Tip #5 Write one letter per firm

One question we often get is: "Should I write one letter per firm?" The answer is YES. But it's not as hard as it might sound. Every cover letter needs to answer three questions: Why you? Why product management? And why this firm?

The main paragraph you will need to change in every letter is therefore the one about "Why this firm?" For each firm, you will have to do the networking mentioned above to clearly articulate why you are interested in working there.

Tip #6 Don't apologise if no experience

If you are not a PM currently, you should not apologise for having no experience in product management. Instead you should focus your efforts on showing that your skillset overlaps a lot with a product manager's skillset.

Instead of writing "I was never a product manager before", you could write: "I was never exactly a PM, but the role I held required very similar skills. I wrote and prioritised epics and user stories as well created initial UX wireframes for 2 projects. I analysed large datasets to drive strategy and make feature requests, etc." Storytelling matters.

Tip #7 Don't be shy

Your cover letter is not the time to be shy. If you went to Harvard and have three Olympic medals, now is the time to say it! Most of us don't, and that's fine. But the point is that you should really push yourself to bring your most impressive accomplishments forward.

Tip #8 Use short sentences and the active voice

Your cover letter must be easy to read and digest. A great way to achieve this is to use short sentences (e.g. less than 2 lines), and the active voice. If you're not sure what the active voice is you can take a look here.

Tip #9 Edit and proofread

Writing an outstanding cover letter is actually very hard. Most candidates underestimate how much time it takes and start this process too late. You'll need to take a step back and reflect on everything you have done to date to highlight your most relevant experiences. This takes multiple iterations. Start early, edit and proofread multiple times.

Tip #10 Get feedback!

One of the keys to success is to get feedback from peers or experienced product managers. These people will be able to point out which parts of your letter they don't get or don't find impactful enough. In our experience, great candidates all look for feedback and iterate their letter until it's truly as good as it can get. It's a lot of work, but not many people do it so it's worth it.

3. Google letter sample

Now that you know about the 10 most important tips to craft the perfect product manager cover letter let's use them to build a cover letter sample you can reuse for your own job applications at top tech companies. Every PM cover letter should be split out in 5 sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Why you?
  3. Why product management?
  4. Why this firm?
  5. Conclusion

Let's step through each section one by one and highlight the important elements you need to take inspiration from in your own cover letter.

But before we dive in, please note the following points about the template:

  • This is an anonymised cover letter from a candidate who got PM interviews at top tech firms. So you can trust this template works.
  • A lot of people use this template. Get inspiration from it, but every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
  • This cover letter might sound impressive. Even if you have not achieved as much as this person, you can still get an interview.
  • You can get access to this template by signing up to our Free resume and cover letter email course at the top of this page.

Finally, if you're applying for a firm that doesn't ask for a cover letter this section can still be helpful for you. Indeed, sending a cover letter along with your resume when you're networking can be a great way to explain your background more comprehensively.

Google product manager resume sample

3.1 Introduction
Example - Introduction

Mary Taylor - mary.taylor@gmail.com

DD / MM / YYYY

Dear Hiring Manager,

I would like to apply for a Product Manager position at Google in London.

This section is a formality. It should simply state the following information:

  • Your name and email address. You can replace your email address by a postal address although those are not commonly used anymore.
  • The date at which you are sending your letter.
  • The position, company and office which you are applying for.

Keep it short and sweet.

3.2 Why you?
Example - Why you?

There are several reasons why I’m a strong fit for this position. First, I was quickly promoted as Lead Engineer at Early Unicorn where I now lead a team of five and report directly to the CTO. While at Early Unicorn, I ran Agile Scrum on 2-week sprints and am familiar with agile product development. Second, my current role as Lead Engineer goes beyond engineering. For instance, I co-led the development of a go-to-market strategy for the launch of a new insurance product which exceeded expectations and achieved £1m in sales in year one. Finally, I have also had a chance to hone my UX and UI design skills at the beginning of my time with Early Unicorn. As my first project with the firm, I was asked to redesign our early marketing website and achieved a 10% improvement in app downloads.

 

This is the first section of your cover letter and therefore the most important one.

It should state the top three achievements which make you an ideal candidate for a product manager position. If you are a product manager you should focus on the main products and features you delivered and what business impact they had. If you are looking to become a product manager then it's a good idea to focus on the key skills required for the job.

For instance here, notice that the three points we make in the paragraph are about 1) coding, 2) strategy and 3) UX / UI design. These are three of the technical skills you'll need as a PM as we've explained in our resume guide.

To write this section you need to step back and ask yourself "What are the most impressive things I've done so far which make me a great PM?" This is not an easy question to answer. In our experience discussing this with close friends or experienced PMs can help. It's sometimes easier for them to quickly point at the impressive and releveant things you have done as they are an external observer.

In addition, notice how achievements are QUANTIFIED  in the example above. Saying you have worked on a strategy project and "achieved £1m in sales in year one" is much more powerful than saying it was a "success". You should quantify your achievements whenever possible.

This section is your chance to grab the reader's attention. If there's nothing impressive in it, they will stop reading and just scan the following paragraphs. So don't miss your opportunity!

3.3 Why product management?
Example - Why product management?

I want to pursue a career in product management for three reasons. To start with, I know I will enjoy being a Product Manager because I have already worked in that position in the past. This was during the summer of 2013 when I was a Product Intern at Large Tech Company in San Francisco. Then, I think product management is a unique opportunity to drive business growth by using data and analytics. While at Large Tech Company, I was setting success metrics for my projects and tracking them to measure the impact of the new features we were releasing. I look forward to being in charge of that aspect of the projects I work on again. Finally, I want to work in a product position because I enjoy interacting with multiple stakeholders and I have built a successful track record in this area in the past. This was for instance the case when I led the Fintech Club at Prestigious University and grew its membership by 200% in one year.

 

Once you have convinced your reviewer that you have impressive achievements under your belt they'll be thinking: "Ok, this person seems to have the right skills to be / become a PM. But do they REALLY know what product management is about?"

Product management means different things to different people. The best approach for your "Why product management?" section is therefore to write about past experiences that are most relevant for the company you are applying to. The perfect situation is if you have been a PM at some point in time or did a Product internship.

But even if you haven't been a PM in the past, there are plenty of angles you can use to connect your past experiences to what you will do as a PM. For instance:

  • You might have enjoyed working with multiple stakeholders when you led a project at University
  • You might have enjoyed setting KPIs on one of your projects and measuring improvements driven by changes you were making
  • You might have enjoyed creating a product to solve one of your own problems as a side project

You should use these experiences to say that you know product management is something you would enjoy doing.

When they read this section, your reviewer should think: "Ok, this person is impressive AND they know what they are getting into." 

3.4 Why Google / Facebook / Amazon / Etc?
Example - Why Google?

Google appeals to me for three reasons. To start with, the different people from the company I have met and worked with all told me they had truly enjoyed their time there. For the past two years, I have worked for Michael Smith a former software engineer from Google’s London office who is now Early Unicorn’s CTO. Additionally, I am particularly excited about joining Google Pay’s team. Early Unicorn is a challenger bank and my time here has given me the opportunity to become familiar with the retail banking and payments industry. I now look forward to bringing that knowledge to Google Pay. Finally, some of Google’s values really resonate with me. This includes the focus on doing things “fast rather than slow” and on doing “one thing really, really well”. These are approaches I’ve been pushing for within my current team here at Early Unicorn and I am excited to join an organisation that shares that spirit.

 

If you have managed to convince your reviewer that you have an impressive background and that you really want to be a product manager you stand very high chances of getting an interview. The only question that's left for you to answer is: "Why work for this specific company?"

Top tech firms compete for the same talent. But they're not desperate enough to hire employees who don't truly want to work for them and will only stick around for a few months. So what should you write about in this section?

In our experience, the most efficient way to set yourself apart in this section is to write about the following three aspects. As a side benefit, researching the three points below will help you figure out if you actually want to work for that company so it's really worth doing.

  1. People
  2. Industry
  3. Values

When you write "I've worked for Michael Smith", or "I'm interested in industry X" or "Values X and Z resonate with me", you are making an argument that's specific enough for your reviewer to think: "Ok they've done their homework".

If you stay too generic, your argument will be much less credible. For instance, writing something like "I'm excited to join Google and have the opportunity to work with talented people on complex problems" is a weak argument because you could swap Google for Amazon or Facebook in that sentence and it would still work.

In fact, this is the ultimate test. If you can swap Google with another name in your "Why Google?" section you are not being specific enough. You need to work on your paragraph again and mention specific people, an industry and values that you find interesting.

3.5 Conclusion
Example - Conclusion

For all these reasons, I am very enthusiastic about the chance to work at Google. I am available for an interview at any time and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Mary Taylor

 

The last section of the cover letter is a formality again. It should include the following elements:

  • A sentence or two saying that you are enthusiastic and available for interviews at any time
  • Your final signature

Keep it short and sweet!


Additional resources
If you haven't already done so you should checkout our free product manager resume guide. It's packed with writing tips and also includes a resume example that landed interviews at Google.
Any questions about PM cover letters?

If you have any questions about product management cover letters, do not hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!

Keep reading: product manager interview articles