Acceptance rates for technical program manager (TPM) jobs at the very top tech companies tend to be under 1%. As you can imagine, most candidates don’t get past the resume screening.
So if you want to get an interview for a TPM role at somewhere like Google, Facebook, or Amazon, you’ll need to make sure your technical program manager resume is in top condition. Whatever your experience level, we're here to help you write the best resume you possibly can.
Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:
Let’s get into it.
The job of a technical program manager is quite varied and broad, but we’ve identified seven key skills that you’ll want to demonstrate in your resume to show recruiters that you’ve got what it takes.
Depending on what type of technical program manager you want your resume to portray you as, certain skill areas will be more important to include than others. So before you start writing, you might first need to sit back and reflect on the type of TPM you are, or want to be.
Right, let's take a look at our list of TPM skills.
1. Program management skills needed to execute complex, multi-disciplinary projects, from beginning to end. This is obviously not one specific skill, more a wide-ranging skillset. Some of the most important components to cover in your resume are: use of methodologies such as Agile, Waterfall, etc; identifying, assessing and managing risks; prioritizing; managing schedules and deadlines; allocating resources; tracking and reporting progress.
2. Facilitation skills to help your engineers and other team members progress. You’ll need to clear all obstacles out of their way so they can focus on shipping. It’s not always easy to get into this kind of detail on a resume, but try to include an example that shows how you unblocked a project, took preemptive action to avoid a bottleneck, or improved a process.
3. Engineering skills of some level in order to hold technical discussions with the engineering team. You don’t always need to be highly technical to be a TPM, but you’ll want to show that you can understand the sorts of problems that engineers face and are able to consider technical trade offs with them. Some companies will ask for basic coding skills. If you have some, be sure to mention them on your resume.
4. System design skills needed to discuss engineering architecture and make decisions relating to efficiency, scalability, and performance. So if you have any experience in designing systems, or related experience, make sure it’s prominent on your resume.
5. Data analysis skills to define success metrics and make sure goals are achieved. This means being comfortable using data to make crucial decisions in line with business objectives. You can demonstrate this in your resume by quantifying success on past projects in terms of key metrics.
6. Leadership skills to drive projects forward and influence people that you don’t have authority over in order to build a common consensus. If you haven’t got many strong examples from your work experience, give evidence of leadership in the extracurricular section of your resume.
7. Communication skills to interface with different stakeholders, aligning them and updating them on project statuses. You’ll need to be as comfortable communicating with executives as you are with engineers. So, include experience of working with cross-functional teams and partnerships across a company.
Demonstrating these skills on your resume should signal to recruiters and interviewers that you have the right capabilities they're looking for. For more reading on what it takes to be a technical program manager, we recommend this post by GitHub’s Ben Balter.
Before we start guiding you on how to write your resume step-by-step, take a look at two real examples from TPMs who recently cleared the interview process at Google.
You'll notice they're both quite different, and neither fully follow the guidelines we set out below. In fact, the second one breaks Google's own advice on length! We think this shows two things:
- there's many acceptable ways to write a resume
- your resume doesn't have to be perfect, as long as it demonstrates your skills and achievements effectively.
Let's take a look.
2.1 Resume example 1
The candidate communicates her work achievements in a way that is very clear to understand. She does this via:
- Explanation: her previous company may not be well-known to the recruiter so she adds a brief explanation
- Action verbs: the candidate starts each sentence with a powerful action verb that reflects key TPM responsibilities and skill areas
- Quantifying achievements: she provides metrics to make her achievements measurable and specific.
- Key skills for the role: Agile methodology was listed in the job description so the candidate made sure to include it near the top.
Note that some details have been anonymized in order to protect the candidate's privacy.
2.2 Resume example 2
While very different in length and layout, this resume has some similar strengths to the first one:
Action verbs: again, the candidate starts sentences with powerful action verbs that demonstrate key TPM skills.
Quantifying achievements: although the candidate doesn't include many metrics, here he gives the budget he worked with in order to demonstrate the scale of his achievements.
Key skills for the role: these skills were prominent in the job description so the candidate makes sure to list them near the top.
Again, some details have been anonymized in order to protect the candidate's privacy.
Now you've seen two real Google TPM resumes, it's time to get started on making sure your own is up to scratch.
Let’s go through the resume-building process, step-by-step, section-by-section.
To illustrate our tips at each stage, and to help you visualize our recommended layout, we’ve created an example resume for you to use as a reference.
Unlike those in the previous section, this is not a real resume. Instead, it's an amalgamation of the many high quality resumes that candidates have shared with us before going on to work at Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.
Right, let’s take the first step in building a technical program manager resume.
2.1 Step 1: study the target company and job description
Before you start writing or editing your resume, our tip is that you do some research.
Find the job specification, read it thoroughly, and use it to shape your resume in the following ways:
- First of all, work out what type of TPM the job description is looking for. Which TPM skills will be most crucial for the role? Prepare to adapt your resume’s content accordingly.
- Zoom in on a few of the responsibilities in the job description that you think are most important. Search for specific examples from your past that demonstrate experience in doing the same thing or something very similar. Find the numbers to back it up where possible, so you’re ready to include this information in the work experience section later on.
- Take note of the language used in the job description so you can, where appropriate, match specific verbs and phrases.
- Research the company. For example, imagine you’re targeting a TPM role at Facebook. Facebook has 5 core values, so you’d want to make sure that your resume transmits these values too. That might mean including a volunteering activity under Interests to show that you like to "build social value." Do the same if you’re applying for Google or Amazon.
Does all this mean you’ll need a different iteration of your resume for every TPM job you target? Ideally yes, but there will be a lot of overlap, so usually you’ll only need to make a few strategic edits.
Right, once you’ve done the research, you’ll be ready to start writing.
2.2 Step 2: Choose a layout
The design of your resume should have one objective: to convey as much information as possible in a way that is clear, easy to digest, and professional. Use our sample resume as your template, and you’ve already achieved that!
Some people add a second objective: to demonstrate strong design skills in order to stand out from the crowd and impress the recruiter.
However, we recommend treading carefully with this. Recruiters for large companies are unlikely to be impressed by a resume’s design; they’re interested in the content. Some might even be put off by a “creative” or unique design. To avoid this risk, aim to stand out through your resume’s content, not its design.
Another area of debate is length. Should you always stick to just one page?
The answer is no, not necessarily. If you’re an experienced TPM, it’s fine to go to two pages, as long as all the content you’re including is strong and relevant to the role. We can confirm this because many of the candidates who use our coaching service got their FAANG interviews using two-page resumes.
However, if you’ve only been working for a few years, or you’ve recently graduated, we strongly recommend sticking to a single page.
2.2.1 Sections / categories
We recommend using the following section layout for a TPM resume. The exact titles and order of the sections is open to debate, but we know that this approach works for companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, for both junior and experienced candidates.
- Personal information
- Work experience
- Skills & Interests
Whether or not you stick exactly to our suggested categories, we highly recommend keeping these general layout/design tips in mind:
- Choose a professional-looking font: Size 10-12, black and white. Arial and Calibri are fine
- Save it as a PDF
- Use bullet points
- Make sure the formatting is 100% neat and consistent
- Include enough white space that it doesn’t look overcrowded
- Include a “summary” or “objective” section at the top (unless you have an unusual profile which needs explaining). Your resume is already a summary, so this just wastes space
- Include references
- Pick an unusual font to try and stand out
In the remaining steps, we’ll help you craft each section. Let’s go!
2.3 Step 3: the Personal Information section
This section is not the place to try and impress. Just make sure you get your details across in as few words as possible and avoid mistakes.
Notice how the above example is extremely clean and easy to read. Follow these tips to achieve the same:
- Use bigger font for your name than for the rest of the section to make it stand out
- Include your name, email address, phone number, city/county you live in
- Ideally include a link to your LinkedIn profile (or Github if you have an engineering background)
- Title this section. It’s not necessary in this type of layout, so save the space
- Include a street address, as it’s unnecessary and unsafe
- Include a photo, date of birth, or gender, unless specifically requested to do so
- Don’t label each piece of information e.g “email,” “tel,” etc. It’s obvious what they are, so save the space
- Link to personal or portfolio websites here, as you can do that lower down
2.4 Step 4: the Work Experience section
This is probably the most important part of your resume to get right, and the easiest to get wrong. Many candidates think that their work experience speaks for itself, and simply list their role and a few of their main responsibilities.
However, we recommend a much more powerful approach.
Instead of listing responsibilities, you need to talk about actions. This means starting each bullet point with an action verb. These verbs should relate to the seven skills from section 1 that companies look for in TPM resumes (Program management, Facilitation, Engineering, System design, Data analysis, Leadership, Communication). "Executed," "Unblocked," "Led," and "Delivered" are some good examples of such verbs.
Choosing actions that are relevant to one of the seven technical program manager essential skills will also mean that your resume contains the keywords that recruiters (and sometimes Applicant Tracking Systems) will be looking for.
You should also focus on the results of what you did and quantify them as much as possible to highlight the tangible contributions you have made. Ex-Google SVP Lazlo Bock talks about a common method for doing this that you might find helpful, called the “X, Y, Z” formula.
Finally, balance is also important. Because a technical program manager role is quite multi-faceted, it’s important to demonstrate a range of skills in the work experience section.
Notice how the candidate implements the things we’ve mentioned above: using action verbs to talk about their actions and achievements, quantifying them where possible, and covering a range of skills.
Ready to start writing this section? Use the tips below to keep you on the right track.
- Use reverse chronological order, putting most recent employment at the top
- Use present tense verbs (e.g. "Lead, Coordinate, Execute") in your current position (except for completed achievements), and past tense verbs for past positions (e.g. "Led, Coordinated, Executed")
- Describe your actions and what they achieved
- Include metrics to quantify what your actions achieved where possible
- Study the language of the job description and where appropriate, match it
- Make sure you’ve naturally included several relevant keywords
- Demonstrate a balance of skills
- Be shy and humble. Now is not the time!
- Just put your responsibilities
- Be vague
- Go so overboard with numbers that it looks like a math problem. It still needs to be easy to read
- Include lots of buzzwords just for the sake of it
2.5 Step 5: the Education section
This section should be extremely concise and clear. Hopefully your educational achievements can do the talking for you, as all you can really do here is present the necessary information with the right level of detail.
Let’s take a look at what it should look like.
Note that if you have recently graduated and only have internship experiences, this section should follow the Personal Information section, and you may want to go into a bit more detail. Otherwise, you can include it after work experience.
Follow the tips below to make sure you get it just right.
- If you have multiple degrees (e.g. a BA and an MBA), you should write a subsection like the one above for each degree, starting with your highest level of education first (e.g. your MBA)
- For each degree, include the name of the degree, university, and dates in the headline. If you’re a recent graduate, you can also list any subjects you have taken that are relevant to product management (e.g. design, coding, entrepreneurship, data analysis, etc.)
- List your grades (e.g. GPA) as well as results of other standardized tests you have taken (e.g. SAT, GMAT, etc.) that demonstrate your intellect
- Detail any awards and scholarships you received at university level and most importantly how competitive they were (e.g. two awards for 1,000 students)
- If you don’t have much tech work experience you might want to include tech bootcamps (e.g. General Assembly) and link to your projects, or online courses (e.g. Udacity)
- Panic if you don't have a degree. You don’t have to have gone to college to get into a FAANG company. Instead put your high school grades and any relevant educational qualifications you gained after school
- Include high school experience if you've already graduated
- Include your thesis / dissertation unless you're a fairly recent graduate, in which case you should summarize the topic in a way that's VERY easy to understand
2.6 Step 6: the Extracurricular Activities section
TPM roles require a breadth of skills, and it can be difficult to demonstrate all of them through your work experience. The extracurricular section is therefore a great opportunity to cover these skills. It can be particularly useful in demonstrating leadership skills, especially if you haven’t yet had much opportunity to lead in a work situation.
Note: If you’re applying to Google, you should consider calling this section “Leadership & Awards” to fit in with their recommended resume structure. Obviously you’ll need to make sure that the content demonstrates those two things.
Below is how this section looks on our example resume.
The extracurricular section is more important for recent graduates than experienced hires, but even for TPMs with a lot of impressive work experience to fit in, leaving a bit of space to talk about your personal projects can add a whole new dimension to the “you” on your resume.
Stuck for ideas? Here are a few different types of activities you could write about (not exhaustive):
- Side businesses: if you have set up a side business, you should mention it along with the number of users and/or revenue you have achieved
- Coding projects: if you're not a developer but have built simple web apps to teach yourself to code, this is the place to mention it
- Writing/design: if you enjoy writing or design and have a blog where you show your work, share it in this section
- Meetups/events: be sure to mention if you have organized meetups or events in the past, as this is a great way to highlight leadership skills
- University clubs/sports teams: if you are a recent graduate and have held a position in a university club (e.g. Entrepreneur club) or were part of a sports team, then this is also a great thing to include
However, you simply might not have any recent and relevant extracurricular activities worth including. This is often the case for parents who have young children. If that’s the case, you can leave out this section and fill the space by adding more content to the work experience section. After all, if it’s not going to make you shine, there’s no point including it.
Ready to write the extracurricular section? Here are the remaining tips you need to know.
- Use this section to demonstrate relevant skills, such as leadership
- As with work experience, try and include actions and achievements, and quantify them
- Put a hyphen in the title: "Extracurricular” is all one word
- Capitalize “university” unless you’re using it as a proper noun (e.g “Oxford University”)
- Give very outdated examples. If you graduated seven+ years ago, there shouldn’t really be university examples there
2.7 Step 7: the Additional Skills & Interests section
Technical program managers need to be adept at using a wide range of tools, methodologies and technologies, and this section gives you the opportunity to list yours.
As you can see above, you can also list any foreign languages you speak, as employers generally look favorably on them.
You should also list any programming languages (e.g. HTML, CSS, JS, Python, etc.), as well as relevant tools (e.g. Jira, Sketch, Tableau, etc.) and product management methodologies that you’re familiar with.
Under “Interests,” listing a few hobbies is an opportunity to show some more of your personality and to stand out from the crowd.
However, if you feel you’ve already covered your personal interests in Extracurricular, (or if you’ve been so career-focused that you simply don’t have any!) then you can change this section to just “Additional skills.”
- List things in sentences rather than lots of bullets, which take up too much vertical space
- Include generic, uninteresting things that everyone likes doing, like “watching Netflix” or “hanging out with friends,” as hobbies
2.8 Step 8: proofreading and feedback
Attention to detail is a core TPM skill, so don’t skip this step! Use the grammar checking tool in Word or Google Docs, and proofread until it’s perfect. This is harder than it sounds because multiple reviews and tweaking after the initial proofread can easily create new hard-to-spot errors. The only solution is to proofread again.
We recommend saving as a pdf file unless the job description says otherwise, and checking it opens properly (with the correct formatting) on a Mac or PC.
Receiving feedback is also important. Share it with a friend or partner, and they’ll be very likely to see mistakes that you haven’t noticed. Of course, if you can share it with an experienced TPM, that’s even better.
- Proofread from top to bottom and then read it in reverse to check spelling
- If you’ve tweaked it, proofread again before sending
- Check the file opens properly on Mac and PC
- Get feedback on it before sending
- Send it with typos. Your resume is your product!
Almost ready to send your resume? Use this checklist to make sure you’re following the best practices we’ve recommended above.
If you can answer “Yes” to every question, then you’re ready to send it.
- Does your resume present you as the type of TPM the job description is looking for?
- Is it just one page? If not, do you have the experience to merit 2 pages?
- Is the formatting 100% consistent and neat?
- Is there enough white space to breathe?
- Have you checked your contact details are correct?
- Have you talked about your actions rather than your responsibilities?
- Have you quantified the impact of your actions?
- Have you demonstrated the seven TPM skills? (Program management, Facilitation, Engineering, System design, Data analysis, Leadership, Communication)
- Have you got the tenses correct?
- If you graduated >5 years ago, are your examples post-university?
Skills & Interests
- Have you listed all the programming languages and tools you’re familiar with?
- Do your interests make you stand out from the crowd in some way?
Proofreading and feedback
- Have you proofread since you last edited it?
- Have you received any feedback on your resume and updated it?
- Have you saved it as a PDF to make sure it displays correctly on all devices?
Did you say “Yes” to every question? Well done! If you’ve used all the tips in this article, then your resume should be in good condition and will give you a fighting chance of getting that interview.
4. Is your resume truly outstanding?
If you're going for one of the top tech jobs, having a resume that's "fine" may not be enough. To get your TPM resume from "fine" to "outstanding" usually requires feedback from someone who really knows their stuff - as in an ex-recruiter or manager at one of the top companies.
We know it's hard to get access to those type of people. That's why we've created a resume review service, that allows you to get immediate feedback on your resume with a top recruiter/coach of your choosing. Take a look!