Whenever a candidate applies to a new company for a product manager position, she must signal her value through multiple mediums. While the resume is the most well-known part of the product manager job application, the product manager cover letter can be just as crucial for landing a product manager job.
While some employers no longer ask for cover letters, many employers still ask for cover letters from job seekers. Plus, if you’re planning on sending an email to the recruiting team to apply (rather than using an online application portal), your email itself should be the cover letter.
Below, I’ll discuss what a cover letter is, why it matters for your job search, and what its structure looks like. Afterwards, I’ll share tangible next steps for how to craft a solid cover letter, as well as a couple of key resources you can use as a starting point for your product manager cover letter.
What is the product manager cover letter?
A cover letter is a narrative about who you are and why the recruiter should invest time in evaluating you, rather than invest time in other potential candidates. It’s crucial to remember that the role of the cover letter is to share a narrative - in other words, it’s fundamentally different from a resume for your job application.
The product manager resume is all about quantitative value; you want to prove your worth through concrete numbers. The product manager cover letter, on the other hand, is all about stories. You want to demonstrate that you're the right person for that specific job opening.
Do not use your cover letter to rehash your resume. Your cover letter should be distinct from your resume - you need to take this opportunity to demonstrate a story about yourself in a way that your resume will never be able to do so.
Remember, product managers are also products. Your resume is like a demo video, in that it gives the quick hits and stats on why you are the best solution. Your cover letter is like a customer testimonial white paper - it should be an in-depth discussion about one or two concrete and impactful experiences that bring you to life as a human being.
Why do product manager cover letters matter?
Product managers must demonstrate that they’re master storytellers. After all, the product manager must tell the story of the customer to both their product development team and their business stakeholders. And, the product manager must also tell the product’s story to the customer to convince them to buy the product.
Therefore, the cover letter is a test. It tests to see whether you can craft a compelling narrative about yourself. By testing your cover letter writing abilities, the company is assessing whether you have the chops to craft compelling narratives on behalf of that company in the future.
Many companies will let you optionally attach a cover letter to your application. If you take on the challenge, it demonstrates your firm commitment to the company, and enables you to tell a story about yourself as a leader and as a collaborator. A solid cover letter will leave a deep impression in the reader’s mind and will help you stand out amongst the crowd.
Think of it like the product requirements that you might get from a customer. While they might ask you for the bare minimum, you know that you can wow them by going above and beyond with a great product manager cover letter.
And here’s the most important reason of all: the process is more important than the output. When you go through the process of writing a cover letter, you’re forced to figure out your story about yourself, and how you are the best solution for the company’s pain.
You’re forced to conduct pre-interview research about the company so that you know exactly what you’re meant to tackle, and you know exactly how to position yourself throughout the interview. Once you’ve written a cover letter, you’ll have a mental reference point about how you want to talk about yourself across all of your interviews, and that’s incredibly valuable!
What is the structure of the product manager cover letter?
I’ve found that the most effective cover letters have three core parts.
The first part is the introduction. In your first paragraph, you need to cover the following key details: which company you’re applying to, what role you’re applying to, and a summary of how you will provide value to the company.
I’ve seen so many cover letters fail to specify either the job title or the name of the company. That’s a sure sign that you’re sending the same cover letter to many companies, which demonstrates that you don’t care enough about making a good impression. If that’s the case, you may as well not write a cover letter at all!
Also, make sure that you send the right cover letter to the right company. I’ve gotten so many cover letters for positions at Facebook or Apple or Google, even though I’ve never worked at either company in my life. If you don’t pay attention to detail, your employer can’t trust you to take care of the details as a product manager.
This is especially important if you decide to use a cover letter template. Too frequently, applicants take advantage of cover letter examples or cover letter samples, and forget to clean it up. You need to make sure that you've done the hard work of personalizing the cover letter - be professional!
Your introduction should be a sales pitch. It’s essentially the same response you’d give to the interview question “tell me about yourself.”
It shouldn’t really be about you - rather, it should be about how you’re excited about what the company is doing, and about how you’re the perfect fit to solve their needs. If you feel that you can't directly address the job requirements on the company website, you may need to consider applying for a different role instead.
The second part of the cover letter is your narrative. Here’s where you tell the story about yourself, and where you demonstrate that your past experiences have positioned you to be the best solution available.
Use it to address questions that might come up in an interview, such as “what was your proudest moment”, “how did you overcome failure”, and “tell us about a time when you led an initiative from start to finish.”
I like to bring two narratives with me into the cover letter, and have each narrative cover a different strength about me while ensuring that I address the pain of the company.
For example, the first narrative might discuss how I worked closely with engineers to tackle a complex, business-critical integrations initiative. It might highlight my attention to detail, my project management skills, my technical skills, my grit, my relentless pace, my ability to manage QA testing, and my strong understanding of my engineers’ needs.
The second narrative might discuss how I helped my company break into a totally new vertical, and how I was able to successfully pitch my product to new prospects. I might focus on my ability to conduct market research and customer research, my eye for design, my skills with rapid prototyping and fast iteration, my ability to navigate uncharted territory and deliver a clear roadmap, and my skills in handling objections from prospects.
The key thing to keep in mind is that you must customize your cover letter to the specific employer and the specific role that you’re aiming at.
For example, if you’re applying to be a growth product manager, you need to focus on the key traits of growth product management, such as experimentation and creativity. It’s less relevant for you to discuss your deep knowledge of technical architecture. And, if you’re applying to be a B2B product manager, you need to focus on stories where you led process change management within crucial large accounts.
Another example is to ensure that you're discussing narratives for products with similar lifecycles. If I'm applying for a "new initiatives" product manager role, I shouldn't focus too much on scaling an already-mature product. On the flip side, if I'm applying for a mature platform product manager role, it's not valuable for me to share my stories about finding new niches and launching new business lines.
Each of your two stories should be able to stand alone on their own, but should also paint a bigger picture of who you are. What are your personality traits? What are your superpowers? What situations do you thrive in? How do you tackle adversity? Remember that you're not just being evaluated on what you're bringing to the table - the cover letter is also testing your communication skills and your ability to tell a cohesive narrative with limited space.
Finally, your cover letter will end with a conclusion. In your closing paragraph, summarize what you’ll bring to the table and why you’re the best fit for the role. Share your excitement about being a part of the team in the near future. Subtly lean into the call to action - remind them that they should reach out to you to schedule an interview so that they can learn more about how you’re the best person to solve their problems.
By leveraging a structure like this, you'll leave a solid first impression that will catch the hiring manager's attention, which significantly increases your chances of getting a job interview. You can also check out PMHQ's Bootcamp to increase your chances of getting that dream product job.
How can I write a great product manager cover letter?
Before you write a single word of your cover letter, you must first prepare your thoughts.
Reflect on yourself. What are your strengths? What is your value proposition as a product manager? Which of your work experiences really stand out against the competition?
Then, conduct research on the company. What is their mission, and what is their culture? What are their current products? What pain are they trying to solve with the product manager role that you’re applying to?
In other words, what are they currently missing in their organization, and why are they hiring? What industry are they in, and what are the key trends in that industry? What keywords should you highlight in the cover letter, based on the job description?
Again, if you’ve seen our resume guide before, you’ll notice that these first few steps are essentially the same. You cannot demonstrate your value unless you know what your value is, who the employer is, and what pains you will solve on their behalf.
Now, identify the key stories that draw a direct line between your value and how it solves their pain. Hiring managers need to see the shortest path between you and the role, so you need to tell the stories that will cement your place in their mind as the best candidate for the job.
After all, people regularly believe that past experience indicates future success, and that’s why your stories of success matter so much in the cover letter.
Now that you have your key stories, flesh them out on paper. Write your two stories first. Your value must come through in the narratives themselves - don’t write the intro or the conclusion until your two stories are done. And remember, product managers are master storytellers - so don't rely on bullet points to demonstrate the impact that you'll bring.
Review your two stories and your pre-interview research, and use that to hammer out your introduction and your conclusion.
Then, go back and edit the whole thing down to a single page. Remember that when potential employers are assessing your cover letter or your resume, they’re not evaluating you on the sum of your experiences.
They’re evaluating you on the average of your experiences. In other words, you must cut out every single word of fluff, because fluff drags your average downward. If it’s not driving home a specific point, it doesn’t belong in your cover letter.
Ask a friend to take an unbiased look at the cover letter. Do they understand your narrative, your strengths, and why you’d be a valuable asset to the company? Can they determine which specific pains you will resolve at the company, and can they draw a direct line between your experiences and the pain that you will solve? If they can’t extract these details from a 3rd party perspective, you need to go back and edit your cover letter until they’re able to do so.
After all, the reader of your cover letter may not know about your current company, your current industry, or your current role. Therefore, you need to ensure that any uninformed 3rd party can easily see the value that you bring to the table.
Keep iterating - edit your cover letter, ask for feedback, and repeat this process until you and your reviewer agree that you are the best fit for the job out of all of the other candidates that are applying.
Once it’s in a solid place, you’re just about done with this cover letter!
Remember that you must write a whole new cover letter from scratch for every time that you apply to a new company or role, because you must demonstrate as tight of a product / market fit as you possibly can.
Don’t get lazy and don’t reuse the same cover letter, or else you will lose fit - and therefore you will look less valuable than your competitors. There's no such thing as a "perfect cover letter", so don't try to create a one-size-fits-all solution.
Some additional minor points - don't worry too much about the salutation, also known as the greeting. It doesn't matter whether you use "to whom it may concern" or "dear hiring manager" or "dear sir or madam" - the point is to demonstrate that you're the best candidate out of everyone who's applying for that job posting. Just focus on the core value that you're bringing to the company!
Still looking for more inspiration for crafting a good product manager cover letter? Consider seeking inspiration from these cover letter templates.
Product Manager Cover Letter Samples and Templates
When you look at any product expert’s professional development as a product manager, you’ll notice that it’s a relatively big learning curve. The product manager role requires years of experience and is often the dream job of product experts.
For these reasons, your expertise and experience should be reflected in the cover letter you draft. It’s not only about the experience you can talk about, what skill sets you have, whether you are Scrum-certified, or how many new products you’ve launched or assisted with.
All of that information can be extracted through a well-drafted product manager resume template. The product manager cover letter is more about how you approach product management, how you organize data, how you communicate, and how well you can relay information.
With that in mind, here are some of the better cover letter samples and templates you can use.
1. Resume Genius
You can find a complete product manager cover letter example on Resume Genius and can even build your cover letter online.
If you download the free sample, it provides you with a ZIP file that includes the Microsoft Word file and other cover letter formats.
The template is simple but includes everything from your personal data to your contact information.
They also provide resume samples – including a great product manager resume example.
You can find the cover letter example here.
2. Live Career
Live Career provides a detailed list of PM cover letter examples. For each kind of cover letter, it gives you an option to create your cover letter using that template.
They also provide cover letter tips and product manager-advice on developing a great cover letter. You can gain inspiration from it all and use their templates to draft your cover letter. Furthermore, they also provide PM job seeking tips to ensure you craft an engaging cover letter for each job.
You can find their cover letter examples and templates here.
Indeed has a wide variety of cover letter samples that they have developed after years of experience with thousands of cover letters.
They provide a relatively simple, yet comprehensive sample for a PM cover letter. The format is simple and can be easily copied and replicated. They avoid the use of bullet points, citing that they divide the hiring manager’s attention.
Furthermore, they provide rudimentary cover letter tips at the end, along with resume samples. As a job search platform, Indeed provides the ideal cover letter sample.
You can find their cover letter sample and template here.
Product Manager Cover Letter Example Tips
Even with a sample or template, it can be tricky to make the best cover letter. Here are some tips you should keep in mind when drafting your product manager cover letter.
- Use an appropriate cover letter format (one-inch margins, line spacing of 1.15, and an 11pt or 12pt classic font).
- Make an attractive yet professional cover letter header.
- Prove you’re up for the position and explain why you want to be part of the company.
- Explain what you can deliver, provide an offer, and close with a professional sign-off.
- Don't forget to provide your contact information (e.g. phone number and email address), and consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile.
- On the other hand, it's probably not a good idea to share other social media links such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, so keep those out of your cover letter.
- Don't forget to proofread your cover letter. Companies expect that you'll be putting your best foot forward, so double check for any typos or grammatical errors. Spell check is your best friend here!
Keep these points in mind and understand that you’re selling yourself to not only the hiring manager but also the company.
Cover letters are an opportunity for you to tell your story, without being stuck in the formatting constraints of the product manager resume. Use this chance to demonstrate why you’re the best fit for the role!
Start with a compelling introduction, then share your two key narratives as though you were answering an interview question. Make sure that your two key narratives are focused on the pain of the company. Wrap up with a conclusion that summarizes your value proposition and demonstrates your excitement about the role.
Notice how your cover letter addresses multiple product manager interview questions. It addresses the question “tell me about yourself,” “what are your strengths”, “tell me about a time when you led an initiative”, and “tell me about a time when you overcame an obstacle.” If you know how to write a good cover letter, you know how to crack a solid portion of the interview process too!
As you write more and more cover letters, you’ll find that you’ll become better at positioning yourself as a product. And, as you repeat this exercise, you’ll find that you’ll become better at product management in general as well!
If you are new to product management and are looking to break into your first product role, we recommend taking our One Week PM course, where you will learn fundamentals of product management, launch your own product, and get on the fast track towards landing your first product job.
Clement Kao is a Co-Founder of Product Manager HQ. He is currently a Product Manager at Blend, an enterprise technology company that is inventing a simpler and more transparent consumer lending experience while ensuring broader access for all types of borrowers.