Recently Ben Yoskovitz posted something on LinkedIn that made me jump up in my seat!
If you don't know Ben, he's a Founding Partner at HighLine Beta, a Toronto-based VC and innovation studio. Ben knows the world of product, having served as a VP Product Management, which helps make his insights relevant for anyone in product management or running a company as a Founder or CEO.
In his post, Ben shared his experiences listening to Founders 'pitch' their businesses. His point was:
"Every time someone pitches me - whether it’s a 30-second elevator pitch, a full presentation, or anything in-between, I always think to myself, 'please cut out every buzzword, industry term, and acronym. And just give me a use case'."
Ben went on to explain that use cases are critical. When speaking with a VC, you must walk them through the customer journey. He mused that it astonished him how people can’t do this properly and that it's often a sign of not understanding the customer/user well enough. VCs also want to know who the user is and why they care in simple language. How are they going to use your product? If they understand how, they can get to the why, which is what VCs are after.
So why did I jump out of my seat when I read Ben’s post?
Because what Ben is trying to understand also applies to anyone in a position of hiring. Recruiters, hiring stakeholders, or internal Talent Acquisition personas are also trying to "connect the dots" between the problems you've been solving for and the experiences they are trying to hire for.
Generally speaking, they have little interest in jargon or acronyms that are meaningless and only require more effort to try to understand you and how well you align with the persona they are seeking to hire.
Learning How to Communicate as a Candidate
Being a ‘candidate’ doesn't come naturally for most people, even those who have been very successful or leaders. It requires a different way of thinking and speaking to become marketable when job seeking.
If you’re looking to communicate like a product management candidate more effectively, here are my three quick tips:
1. Apply Use Cases
Listen to Ben's words and learn to communicate your product and story in use cases.
2. Curate Your Narrative
No one has time to hear the whole story of everything you've ever done. Recency bias is real. Focus on the key points of your last couple of roles and use them as an anchor to your talk track:
- Why were you hired
- Outcomes you achieved
- Lessons learned
- The metrics
3. Balance Product Speak with Conciseness
While Product Managers are matrixed into every part of a business, from Marketing to Customer Success, Sales and Engineering, ensure your word choices - both in a conversation and on your resume - reflect your role in Product.
When speaking with those in product, use your function's language to further cement your candidacy in the minds of the hiring leaders interviewing you. This helps them believe you embody the attributes of a modern and capable PM.
But remember to balance this language/jargon when speaking with different audiences. Understanding your audience, whether it’s a Product Management Recruiter (like us!), a potential employer/stakeholder, or an internal Talent Acquisition persona, is critical to how you answer the questions you are being asked. Try to remember what matters to your audience and customize your language and answers to suit their needs.
As Ben Yoskovitz mentioned, use cases and the customer journey are critical. Always keep the interviewer in mind and tailor your talk tracks, so it’s easy for the person sitting across from you to understand what you've been working on, why it matters, and how you delivered value. Nailing this will only help you progress to the following interview round and get hired.