Hi, I’m Johna Seo, currently a PMM at Dropbox. I’m a self-proclaimed PMM nerd who loves delving into the craft and I’m personally passionate about coaching others. Also an ex-Googler, ex-consultant, Berkeley Haas MBA and Cornell alum.
In preparation for applying to Product Marketing Manager roles, the standard application suite applies: a resume, cover letter, and maybe some additional materials like references or transcripts.
In this article, I’ll delve deeper into demystifying the cover letter specifically when applying for PMM roles. This will cover questions like - do I even need a cover letter? What are recruiters looking for in a cover letter? Let’s dive in!
Do I even need a cover letter? Do recruiters even read cover letters?
The true answer is - it depends. Some recruiters may read cover letters in detail, seeing if there are even typos as clues to your ability to pay attention to detail. Other recruiters may not even glance at the cover letter, and rely mostly on your resume or on who referred you to determine your eligibility.
Regardless of how your cover letter is received, I am a strong proponent on writing a strong cover because:
- You are covering your bases. While you won’t know for sure if someone reads your cover letter, this is also not a gaping hole that indicates you do not truly want the job
- You are given an opportunity to showcase your skills in your own words. If your resume is not as straight-forward, or if you have transferable skills that may not be as obvious, the cover letter is a perfect medium to highlight your top achievements and how they indicate your future success as a PMM
- You can highlight all the work you’ve done to indicate your interest in the company. Name drop the interviews you’ve conducted or the facts that play into what draws you to the company, and why you’d be a great fit
Highlight the skills that align with the job description
The cover letter is your opportunity to highlight the skills that perfectly match the job description. From my experience working in HR and contributing to job descriptions written by hiring managers, the job description is often a highly aspirational picture of the candidate hiring managers want to see for their job.
Look at the top bullet points of what the company is looking for, and think of the stories in your arsenal that directly relate to those bullet points. No need to get too fancy - you can take words directly from that job description that get your experience across. Pick one or two stories to highlight that show that you have the skills for the job.
If you have clear cut experience that directly relates to the new PMM job (i.e., prior PMM experience like developing go-to-market strategy or developing messaging frameworks), that’s great! Leverage those experiences to your advantage by highlighting the most relevant stories in your cover letter. If you are someone trying to make a career transition and need to connect the dots for the reader, this is your chance!
Think about times in the past where you’ve had to:
- Gather key insights to inform your storytelling to influence others
- Manage cross-functional efforts to drive towards a milestone and/or deadline
- Develop a project plan that involved strategic planning and determining resourcing
These are experiences that are often found in several industries/roles, whether they are directly related to PMM roles or not.
What’s the right format for a PMM cover letter?
While there is no universal answer to this, there are several general guidelines that can help develop a crisp, persuasive cover letter that doesn’t detract the reader but engages them to focus on the content.
- Keep the cover letter to less than one page—this is not the place to be unique from everyone else
- Use plain English! Often in business, we are taught to write in some form of ‘formal’ business language. However, a core PMM skill is to develop messaging that resonates with an audience, and complicated jargons are not the way to do that. Keep the letter easy to understand, and think of how you would read this as an outsider
- Maintain the formality in the header and the sign-off. The header should have the date, title and name of the recipient, and address to the extent available. The sign-off can be a simple “Sincerely, <name>”
What else should I include in the content?
While the main information you want to pass along in the cover letter are your relevant experiences, the cover letter does provide a holistic opportunity to share other information to draw in the reader.
In your introduction, include deeper layers of information you learned about the company from research (i.e., “from talking to X, I learned Y”). Share the information that made you genuinely excited about this company, whether it was learning more context around the mission statement, the product roadmap to the extent it’s publicly available, or the fact that the company is leading industry trends.
Remember that the whole application process is a two-way street to understand the fit between you as the candidate and the company as the employer. You can share the things that make you excited and truly resonate with you as the candidate.
Bring it all together
Here’s an example of a cover letter that brings all of these concepts together.
May 4, 2020
HR Recruiter, Dream Company
12 Privet Drive
San Francisco, 94115
Dear Ms. Lang:
Having worked cross-collaboratively with several teams at Current Company X, I understand the importance and unique positioning of Dream Company as a seamless task management tool to increase personal productivity and minimize distractions. After speaking to Contact A and attending the Dream Company information session at MBA Program Y, I was impressed by Dream Company’s thoughtful positioning in today’s competitive market and investment in positioning the company for success going forward.
I believe I can add value to Dream Company from my experiences conducting extensive research to understand the target consumer, developing products to meet consumer needs, and leading marketing plans that meet the consumer where they are.
At Current Company, I worked on a go-to-market plan for a new product under our hero brand that was projected to result in $5M+ incremental revenue. The proposal resulted in approved funding by senior management. Additionally, I conducted a competitive assessment using third-party data to recommend additional channels and opportunities to push specific products, which have been shared with the sales team for implementation.
I’m truly impressed by Dream Company’s innovations in a constantly changing technological environment. I want to help Dream Company continue to empower people with tools that aid in generating new ideas. I look forward to the recruiting process, and thank you for your consideration.
Last but not least...
The cover letter can serve as a preview to help land the interview. Like I mentioned in the first section, maybe the recruiter will read it your cover letter, but maybe not. However, the cover letter covers your bases so you are not disqualified for an interview. And - it offers tidbits to the reader to draw them in and to showcase how interesting, qualified, and relevant you are as a candidate to move forward in the application process.
Want to learn how to ace the PMM interview? Check out our upcoming PMM interview prep course.
Read more about Product Marketing Management from our blog: