How to Hire A Great Product Manager (+ 6 Expert Interview Tips)

David Ly Khim

Agile Product Development

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If you're a founder, often the head of product is you. But if you're looking to hand over the reins or expand this area into a department—because your business and responsibilities need your attention elsewhere—you need to hire a product manager.

Product managers are the heart of product management systems, the central point of the product development process. As the point-person, every interaction goes through them, which means they also bear a significant part of the weight of your product's success or failure. So, when hiring a product manager it’s imperative that you find someone who can drive that success.

The most crucial element of finding the perfect product manager for your product management team is your hiring process. That's why we've outlined five how-tos and six expert tips for hiring a great PM:

Define the product management role and set your expectations

Defining roles and responsibilities helps you in more ways than one. It helps operational efficiency and improves the hiring process. Specifically, articulate what the candidate will do in the job and what they’re responsible for, and how it fits in the context of the company’s goal. Candidates will have clear expectations of the role, and what success looks like in it, as a result. 

Likewise, defining the role in advance gives your team an immediate understanding of how the new hire fits in, too, reducing collaboration friction and boosting transparency. Plus it gives your new PM a clearly defined path from day one.

Further, defining the role uses the organization's time and money more efficiently. The organization will spend less of its resources ironing out redundancies, lessening the likelihood of interpersonal conflict. As a result, the employee will understand what they should do even if they are working remotely.

Now, let’s look at three tips for hiring your next product manager: 

1. Document the hiring process

Before reaching out to potential candidates, hiring managers should know what they want from a product manager at the outset of the hiring process and what they want from the process itself. Thinking through these outcomes will provide a clear direction for outlining the rest of the approach.

That's why we recommend you create a document outlining what you need to do to recruit the right product manager. If you already have a general hiring document, that's an excellent place to start. The document should be flexible and grow with you as your business and experience evolve, taking note of things that work great, eliminating things that don't, and adding new strategies as appropriate.

2. Define the product manager's role

In general, a product manager is responsible for successful product initiatives. They also have at least six other responsibilities to get the best out of their processes and solutions when creating a positive customer experience, such as: 

  • Form and validate a product hypothesis.

  • Find a product-market fit for their idea.

  • Define and track measurable product and business objectives with a roadmap.

  • Make data-based decisions for the product strategy and customer experience.

  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams to bring the product to life.

  • Use digital data's capabilities to track and improve critical drivers, such as customer acquisition, retention, and pricing throughout the product's lifecycle.

3. Set your expectations

Setting your expectations means telling your candidate what you want from them. For instance, not all product managers have computer science degrees, but it's helpful to have an engineering background. With that said, it's up to you how much or little engineering or market-specific experience your candidates should have.

For example, is your company a startup? If so, maybe you need a generalist, someone who can do a little bit of everything. Suppose you're at an enterprise-level company. In that case, you might want someone more specialized.

Skills and qualifications to look for in a product manager

Ultimately, you need a product manager to replace yourself in the room and make the right decisions for your product. That means you need to bring on someone with whom you align with in philosophy and style. After all, product managers are the bridge between your product vision and the rest of the SaaS team

Consequently, it means they need to speak for both the engineering and operations teams. When necessary, the product manager needs to communicate what is or isn't possible for your team to achieve. Things can get ugly when discord arises between you and the product team, so hire wisely and keep the lines of communication as open as possible. 

Here is a list of typical skill sets and qualifications to look for in a product manager:

Product manager skills:

  • Verbal and written communication skills

  • Leadership and teamwork skills

  • Good product instincts

Product manager qualifications:

  • Strong technical background

  • Experience shipping a new product, from concept to launch

  • Bachelor's degree (MBA preferred)

The specific requirements you’re looking for will be unique to your business because everyone has a unique set of needs.

How to create a good product manager job post

Job posts are advertisements for your job opening, and they're how job-seekers learn about you and the position. To draw the best product managers, tailor the job post to attract the talent you want.

Here are our tips for creating a good product manager job post:

  • Perform a job analysis. Compare your company's internal compensation structure to the market and research competitors' job postings.

  • Write a concise, structured job post in 300-700 words. Include an introduction; pay range, benefits, perks; duties and responsibilities; requirements and qualifications; and a closing. Also, according to Textio, 300-700 words is the sweet spot for attracting the most candidates.

  • Describe the job. The job description should articulate a typical day as a product manager to help your candidates visualize themselves in the position.

  • Sell the job. Explain how this product manager position is different and better than other opportunities.

  • Sell the company culture and vision. Showcase what your company stands for and why your candidates want to work there.

  • Explain the application process. Tell your candidates what they can expect from the process, including how many interviews they could participate in and the interview types.

Learn more: "How Winning Businesses Hire Remote Developers: A Step-by-Step Guide."

Job portals for hiring a product manager

Where you place your job posting is one of the most important aspects of finding enough quality candidates for your role. And to know where you should place your job post requires a bit of research. Luckily, the folks at ProductPlan have done the bulk of this research for you. 

Here's a list of their best job portals for PMs:

  • Glassdoor: Product managers looking for a new opportunity use Glassdoor to learn about companies they want to work for, like you.

  • LinkedIn: If product managers aren't using Glassdoor to conduct research, they're definitely using LinkedIn to do so plus networking.

  • Mind the Product: Mind the Product, founders of ProductTank, is a well-known product membership community with events, training, and a job board. So naturally, posting a job here will likely get noticed.

  • ProductHired: ProductHired is a product-focused career site to help you find the exact type of talent you seek. Your job post will go beyond their job board; ProductHired offers options to share it across their community and social channels, too.

  • Product Manager HQ: Product Manager HQ's job board is exclusive to product manager jobs, so your job post will target the proper candidates in the right geographies.

  • Product School: If you're looking to hire grads, then posting a job where product managers learn their chops is an excellent notion.

  • SimplyHired: For a general job board, we recommend SimplyHired because you can post on many job boards from one interface.

  • Women in Product: Foster a diverse and inclusive workforce with Women in Product's job board; it's a board accessible to 30,000 subscribers and a social media community of 28,000 members.

Product manager interview process tips

Your company might have a standard process for how many interviews candidates go through and who is involved at each stage. If not, it’s important to develop one because the most crucial part of the interview process is learning whether the candidate is a good fit for your  business. 

Also, if you've ever hired talent before, you know that there can be a significant difference between what you think the person is on their resumé versus the person you get to know through an interview. 

Ken Norton, leadership coach, speaker, writer, and experienced product leader, wrote what's considered a classic essay on the subject of hiring product managers. Here's a summary of Norton's six expert tips for the interview process to determine the candidate's competencies:

  1. Look for curious problem-solvers. Pose theoretical problems to see if they excite the candidate. Superstars will counter with their own questions, displaying their problem-solving skills.

  2. Gauge the candidate's technical background. Ask questions to gauge how well the candidate has adapted to their role as a product manager and how they work with engineers and developers.

  3. Judge for product instincts and creativity. During the interview, listen to hear if the candidate has echoed your concerns about your product, taught you something new about your product, and recommended something new and exciting.

  4. Scrutinize for earned leadership: Product managers lead indirectly by influence, which means they must earn their authority. In addition to reference checks, find out from the candidate how they work with others and deal with interpersonal conflict.

  5. Determine the candidate's ability to wear multiple hats. Get people from across teams to participate in the interview process—development, sales, executives, marketing, and other stakeholders. Questions from various views will help you determine if the candidate can channel their different viewpoints.

  6. Find someone who's shipped something. It might be an obvious point to overlook, but learn if and what the candidate has shipped, from start to finish. Their past performance could be an indicator of future success.

DevSquad hires great product managers

DevSquad knows a thing or two about hiring product managers because every one of our product management teams is led by one. Our clients value them because they keep product development work on track with their vision and timeline.

Tell us about your product to see for yourself. Let's talk.

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