How to hire the right product manager

Hiring a Digital Product Manager for a startup is often most relevant during the growth phase. Until that time, the functions and responsibilities of a product manager are often handled by the founder or his partner.

As the business develops, the number of tasks increases, and then the question of selecting a product manager arises.
We have compiled the main points to look out for when choosing a technical product manager.

Product manager’s qualifications

When interviewing numerous candidates, it is important to learn about the product manager’s skill-set.

Practical and theoretical skills can tell a lot about the level of preparedness and experience of a specialist.

Here are the main product manager’s skills to check with the applicant.

Hard skills of a product manager 

Hard skills are those professional skills that a product manager has acquired in the course of practical work and which you should definitely ask about during an interview.

1. Understanding user audience

Since the digital product manager works primarily for the end-user, this skill should be put first. Knowledge of the audience, the ability to feel and recognize its problems are the mandatory skills of this specialist.

What to ask about:

  • Work with the Customer Development methodology (custdev). This is important because in a general sense it means a customer-oriented approach to creating a product.
  • Possession of the Customer Journey Map tool. This is what allows the specialist to visualize the user’s path and look for problem areas in the product.
  • Ability to create surveys and scripts for in-depth interviews to identify the needs of the target audience.
  • Understanding and ability to create Product Vision. This provides an opportunity to demonstrate the key product features to the team.

2. Understanding the market and product

Understanding a product means knowing how to sell it, why it will be bought, and how it goes with competition in the market. Therefore, this skill is essential for a product manager.

What to ask about:

  • Proficiency in tools for generating a product business model, for example, Lean Canvas, Business Model Canvas, Value Proposition, Osterwald model. This skill makes it possible to look at the key success factors of the product and completely replaces the business plan when telling about the product.
  • Understanding the terms TAM (Total Addressable Market), SAM (Served / Serviceable Available Market), PAM (Potential Available Market), SOM (Serviceable & Obtainable Market), and determining the difference between them for different types of products. These metrics help to get a correct estimate of the market size and must be used by the product manager.
  • Possession of key market and competitor analysis tools (SWOT analysis, ADL matrix, PEST analysis, etc.)

3. Working with data

One of the main tasks of a product manager is to find weak points in the business and prevent unprofitable investments. To do this, he needs the skill of working with data.

What to ask about:

  • Skill in working with analytics systems (Google Analytics, Yandex.Metrica, Amplitude, Mixpanel, Woopra, Heap Analytics, etc.). It is good practice to integrate at least two analytics systems into the product. This is necessary for safety reasons, in order, for example, to do a quick check of the data in both systems before making important decisions.
  • Working with frameworks HEART (Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention and Task Success), PULSE (Pageviews, Uptime, Latency, Seven-day active users and Earnings), and others, and preparing reports based on their data. Keeping track of these metrics enables the manager to do a deeper analysis of the needs and reactions of the target audience.
  • Experience in conducting A/B tests. This will show a manager’s willingness to test hypotheses in practice.
  • Understanding and using unit economics to determine the effectiveness of a particular business model.

4. Understanding the main principles of UI/UX design

A digital product manager is always very closely associated with the design department, so it is so important that he has at least basic UI/UX design skills so that this collaboration is as effective as possible and does not bring unwanted problems and delays due to misunderstandings.

What to ask about:

  • Understanding prototyping. This will greatly help the technical product manager explain his idea to the designer.
  • Experience in UX testing to quickly identify major and minor interface problems, each of which can cause potential buyers to leave.

5. Understanding the development process and stages

A digital product manager doesn’t have to be a developer. However, understanding the milestones and specifics of the development process will help him quickly connect with the team and plan the work correctly.

What to ask about:

  • Understanding the development management process of Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, etc.
  • An understanding of the methods and knowledge of the tools for prioritizing product tasks that help product managers and teams answer a very important question: how to choose the right features for development. For example, this could be experience with the RICE Scoring technique or the ICE prioritization method.
  • Creation of a “roadmap” of the product. This tip is useful for creating a general product concept and setting up communication channels in a team

6. Setting goals

The digital product manager directly works and oversees all departments – developers, testers, marketers, designers, and sales. Therefore, it is important that he sees the big picture and knows how to correctly arrange tasks in the team.

What to ask about:

  • Setting tasks according to the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound). This system is needed to set work goals. It allows the manager to summarize all the available information, and based on it, draw the necessary conclusions – about resources, deadlines for completing tasks, and performers.

Soft skills of product manager

In this section, the product manager’s traits come out on top, which allows the team to find a common language and prove their opinion.

When interviewing a potential employee, ask him what character traits he thinks a good organizer should have, and then compare with those that we highlighted here:

  • excellent negotiator
  • the owner of a flexible mind and developed emotional intelligence
  • disciplined
  • punctual
  • responsible

It is these qualities that make a digital product manager out of that leader, whose opinion they are ready to listen to, whose ideas to support and who to follow.

Ways to search for product manager

Finding a good technical product manager is not an easy task today. This is why, when business owners google product managers’ resume, they often find it difficult to make the right choice.

Here’s a sample checklist to help you find the right specialist:

1. Ask for the opinions of colleagues or team members – word of mouth is often one of the most effective search methods.

2. Submit relevant posts to Linkedin and Facebook with vacancy and project description. It is best to do this in thematic groups such as Product Management (FB).

3. Search Telegram chats such as Products Jobs. There, knowledgeable people will tell you about hiring a good product manager/bad product manager.

4. Reach out to HR companies. The main thing is to pay attention to the rating and experience of the intermediary, so as not to become a victim of unscrupulous people.

5. Contact the founders of the courses for product managers, tell them about your project and ask for student contacts.

Use these tips when choosing a digital product manager and hire the best talent for the best results.

Also, read our TOP 5 important points about the product manager to learn more about the PM profession and the benefits of collaboration.