Successful companies are built on the backs of strong product managers. All start-ups need great ones if they want to make it to the next level.
But before you go about hiring a product manager, you first need to figure out exactly what you’re looking for. Strong product managers fancy themselves jacks-of-all-trades. They’re able to juggle a multitude of projects while constantly prioritizing—and they do so masterfully.
As you begin your search for a new product manager, consider the following:
1. Product managers need to own the product.
At any given point in time, a good product manager will be wearing multiple hats. For starters, the product manager is, of course, the product manager. He or she is able to help construct actual features and understands the requirements. This person is able to manage a cross-functional team successfully, ensuring that great products are delivered on or ahead of schedule.
Product managers are also project managers. They oversee the various projects that fall under a specific product’s umbrella, making sure they’re progressing according to schedule. Great product managers have a clear vision, helping steer all projects in the right direction and quickly.
Finally, product managers are micro CEOs in the sense that they own the product in its entirety. If the product succeeds, congratulations are shared with the team. If the product fails, the blame falls on his or her shoulders.
2. Product managers need to know people.
Because product managers oversee cross-functional teams (e.g., engineers, graphic designers, editorial and sales), it is imperative the one you hire is a people person. He or she should know how to deal with all personality types. This person should be calm and patient yet focused and determined. That way, he or she is able to deal with any unforeseen problems that may arise in a relaxed and intelligent manner.
Product managers who lack the ability to effectively manage their teams will likely subject teams to communication problems, missed deadlines or worse.
3. Product managers need to be geniuses.
The best product managers are generally some of the smartest people in the room. In fact, some folks recommend hiring product managers based on their intellect alone. Writes Kenneth Horton:
I’ll take a smart, inexperienced PM over one of average intellect and years of experience any day. Product management is fundamentally about thinking on your feet, staying one step ahead of your competitors, and being able to project yourself into the minds of your colleagues and your customers.
Being a great product manager takes exceptional mental dexterity and innate intelligence. Don’t underestimate the importance of intellect.
4. Product managers need to know tech inside and out.
It’s true that product managers can work very amicably with engineers and as such, there are certainly examples of great product managers who aren’t tech wizards.
But what’s the sense in handicapping yourself? As you begin your search for a product manager, look for candidates who have strong technical backgrounds. We all know how difficult it can be to translate “engineer-speak.” When your product manager can speak to engineers in their own language, everything becomes easier. Product managers understand the needs of the customer so well, and they’re able to effectively communicate their message to all members of the team.
5. Product managers need to have track records of shipping.
At the end of the day, product managers need to have a track record of success, of getting things done. Now, it’s important to remember that if you’ve got an insanely gifted candidate, he or she may have never had the opportunity to excel in a product manager role before. If that’s the case, simply look into whether the candidate has comparable experience of closing deals, driving engagement or something of the like.
But the smartest person in the world who is unable to get things done because he or she is meticulously fussing endlessly over every minute detail of a product probably wouldn’t make a good PM. Look for someone who can deliver results.
The hiring process can be tricky for any position, but it is perhaps trickiest when hiring product managers. After all, these folks can make or break your company. By knowing exactly what you want and doing your due diligence, you increase the likelihood they’ll do the former.