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How to Hire a Product Manager 

10 easy steps to help you fill this underrated role

product manager how to hire recruit pm hiring startup scale up

If your scale-up has entered the stage when it starts requiring a product manager (PM), then congratulations are in order. This is a big step! Why? A PM is one of the last roles businesses tend to recruit for.

You can’t get by without engineers or salespeople, but when it comes to product management, startups generally manage without… until they can’t. So, welcome to the big leagues.

Here are ten steps on how to hire a product manager.

#1: Involve the people who will be working with the PM directly.


Don’t just involve them; agree on precisely what you want from a product manager. Just like when you consider candidates for other roles in your business, you need to make a series of decisions.

What type of person are you hiring? Do you want them to be well-versed in the business to drive things forward or someone fresh and motivated to make an impact? Are they slow and thoughtful, or is this a position that needs to hit the ground running? Finally, what skills will help them succeed in the role?

#2: Do a skills audit.

Product managers are a bit like unicorns. They need to understand the engineering side of things, possess some technical skills, and have impeccable communication and people skills. Plus, they fill in the gaps where your startup needs a bit of leadership.

Assess your business for what you’re missing. This could mean you need someone analytical, with an eye for design and detail, is highly technical, or maybe a person who can get out into the world and make good connections.  

Remember: this is a person your business can succeed without, but who fills in those missing areas to give your startup that extra boost it needs to continue growing. 

 #3: Think about your company culture. 

As with any hire, you want to make sure your PM is the right fit for the company culture you’ve so carefully honed. Like any other position, the best way to go about this is to build a candidate persona.

Identify those personality traits and soft skills that will meld with your team and figure out what things you’re willing to forego to have that best fit for the company culture. 

#4: Consider your requirements.


Does your PM really need to have that MBA or computer science degree? While it’s great to have a baseline way to filter applications, you could be missing out on some top talent simply by thinking they’re not qualified enough.

Intelligence goes a long way. Ken Norton of Bring the Donuts says he hires for “raw intellectual horsepower” in his product managers over anything else. This brings us to step five. 

 #5: Figure out what parts of the job can be taught.

Definitions can be taught. Some sales skills can be honed. Mindset, intrinsic motivation, and insatiable curiosity cannot be.

We’re not saying that your candidates shouldn’t have done at least some research beforehand (and have a basic understanding of your business and product management). However, if you’re too focused on whether or not they know particular definitions or processes within your startup (things that could be taught in ten minutes), you’re likely missing out on intelligent, viable candidates for your business.

This goes in line with those skills and requirements that you’re willing to forego in a candidate. If they have potential and possess one of those things that just can’t be taught, it might be worth hiring them over someone who looks good on paper.

#6: Build a structured interview.

A structured interview makes it especially easy to sift through candidates when you have received multiple applications for a single role. Plus, it helps reduce unconscious bias and discrimination.

Efficiency when getting a candidate from application to a job offer is huge for startups looking to save money in their recruitment and hiring process as well. You can’t lose!

Structured interviews also help you consistently evaluate each possible hire and carefully select the best match across several considerations – from personality and soft skills that meld with your company culture to their technical ability and capacity for learning and development.

#7: Ensure your Product Manager has some buy-in.


You’ll likely include this when crafting a candidate persona, but it’s still good to go over when you’re looking for your new PM. If they aren’t invested in your company mission, they won’t develop the leadership skills you’re looking for in a product manager.

PMs aren’t necessarily high up in the company; there will be people in your company who hold more power. However, the PM will wield expertise in their own way — they’ll know the ins and outs of your product, meaning your team goes to them for anything within that realm.

If your new hire doesn’t love what your business stands for or doesn’t believe in the product, they won’t thrive in their new role. So, how do you find people with buy-in? Check out this blog post for some effective sourcing strategies.  

 #8: Create a friendly candidate experience.


When hiring and recruiting, your business should be creating positive candidate experiences whether the hire is successful or not. Why? People talk.

Even if you don’t close at the offer stage, a candidate who had a great experience is likely to reapply for other roles and motivates 97% of candidates to refer others. It’s always, always worthwhile to make a good impression.  

By the way, if you think you’ve got someone worthwhile on the line, don’t make them wait too long. Here are your offer stage essentials to land top talent for your roles.  

 #9: Look for these top skills.

While the perfect recipe for a product manager will depend on your scale-up’s needs, there are a few skills that Product Plan identified that go a long way in identifying a top-notch PM.  

  • Problem-solving skills 
  • Empathy 
  • Communication 
  • Passion 
  • Curiosity 
  • Leadership 
  • Drive (especially in the face of failure)

#10: Consider bringing in professionals to find the right PM for you.


If everyone on your team knows what they want in their product manager (step one, remember?), you can save your team resources by outsourcing the task of finding, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding the best candidate.

How? By bringing in professionals like us at Pivot and Edge. Get started on your recruitment journey today.💥

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