Who you hire to lead your product marketing team is a big decision. The right person can set the vision for the client experience, help build the products your organization will make and clearly define the technology that will become the backbone of all development. The wrong person can be a nightmare, cause mistrust between teams, and lead the organization down the wrong path.
When it’s time to find a product lead, here are a few things you can do to help make sure you find the right product manager.
1. Define the scope
Some positions are easy to define and understand their sphere of influence. For example, the CFO is clearly in charge of finances, payments and other fiduciary duties. The role of the product manager, however, is a little more cloudy and needs to be better defined for your organization.
At the core, the product manager is responsible for creating product that leads and grows the organization. To do this, the PM may lead several cross-functional teams including developers, engineers, designers, or UX teams. He or she is traditionally responsible for creating the strategy, roadmap, and features in the product and then executing against it. Additionally, the PM may be responsible for business functions like analyzing competitors or forecasting for profit and loss statements.
Too many times companies don’t take the time to have a clear definition of the product manager’s scope. This makes it difficult to write an accurate job description and can lead to frustration down the road if jobs are not getting done, or if team members feel others are stepping in their territory.
Be specific about the scope of the job as product manager, the experience, and expertise you need. Avoid clichés. If you need specific certifications, make sure you spell it out- including if you are requiring the PM to have coding skills. Then, write the job description to elicit matches to your specific needs.
2. Define expectations
Just like having a clear job description will help set the stage, setting clear expectations with your PM will help ensure everyone knows what is being ask of them. Some organizations prefer to have regular releases around a calendar, while others are more open to pushing code to production whenever it is ready. Additionally, some PMs work better in small groups and are comfortable getting in the trenches and coding with team members to accomplish tasks. Others excel at managing large groups and keeping everybody else on task. There are advantages to both approaches but it is vital to clearly state what your expectations are around the PM role and how he or she will deliver to the rest of the organization.
3. Understand company culture
The product manager will interact with members of different teams which creates a whole hosts of communication issues. Ensure you identify candidates that have strong communication skills and the ability to keep various team members engaged and excited about the product.
Good product managers are team players who can help manage different people working on different tasks, at different speeds. The best hires can identify when team members are getting behind or building the wrong thing before is slows down the entire group. They know when to push the pedal to go faster and when the team may need a minute for fresh air.
Finally, the product manager should be an advocate for the technology and product. He or she should provide vision on how to use the various products to help the organization meet and exceed their goals. Because the PMs can influence various teams, it is important he or she understand your company culture and is positively contributing to it.
4. Respect prioritization
Often times, companies expect a lot out of the delivery team. It is easy to assume small changes in technology are an easy ask, or can be done quickly. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Small asks can require a huge amount of work, or worse, take away from working against a more important project.
That is why one of the most crucial jobs of the product manager is to be able to prioritize what tasks the teams will accomplish, when and in what order. When recruiting, look for PMs that can take in a lot of information like customer needs, revenue expectations and team skills and create a simple, unified plan for execution. The best PMs will also look to external data sources to understand what needs to be build and how to prioritize the work. Once the PM has set the roadmap, it is vital that other leaders respect the prioritization and don’t distract or ask for requests. Allowing the PM to create and then use a prioritization framework will ensure he or she feels like they are able to deliver against the goals.
5. Interview in a structured environment
Many hiring managers will sit down and have a free-flowing chat with candidates. They talk about the job and past experience while letting the conversation unfold organically. This approach can overlook key information or base hiring decisions more on how a candidate presents themselves rather than the skills they have. Instead, use a structured approach including standard questions that all candidates are asked. This provides you with comparative information to help evaluate candidates on an even playing field. It also helps prevent unconscious bias in hiring.
Making a bad hire is expensive
With deadline pressures, your product manager needs to lead your team. Hiring the wrong person can be a disaster. Delays, cost overruns, staff turnover are just some of the byproducts of bad hires. Even if you quickly recognize the mistake, fixing it costs time. Under-performing teams have an average success rate of just 32 percent. The right project managers, culture, and capabilities can produce a success rate averaging 92 percent.
Hiring the right product manager
Finding the right product manager should really start with internally defining what you are looking or in the role, and the scope the PM will have. From there, you will be able to better identify the skills, attitude and experience you are looking for. No two PMs work the same and finding one that will support the various teams while maintaining communication and hitting the right deadline can lead to great success for your organization. Using a structured interview process to compare and evaluate candidates fairly can help identify the “best of the best.”
Take the time up front to put together a hiring plan and it will pay off in the end.