How to Interview a Product Manager

Advice on what to ask when looking for a product manager

Cristian Joe · 08 Feb 2016

I’ve had the pleasure of eavesdropping on many live streams run by Jeremy Horn and his team at the Product Mentor for 3 years. This past weekend they had a great series of talks with product executives from mid-size to large corporations. The video below outlines some things to look for when hiring product managers.

Takeaways

  1. First, really identify why you need to hire a product manager. Do you have too many developers? Are there too many simultaneous projects? Are you attempting to seperate concerns due to increased business or product complextity?

  2. Product Management roles vary greatly per industry, and many times even between companies within the same sector. However there are some skills that are universal. He mentions great organizational skills and planning, someone that has proven they can deliver (read: Ship) products and interestlingly someone you believe can play "politics". As a PM you will be forced to interact with various different teams and stakeholders.

  3. Gantcharts, Agile, Waterfall .. nonsense and all can be taught. The major skill you want to test for is empathy and stellar communications skills.

  4. As a PM you should probably be saying "no" more often then "yes". Great products tend to be very focused, targeted solutions to specific consumer and business problems. Identify questions or ask the candidate to directly recall a time when she was forced to say no to a feature request from internal or external stakeholders.

  5. The places you look will largely reflect the quality of talent you source. He reccomends angel.co (I agree), LinkedIn, Hired.com and your local product meetup.

  6. Evaluating resumes is painful, use the following as filters

    • Has shipped a product before
    • Previous technical background
    • Proud of previous work (has an ability to inspire)
    • Blogs/ Writes / involved in the community

He recommends eliminating anyone who includes designation, awards or a laundry list of tools in their resumes.

  1. The product manager should not be a relay, they should support the engineering team and the other skilled individuals on the team. Dig into customer and stakeholder issues, deeply to better communicate new initiatives to your team. You can test for this by asking for writing samples, specs, or asking the candidate to break down one of their favorite products.

  2. Look for individuals that can explain stories in detail that prove for the following:

    • Lie Detection (you need to be able to call bullshit on certain requests)
    • Trust (how can you convey that your team entrusts you to lead & protect them)
    • Empathy (In my opinion the biggest skill to develop to be successful)
    • Leadership
    • Prudence

To learn more about the product mentor go here: http://www.theproductmentor.com/