Finding and scoring a product management hire can be a big win for any company — and the recruiter who brought them on board! Every step of the recruiting journey is a way to make a good impression on a product manager candidate, from the initial outreach to job description to how they’re treated throughout the interview process. 

Here, we’ll guide you through best practices for how to hire a product manager, with specifics around what they look for and ways to attract great talent. PM candidates rely on recruiters for answers and feedback, and their experience with you can change their entire perception of a company.

Job Descriptions & Evaluating Opportunities

Job descriptions are often candidates’ first impression of your company. Are you writing a compelling intro of your company’s mission, culture, and products? Is it grabbing their attention and inspiring them with the impact they could make at your company? 

Candidates will zero in on the following pieces of a product manager job description:

  • Role and product — What part of the company will they be working on, and where does PM sit within the organization? This is arguably the most important section of the job description, since candidates may be willing to take a title or pay cut if they are working on a mission-critical product that aligns with their interests.

  • Key responsibilities and whether they match up with what they expect from a PM role

  • Qualifications to see what your company is looking for in an ideal candidate

  • Benefits, to understand what the company values and how it stacks up to other companies

PMs are driven by impact and making a difference, so including information like whether it’s a first PM hire or in a growth area of the company can grab the attention of top PM talent. If your company is not as well known, you can assuage more risk-averse candidates by listing accolades it has won or funds it has raised.

Each PM is motivated by something different, and that will inform their unique perspective when interviewing with you. A key piece of how to hire a product manager? Finding out what they are motivated by and knowing what stage they’re at in their career. This will help you tailor your communications towards them.

Top Considerations When Interviewing

Throughout the interview process, product management candidates may probe more closely into three key areas: Manager, Team, and Product. The following are product manager interview questions, from the candidate’s perspective.

Area 01: Manager

  • “Is this someone I can learn from?”
  • “Does their management style match what I’m looking for?”
  • “Will they help grow my career?”
  • “How many people have left their team in the last year, and why?”

Area 02: Team 

  • “Where do product ideas come from?”
  • “What roles do Engineering and Design play in the product development process?”
  • “How are teams organized at the company?”
  • “How are disagreements between team leads resolved?”

Area 03: Product 

  • “How does the company make money from the product?”
  • “What is the product vision and strategy for the next few years?”
  • “Where do they see my skill set fitting in?”

Understanding the tools is a nice-to-have for Product Managers. They may care about the style and process of development, but because there are so many tools in the market, most PMs don’t have hard requirements other than making sure something exists (e.g., does the company have any dashboards at all?). 

Red Flags For Product Managers

Seasoned candidates know which areas in a role they aren’t willing to compromise, so it’s important to keep their potential red flags in mind. Most of these negative indications fall into the categories above, with the added consideration of company culture.

A few examples: 

  • Manager: When learning about the manager, a quick red flag is turnover. High turnover on the team is concerning and needs to be investigated. If an interviewee is not inspired by the manager, that’s also a major way to lose their interest!

  • Team: Candidates recognize that when Product is not a respected department at the company, it will be much harder for them to succeed there. Red flags with the team can include PMs reporting into non-Product orgs, the roadmap being dictated by Sales, or the PM job description covering only project management responsibilities.

  • Product: If there are key concerns about the product that a product manager wouldn’t be able to solve, that will turn them away, too. When the company doesn’t have a defensible product position in the market, and the team hasn’t acknowledged that, competitors could come in and win their business away easily.

  • Culture: This is unique to each person and their preferred environment. Candidates will imagine whether they’ll like working with their interviewers and gauge what types of people the company hires. Be aware that one red flag for many women is seeing an all-male leadership team or all-male engineering organizations. Being the first woman hire can be difficult when you are also trying to onboard in a new role. 

Alternatively, green flags during the process can really convince a candidate to sign your offer letter. If you find out what a coveted candidate really cares about, you can sell them on how your company can meet their needs there. Make sure to ask them what they’re looking for in their next role, and confirm the top priority with them so you can communicate this to the hiring manager. If the hiring manager really wants to close the candidate, they can figure out ways to meet the candidate’s top goals.

Effective Outreach Messages For Product Managers

A good recruiter plays a crucial part in the interview process, because they can get PMs interested in roles or companies they hadn’t yet considered. Some characteristics of good recruiter outreach messages…

They’re personalized: If a recruiter makes a candidate feel like they did research on their background and truly believe that they could be a good fit for a specific role, then the candidate will pay attention to their message and read the job description.

They use social proof: Providing links to the latest fundraising news from the company or awards the product has received can go a long way in establishing the company’s credibility.

There’s a mutual connection: If the candidate has a mutual connection working at the company who has recommended them, mentioning that will definitely make the candidate more inclined to listen.

Establish Credibility With Product Managers

During the interview itself, you are the shepherd guiding the candidate through each round. They’ll rely on you to prepare them adequately and answer any of their questions. To establish this trust, you have to convey to the candidate that you understand the role Product plays at the company, that you can speak on behalf of the hiring manager and team, and that you deeply understand the interview process. 

You’ll also want to tailor your communications for the seniority level of your candidate. A senior PM will care about things like the health of the business, scope of the role, upward trajectory and more. A more junior PM may care about the availability of mentorship and who their manager is. 

A credible recruiter covers the basics: 

  1. Team knowledge — Product managers need to know the size of each organization that their department works with, what types of PMs are successful at the company, how often PMs interface with leadership, which stakeholders are most important to their team, and more.

  2. Role knowledge — Recruiters should understand the ins and outs of the PM role at their company, with the ability to describe the product development process and tools to a candidate. 

It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to all of their questions! They’ll still have the chance to ask the hiring manager. If you can help the candidate get the basic questions out of the way, then they can put together better questions for their interviewers and have more meaningful discussions.

Now, go have better conversations with PMs!

With all of these tips and insights in mind, recruiters can make their company stand out to a product manager, while ensuring each candidate’s experience is a special one.

When communicating with prospective PMs, keep in mind what they look for in new roles, the red flags that are cause for concern, and the answers they’re hoping to glean from you as their guide.

For a more in-depth look at recruiting for product management, enroll in our full course coming this fall!

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