Why I Hire Product Managers Based on Emotion Over Experience

Vivek Bedi
Dec 12, 2018 · 4 min read

If you’re a product manager, you’ve probably been asked to work on a project within a tight deadline, which means putting in extra hours late-night and weekends. When that happens, who are the people you want on your team? What adjectives would you use to describe them?

When I asked these questions at a talk I gave at Product School, the answers were not smart or successful. The adjectives were patient, flexible, thoughtful, collaborative, empathetic, and even funny. That’s because if you’re going to spend that much time with people in close quarters, you better like them and get along.

With product managers, the softer, more compassionate side, is extremely important because a big part of being good at the job is relationship-building. To be frank, resumes may get applicants in the door, but I rarely rely on them during interviews when making my decision on who to hire.

For me, it always comes down to emotional intelligence, or EQ. In other words, how well potential hires can manage their own emotions and adapt to others’ emotions. So how do you interview for that? Here’s how I figure out the right fit for the role before extending an offer.

Always ask, “What is your story?”

A product manager partners with a developer, a designer, an engineer, and a marketer, who are all relying on that PM to make the final decision. It’s the PM’s job to drive the train and get everyone on board.

Pay attention to how the applicant reads the room.

I make a mental note of how well a potential PM interacts with others when I introduce them to the team and around the office, and of course with how they engage with me as the interviewer.

Look out for the lizard brain.

Product managers who are able to manage their emotions well are more likely to succeed in the role. They’ll often be put in high-stress environments, making critical business decisions or meeting with leadership. It is imperative that the person in this position can keep their composure rather than letting their feelings get the best of them — which can otherwise be damaging to the team or the company.

Observe how well applicants listen and take feedback.

Perfectionists or people who are married to their products often don’t do well as product managers unless they can understand the work the entire team does, including engineers, designers or marketers, to create successful products and take all perspectives into account.

It’s especially important to be empathetic to your end users. Continue to ask for feedback, even if you don’t like it. After all, product managers are not building products for themselves but for the customer and, therefore, must be okay with changing course.

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Vivek Bedi

Written by

Digital Product Executive | Public Speaker | Author | Entrepreneur | Board Member

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Exclusive and practical insights that enable the agile community to succeed.

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