The ultimate guide to product management hiring, Part 1 : Strategy

So you need to hire a PM or build out a PM team. Where to begin? What are some best practices? WHAT TO DO!

Fear not, this four part series will give you a framework along with an operational guide to getting it done. These posts are a result of all the mistakes that I have made and the learnings that I have painfully gained :)

This four part series will cover

Some philosophical grounding

A good mental model is to think of the PM hiring process as you would think about a product. The same considerations and activities that you would perform for an actual product are directly applicable to the hiring process. Just as product managers have a relentless focus on the user, the hiring process needs to have a relentless focus on the candidate (the user).

To put it succinctly:

  • Old way: You (candidate) need a job. I (hiring manager) am the customer, you want me.
  • New, and better, way: You (candidate) are a customer and we are going find a good match. We both want to ensure we have a good fit and it is in fact me (the hiring manager) who wants you.

What are you looking for?

Define product/market fit

This matters more than you think. A few important questions to think about:

  • What sort of company are you? Are you a B2b, B2c, Marketplace…getting to a broad classification of where you lie helps in identifying the type of the PM who will fit your particular need.
  • Which stage of the company lifecycle are you in? If you are small startup (<20 people), then you will tend towards scrappy and execution focussed PM’s. If you are a larger company you are probably looking for a healthy mix of process, strategy and execution.

What is the ideal product (the candidate) /market (your company) fit?

What will the user (candidate PM’s) get?

Role and compensation alignment

Depending on which type of PM you need, what is the right level for the role? What are the exact parameters of compensation that you can play with? What is the exact title and what is the reporting structure? This last part is often the hardest since you need broad organizational alignment to make each role and each candidate successful

How do you communicate to the users (candidate PM’s) what they get?

Clear job descriptions

Be very honest and explicit about what you need and at the same time don’t ask for a unicorn! If something is a nice to have, mention it as a nice to have. Accentuate the positive, talk about why you want folks to work with you. Talk about your mission and what you stand for. Talk about what the PM will own and do day to day (a “day in the life of” is a nice way to discuss this). Talk about the impact this role will have on the company as a whole. Circulate this job description to all the relevant stakeholders. Does this provide an accurate picture of the kind of PM you’d want?

In the next few posts, I’ll talk about creating a good hiring process and executing to it. Stay tuned.