4 Attributes Product Managers Look For In A Job
Search inquiries involving the term ‘product management’ have more than doubled in the past five years. More and more companies find value in hiring someone to manage the ideation, development, management and release of new products by working with teams across the company to create a cohesive strategy.
Accordingly, the demand for quality product managers also increased, and the candidate pool is now highly competitive for such roles. To help tech recruiters identify top candidates and build out product teams, we created this guide with tips on the attributes product candidates care most about, including tips on how and where to source product management professionals.
Table of Contents
- Attribute 1: A company culture built on trust and communication
- Attribute 2: A clear vision, mission & objectives
- Attribute 3: A defined role and career path
- Attribute 4: The freedom to operate fluidly among teams
Attribute 1: A company culture built on trust and communication
Product managers work closely with every team at your business, so much so that more than a third of departments report to product managers. And the biggest challenge nearly a third of product managers face in their job is internal office politics. In order for product candidates to do their job well and excel at your company, it’s critical to have a strong company culture built on two essential qualities — trust and communication.
For many companies, product management is fairly new. It’s rooted in the technology industry, so as more companies adopt tech as part of their infrastructure and product, the need for product managers also rises. As a result, companies newer to tech may face confusion among other departments who don’t fully understand the product manager's role and how to utilize them as a resource.
However, if your company culture is already close-knit and cross-departmental teams communicate regularly, new product managers will seamlessly transition into your company and teams will be thrilled to have designated colleagues to move stagnated projects forward. Here’s how we helped a few companies leverage their company culture to attract top product managers.
We asked Anna Sergeychik, Director of Product Development at CrunchTime!:
How do you coordinate collaboration with team members based in Boston and internationally, as well as across projects?
"To make sure that nothing is missed between projects, we hold a scrum session with teams that are overseas and with our local Boston teams. Our labor teams collaborate through business analyses sessions.
"We also meet with our product strategy and product development teams to review what’s coming from a product standpoint. Among our overseas teams, we introduced a monthly sync practice where teams are going through the features they were working on during the month. Our architect's group collaborate weekly to come up with the best solutions for performance and scalability improvements."
We asked Vivek Sharma, Founder and CEO of Moveable Ink:
How does Movable Ink’s culture foster an environment for tech innovation at your company?
"With innovation running so deep in our DNA, it was only natural to embed it into our company culture. Like many progressive tech companies, we regularly engage in activities like design sprints, rapid prototyping, participatory design and co-creation with clients, hackathons, ideation sessions and team building. But at Movable Ink, the learning and experimentation that we’re fostering is all based on a foundation of true collaboration between engineering, product and design. In the end, it’s about cadence, trust and empowering teams to find effective solutions for our clients that meet their business goals."
Attribute 2: A clear vision, mission & objectives
For a product manager to confidently make decisions as to what and how companies should build new products, they need to understand the past and present state of products as well as future goals. Just like how you sell your vision, mission and products to prospective customers, you need to sell the same to prospective product managers.
The best employees are hyped about launching new products and stand firmly behind your brand, so during the recruitment process, make an effort to sell candidates while you assess their fit for the role. Especially if this role is new to your company, it’s important to establish a cohesive game plan for your new employee before you start recruiting for the role. Talk with department heads to figure out exactly what products this employee will work on and what you expect them to accomplish on upcoming product launches.
This is great information to include on your product manager job description and across recruitment marketing materials to get candidates excited about the specific projects they’ll work on. This will also help candidates better prepare their application materials and interview questions to be tailored to your specific role and company objectives. For inspiration on how to attract great candidates by promoting your employer brand and product goals, check out how we helped two companies do just that.
We asked Mike Haze, VP of Product and Strategy at Shopgate:
You run a product team in Germany — how do you go about meshing that culture with the Austin-based team?
"I think it really comes down to a few key things: a clear and shared vision for the product and goals, relationships built on trust, collaboration and tools. With such a highly-engaged team, the first step is to ensure there is a clear and shared vision that everyone can get behind and connect with.
"Of course, to do that, we have to enable them with the right collaboration and communication tools to achieve this. Getting the right mix takes a little time normally, but once it’s dialed in, the magic starts to happen."
We asked Nik Koblov, Head of Bank Engineering at Affirm:
What projects or challenges will your team be tackling this year?
"It’s interesting that what attracted me most to Affirm was their single-pointed focus on the core product — becoming the household name in point-of-sale lending, not unlike Airbnb in hospitality and Lyft in car-hailing.
"This year, however, is when we are embarking on a number of new product dimensions that branches out beyond Affirm’s core point of sale offering presenting new engineering challenges as the company expands beyond its traditional ecosystem. For engineers, these are some very exciting times, as we are looking to bring in better tools to tackle these challenges, including new programming languages."
Attribute 3: A defined role and career path
Product management is part of the technology industry, and because of that, it’s a fairly new career path. As a result, product managers typically come from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. However, as more companies utilize tech, the more product managers are needed to ensure new tech products are delivered on time and their value can be clearly communicated to consumers, prospects, stakeholders as well as the internal sales and marketing teams.
It’s easy to hire go-getters who are willing to jump in head first and figure out the role as they go. While the product management role is always evolving as new products are developed, you still need to define exactly which products your new hire will work on along with which teams will report directly to them.
Additionally, define the typical product management employee’s career path before making your first hire. Nobody wants to join a team and have their career stagnate because the company doesn’t understand how and where product managers can advance in their careers.
If you have already established a product management team, share employee spotlights on how your employees have grown into their current position. If hiring your first product manager, create a clear candidate persona to better communicate the desired background, skills and experiences of your ideal candidate. Doing so will also help you understand where this candidate can learn and grow professionally within your company. Here's how we helped these companies highlight their roles and career paths to attract great candidates.
We asked Amber Britton, Product Manager at Moveable Ink:
You’ve worn many hats in your three years with Movable Ink. Tell us about your professional development journey with the company. What attracted you to the product side of the business?
"I started the process of getting my MBA right when I started here at Movable Ink. During that time, I was on our client experience team and was constantly relaying feedback and ideas to our product team. I started to sit in on some sprint planning meetings and loved the idea of being able to shape the direction we took our product in. It was exciting to see some small nugget of an idea turn into this larger feature that positively impacted all of our users. Once I finished school, I was looking for a new challenge and Movable Ink was happy to help me find a new path within the company on the product team. The product and engineering teams welcomed me right away."
We asked Susanna Ghaemi, Director of Core Product Library at SPINS LLC:
What are the backgrounds of people on the team?
"We bring a diverse set of backgrounds, but our core values and passion for the natural products industry unite us. We’re all driven by results, problem-solving, data, nutrition and environmental and social issues. Most of our team is aligned with the natural products industry, adhering to the lifestyles, food tribes and diet regimens that are core to our consumers. However, you don’t need a specific background in healthy living to join our team. Rather, we search for people who have a genuine interest in the natural products industry and share the same drive."
Attribute 4: The Freedom to operate fluidly among teams
Of all the employees at your company, product managers likely interact with the most departments. They are, after all, managing the launch of products your company builds, which most employees play some kind of role in. They are constantly engaging with engineering, design, marketing, product marketing, product, sales and customer success teams.
The best (and happiest) product managers are uninhibited from working with a wide range of teams. Out of everyone at your company, it’s imperative that product managers are experts on your product, its faults, customer pain points, employee concerns as well as how and with whom your team talks about your products externally. This includes sales reps speaking with prospects as well as how your colleagues talk about your company and its products to friends and family — it all contributes to your reputation and the success of your products.
Allow product managers to work fluidly among teams, conduct informational surveys and host brainstorming sessions so they can gather all the information they need to make informed decisions about your products, be innovative and manage features as they launch and evolve.
These companies help their product managers make the most of their role, and here’s how we helped them relay such information to job seekers.
We asked Nicollette Mead, Product Manager at Shopgate:
How does your team collaborate with each other or with other teams?
"Product regularly collaborates with a lot of the obvious departments: design, marketing, sales and customer success. But because we have so many unique perspectives across departments, sometimes I like to talk through a problem I’m facing with a person in a non-stakeholder role.
"A recent example was a member of our accounting team. They helped me look at a problem from a totally different angle and asked a different question to give me that lightbulb moment I needed."
We asked Mark Pellegrino, Director of Product Development at CrunchTime!:
How does your team determine what you build next?
"Our product strategy team works closely with our customers and sales teams to set the priority for new development. From there, they work with the development teams to set the content for each release cycle. Then, we get together with the architecture team to discuss any areas of our products that could be improved. Once a list of improvements has been identified, solutions are debated and later voted on for adoption during the current or future developer cycle."
We asked Susanna Ghaemi, Director, Core Product Library at SPINS LLC:
As your team grows, what was the biggest challenge you encountered?
"Harnessing priorities in an environment of accelerated growth is an exciting challenge that lends itself well to creative solutions. Growing the team goes beyond simply adding people — our work requires curiosity, determination and critical, abstract thought. As such, I empower our team members to work with autonomy and use hands-on learning to create a culture of acceptance and openness to trial and error.
"To keep up with SPINS expansion and the natural food industry’s innovations, we take a research and data-oriented approach to learning about and measuring new products and trends. Cannabidiol (CBD) is making headlines today, but our team recognized those early shifts in the market years ago. With autonomy to research these developments and scope the data in our library of products, our team of experts has pushed SPINS to the forefront of trends like these."
Whether you're hiring your first product manager or your fifth, the process never seems to get easier. It's a niche role with steep competition, so keep utilizing guides like this and other tech recruiter resources we've created to hire the best of the best and beat out your competition at attracting (and retaining) great employees. Use our template to get ahead while writing your next product manager job description.