Saturday, December 1, 2012

Product Management: Hiring

One of the most important things that you must do as a leader is to hire the right person.  When expanding the team, you need someone who can be trusted and be another life jacket instead of a boat anchor.  It's especially true when you are hiring a product manager.  Product management role is where marketing, designing, engineering, shipping, selling and supporting all come together.  If you have a misfire in product management, chance of product success rapidly falls to nil.


I wanted to share three links that I found interesting on this topic.

Norton shares his insights from his own experience with hiring many engineers and product managers.  He talks about product manager being an interdisciplinary position, and how strong technical background, thinking creatively, leading the team and being able to represent multiple point of views with prior experience of shipping a product are the key qualities that he looks for from good candidates.  He provides the list of questions that you can use to drill down on each points.

Alvarez lists 8 questions that she suggests to use.  These are scenarios that can (and often do!) happen in real life.  They help the interviewer probe for candidate's capability to clarify assumptions, think on one's feet, collaborate and communicate effectively with the interviewer.

- Kevin Morrill: The Most Revealing Job Interview Question (The original blog got hacked and gets redirected, but it's here.)

Morrill shares his tried-and-true interview question that asks candidates to do actual planning and answering with strategy about something that they care about within a limited time.  Although he used this question to screen engineering talents' planning and execution capability within limited resources, the same principle applies to product management discipline as well.

I agree with all the insights shared by three authors.  One thing I would add is the Lean Startup practice.  No one has the perfect idea from the beginning, and unless a product manager can filter and harness the critical points and adjust the course, it will be difficult to solve the problem that matters to customers (or buyers in enterprise case).  Hence I would add the following questions:
  • You don't have enough data to make a decision, but the engineering team demands the requirement to be specified for the feature for future proofing.  How would you come to a decision?  Would you collaborate with anyone?
  • Product development is about to hit the feature complete.  While doing a hurried beta testing with an existing customer, you discover that the product cannot rolled out without the last-minute requested feature.  What do you do?
  • You have just received FRS from engineering team and they came back with 3 man months of work estimate to develop the feature to your requirement.  What is your next step?

Any other question that you use to screen a product manager candidate?

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