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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Evaluating a Product Manager

Quick thoughts on areas to assess candidates for product manager's position, once again from my recent and past experience of recruiting product management professionals for various organizations I worked for;

Evaluation Criteria 

  1. Technology comfort: A candidates ability to understand technology is very important. Candidates shying away from technical terms, unwilling to learn technology trends is a definite NO for product manager's position. This does not mean that a candidate should be a engineer or techie, he should have an appetite for technology, this helps him to leverage upon technology strengths and also plan for  technology limitations.

  2. Business acumen: have you ever heard of top line and bottom line? do ask this if the candidate comes from technical background, after-all all your actions (as product manager) must influence one or both of these lines in positive manner. A candidate falling short of expectation on technology front can still be consider, however a candidate falling short of expectation on business is big bold NO.

  3. Versatility in Experience: Exposure and/ or experience of working in other roles ( non engineering, non product) like pre-sales, Solution designer, implementation / operations team or even sales is a good plus point. From my experience, candidates who have evolved as Product manager from support roles (like presales, support) have done equally or better than candidates who have taken the traditional approach from engineering. Product managers having versatility in experience are product owners of inclusive and comprehensive thought process that helps them envisage and design stake holder friendly product.

  4. Analytic skills  and decision making ability: Collect data from valid sources, analyse data and take decision - candidates ability take out gist from large data is very important. Chaotic situation is playground of product manager, and to be an effective player he must learn to identify patterns and draw right conclusions from the situation. [read visual description of PM's job] Prepare some cast studies and/ or test candidate with dummy data.

  5. Customer interactions: how often does a candidate meets its customer? what's on agenda during customer meeting and how may customers have he meet. Meeting customers regularly is key to success. Read, importance of meeting customers @ product manatra here

  6. Value competition: Knowing your competition, and tracking their key moves is really important. How much time does a candidate spend on analyzing competition, how frequently does he visit customer of his competition and how much does his product roadmap gets influenced by competition study? - Products developed keeping rack of competitive landscape live better than those developed without studying competition.

  7. Stayed long enough to have learned from his mistakes: this is better explain in blog post that I posted few weeks back, read here 

  8. Role models: having role models is important, it helps you understand your liking, disliking, preferences and develops your thought process and personality. ask, who is your favorite product managers? name few products managers you have high regards for (for their work or products they develop)? why and what you learned from their experience that helps you do your job better.
  9. Ability to articulate: Its all about telling story, use case, scenarios etc. expressing is important and expression with right level of articulation is really important. Ask candidates to articulate about their product, challenges, user scenarios etc.
  10. Friendly social animal: how much time do yo spend with stake holders? do you have answers for the Why s of your product? and how many times do you dare to say NO to your friends. how often do you socialize with stake holders. Read trait of being social animal here
Interviewing a candidate is a greater challenge than appearing for an interview as a candidate. Challenge is tougher at managerial level position, where organization bank on you to hire a quality resource, hire a product CEO. 



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi.. It is a good write... I have this question on being a friendly social animal. Regarding "how many time do you say NO to your friends", What do you think is an ideal thing to do... Should we be honest enough by saying a NO and explain the reason for the NO or should we be diplomatic by not saying a NO... What do you think? I know it highly depends on the situation. But just imagine it in a very generic situation.