Product managers (PMs) are crucial to any company’s functioning, which is why product management is one of the most sought-after jobs in today’s industry. However, if you are a recruiter looking to hire a new product manager for your firm, you should avoid some of the common mistakes that other interviewers make. This article highlights some of them.
Before you get started, remind yourself, “What is a product manager?” Here is a brief description of the roles and responsibilities of a PM.
What is the Role of a Product Manager?
A PM is often considered the “CEO of a product.” A PM defines the why, when, and what of a product that an engineering team builds and works with several organizations throughout the entire journey of converting an idea on paper into a real product. They must also ensure that the product supports the company’s overall strategy and goals.
Broadly, the core aspects of a product manager include strategy and ideation. Strategy deals with all the planning aspects, including making a work timeline, scheduling the releases, etc. PMs must also prioritize ideas, collect feedback, choose the right features, and so on.
7 Common Mistakes PM Recruiters Make
1. Product Manager vs. Project Manager
“Product” and “project” differ only by two letters, but the roles of a product manager and a project manager are vastly different. A project manager mainly deals with risk and issue management, planning and resource scheduling, and scope management. Their job is to complete a project within budget, time, and quality constraints.
Often, candidates make the mistake of preparing for one role while applying for the other, and at times, recruiters mix up the two terms. The right talent should go to the right place, and such a mix up in an interview is inadmissible.
2. Understanding the Resume Content
If you are involved in the initial shortlisting process based on the candidates’ resume, you can have a hard time choosing the best ones, especially when you have to sift through hundreds of profiles. A PM resume will always have a section on a profile statement and one on work experience (if a resume doesn’t have a profile statement, you can safely reject it). These are the two sections you must read first.
The candidate’s profile statement must instantly catch your attention and convince you that they are a potential fit for the job. His/her work experience must list all their previous roles as well as the results they obtained. Look out for numbers and not just fluff.
3. Testing Basic Terminology
Some recruiters might find it irrelevant to test a candidate on basic terminology and jargon, like “What is agile development?” Although the job is more about one’s analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities, you should devote at least a couple of product manager interview questions to test their foundations on the subject. Someone unaware of the basics might struggle in the workplace to even understand the jargon that his/her colleagues use.
Start the interview with questions about basic definitions, understanding of the market, and the latest market news.
4. How Does the Candidate Approach a Problem?
Candidates with prior work experience in product management will have a better idea of what the job demands than a fresher. For experienced professionals, you can better understand their thinking skills by probing their roles in their previous jobs. Ask them how they went about a specific project, what issues they faced, and how they resolved it, which gives a good picture of the candidates’ work practices.
For a fresh graduate, you can still test their underlying understanding of how a PM functions. Guesstimates are common interview questions (“How many burgers are sold in the US every day?”), which brings out the candidate’s ability to break down a problem, think from different angles, consider different people involved, etc. all of which a PM needs to do.
5. Is the Candidate “Fit” for the Company?
When you have evaluated the candidates’ technical skills, you move on to their behavioral aspects, which usually involves situational analysis, work ethics, and conforming to your company’s values and principles. Many recruiters underestimate the importance of this part of the interview.
For example, if your company values people above anything else and asks a question to the candidate about what he would do in a situation involving laying off workers, his response must be based on the company’s principles. The answer shows that the candidate is good at his job and that they will uphold the company’s values at critical times. If you don’t consider this aspect of the candidate, he/she may be an excellent PM but will feel out of place in your firm.
6. Don’t Bring Your Tensions to the Interview Room
You may have a dozen issues related to your work, which you had to suspend to conduct an interview. However, when you are interviewing candidates, you should try and leave your tension and anxiety outside the room. Focus only on the interview and give every candidate a fair chance.
If you take out your anger or frustration on the interviewee, you might lose a valuable recruit for your firm. You will not be able to distinguish between an unfit candidate and a top candidate who’s getting a hard time.
7. Don’t Have any Reservations
When recruiting, treat everyone equally. Don’t be partial towards some candidates but only look at the qualities they display during the interview and on their resume. Having reservations will cost you a good employee and might even tarnish your reputation as a recruiter.
Some recruiters might want to choose only a fixed number of people irrespective of how many candidates are fit for the role. You can take a call on whether you want to be flexible with that number or not (this also depends on who has the highest authority when it comes to selection).
So, the next time you recruit product managers for your team, you can cautiously avoid these pitfalls described in this article. PMs are valuable assets to your firm, so your selection process must be robust enough to choose only the best candidates.