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Client Advice

What to look for when hiring a product manager

By Peter Wharton

The product management role is probably the most underrated role in startups as a company can seem to function without it where engineers, sales, marketing and especially the founders wear multiple hats to launch initial products or services but it is considered one of the most critical roles in mid-sized to multinational corporations because it is key to developing winning product and business strategies for the short and long term.

Product management is responsible for some of the most exciting innovations in tech as they need to work across the whole operation, quickly identifying pain points and growth opportunities. They understand both the selling and marketing components plus the technologies and frameworks involved in making successful products.  A product manager working for a startup or scale-up, like most critical roles will have a very broad scope of responsibilities whereas as at mid-size to large corporations will be more focussed and specialised.


Core product management competencies are many and include performing market assessments, translating business-to-technical requirements, feature prioritization and road map planning, pricing and revenue modeling, tracking competitors and their technologies, defining UI guidelines and so on. But what are the key attributes a best-in-class product manager needs to generate sustained success for your company?


1. Strong EQ
When I was a product manager at Iomega many years ago the CEO told me. I had the most important job in the company because I needed to break down silos and work with every department in the company. However, being able to build relationships and work with all of these factions requires strong emotional intelligence to work effectively with these different departments for example engineering teams can be very proud and possessive about product development and not be open to direction on products, product features and user interfaces, and sales will insist on features not available and pricing not attainable. So these relationships need to be managed and nurtured to ensure long term company success.

2. Self Awareness 
In defining product specifications and features the product manager needs to identify what the end users require and not project their own person bias onto the development team.

3. Entrepreneurial Mindset
At the end of the day, the company needs to achieve sustainable growth and profitability and product management delivers the products and services to drive this. Being able to anticipate and define business opportunities and then execute flawlessly requires true business acumen.

4. Have the right level of technical knowledge
This will depend on the complexity of the solutions being developed and in the tech sector is why product managers often have engineering backgrounds but it has to be ballanced with the EQ, self awareness and entrepreneurship qualities outlined above.

As with all critical roles, company fit is key, and especially here because product management is so central to how a company operates and its success.