How to Hire a Product Manager

Your Step-by-step Guide and Downloadable Checklist 

How do you hire a Product Manager? It may seem like a simple question, but many Founders only realize how challenging and nuanced it can be once it's too late.

We have met many leaders who have applied traditional techniques and approaches to hiring a Product Manager and quickly realized they don’t always work.

This is our step-by-step guide and downloadable checklist to help you make a better product management hire faster.

Before we begin, who are we to tell you how to hire a Product Manager?

Martyn Bassett Associates is a search firm founded over 20 years ago. In 2006, we made our first product placement and, in the years following, have recruited hundreds of Product Managers for B2B SaaS startups - starting our dedicated Product Practice in 2016. This Product Practice provides recruiting services to startups and scaleups across North America who need to hire Product Managers, Product Designers, and Product Marketers.

Hundreds of searches and thousands of candidates later, we present this guide: 

How to Hire a Product Manager

Step 1: Define Why

No one hires a Product Manager without having a problem that needs solving or an opportunity to realize. So the first step in the hiring process of a Product Manager is to define the problem or opportunity. 

This requires a clear understanding of the use case and why it matters. It is essential to identify the specific responsibilities and challenges the new hire will face and align the reasons for the hire with the organization's goals. Thinking in use cases makes it easier to market to the right talent.


Step 2: Define the Requirements

To identify the most suitable candidates for the role, it is essential to define the core experiences and requirements for the job vs. just jotting down a job description. This includes a thorough understanding of the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary for the role and the areas where some flexibility can be afforded.

It is also important to create a candidate persona that outlines the ideal background, personality, and experience for the role. Additionally, it is vital to consider the importance of years of experience and whether it should be a defining factor in the hiring process before starting to interview.


Step 3: Blueprint the Process

The next step is to create a detailed plan of the hiring process, including who will be responsible for each step, from initial screening to offer presentation. Then, streamline the process, combining steps wherever possible.

Next is to coach each participant on their role. Coaching includes ensuring that each participant's interview style aligns with the hiring team's expectations. Make sure they understand what they are assessing the candidate on and don't assume their interview style aligns - are they looking for reasons to hire? Or not to hire?

Also, avoid asking candidates to do free work if possible. If an assignment or case presentation is required, have it ready. Design searches, in particular, often require an exercise, which is a touchy subject among candidates who resent feeling like they're asked to do free work.


Step 4: Look Inside

The path into product is varied. Before reaching out to external candidates, it is important to consider internal options and evaluate the potential for promoting from within the organization.

Promoting from within can result in a faster ramp-up time, as the new hire is already familiar with the business. It also demonstrates to current employees that the organization prioritizes its own people. Retaining employees is typically less expensive than recruiting new talent and fosters a more positive culture and employee loyalty. So always look within before looking at outside options.


Step 5: The Big Decision - Inbound or Outbound

The final decision in the hiring process is whether to take an inbound or outbound approach. Inbound refers to the passive approach of waiting for candidates to apply, while outbound involves actively seeking and engaging with potential candidates.

The inbound approach is the least cost prohibitive but is often unsuitable for urgent or very specialized hires. An internal acquisition team can apply an outbound approach, which works very well for more junior or non-technical roles. However, most internal talent acquisition teams have little experience recruiting senior and highly nuanced product management talent.

In such cases, it may be necessary to engage a recruiting firm with a specialized practice, such as product management, to access the top talent in the market. Look for a specialized recruiting firm with experience negotiating offers and a proven track record.

Our experience has taught us that whether a product candidate is uninterested or passive, they are likely to take a call from one of our Recruiters. Our clients only benefit from this, knowing their search will get them access to sought-after top talent that other Recruiters cannot.

Are you looking to hire a PM? Download this hiring checklist or book a consultation today to learn more about our Product Practice.