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Don't Hire a Product Manager Without These 4 Traits

Hiring a Product Manager is often one of the most critical searches a company can make. For many companies, it's also an intimidating hire, complicated by the fact that what separates a GOOD Product Manager from a GREAT one is the combination of left brain and right brain traits. 

Since product and product leadership is still a relatively new and developing function compared to Sales or Finance, we’ve outlined the top 4 traits to look for when seeking a GREAT Product Manager!

Empathy Towards the User 

Having empathy towards the user and the user experience is a crucial component when creating a successful product. For some organizations, this is easier when the Product Managers are market-facing and have the opportunity to meet and talk with clients. However, for organizations whose Product Managers are inward-facing, having empathy for the customer and their experience with your product can be challenging.

Product Managers who are inward-facing can get lost in the science of releasing: working in scrums, squads, or collaborative teams to execute on releases. and not fully take into account the art of Product Management which is being mindful of how the product releases will impact the user's experience. 

Since Product Managers aren't necessarily engaging with the customers, being mindful of the user experience, and researching their user journey is key for optimal product success. Many software companies place such high value on the CX they invest in the addition of User Researchers to their product teams. Whether a Product Manager has that resource or not, their ability to release a world-class product that delights its users will be determined by the empathy they have for their experience.

Articulate the Struggle 

Anyone who has ever had to recruit a Product Manager will quickly realize how challenging it can be to identify a shortlist of candidates who meet all the requirements a Chief Product Officer requests. This difficulty is the very reason why we have a Product Management search practice here at Martyn Bassett Associates.

A GOOD candidate will check off a lot of boxes that are easy to qualify or quantify: Fintech experience, four years of experience as a Product Manager, and experience launching a mobile APP to consumers, etc.

A GREAT candidate will check off those same boxes, but will also be able to articulate the struggle and the learnings that they will be able to apply to the next product they assume responsibility for. These great candidates are: reflective, insightful, and not afraid to admit they made mistakes or got it wrong! They are also adaptable and not married to their ideas - instead they look at the data and demonstrate flexibility to pivot if it leads to the outcomes they are accountable for achieving.      

Collaborative in WFH or Distributed Environment

This one is new to the list, but work-from-home is fast becoming the new norm, and the ability to move the needle while working remotely is becoming a crucial competency. 

We’ve heard it time and time again that product is an in-office position but with that option no longer feasible product leaders are learning to adapt. Great Product Managers of the future will be those who have demonstrated the ability to apply their collaboration, impeccable communication, and team-building skills in a flexible, agile manner to get the job done and manage product, design, and engineering teams remotely. 

On the flip side, hiring a remote Director or VP of Product can be easier if there’s no limit to geography. The wider the number of markets you can draw on to recruit talent from, the greater the cross-section of candidates and experiences you will be able to evaluate and consider. 

Ability to See What Doesn’t Exist 

There is one special quality of Product Management that stands out above all the rest because it’s a rare and magical quality, not all Product Managers possess. It’s the ability to take in everything: the data, the customer and user feedback, the competitive insights, and the market opportunities and imagine.  

Some of the top Product Managers in tech are those who have been tasked to reimagine the user experience or a workflow (i.e. tapping instead of inserting a card to pay, touch ID instead of a password … the list is endless.)

A Product Manager's experience of applying design thinking to the product they are responsible for and to champion a new way to add value to their business is the cherry on top and what makes a good Product Manager GREAT!

Not sure where to begin when trying to differentiate those good vs great product people? Book a consultation with Heidi Ram to discuss the current product marketplace.