Recruiting a Cybersecurity Product Manager? Determine These 5 Factors First

As Product Management recruitment experts, we know what needs to be involved for a hiring search to succeed. There are certain factors and decisions that, if not decided upfront, can delay or possibly even derail a search. These factors multiply in weight and consequence when talking about hiring within smaller communities like Product Managers for cybersecurity companies.

If you are a cybersecurity services provider or SaaS provider, here are the five factors your team should discuss and agree on before commencing a search:

Do you want cybersecurity skills or product management skills?

Our experience has taught us that this is the number one decision leaders struggle to make when hiring a Product Manager for their cyber or security tech company.

Many leaders wait and don’t make this decision until late in the interview process, after having invested time going in the wrong direction. As a result, delaying the outcome they desperately need – a Product Management hire.

During our onboarding process, we conduct a deep dive requirements gathering session to nail down the candidate persona we’re going to conduct a search for. This decision often garners the greatest amount of discussion. Getting to a clear decision on this question ensures a greater likelihood of time well spent both identifying and interviewing the right people, most likely to be hired.

And if you’re wondering, why can’t I have both skill sets? Ask yourself, is my salary budget flexible enough to woo the handful of individuals in North America who fall into this goldilocks category?

Do you want product discovery skills or product delivery skills?

This is the second most critical decision to make when hiring a Product Manager for your cybersecurity tech company. If there is anything we’ve learned since our first product management search in 2006 and the launch of our Product Management Search Practice in 2016, the best product organizations are comprised of varying skills and experiences.

For this reason, Product Managers are highly nuanced and generally fall into two main areas of focus: Product Discovery & Product Delivery

Product Managers who are focused on the discovery side are solving for things like: 

  • market research
  • competitive analysis
  • total addressable market
  • the customer and user persona 
  • the value they are seeking from a solution
  • they look at a product through a business lens

Product Managers who are focused on the delivery side are solving for both the strategic and tactical steps necessary to ensure the product is shipped according to the requirements. This includes things like:

  • quad/scrum team and agile process
  • cadence
  • rigour
  • best practices
  • backlog management
  • the relationship with an Engineering peer
  • QA  
  • meeting delivery dates
  • they look at a product through a technical and process lens

Understanding the separation of these two areas of expertise will take you one step closer to understanding the persona you'll most likely shout “HELL YES” to hiring!

Are you hiring for immediate needs or future growth & succession planning?

This is another decision some leaders struggle to make - hiring a Product Manager who will solve the immediate needs of the product or hiring a more experienced candidate persona that can provide your organization with greater options for future growth. 

This is important to nail down early on because it will help define the salary range you will realistically need to offer the potential hire. As a recruitment partner, determining this step will help us give clarity and realistic options for you to evaluate. Investing time considering or interviewing candidates who are “overkill” for what you need will only delay your hiring decision and cause frustration.

If hiring for your immediate needs is the solution to your problems – bravo! You’ve made the decision best for your business now, and nothing precludes you from conducting a search in the future for the leader you need to drive the next-level growth of the organization or product ecosystem.

Do you actually need a Product Marketing Manager or a Product Manager?

We know what you’re thinking - what!? One of the biggest lessons we learned early on recruiting for cybersecurity managed service providers is the uniqueness of their business models.

We learned that while MSSPs might call a role “product management” the actual functions of the role are more closely aligned to what the industry defines as product marketing. This stems from the reason that an MSSP is not “engineering software”; instead, it creates product offerings through partner products and people.

The Product Manager of an MSSP creates product offerings by taking an outbound market-facing PoV. They become the “market expert,” understanding the market, their customer needs, and the competitive landscape. They engage with tech partners who provide software and infrastructure solutions to create ‘products’ which are a bundle of tech and services delivered by people. They package and price those bundled offerings and are responsible for working cross-functionally with an extended marketing organization to develop and execute the GTM and release of the solution. These skills are closer to what a Product Marketing Manager working within a B2B SaaS company would manage. 

Understanding the skills you need and not letting a title be a roadblock to identifying the persona of the candidate you need to hire is critical to ensuring a successful outcome.

Location, location, location

It’s hard to believe we are still talking about location being a hiring roadblock after everything we’ve been through with Covid. However, with many companies making returns to in-office work arrangements,it’s essential to decide about your hiring flexibilities and then live with the consequences.

We’ll leave it with this market insight: your likelihood of an expeditious hiring outcome increases by 60% when you take a location agnostic approach. This is especially true of cybersecurity tech companies, given that this is one of the most competitive tech categories to recruit from.

If your outcome is a hire, nailing down these 5 factors before starting a search will help recruitment or TA teams become more focused, targeted, and speedy when looking for and landing your next product hire.

Looking to hire a Product Manager for your cybersecurity organization? See some of the work we’ve done with our client partners