HelloMeets recently conducted a workshop on “Product Management for Startups”. Lakshay Pandey who is a Product Manager at team hike & has previously worked with Jabong, Zomato and Paytm, shared his insights on how early stage startups should go about hiring a Product Manager.
**This blog will be helpful for startup founders looking to hire a PM & for aspiring PMs.
Before we go ahead with discussing the hiring process, lets understand who a Product Manager is.
— Product managers are considered to be people with strong technical background, UX experts and also having excellent Statistical and Data Analysis skills.
For a more detailed explanation you can read the following:
Some companies even describe them as Mini CEOs in the job description!!
On the basis of ground realities, the role of a PM comprises of the following:
Understanding the user needs and complaints
Understanding constraints and need to be able to build in the given constraints
Logging, viewing and utilising data
Keeping maniac focus on the priority and ignoring the noise
Helping coordinate between functions of different departments like Operations Team, Marketing team, Tech team etc.
Helping move the product forward by keeping a constant check on the feedback of users and working of different departments
The important question that a Startup founder needs to answer is — When do I really need to hire a product manager?
In the early stages of a startup, founders usually juggle the role of a Product Manager. Also — maximum startups have fewer funds because of which they do not want to hire a separate person to manage their product.
So the need to hire the first product manager comes up when the team/product is large enough to need dedicated focus.
As a founder, some questions to ask yourself before you hire a Product Manager are —
Am I unable to keep track of the details now?
Am I the bottle neck for the product being built?
Am I caught up with one particular aspect of the business?
After answering the above questions the Main considerations while hiring your first Product Manager are-
1. Technical/Domain expertise
We usually quantify based on engineering background
Need to judge what is the main pain point for your product
While nice to have but technical knowledge for product management is not a boundation in most products
2. Internal or External
For your first hire, there is always a choice between internal transfer or external hire
Internal transfers guarantee the respect of the team and cohesion with the founders
External hires bring in a new view point and experience
3. Tactical & Strategic or Delivery oriented
Do you need a Product Manager to own the product or a product manager to just handle launch and release?
For the second case, it is better hiring Engineering Managers or Project Managers
Be aware of different skill sets and treat candidates accordingly
Builders: People best at taking an existing stable product and pushing out a cohesive wholesome roadmap
Tuners: Great for specific scenarios with a focus on a single north star metric and improving that metric
Innovators: People best at fast paced building and evaluating. Great at validating ideas with experiments and finding a product market fit.
Hiring A Product Manager
If you are a startup, most likely things are a mess and a new person has to come in, take control, clean the mess and drive the company forward. So you have to think about how you will enable them to do that.
Interviewing a Product Manager is about open-ended skills. This requires some preparation by the interviewer.
Keep in mind the main tasks of a Product Manager, don’t look for coding background and marketing plans.
**For perspective on how much preparation is enough, you can read the book — ‘Work Rules’ byLaszlo Bock (ex HR head of Google).
BASIC DO’S ANS DONT’S OF FOR INTERVIEWING A PRODUCT MANAGER
• Introduce you and the Company
• Respect Time
• Build Context
• Understand profile of Candidate
• Understand how they handle conflicts in different teams
• Discuss a use case — not generic questions, walk through on solving cases
• Look for technical understanding, not an engineering degree
• Look for jack of all trades
• Get into domain specific questions
• Start proving the candidate wrong, counter-productive for all