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Staffing.  It can be a fun and exciting time as a product management leader.  Building a team to execute on the vision being set forth, finding raw talent and growing it, coaching until your team becomes high-performing.  I had the privileged of doing just that in my previous role.  Of course, in the middle of the screening process, the countless interviews, and the follow-ups … it can seem a daunting, exhausting task to get to the finish line.

Which is where I am now.  So as I am going through the seemingly endless process, what do I look for in a product manager?  Is there a single formula, a unique skill set that defines success?

Back in April, I came across the article Mastering the Product Management Interview from one of the Product Management sources I follow. To summarize the author’s viewpoint, a good blend of Domain Expertise, Functional Expertise, Soft Skills and Strategic Aptitude should be sought out.  I agree. And it seems consistent with other Product Management resources I trust and follow:


But perhaps what characterizes my viewpoint on this topic best is something I captured at the end of 2014 after attending one a Product Management Executive Board meetings here in Atlanta.  I summarize things this way in the post …

One of the topics that came up during our time together was especially encouraging, and it centered on hiring expectations associated with filling Product Management positions … the operative word here being expectations. Let me elaborate.

Anytime we look to fill a Product Management role, the reality is we are looking for the perfect fit … someone with a multi-dimensional skill-set across all of the following:

  • … someone who has expertise within the domain (vertical market), with the technology, as well as with acumen from a business perspective
    • my own experience suggests you can start with technology and learn the domain or vice versa, but …
    • PMEB data shows 81% of candidates lack business acumen
  • … someone who can blend strong analytic capabilities (aggregating insights from multiple inputs) with a creative mindset who can tie it all together into a compelling story/vision
    • yet PMEB data shows 76% of candidates lack the ability to formulate market insights
    • and my own experience suggests the ability to understand distinctive competence and creatively position/message the value proposition is also a limited skill-set
  • … someone who strategically sees the big picture but also has the ability to focus on the details needed to tactically execute
    • yet PMEB data shows 77% candidates of candidates lack strategic planning skills

The subsequent discussion and conclusions among the participants suggested while people can be taught, finding a single person who matches all of the criteria (considering candidates) or who excels in all of the criteria (consider existing employees) was extremely rare indeed.


So what am I looking for in a product management?  All of this, of course!  But as the data suggests, and my own experience confirms, very few people fit all of these expectations.  So absent a crystal ball, you go with the candidate who seems the best fit with the information you have at that point in time.