What Type Of People Should Product Managers Hire For Their Team?

by drjim on October 14, 2013

When product managers hire, they need to think about the brains that they want

When product managers hire, they need to think about the brains that they want
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I’ve got to be honest with you here: there have not been too many times during my product manager career that I’ve been able to step away from the product development definition process and have been presented with the opportunity to hire someone to join my product management team. However, the few times that this has happened, whom I chose turned out to be a really, really important decision when it came to the eventual success of my product. Would you know how to hire the right person to join your product team if you were asked to do so?

What A Product Manager Should NOT Look For When Hiring

So if we’re going to be talking about what you SHOULD be looking for when you are asked to hire someone to join your product team, I guess that we should probably start things out by talking about what you should NOT be looking for. Although this skill might not be listed on your product manager resume, it turns out that this is actually pretty easy to do the wrong way.

I can remember an old boss of mine giving me some great advice about how to sell my product once upon a time. He told me that when it came to customers, “… they like people who are like them…” It turns out that he was correct – the more I made myself appear to be similar to my customers, the more likely they were to select my product.

It turns out that this advice is very similar to the #1 mistake that product managers make when they are going through the hiring process: that they tend to select candidates that are very much like them. Now, I’m going to be the first one to tell you that you probably have some very desirable qualities; however, that does not mean that everyone on your product team should be like you. If this happens, then you’ll miss opportunities to see the world in different ways and you won’t be able to react to changing market conditions as quickly as a diverse team can.

What A Product Manager SHOULD Look For When Hiring

Once you know what you should not be looking for when you are going through the hiring process, the next big question is what should you be looking for? It turns out that just about every product manager out there will run into the same problem when you ask them this question.

The problem that we have is that we all think that we are better than everyone else. We think that we are better at doing product strategy, working with sales, managing development teams, creating pricing, etc. Now clearly we can’t be the best at doing everything; however, we are hard pressed to understand how anyone could be better at what we do than us.

This is what you need to get over. When you are looking to add someone to your team, you need to be looking for people who are smarter than you are. You want to find somebody who is a better presenter. Somebody who is better at finance. Somebody who understands software development better. Etc. You don’t want another you, you want somebody who is better than you in some way.

Every time you add somebody to the team who is better than you are, you are going to be making your product team that much better. No, this is not an easy thing to do, but if you take the time to look for somebody who does something better than you do, then each time you hire you’ll be making your product’s chances of success that much greater.

What All Of This Means For You

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re going to say – I can do it all and I can do it better than anyone else. Well guess what, no you can’t. You might think that you are the best product manager in the world (isn’t that what the product manager job description called for?) but when you get an opportunity to hire someone to join your team, you need to get over yourself.

Unless you really enjoy micromanaging people, you are going to have to make some smart decisions when it comes time to hire people to join your team. What this means is that you really need to find people who are smarter than you are. They need to be better at doing specific things than you are. By doing this you’ll boost the quality of your team and you’ll prevent yourself from becoming a micromanager.

The opportunity to add a new member to your product management team occurs way to infrequently. What this means is that when the opportunity does show up, you need to make the most of it. Follow these guidelines and hire people who are smarter than you and you’ll never be disappointed.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think the personality of the smarter person should be considered also?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just imagine the problem that a product manager who has a brand new product is facing as he or she creates their product development definition: nobody knows anything about their product. They’ve never even heard of it. If only there was some way to “jump start” the product’s marketing program. Oh wait, there is – bring a dead brand back to life!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger L. Cauvin October 15, 2013 at 7:55 am

Sound advice that I hadn’t considered. I suppose it should almost be a rule that you hire someone that possesses talents or skills that you don’t possess.

I would also advise hiring for talent and not as much for skills and experience. (Industry experience can be a crutch.) Talents of great product managers include acquisitive and emergent learning, principle, discipline, adaptability, and facilitation.

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drjim October 18, 2013 at 10:17 am

Roger: all good points. We get the opportunity to hire new people so rarely that we can easily forget how to go about doing this the correct way!

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