Product manager as part of the interview team

But really, what can be more important than the people you work with side by side?


Elena Sviridenko

3 years ago | 3 min read

I believe into and practice it myself that the product managers should participate in the job interviews for the openings in their development teams. Some may say it is a job for HR and delivery, and the product managers have other things to care about, such as mission, vision, strategy, etc.

But really, what can be more important than the people you work with side by side?

As a product manager, you set the goals and see them to accomplishment, and you need to have a great and professional team around to cover the bets. These are the people you rely and depend on in achieving the success of the product and the business. And you want the best by your side.

In my experience, during the interview, the candidate is evaluated on the four aspects:

  • Professional expertise
  • Teamwork skills and work attitude
  • Character
  • Determination to the long-term engagement with the product

The first two are to be left to the technical specialists and HRs. It is the last two where a product manager should step in. The mismatch in either of them would be a show stopper.

Expertise can be acquired, shortfalls in the teamwork skills and work attitude can be dealt with in most cases.
Whereas character sits deep inside the person and is hardly changeable. It manifests itself in the personal goals and motivators, and the ambitions a candidate wants to satisfy by joining your company.

A person with the right character would be an asset.

To the contrary, the unsatisfied ambitions and unachieved goals will eat away at the employee’s productivity, motivation and loyalty, finally resulting in the dismissal, which would be a ‘lose-lose’ outcome for both sides — waste of time and efforts.

Your job during the interview is to identify the character and figure out how you can utilize it best.

This may even end up in the candidate taking an absolutely different position in your company, as to the best advantage of both sides.
Skills develop with practice, the character stands. So you better bed on the latter.

“Hire character. Train skill.”
— Peter Schutz

Another key aspect the product manager should assess is the candidate’s determination to the long-term engagement with the product. One typically depends on the attractiveness of the product to the candidate.

Some may look for the complex and technologically challenging products, others — for enjoyment. Some may fall for the consumer-facing solutions, others — for the B2B. It is your call to identify what kind of products the candidate is passionate about and impartially contrast compare those to what you have.

Losing interest in the product will result in the employee quitting and moving elsewhere in pursuit of novelty. Product development is a marathon, and you certainly do not want sprinters on it.

To mitigate the risk of the candidates disinterested in your product to apply for the position, add the key information about the product into the job posting and/or provide the link to the product page on your website.

You may want to cover the product mission, the target audience, the market, the key components, and the underlying technology.

The better awareness of the product you create for the candidate, the higher the chances to onboard an awesome and a well-fitting character.

I do understand that in the big companies product managers are likely too busy to engage in all the interviews. Sounds like a good reason to delegate, doesn’t it? Training your product owners and bringing them in would be the way to go.
Still, you may want to secure the privilege to interview for the key positions yourself.

Regardless of the size of the company, tolerating the mediocrity would pull it down. And as a product person, you can make a difference by getting your hands on hiring the best.


Created by

Elena Sviridenko







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