HOW TO

Hiring a Product Manager for Your Startup: Why, Where, and How

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
January 14, 2022
HOW TO

Hiring a Product Manager for Your Startup: Why, Where, and How

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
January 14, 2022
HOW TO

Hiring a Product Manager for Your Startup: Why, Where, and How

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
January 14, 2022
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Ratibor Sekirov
CEO at Aspirity
Written by
This article was written
in collaboration with
Alex N.
Product Marketing Manager at Aspirity
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Due to the current hype around startups, hiring a product manager is crucial for project success. Every freshly minted project needs a product manager to join. It's often even more important than finding a good engineering team.

However, the alarming shortage applies not only to software engineers. Finding a suitable candidate for your product management could be way more difficult. According to Glassdoor, a product manager is currently in the top-3 jobs in the US, with almost 44% more open vacancies than Java developers.

At the same time, whether you are a small startup or a big company launching a new product, it's not always beneficial to hire an in-house specialist with a large salary. Outsourcing product management is a much more cost-efficient option. However, when turning to this solution, you should find a vendor with the extensive business competence necessary for leading the project in the right direction.

Aspirity has a team of experienced business analysts, product managers, and designers with deep product expertise. That's why we find efficient and successful solutions meeting our clients' business needs.

The following post will rely on our rich experience. It will explain how to hire a product manager and when you may turn to a PM as a service solution.

Reasons for Hiring a Product Manager for Your New Startup

Before overviewing the best practices for how to hire a product manager, let's estimate how important their role in your project is.

Did you know that 90% of startups fail?
The lack of investments isn't the only cause. Many different factors contribute to such disappointing statistics. Most reasons are related to the inability to find the appropriate market niche and reach the audience. And you can address 80% of these issues with well-established product expertise.

A product manager is the one who determines the product development path. They are similar to a navigator on the ship, who is largely responsible for the voyage's success.

So why should you hire a product manager?

Let's take a closer look.

Validate Your Ideas

A product manager verifies if the initial idea is viable. They conduct market research, customer development, competitor analysis, and other studies to reveal whether the bridgehead is set the right way to succeed. A good product manager (PM) will detect a misleading idea before investing your time and money in it.

Determine Issues in Progress

Even a great initial idea may lead you the wrong way if you don't have sufficient information about the market and the target users' needs. A product manager will monitor and control the realization efficiency on every production stage. It will give you a chance to determine and eliminate any issues emerging on the go.

Save MVP Costs

A good product manager will check hypotheses before you implement them, which enables you not to waste time and resources for nothing. Spending too much money and energy on MVP not being sure if it's worth it is one of the most common entrepreneurs' mistakes.

Product Manager's Role and Responsibilities

To understand how to hire a product manager, ensure you know their responsibilities.

People often think that PMs and founders have very similar roles. However, many aspects of PMs' work have distinctive features.

The role and responsibilities vary depending on the project's stage, domain area, and team size.

Let's look at the key skills you need to seek.

Pitching Ideas

Pitching the idea is often the founders' responsibility, especially at the earliest production stages. However, an experienced product manager may help you define and validate the initial goals, build an efficient strategy, and communicate the product's essence to the investors and other stakeholders.

Providing Customer Development

Customer development is the core product manager's skill required at all development stages. Normally, product management consulting is crucial as founders can't perform such functions.

Customer development involves building a roadmap and defining a business strategy based on initial customer feedback. This approach is mandatory at all production stages since you need to ensure your product can meet the audience's needs and the development process goes the right way.

Conducting Customer Discovery

Engaging users and validating the concept is the direct responsibility of a product manager throughout the development lifecycle. At the pre-seed stage, a product manager should present the hypotheses regarding the audience's pain points and ensure the product will solve these problems.

Majorly, customer discovery consists of three key components:
Market research. A PM determines if the product idea is viable and meets the market's demand by collecting early customers' opinions.
Customer development. This process helps determine whether your business assumptions are right and how your product can solve the specific users' issues.
Competitors analysis. Analyzing the direct and indirect competitors and their audience, a PM collects valuable information about their strategies' strengths and weaknesses.

Working with MVP

A Minimum Viable Product is one of the key product development milestones. Normally, it's an initial product version containing only must-have features and basic functionality. With its help, PMs verify whether the product meets the audience's needs.

At the same time, they can considerably cut the development cost by discarding unnecessary features and preventing mistakes on the go.

Dealing with Unit Economics

A good product manager should be able to cope with unit economics. This process involves measuring business costs and revenues per unit represented by any quantifiable product development aspects.

Conducting unit economics enables PMs to build a more efficient development strategy, save costs, and increase financial success.

Consider Hiring an In-house Specialist vs Product Manager as a Service

Now, let's figure out whether it's better to hire a product manager vs outsource product manager service.

As mentioned above, it's hard to overestimate the product manager's role in building and implementing the development strategy. So it would be great to have such a person in your in-house team.

On the other hand, hiring a product manager is quite an expensive goal. Finding a cost-efficient option isn't a good idea since an incompetent PM may lead your project in the wrong direction.

Thus, it's risky to entrust your project to an inexperienced specialist. Only a PM with sufficient expertise can evaluate your ideas and reject nonviable ones.

That's why hiring a remote product manager can be a great solution. Outsourcing product management will save your costs and time searching and training an in-house specialist. What's more, an outsourced product manager often has extensive expertise and background thanks to a big variety of projects they've dealt with.

We at Aspirity often use a responsibility-sharing approach. It involves distributing product management between the client's in-house team and the development company. It allows closer collaboration and great balance.
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How to Hire the Best Product Manager

In many ways, a product manager resembles a CEO whose responsibilities are limited to a single product. So to increase the efficiency of the product manager hiring process, consider your product management candidate as a future CEO and measure the requirements based on this viewpoint.

Let's reveal how to hire a product manager who will lead your project to success. We will focus on the core skills you should consider when searching for a PM.

Pitching Skills

If you need to hire a product manager for a startup, consider the candidate's pitching skills. Although communicating the product's value and prospects are often conducted by the startup's founder or CEO, a good PM may help impress potential investors.

Customer Development Skills

The core skill of any product manager is finding the target audience, estimating their pains, and finding the right solution to relieve them. It's equally important at all product development stages.

It's a great idea to look for a person with well-established experience working with various audience groups, having a user-centered approach, relevant marketing experience, and UX skills.

Extensive Experience

The PM's background directly impacts their ability to validate ideas and choose the right ones on the go.

The key role of a PM is not in ideas' monetization. It's related to their deep understanding of the products' essence and the market's demands. Thus, a product manager can instantly detect the idea to generate revenue.

Result-driven Research Skills

An experienced product manager should be a user research guru. It's another skill you will benefit from at all development stages. UX research, usability testing, and other qualitative and quantitative methodologies allow PMs to study the audience's needs, specify the requirements and improve the development strategy. The organization of such investigations is an extremely important advantage.

Analytical Skills

Understanding figures, metrics, and basic economic models will help a product manager analyze the market and effectively evaluate the development progress. As well as the technical background, analytical savvy makes the difference between a good PM and an excellent one.

Creative Thinking

Unlike any technical and analytical skills, creativity, leadership capacity, and outstanding product instincts are nearly impossible to train. That's why most PM interview questions aim to detect these capabilities.

A great product manager can think outside the box and find solutions that nobody else could even think of. They are passionate about the products they're working with, ready to collaborate with the other team members and make timely decisions to prevent any potential collapse.

Relevance to Your Business Goals

As you see, a product manager is quite a multifunctional position that requires numerous skills. Different products require distinctive initial competence, which a PM can gradually expand.

Thus, when hiring your first product manager, stick to your project's goals and requirements.

If you're dealing with Blockchain or AI technologies, a former engineer can be a perfect match for your project.

For example, Amazon prefers hiring product managers with a good technical background. In contrast, Google Analytics chooses candidates who have experience analyzing metrics and figures. Advertising, foodtech, and adtech startups should know how to hire a product marketing manager, while service companies prefer PMs with project management expertise.

Where to Find the Best Product Manager for Your Startup?

Proficient product managers are hardly ever unemployed. It makes them rare birds on the job market.

Growing your in-house specialist is one of the options. However, it will take longer, and such a solution is not always effective, especially if the journey has just begun.

You can address this problem with outsourcing. The vendor will take on some responsibilities, giving your in-house PM time to gain the required experience.

Where to find product managers for your project? Here are the most common options.

LinkedIn

It's a huge network containing millions of posted CVs and jobs. LinkedIn simplifies access to any information about professionals and employers, so both you and your future PM can study each other's experience and achievements in detail.

Product Hired

Product Hired is a great platform where recruiters can find and hire a manager for product launch. It's one of the largest product-focused career websites with an extensive community of skilled professionals.

Recommendations

Don't underestimate the opportunity to find the right talent with recommendations. Also, if you outsource your product management, check the candidate's reviews and reputation on platforms like Clutch or GoodFirms.

Outsource to Aspirity

Aspirity has various capabilities to suit different projects focused on design, technologies, business, or analytics. And this is another benefit of your product management outsourcing to a dedicated team like ours. Hiring an in-house specialist with such a wide range of competence is nearly impossible.

Top Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

It's a good idea to focus on the specifics of PM's responsibilities and the bunch of skills they should have. Narrow the range of questions to the ones revealing the candidate's creativity and determine if they have the relevant experience for your project.

Here are a few example interview questions and answers to help you hire the right product manager.

What's Your Favorite Product and Why Do You Appreciate It?

This question will show whether the candidate is passionate about product management. It will also reveal how they think, analyzing the product's goals and nature. You may also ask additional questions to get more details in this regard. Here are a few examples:
Which of this product's metrics do you consider the most valuable?
Which features would you add to this product?
How would you measure this feature's efficiency?
Example answer: "I adore using Miro. The product's value is instantly clear for me as a customer. The online whiteboard works perfectly for collaboration and helps with increasing project management and teamwork efficiency. Miro is clear, consistent, and convenient, and its multiple templates perfectly suit various business needs."

Which Approach and Strategy Would You Use to Launch Our Product?

Asking this question, you will determine whether the candidate has the required expertise. Also, you will learn if they can tailor their tactics to your project's specifics.

Additionally, you may ask the candidate to provide a more detailed answer:
What specific market research methods do you know?
How do you conduct user interviews?
How exactly do you conduct the meetings with the team?
Example answer: "I would start with building the initial roadmap, determining the key milestones and expected deliverables. I would also consult with team members to make these decisions clear and acceptable. Next, I would conduct market research, customer development, and competitive analysis to understand if we move the right way. I always tend to have regular meetings with the team and verify if we are on the right track."

What Would You Change in Our Product Development Plan?

You shouldn't expect the candidate to come out with an immediate solution. However, asking such a question will allow you to see whether they have consistent and creative ideas on detecting and eliminating the product's issues.

Example answer: "You've got a great product, and I appreciate the initial idea. I especially like the steps you've taken to communicate its value to the audience. However, I would recommend conducting comprehensive user research and determining how it can relieve the users' pain points. In particular, I would work on the balance between serving the customers' and the vendors' needs."

As you see, this example answer is quite uncertain as it cannot be generalized. It will vary depending on the product's nature. The answer doesn't have to be accurate and correct since the question aims to reveal the candidate's mindset.

Normally, a good answer doesn't start with certain ideas. It starts with reasoning about the project's key metrics. The candidates should try to estimate how the current functionality affects the metric. They may also explain which statistics and analytics can be collected to start thinking about improvements.

It will be a nice bonus if the candidate also tries to suggest some specific ideas and hypotheses.

How Do You Implement the Product Hypotheses Validation?

This question aims to verify if the candidate is aware of the consistent product development process. It will reveal if the person uses appropriate data to validate the features' utility and can provide efficient hypotheses testing.

A good answer to this question is consistent and detailed. A good candidate will demonstrate well-established analytical skills.

Example answer: "First of all, I identify the assumptions and build hypotheses on their basis. Next, I rank them depending on their importance and select the tests that will be the most appropriate in a particular case. It might be A\B testing, MVP, user interviews, or focus groups. After conducting the tests, I arrange and analyze the data obtained and act by the drawn conclusions.

Which Metrics Do You Normally Use, and What Are Their Purposes?

This question will help you see if the candidate has sufficient expertise in product management metrics and knows how to use them efficiently. A good product manager should understand the product's success and efficiency criteria. No matter what metric the candidate chooses to describe, it should be explained in terms of driving the product to positive change.

Example answer: "In my work, I often use churn rate and customer retention metrics that are essential for product efficiency validation. A churn rate is necessary to verify how many customers leave the product over a given period. By comparing the number of users at the beginning and end of the period, I can see whether the product can retain a sufficient number of customers. Otherwise, I see alarming dynamics that need to be studied in more detail."

Hire the Right Product Manager to Succeed with Your Startup

Nowadays, a product manager is the must-have for any ambitious project, and involving such a professional at the earliest development stage is highly beneficial. A good PM will help you pitch and validate ideas, define the project's roadmap, and detect mistakes before they become critical. They can conduct more efficient research and analytics and launch an MVP with minimal cost.

However, it's quite challenging to hire a product manager as a consultant for your in-house team. This solution is costly, and it takes time to train a good specialist. That's why turning to product management outsourcing is often more efficient. Hiring a dedicated team will enable distributing the responsibilities and achieving the necessary balance.

Looking for a reliable vendor to outsource your product management? Aspirity has rich experience conducting comprehensive research, validating and testing development efficiency, building MVPs, and finding robust solutions to keep projects on the right track.

Drop us a line to get a free consultation. Let's create an amazing product together!
This article was written in collaboration with Alex N. Product Marketing Manager at Aspirity
CEO AT ASPIRITY
Ratibor Sekirov
For more than 2,5 years, I've been working as CEO at Aspirity. I help professionals launch digital products by providing dedicated development teams.
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