How to attract top product manager talent

By Barron Ernst, Chief Product Officer, Showmax

As I outlined in my earlier post on the Product Manager’s evolution, the intense pace of innovation today means that tech companies need to approach Product Management in an entirely new way. Core to that is attracting the best Product Manager talent.
We’re going through a ‘golden age’ where technology is leaping forward, creating a new normal. It has and will continue to transform the world we live in. The world of recruitment is no exception, and with more data being created, potential candidates are leaving a trail of information for employers to discover. Likewise, candidates are able to discover hundreds of data points about potential employers. The result? Candidates and employers are able to make more informed decisions—employers are no longer in the driving seat; the balance of power has shifted.
When it comes to hiring Product Managers a key issue I’ve observed, is a mismatch of skill sets, expectations and job profiles. This makes it hard to find and retain the right person. Both sides need to be confident of a strong match, based on defined capability expectations, common values and clearly defined goals. Talent shortages and poor hires can have a serious impact on momentum and ultimately, profitability.
Here are five key areas to focus on, based on my experience:
1. Have a culture of accountability and meritocracy.
The best product people want to have measurable impact. If they can join and immediately start impacting conversion, onboarding, or retention, they will be more excited about your product team. Showing this makes potential recruits excited to join an organization because it means they have a clear opportunity to grow themselves and their career.
Create and demonstrate a culture of accountability. When recruiting, be clear about the metrics to deliver against and the resources available to move those metrics.
2. Communicate a compelling vision and clear business objectives.
During the interview process, you need to articulate a clear, convincing vision of what the next few years at the company will look like. You need to sell the vision, the business objectives and the metrics that prove success. Product Managers should understand what company success looks like and their role in contributing to that success.
3. Define the role and focus areas clearly
Top employees and top talent want to know they can make a difference. To do this, they need ownership. Don’t make the mistake of hiring top Product Management talent, then limiting their role to writing product requirements. Give top talent the chance to own an area of your business. Some good examples: own the mobile experience, own the conversion funnel, own customer experience and retention. But make sure the role has a clear goal and ownership area.
4. Give Product Managers freedom to operate and manage their teams.
The challenge today is to present product teams with a roadmap of exciting new things to take on and directions to explore. This fosters a long-term outlook and keeps them interested. Roles need to be dynamic, flexible and changing to attract the right talent.
It’s important not to micro-manage. Product Managers need the freedom to drive change and progress the business—within the strategy. This demonstrates trust and enables the product and engineering teams to innovate and solve key business problems.
5. Be customer driven and proud of it externally.
No matter how many recruiters a company has, none can compare to the power of an employee operating as an extension of the brand. With that in mind, a company’s brand has never been so important or so hard to protect. Top Product Management talent wants to know that the brand they’re putting their name to is well regarded by its customers and that the brand is managed professionally. Candidates will want to know that time is spent listening and talking to customers, that the company knows how it is perceived in the market. They will review feedback and ratings, and will carefully evaluate how the company manages their reputation and customer feedback. The candidate experience should be no different than the best customer experience.
Attracting the right Product Management talent is about demonstrating a culture where trust is at the heart of everything you do. Create a thriving culture; a place where people want to be. Build a magnetic tribe; people are attracted by people. Your interview process is an opportunity to show that you trust your employees, you want them to succeed and you will give them every opportunity to do so along the way.