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Hiring your first
Product Manager
10+ years as a PM and leadership, VP / Head of
Product at a number of early stage startups.
I’m a 2x first hire PM, and have built product teams in
large organisations and high growth SaaS startups.
@Tim_S_Wilkinson tim-s-wilkinson
The average life expectancy of
a first hire PM is < 12 months
● Expensive! (iro £150k - £250k)
● Plus opportunity costs
● Damaging for the rest of the team
● Crushing for the PM (who in other
circumstances could have thrived)
● When to hire
● What to look for
● How to prepare as a hiring team
● How to prepare as a candidate
● First 30, 60, 90 days
● Q&A
Hiring your first PM
When to hire
The company has a product in the market and has
reached some level of product market fit*
Up to this point there is nothing more important than finding
P/M F, after this point the role expands to building the
business rather than the product.
*This is a generalisation, there are exceptions!
CEO Challenges
● Understanding the changing nature of their role
● Letting go!
● Balancing the different demands on their
attention
● Line managing / working with a PM (possibly
the first time they’ve done this)
PM Challenges
● Building credibility with CEO and org
● Pushing back!
● Having autonomy
● Working under someone who is learning their
role
Hiring a PM is a team sport
Pioneers
These are people who are excited by building prototypes, who are pumped about the riskiness of the endeavor and when creating
something brand new in the world.
Settlers
These product managers are much more focused on impact. They really care about reaching a lot of people. That’s a slightly
different makeup; they’re obsessed with growth, they’re obsessed with optimizing.
Town Planners
These are your platform managers, who take over when it’s time to build the infrastructure and systems necessary to handle scale
and accommodate your product’s use cases, current and future.
Jonathan Golden - Director or Product at AirBnB
Pioneers, Settlers & Town Planners
Todd Jackson (ex Twitter & Dropbox) identifies must haves, good to haves
and bonus skills.
General Skills
Define your hiring criteria
Business goals
& challenges
PM Persona
Team strengths
& weaknesses
+ =
Skills sheet and Score Card
Create a skills matrix* and stack rank (as a team) the skills
you value most.
Have all interviews rank candidates from 0-3 on these skills.
The top 5 skill should be table stakes. All candidates must
score well on these to progress (agree a minimum score).
* or use ours!
Write an imaginary annual review for the position you’re about to hire for.
List out what they would have achieved in an ideal world.
● What metrics will they have moved?
● How will the product be different?
● How will the org be different?
Share this with the hiring team. Do they agree?
This doc forms the basis for your job spec and advert
Get creative!
Candidates
At every round, with every interviewer,
check why they’re hiring for product and
what impact they’re hoping you’ll have
Define your process
What winning looks like!
● Clear understanding of what the PM needs to achieve over the next
12/24 months
● Stakeholder buy-in and alignment
● Clear process with a standardised scoring methodology that easy to
administer
● A great candidate experience and engagement all the way through the
process
● Short time to hire
Do your due diligence…
● Does anyone in your network know them?
● What does the runway look like?
● Ask about their customers
● What are the real challenges they face
You’re looking for openness and honesty
Candidates
Do not hire a
Head / VP / Director
of Product
● Clearly list out the offer in an email
● Give full details the package (pension, equity)
● Bullet point out benefits & perks as part of the offer
● Don’t get cross if a candidate negotiates
● Don’t have unreasonable terms in the contract
Don’t make it hard for someone to
accept your offer!
Have a plan
(first day, first week, first 30 days)
🤝 Have them meet key people (or everyone if the team is small) and ask the same 3
questions
● What's going well
● What’s not going well
● What’s the one thing I could start doing that would help you
First 30 days
🎓Get them to learn the product by:
● Shadowing CX
● Have the CTO / Senior Engineer take them through the tech stack and architecture in
detail
● Review docs (and contribute to them)
● Read up on product strategy and goals (and discuss with them)
First 30 days
🤿 Don't throw them into a complex project immediately!
Get them involved in shipping something with a low risk factor.
The focus should be on them learning how things work in the team, building relationships
and learning the quirks of the product.
First 30 days
Collaboratively plan and agree 60 and 90
day goals
First 30 days
Thank you!
productheads.io
tim@productheads.io
01223 944 101
web:
email:
phone:

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BoSON23 | Tim Wilkinson | Making First Hire Product Managers Work

  • 2. 10+ years as a PM and leadership, VP / Head of Product at a number of early stage startups. I’m a 2x first hire PM, and have built product teams in large organisations and high growth SaaS startups. @Tim_S_Wilkinson tim-s-wilkinson
  • 3. The average life expectancy of a first hire PM is < 12 months ● Expensive! (iro £150k - £250k) ● Plus opportunity costs ● Damaging for the rest of the team ● Crushing for the PM (who in other circumstances could have thrived)
  • 4. ● When to hire ● What to look for ● How to prepare as a hiring team ● How to prepare as a candidate ● First 30, 60, 90 days ● Q&A Hiring your first PM
  • 5. When to hire The company has a product in the market and has reached some level of product market fit* Up to this point there is nothing more important than finding P/M F, after this point the role expands to building the business rather than the product. *This is a generalisation, there are exceptions! CEO Challenges ● Understanding the changing nature of their role ● Letting go! ● Balancing the different demands on their attention ● Line managing / working with a PM (possibly the first time they’ve done this) PM Challenges ● Building credibility with CEO and org ● Pushing back! ● Having autonomy ● Working under someone who is learning their role
  • 6. Hiring a PM is a team sport
  • 7. Pioneers These are people who are excited by building prototypes, who are pumped about the riskiness of the endeavor and when creating something brand new in the world. Settlers These product managers are much more focused on impact. They really care about reaching a lot of people. That’s a slightly different makeup; they’re obsessed with growth, they’re obsessed with optimizing. Town Planners These are your platform managers, who take over when it’s time to build the infrastructure and systems necessary to handle scale and accommodate your product’s use cases, current and future. Jonathan Golden - Director or Product at AirBnB Pioneers, Settlers & Town Planners
  • 8. Todd Jackson (ex Twitter & Dropbox) identifies must haves, good to haves and bonus skills. General Skills
  • 9. Define your hiring criteria Business goals & challenges PM Persona Team strengths & weaknesses + =
  • 10. Skills sheet and Score Card Create a skills matrix* and stack rank (as a team) the skills you value most. Have all interviews rank candidates from 0-3 on these skills. The top 5 skill should be table stakes. All candidates must score well on these to progress (agree a minimum score). * or use ours!
  • 11. Write an imaginary annual review for the position you’re about to hire for. List out what they would have achieved in an ideal world. ● What metrics will they have moved? ● How will the product be different? ● How will the org be different? Share this with the hiring team. Do they agree? This doc forms the basis for your job spec and advert Get creative!
  • 12. Candidates At every round, with every interviewer, check why they’re hiring for product and what impact they’re hoping you’ll have
  • 14. What winning looks like! ● Clear understanding of what the PM needs to achieve over the next 12/24 months ● Stakeholder buy-in and alignment ● Clear process with a standardised scoring methodology that easy to administer ● A great candidate experience and engagement all the way through the process ● Short time to hire
  • 15. Do your due diligence… ● Does anyone in your network know them? ● What does the runway look like? ● Ask about their customers ● What are the real challenges they face You’re looking for openness and honesty Candidates
  • 16. Do not hire a Head / VP / Director of Product
  • 17. ● Clearly list out the offer in an email ● Give full details the package (pension, equity) ● Bullet point out benefits & perks as part of the offer ● Don’t get cross if a candidate negotiates ● Don’t have unreasonable terms in the contract Don’t make it hard for someone to accept your offer!
  • 18. Have a plan (first day, first week, first 30 days) 🤝 Have them meet key people (or everyone if the team is small) and ask the same 3 questions ● What's going well ● What’s not going well ● What’s the one thing I could start doing that would help you First 30 days
  • 19. 🎓Get them to learn the product by: ● Shadowing CX ● Have the CTO / Senior Engineer take them through the tech stack and architecture in detail ● Review docs (and contribute to them) ● Read up on product strategy and goals (and discuss with them) First 30 days
  • 20. 🤿 Don't throw them into a complex project immediately! Get them involved in shipping something with a low risk factor. The focus should be on them learning how things work in the team, building relationships and learning the quirks of the product. First 30 days
  • 21. Collaboratively plan and agree 60 and 90 day goals First 30 days