5 Critical Traits You Need to See In Your Next Product Manager

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If you’re hiring a product manager today like you would have five or ten years ago, odds are your recruitment strategy is outdated and will provide you with a disappointing result.

The makeup of an excellent product manager has shifted significantly in recent years in the face of new technologies and an increasingly dynamic and competitive market. Professionals in this role today must have a mindset and the skillset to match the evolving demands of the position.

The differences between a good product management candidate and a great one might be subtle, but as product management recruiters we’ve seen that the effect they’ll have on your business will be tremendous. In addition to the general skillsets, education and experience you would expect out of any product manager, here are 5 essential traits that are especially important but frequently overlooked for a successful Product Manager starting at your business in 2016.

Laser-Focused on the Customer First

For decades, product managers had to put a majority of their focus on the logistics of product development and promotion. Those aspects of product management remain important, but today every aspect of a product’s design, creation, marketing, experience, and corporate support must be implemented with the customer experience front-of-mind.

This is a small but significant mindset shift for experienced product managers who might be used to focusing on the practical aspects of the product from the perspective of the business.  In the past, a successful PM could focus almost entirely on the creation and improvement of the product with the customer as a secondary concern. That attitude won’t win any more. So if you’re considering a product management veteran for your new hire, carefully scrutinize their focus and ensure that they’ve updated their product management doctrine to prioritize customer experience.


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Though analytics is not an entirely new aspect of product management, the discipline as a whole does not come from a long legacy of data-based decisions and strategy. In order to be competitive now, however, an analytical mindset is no longer a luxury for product managers, but a necessity.

Your candidates do not have to be marketing analytics experts themselves to be considered “data-driven.” However, they do need to be comfortable working alongside your analytics staff and know the right questions need to be asked about product performance and consumer activity. Finally, they must be comfortable working with numbers, reading analytics reports, and translating research into meaningful insights.

Culture Fit

We preach the importance of culture fit for all your hires and even non-permanent roles like marketing contractors.

But thorough and quick integration with your workplace atmosphere and alignment with your existing teams is especially important for product managers. A product manager who isn’t closely in touch with your way of doing business and getting things done internally will at best struggle to begin and fail entirely at worst. Because their responsibilities involve working with so many different moving parts within your organization, an inability to fit in and integrate with the company as a whole makes their job nearly impossible.

When working with your product management recruiter, it’s critical that you thoroughly and honestly evaluate your company culture and explain it in detail to your talent-finding partners.

Ability to Launch

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It’s one thing to step in and manage an established product line, and quite another to build a product management strategy from the ground up to support a brand new product or a relaunch/rebrand. You want someone who can do both for your new PM hire.

That’s true even if you’re not envisioning a new launch or relaunch in the near future for this role. Regardless of what you anticipate your launch needs to be, you should constantly be preparing your business for the unexpected. In today’s fast-paced business environment, you never know when you might need to quickly organize a rebrand in response to market forces or push a new product to market to take advantage of a narrow window of opportunity.

You don’t want to be caught with the wrong skillset in your product managers when a sudden need to launch arrives, so seek out a someone with proven ability to build a launch strategy from scratch should the occasion arise. Like the old saying goes, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

People Manager

A good product manager must also be a good people manager; and that doesn’t just mean managing a team. Indeed, though some product managers do lead a team, many work without any direct reports at all.

Product management is a broad responsibility that requires input and contribution from a lot of stakeholders throughout the organization. So regardless of how many people might work beneath them, candidates must also be able to effectively manage relationships throughout your organization: marketing, brand, R&D, customer service, senior management and more. Earning buy in from key players, and fostering cooperation from various parties with different day-to-day goals is just as important as managing the product itself.

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