Our goal is to build a world class product team as fast as possible - for avoidance of doubt "product" means PMs, Designers, Analysts, and TPMs (technical project managers). Of course, this is easier said than done.
To accelerate hiring, we need to be disciplined about what is important to us and what is not. Further, it is vital that we learn to hire and train people with high potential but little or no PM experience. We have the responsibility to set up a program by which young upstart PMs can get the training they need to succeed, and we are putting together an APM (associate PM) program to support this.
The absolute fundamental attributes of any candidate for any role must, at minimum, include the following:
The best product teams are comprised of folks with different backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking. To start we need a more gender balanced product team. For purely practical reasons, a gender balanced product team is more capable of assessing product issues from a wider range of user perspectives. This is not to say that we should be biased towards a candidate because of gender, but we should endeavor to build a more inclusive pipeline.
Diversity is about more than gender or culture or race. Neuro-diversity is another dimension we need to be conscious of. Invariably the most talented people are deficient in some ways. For example, Issac Newton never slept, had to be force fed by his wife because he wouldn’t eat otherwise, and never looked people in the eye. By most standards he would be considered “socially inept”; he also, among many other accomplishments, invented Calculus.
Distinguishing between an acceptable level of unusual behavioral traits and a simple lack of professionalism can be tricky. The approach I most often use is to ask myself if, for a particular role, these attributes really matter, and if the value they otherwise would bring to the company outweighs the potential impact of these traits.
In calibrating candidates, comments like “she didn’t look me in the eye” or “he tended to speak over me” does not mean they aren’t a good fit. They may not make a good sales person but their quirks may make little impact as an IC engineer.
Hire for potential not experience
A PM interview is essentially a series of tests. If the “tests” are well designed, the outcome of the interview tells us the answer. Let’s be mindful of cognitive bias and keep each other honest to ensure it doesn't cloud our judgement.
Furthermore, junior PMs can be trained. Building a product culture at scale requires that people march to the same drummer. If everyone more or less had the same training and share the same principles, it becomes far easier to scale teams and restructure squads, as required by business needs.
Domain knowledge is irrelevant and sometimes harmful
We are in the business of solving tough problems with technology and innovation. It is far more difficult to innovate when one has a preconceived notion of how things are done. A great PM should be able to work on any problem, with equally successful outcomes, irrespective of the product or industry.