Candidates are judging us as much as we are judging them. Any PM experienced working in a company with a strong product culture will have certain expectations of what a “good” interview process looks like.
It is vital that our process be as tight and efficient as that of Google or Facebook. Candidates should finish the interview process with a feeling of “wow, those people really know what’s important about product, and run a really tight ship.” PMs spend their careers trying to make order out of chaos. Anything that looks poorly organized will be a huge red flag for a PM.
Bringing in candidates for multiple days of interviews says one thing: we don’t know how to hire PMs. There should be 1 phone screen, 1 day of interviews, 1 calibration meeting. After which an offer should be delivered. The end-to-end process should take no more than 4 days.
Not everyone needs to meet every candidate. Interviewers should focus on only 1 dimension of the candidate’s qualifications (e.g. communication skills). Interviewers should take detailed notes during the interview and ask tough questions. It may feel “cold” but to a good candidate it will feel exciting and challenging and they will walk away thinking, I could really grow there!
Save the hard stuff for the end
Perhaps a candidate can ace a jam when they are fresh in the morning but what about when they are exhausted from a full day or interviews? Well, the life of a PM involves dealing with tough issues when you are tired and potentially frustrated. If you can't hang when you're tired you are in the wrong line of work :)
Once we interview someone and like them, how do we determine level and offer? These
may be used for both leveling and career growth conversations. However we need to establish salary bands that are inline with (or perhaps competitive to) Berlin-based tech startups. With extremely rare exceptions, all offers should be made within the salary bands. Deviating from our bands for special circumstances should require CEO approval.
of suitable example question for each dimension of product skills. These are suggested question only and the interviewer can choose to use them or their own. However I would encourage everyone to add any good interview questions to the
No one, not even our CEO, should interview a PM without some training. People new to interviewing PMs should shadow interviews conducted by those with more experience.
Iterate our process based on candidate feedback
We should conduct surveys with all candidates (those who make it to offer stage and those that don’t) so we can continue to improve the interview process.
Reduce the probability of bad hires
Everyone makes bad hires occasionally. It is inevitable. When looking to scale hiring, one should aim to reduce the probability of making bad hires, acknowledging that sometimes we will make a mistake. All hires should essentially be on a 90 day trial period. If they can’t perform at or above expectations we should let them go. We don’t have the time or resources for things like Performance Improvement Plans, and regardless, PIP plans never work. They are simply CYA legal actions.
Executives should be leveraged as “closers,” and of course directly involved with senior hires. However for most Product hires, at most, there should be only one exec on the interview panel. There are two reasons for this: 1) the intrinsic “cost” of exec time; and 2) establishing appropriate optics; It makes us look amateurish if several execs need to be involved in hiring a mid level person.
Do not hire by consensus
It is extremely rare for any candidate to receive unanimous “strong hire" scores. The purpose of an interview panel is to provide multiple perspectives on a candidate, however the hiring manager ultimately makes the hire/no-hire decision
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