I never read Product Manager job descriptions.
They are often “basic,” describing the most tactical and mundane aspects of Product Management as if they were looking for somebody who hasn’t done Product Management but somehow has at least seven years of experience…
Don’t believe me? Here are some common requirements stated in job descriptions:
Determines customers’ needs and desires by specifying the research needed to obtain market information.
Maintains and organizes the backlog based on priorities and strategy
Launching product features, beta programs, and marketing programs
Meeting customers and presenting the product roadmap
These “responsibilities” make the job sound far more robotic and laborious then it is! To combat this, I often find myself using way more than my “10 mins to ask questions” during interviews and scheduling additional interviewers to understand who they need, as interviewers are not always aligned on who they need.
(Here are some of the questions I ask when interviewing, and some particularly for startups)
The wrong PM hire can be detrimental: causing the company not only the person’s salary, recruiter fees, but a bad PM hire can even cause loss of market share.
Let’s look at this through a different lens, hiring a PM is just as important as hiring a CEO, one sets the direction and the other takes the company there. Companies stress over the details of a CEO, not just describing the day-to-day minutia of a CEO, but really thinking what they need out of their future CEO as they understand there are many flavours of CEOs such as:
- The Product/Market CEO – This CEO specializes in creating or working with early-stage companies focusing solely on understanding what is the initial product and market segment they should focus on.
- The Growth CEO – This CEO specializes in growing companies once they’ve reached PMF or conquered a vertical and now need help expanding. For example, growing a company from 1M annual recurring revenue (ARR) to 100M ARR
- The Fixer – This CEO specializes in helping organizations get out of crisis-mode by determining what needs to change, e.g. product, market, personnel, etc.
Similarly, PMs come in similar flavours to our CEOs:
- The PMF PM – This PM can work very well with ambiguity and early-stage products/companies where the risk level is highest as they are still working towards Product-Market Fit (PMF). Their main focus is determining and focusing on the primary Jobs to Be Done to attract early adopters, and the PM is comfortable relying on qualitative interviews and intuition to guide product strategy and development
- The Growth PM – Once PMF has been reached, the Growth PM is solely focused on secondary (and tertiary) Jobs to Be Done that will give the Early Majority/Late Majority solid, justifiable reasons to switch from their current solution. This PM uses a mix of qualitative research and data, as there is now enough users, to guide product strategy to focus on what problems they should solve to maximize growth and retention efforts.
- The Optimization PM – This PM specializes on tweaking and optimizing the proven “bread and butter” parts of firmly established products, like the sign-up flow and checkout flows, where a 2% improvement, which would not be acceptable for other PMs, could mean an additional million dollars in revenue for the company. This PM is heavily reliant on data (A/B testing, funnel metrics, heatmaps, etc.) to ensure they never decrease conversion.
What I’ve described above it the mere tip of the iceberg of what companies need to think about when hiring a PM. There are other important aspects such as what specific outcomes they need to achieve other than creating a roadmap 🙄, and specific skills they need for this particular role in this particular company.
While spinning my wheels for a couple of months on how companies can get on the same page on who they need for the job, my CEO, Craig Follett, introduced me to Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, where they talk about a specific concept that helped solve this communication issue: Scorecards.
The Scorecard in a one-pager (or two-pager) that is a blueprint of a particular role that explicitly states following:
- The Mission – What is the core purpose of the role right now for the organization?
- Outcomes – What does the person in this role need to accomplish? What outcomes/results do they need to achieve?
- Competencies – What are specific skills do they need to be successful in this role and to be a good cultural fit?
For a template and example, see Smart’s website.
The PM Scorecard
Let’s jump into some specific examples of a PM scorecard to help illustrate how powerful this tool can be for companies by looking at two cases: the first PM hire for an early-stage startup and one for Uber’s drivers’ sign-up program.
The First PM Hire Scorecard for an early stage startup
The Product Manager will be the first Product Manager hire at Company X and will help establish company’s product strategy and processes, helping the company reach the company’s growth targets.
- Establish the product strategy for 2018 with buy-in from the founders and the board
- Establish a process and cadence for Product Discovery and Delivery
- Increase retention by 25% by the end of the year
- Increase growth by 15% by the end of the year
- Willing to get their hands dirty
Product Manager for Uber’s Driver Sign Up Program
The Product Manager will focus on creating a more driver-friendly sign-up process and help the New Markets team identify and grow six markets
- Increase overall signups by 10%
- Launch targeted, localized new driver programs in 6 new markets with a minimum of 200 active drivers per market in 6 months
It’s quite apparent that each of these jobs requires a particular skill set and there is low probability there is a single PM out there that can do both jobs equally well. Furthermore, by really understanding the crux of the position they are hiring, companies can design their interview process to ensure they find the right PM.
There are other subtle differences the scorecards reveal:
- The scorecards are not long-term can change from quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year, or every 2-3 years depending on the role and company
- It’s evident how you can evaluate the PM when it comes to their (annual) review.
- The PM from their first day knows what are the most important objectives they need to focus on, and can easily determine whether something is strategic or a distraction.
How can Scorecards benefit job seekers?
I started this article by describing how job descriptions suck, so here’s an interesting thought: instead of posting job descriptions, what if we began to post scorecards?
Not only can these scorecards help companies understand who they need, but these scorecards can help potential candidates understand if the role is actually for them, instead of wasting 1-4 interviews trying to understand what the job is about.
For example, I know I’m personally not interested in Optimization positions and if I can identify that a company wants an Optimization PM without applying, then boom, we just saved each other a lot of trouble!
Sharing scorecards would perhaps decrease the number of people applying for a job, but it would increase the applicant-to-job-offer conversion rate and increase the chances of you finding the right PM, isn’t that all that matters?
What do you think? Can we replace job descriptions with scorecards?
Like this article? Here are some other related articles you might like:
The questions you should ask when interviewing for Product Manager role
Interview Questions for Product Managers interviewing with Startups