What it takes to be a product manager

woman pointing at computer screen

In the ultra-competitive tech world, product management professionals look for any little advantage to land coveted roles. Here's what it takes to make it as a product manager.

Apply analytical skills

Product managers are sharp analytical thinkers. They focus on the future and the trajectory of a product’s evolution. It’s no surprise that leaders like Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram; Marissa Meyer, former CEO of Yahoo; and Blake Irving, Go Daddy’s CEO all got their start in product management. Product managers have entrepreneurial minds and are capable of envisioning products, ideas and even entire markets before they exist.

Conduct thorough research

Just as your interviewer is going to Google you, you should Google your interviewer and know his background. A lot of PM leaders come from an engineering background, in which case, be prepared to know your stuff when it comes to talking code. On the other hand, if your interviewer is from a design or UX (user interface) background, your interview will likely be more conceptual.

Know the product

If you're interviewing for a role with a big tech company (like eBay or Google) expect to meet with other product managers whose entire jobs revolve around one product, or perhaps one feature of one product. PMs at bigger companies can be very specialized, with responsibilities focused on areas like analytics, payment technology, merchandising or search functionality. Start-ups, on the other hand, tend to hire PM generalists who have a broader range of experience and an ability to consider a product’s placement within a vast marketplace.

Know the market

Beyond the specific company you’re interviewing with, know the greater industry that company resides in. Product managers don’t just control the release of a product; they must also plan strategically, notice holes in the market, and be able to envision where a new or better product could fill a need - perhaps a need that consumers don’t even know they have. Knowing the market means knowing the competition, right down to the smallest detail. Thorough preparation for an interview might require owning the competition’s device or downloading their apps so you are familiar with the nuances of those products.

Go mobile

Consumer mobile products are hot commodities, so experience and enthusiasm for apps and devices is key to landing a great PM role with a top start-up. There’s also high demand for heavy duty analytical PMs with a deep understanding of big data and business intelligence in the enterprise software market. Product managers who are confident with SQL, Hadoop and other big data software have a considerable advantage.

For more information on how Robert Walters New York can assist with your job search, please get in touch with us today.

Neil Wittensleger
E: neil.wittensleger@robertwalters.com
T: 212 704 9900