When I was running product marketing at AdRoll, hiring sometimes felt like a full-time job. As any hiring manager knows, getting the right people on your team can be daunting. Finding the right candidates is incredibly challenging, the interview process is grueling, and the offer process can be heartbreaking. Here are some pro tips that I’ve learned from many seasoned product marketers as well as through my own experiences at AdRoll and Google. While this is specifically for product marketers, much of the advice here can be applied to any position.
What to look for in a Product Marketing Manager (PMM)
A question I often get asked when companies are just building out product marketing is “what makes a good PMM?” Thinking back to my best employees, and the best PMMs I’ve worked with over the years – here are some things that you want in a stellar PMM:
- Super organized with project management experience
- Scrappy and able to try new things with a limited budget
- Great collaborators
- Lead and influence without “authority”
- Learned skills outside of their core role (e.g. Python, SQL, design)
- Nail the job specific tasks: positioning, messaging, content development, go-to market planning
Nail the job description
The job description can make or break who you screen on the phone. After getting a few duds, I took a step back and completely reworked the job description and made it more compelling. Supercell does a great job at this.
It is also critical to have the relationship with your recruiter dialed. They need to know what kind of candidate you are looking for better than you do – and if there’s any vagueness, there will be problems. Spend some time with your recruiter to walk them through the job description and make sure they understand what the ideal candidate looks like.
Get the right interviewing team
It’s not just up to you to pick the candidate – it usually consists of a panel of at least 3 people (sometimes as many as 10). As the hiring manager, you should handpick who your interview team is. I usually liked to do a mix of people whose opinions I really trusted, plus people that they would be working with day-to-day (ideally it’s both). Since the PMM role is so cross-functional, you usually want to have a mix of folks from the following teams:
– Product Management
– Other product marketers
At Google, we divided and conquered the interview process in 5 areas: Job credentials, Collaboration, Culture Fit, Leadership, and (the dreaded) cognitive ability. You don’t need to be this prescriptive but it’s good to at least have a general outline of what each person should cover.
Ask the right questions
Over the years I’ve culled some of the best questions to ask PMMs and to understand quickly who the “A” players are. I find that these questions go deeper in a shorter period of time and let you see the real potential of the candidate. Here are some of the top questions that work:
- Do you have a product marketing philosophy?
What’s the biggest project you’ve led? What worked/ didn’t?
- Challenge: If you had $5k to spend in any way you wanted, how would you spend it and why?
- Will this be the same type of role you’ve done before or something different?
- Have you been promoted in your previous role?
- How did you manage success in your last role?
- What new skill have you learned lately? (personal or professional)
Create a real life work exercise
Interviews are subjective, and it’s incredibly difficult to tell if a person is a good fit for your team just from the interview and their resume alone. To cut through this a bit, I always asked them to do an exercise. It’s the best way to tell if they are an actual fit for your team and can do the job well. Here are a few examples:
- Fill out a messaging & positioning doc for a product of their choice. Have them walk you through it.
- Have them create a mini go-to-market strategy for a product they like and present it to the team
- Ask them to dissect a campaign, and to tell you who they think it was positioned to (and why), the highs and lows, and what they would have done differently
I would caution against having them work on anything for a product you’ve already launched because it will be too subjective (it’s YOUR baby). This is meant to see their thought process and approach independent of the product. You can have them present this to just you, or to multiple people to see their speaking skills.
Some people will really blow you away with their ideas, and some you will know you can pass on.
The offer: Don’t blow the close
You’ve gotten this far with the candidate – don’t blow it! Find out what motivates them (a good recruiter will have already done this) – and make it happen. Whether it’s cash, equity, vacation time, or (increasingly) work location flexibility – work out a plan to get them what they need to choose you over the competition. You’ve come this far – it’s time to close the deal!
What are your best tips to hire the best PMM?