After her last post, the Cranky Product Manager received a bevy of emails asking “given the recruiting process is a bore that yields lackluster results, how does a candidate rise above the process and snag the job?”
A fine question, Grasshopper. Sit at the feet of the Cranky Product Manager and receive the wisdom she is about to bestow upon you.
But first, understand that the Cranky Product Manager can only tell you what impresses her. Others hiring PMs might be impressed by your deep baritone voice and your MBA (or lack thereof). They might “relate” while you wax poetically on the profound challenges of having responsibility without formal authority. Whatever.
That said, there are lots of things a candidate could do to impress the Cranky Product Manager. However, there is one tactic that is very rarely done, but really rocks her world. When a candidate pulls this maneuver out and executes it flawlessly, well, it makes the Cranky Product Manager swoon. Her heart fills with new-hire lust. During tedious bug scrub meetings, her thoughts drift to fantasies of this rock star joining her team. Oh, how much easier life would be, if only Bobby Bubble would join DysfunctoSoft! Oh my gdodness gracious, I simply must hire him NOW.
The maneuver is called The PM Skillz Showcase. Execute it as follows:
During the phone screen and the initial in-person meeting, YOU (the candidate) take the lead. Interview the Cranky Product Manager about her requirements for the PM position. Just as you would interview a customer about his requirements for a product. Uncover the “hidden” requirement. Unearth the “use cases” and the business results expected. Learn how the Cranky Product Manager convinced her boss to expand her team, etc. It means asking really good, probing questions, actually LISTENING very carefully to the responses, and verifying that you correctly understand throughout the conversation.
Toward the end of your time slot, summarize your understanding of The Cranky Product Manager’s wants and needs and reasons for the position. Write the main points on the white board. (The ability to do a good chalk talk always impresses the CPM). Make sure the Cranky Product Manageragrees to your summary of her situation and your analysis, and if not, refine it until she does.
Then, and only then, go through the list of requirements you have on the board and discuss your ability to meet each, with some examples from your past. Point out the areas in which you are particularly strong. Show that you are a straight shooter by also discussing requirements that are not your strengths, where you are merely slightly better than average and not a true demigod, but why it will not be an issue.
Oh yeah, if you have a sales background, the Cranky Product Manager will be expecting you to try to “close” her at this point, but in a low-key way. Even if you don’t hail from Sales, the Cranky Product Manager is looking for some subtle “selling” as evidence of how helpful you’d be on sales calls.
Consider the interview a success if the Cranky PM leaves your list of position requirements up on her board and judges all other candidates against it. Congratulations, you’ve helped her clarify in her own mind — in a HELPFUL way — what she is trying to accomplish by hiring someone new. You’ve wowed her with your ability to build customer rapport, and your prowess in teasing out requirements, underlying business problems, and drivers. You showed her your ability to synthesize detailed information and fit it into the bigger picture. You’ve shown you will be helpful on sales calls and not detrimental. And, by helping to define the requirements for the position, you’ve tilted the playing field in your favor.
Expect an offer* from the Cranky Product Manager within 4-5 months (see previous post about the ponderous “speed” of DysfunctoSoft’s recruiting process). Unfortunately, the salary offer will be far too puny for someone of your caliber. Ah well.
*Provided, of course, that you have adequate technical, writing, presentation, marketing,and strategic analysis education and experience. And that you are well-mannered, not an egotistical ass, don’t have a history of personality conflicts with developers, etc, etc….