What are the key things (traits, skills, experience) you prioritize / look for when hiring? How can we best assess during the interview process? Are there any specific questions you like to ask or things to look out for?
It depends on seniority level of hire, but typically I look for experience in a customer-centric role: marketing or customer success in SaaS (B2B a plus). Key attributes for me are: detail oriented/technical prowess, storytelling/written abilities, empathy, collaborative, curious, systems mindset and high level of owernship/autonomy.
You can suss out traits like these by choosing a short take home assignment upfront as a screening assessment. Ask the candidate to "teach you something" (anything, not necessary tech-specific). The process of teaching will tease out most of the above and also show (v. tell) their skill level + fit for your business. Other questions could be:
- Tell me about a complex solution you marketed - how did you ensure the internal team and customers understood the value and got excitement from the offering?
- How do you prioritize competing projects across teams?
- How do you measure success of your programs?
- How do you stay up to date on industry trends?
Storytelling is the biggest trait is look for. I want all of my product marketers to be able to tell stories that anyone can follow that inspire action. Everyone I interview is asked to provide a writing sample so I can see if they’ve got “it.”
The next trait is problem solving: In every interview I ask the same question: Tell me about a go-to-market that failed. I don’t care so much about the “why” of the failure; I want to know how you determined it was off track, and what you did about it to get back on track.
And third is collaboration. How does someone build relationships? How can they earn a seat at the table with a diverse group of stakeholders? If they aren’t able to collaborate, it isn’t a role for them. You have to want to be the glue that holds a team together.
Every PMM role is unique and comes with its own demands on skills, experience and cultural traits.
However, I expect any PMM to be good at, (or have aptitude for) three core skills
- Ability to answer three questions well "What, Why, How" for any product , for any audience (Positioning and messaging)
- Ability to train an internal team (ideally sales or CS) on that narrative. (Enablement)
- Ability to storytell the product to a customer (Demo)
The way to assess these is
- Example questions - I ask questions like ‘Tell me about your experience enabling teams” or “Tell me about any messaging overhaul that you led”? etc. etc. Often these questions are built on top of what the candidate has written on the resume or described in the question “Tell me about yourself?”
- Work products - I ask PMMs to share examples of work they have done. It could be a messaging brief, a sales deck, a web page, a recorded demo video. Some of this is also covered in the interview presentations that happen in the later stages of an interview process
I'll list out things I always look for and example questions that help me answer:
-Key partner alignment - who are your most important stakeholders in your current role? How do you manage the relationship?
-Content quality - what work are you most proud of in your career? Can you send me a link to it after our conversation and walk me though why you're so proud of the work?
-Collaborative disposition - [insert question you're currently thinking through in your day to day] See what it's like to talk through a challenge with the candidate.
The key things that standout are when a candidate's responses highlight cross-functional collaboration, trust building with stakeholders, and a 'we'll figure it" mindset.
A great way to assess this is by not only asking for examples of how they would launch a product, or how they develop go-to-market strategies but it's also by digging into questions like:
Have you ever had to change someone's mind on a strategy you were suggesting and how did you go about it?
How have you been able to influence product strategy?
Tell me about a time when you received critical feedback and what you did with it?
These types of questions along with questions that allow them to highlight business impact (revenue growth, product adoption, etc) - allow you to see how a product manager can navigate internally to succeed. The role of a product marketer collaborates with so many different teams in so many different ways - and is inherently one that has to deal with "leading without authority". Questions that get to the heart of how they interact with and influence those around them allow you to see the full scope of what they're capable of.