Product Management recruitment is a critical function that can significantly impact a company’s trajectory. The importance of securing the right talent in Product Management cannot be overstated, as the role sits at the intersection of technology, business, and user experience.

The CIPD estimates that replacing a bad hire can cost up to £12,000, factoring in lost productivity, recruitment fees, and training costs. However, in a Product Management context, we know this cost can be substantially higher, especially if the hire is a C-level candidate.

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A good hire within Product Management

Any team member within Product plays a pivotal role. Product teams are responsible for guiding the product through its lifecycle, from initial concept and development to market launch and beyond, ensuring that it meets market needs, aligns with business goals, and delivers a superior user experience. Therefore, a strong Product Management recruitment strategy is essential.

Product teams bridge the gap between various departments, including engineering, marketing, sales, and customer support. They need to possess a unique blend of skills, including technical knowledge, market insight, strategic thinking, and excellent communication. A good hire can drive innovation, improve market competitiveness, and increase customer satisfaction. Conversely, a bad hire can derail projects, cause friction within teams, and result in missed market opportunities.

A successful Product hire not only understands the technical aspects of product development but also grasps the nuances of user needs and market trends. The role of a Product team is to maintain a balance of creativity and analytical thinking, making data-driven decisions while also encouraging innovative solutions. The ability to prioritise features and manage the product backlog efficiently can set apart a good Product hire from a great one. According to a 2023 report by McKinsey & Company, companies with effective Product Management practices are 2.5 times more likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth.

A good hire in Product Management can significantly impact a company’s agility – the ability to pivot based on user feedback and emerging trends is crucial. A skilled team can facilitate this agility, ensuring that the product adapts to changing market conditions swiftly and effectively. This adaptability not only helps in retaining existing customers but also in attracting new ones, thereby driving the company’s growth and profitability.

What can go wrong in the Product hiring process?

Lack of clarity in the job description: If the role and its expectations are not clearly defined, it becomes difficult to identify the right candidate. This often leads to a mismatch between the candidate’s skills and the job requirements.

Overreliance on CVs and interviews: While these are important tools, they are not always reliable indicators of a candidate’s potential. A CV might not fully capture a candidate’s ability to handle complex Product tasks, and interviews can sometimes be influenced by unconscious biases.

A rushed hiring process: Companies often face pressure to fill positions quickly, especially if the Product Manager role is critical for ongoing projects. This urgency can result in skipping essential steps such as thorough reference checks or practical assessments.

Cultural fit: A candidate might have the technical skills required for the job but may not align with the company’s values or work environment. This misalignment can lead to friction within teams and hinder collaboration. According to a 2023 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 58% of HR professionals reported that a poor cultural fit was a top reason for unsuccessful hires.

Biases: Unconscious biases related to a candidate’s background, education, or even personality can lead to the selection of candidates who may not be the best fit for the role. Implementing standardised evaluation criteria and diverse hiring panels can help mitigate these biases, ensuring a fair and thorough assessment of all candidates.

The interview process: Traditional interviews often focus on hypothetical scenarios rather than real-world problem-solving skills. Incorporating practical assessments, such as case studies or project simulations, can provide a better understanding of a candidate’s capabilities and approach to problem-solving.

The cost of a bad hire in Product Management

The estimated cost of a bad hire in Product Management is on average £12,000 but can be significantly more for Product leadership positions:

Internal recruitment

The immediate cost of a bad hire includes the expenses associated with the recruitment process. This encompasses advertising the job, time spent by HR personnel reviewing applications, and conducting interviews. According to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the average cost of hiring a new employee in the UK is approximately £3,000.

However, for specialist roles like product management, this figure can be significantly higher due to the need for niche recruitment channels and extensive vetting processes.

Onboarding and training Costs

Once a candidate is hired, there are additional costs related to onboarding and training. These include the time spent by managers and colleagues to bring the new hire up to speed, as well as any formal training programs they might need to undergo. A study by Training Industry, Inc., found that companies spend an average of £1,200 per employee on training. For Product Managers, this figure can be even higher due to the complexity and technical nature of the role.

During the onboarding period, the productivity of the new hire is typically lower, which can impact project timelines and output. The time invested by other team members in training and mentoring the new hire also needs to be considered. This indirect cost, often overlooked, can significantly add to the overall expense of bringing a new product manager on board.

For a Chief Product Officer, the onboarding and training costs are substantially higher due to the strategic nature of the role and the need for in-depth understanding of the company’s vision and product portfolio. It is estimated that onboarding and training a CPO can cost upwards of £10,000, including the time and resources dedicated to aligning them with the company’s long-term strategic goals.

Productivity loss

A bad hire can lead to substantial productivity losses. If the new hire is unable to perform effectively, projects can be delayed, leading to missed deadlines and lost revenue opportunities. Additionally, other team members may need to pick up the slack, diverting their attention from their own tasks. According to a study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), a bad hire can reduce team productivity by up to 40%.

If this new hire is a CPO, the stakes are even higher. A poor CPO can lead to misguided product strategies, affecting the entire product portfolio and long-term business strategy. The productivity loss at this level can result in significant strategic misalignments and potentially cost the company millions in lost opportunities and market positioning.

Impact on team morale

The presence of an underperforming Product manager can negatively affect team morale. Colleagues may become frustrated with the increased workload or the lack of progress on key projects. This can lead to higher staff turnover, as employees seek better working environments.

A bad hire at CPO level means the impact on team morale can be even more profound. A poor CPO can lead to disillusionment among Senior Product Managers and other executives, potentially resulting in a ripple effect of departures. The cost of losing high-performing senior staff due to poor leadership can be immense, both in terms of replacement costs and the loss of strategic continuity.

Opportunity cost

Perhaps the most significant cost of a bad hire is the opportunity cost. An ineffective Product hire can result in missed market opportunities, poor product-market fit, and ultimately, a loss in competitive advantage. This cost is difficult to quantify but can have long-lasting effects on the business’s market position and revenue growth.

For a Chief Product Officer, the opportunity costs are magnified. A poor CPO can steer the company’s entire product strategy in the wrong direction, resulting in significant financial losses and a weakened market position. The strategic missteps at this level can take years to rectify, and the cost of these errors can easily run into the millions.

How a Product Management recruitment specialist can help

Engaging a specialist recruitment agency, like Intelligent People, can mitigate many of the risks associated with hiring for the team. These agencies have access to a broad network of candidates and can leverage their expertise to identify the best fit for the role. They can also provide valuable insights into industry benchmarks and salary expectations, ensuring that the job offer is competitive.

Partnering with a recruitment agency can also speed up the hiring process. Their expertise in screening and shortlisting candidates can significantly reduce the time spent on initial stages of recruitment, allowing companies to fill critical roles more swiftly. This efficiency is particularly valuable in fast-paced industries where the timely introduction of new products can be a key competitive advantage.

For senior roles like the Chief Product Officer, the benefits of using a specialised Executive Search recruitment agency are even more pronounced. The agency’s ability to tap into an extensive network of executive-level talent and headhunt the best candidates who can drive the company’s long-term product strategy and vision.

View the top 5 best Executive Search firms in London.


The cost of a bad hire in product management is significant, impacting not just the financials but also the overall health of the business. From recruitment and training expenses to productivity losses and opportunity costs, the ramifications of a poor hiring decision can be far-reaching. However, by adopting a thorough and strategic approach to hiring, including the use of specialised recruitment agencies and robust evaluation processes, companies can significantly reduce these risks.

Intelligent People are a Product Management specialist recruitment agency. Contact us today so we can help you add to your high-performance product team and avoid a bad hire.

Bad Hire In Product