As a company grows, the need for a dedicated Vice President Product Management becomes increasingly important to ensure the continued success of the product team. However, hiring a VP Product Management can be a challenging and complex process, as it requires finding a candidate who possesses a unique blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking, leadership skills, and a deep understanding of the customer.
In this guide, we will explore the key factors to consider when hiring a VP Product Management, including the essential skills and experience to look for, the interview process, and the qualities that make for an exceptional candidate.
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What is a Vice President Product Management?
A VP Product is a senior executive responsible for leading a company’s product management team and driving the development and success of its products.
An exceptional VP Product Management possesses a unique blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking, and leadership skills. They have a deep understanding of the customer and market trends, as well as the ability to translate these insights into effective product strategies. They are also adept at collaborating with cross-functional teams, including engineering, design, and marketing, to deliver products that meet the needs of the customer and achieve business goals.
Exceptional candidates for the role are strong communicators and can inspire and motivate their team to achieve exceptional results. They will have experience of significant product leadership of a high volume, B2C / D2C platform, and will have built, managed and mentored product teams. They are also adaptable and able to navigate rapidly changing market dynamics and evolving customer needs, while remaining focused on the long-term vision of the company.
Key responsibilities of a VP Product Management include:
Responsible for developing and executing the product strategy for the company. They must have a deep understanding of the market, customers, and competition to develop and communicate a clear product vision and roadmap that aligns with the overall business strategy.
Leading the product management team and collaborating with other teams, including engineering, design, and marketing, to drive the development and launch of new products. They must motivate and inspire their team, provide direction, and help their team members grow in their roles.
Conducting market research and analysis to identify trends, understand customer needs, and inform product development decisions. They must stay up-to-date with the latest market trends, technologies, and industry developments to inform the product strategy.
Overseeing the product development process, working closely with the engineering and design teams to ensure the products meet customer needs, are delivered on time and within budget, and are of high quality.
Communicating product strategy, progress, and plans to stakeholders, including senior management, investors, and customers. They must be skilled at communicating complex ideas in a clear and concise manner and be able to build and maintain strong relationships with stakeholders.
responsible for driving revenue growth through the successful development and launch of new products. They must develop pricing strategies, identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and ensure that the products are meeting customer needs and delivering value.
When should I hire a VP Product?
It’s likely that a company looks to hire a VP Product as the business prepares for rapid scale up of its activities, and this usually coincides with a recent funding round, either series A or B, and investor cashflow into the business.
Some examples of when to hire a VP Product in a scale-up business:
CEO technical knowledge
When a company experiences rapid growth, it can become difficult for the CEO or founder to manage all aspects of the business. This is especially true for the product development process, where the CEO may not have the necessary technical expertise or time to oversee the development of new products. At this stage, a VP Product Management can provide the necessary leadership to drive the product strategy forward and ensure that products are launched successfully.
Complexity of product portfolio
As a company’s product portfolio becomes more complex, it becomes increasingly important to have someone dedicated to managing the entire product development process. A VP Product Management can help ensure that products are launched on time, within budget, and meet customer needs while also balancing the company’s business goals.
Need for strategic focus
When a company reaches a certain size, it can become challenging to balance short-term product needs with long-term strategic goals. A VP Product can help provide the necessary strategic focus to ensure that products align with the company’s overall business strategy and vision.
Need for cross-functional work
As a company grows, so does the number of cross-functional teams involved in product development. A VP can help facilitate collaboration between different teams, including engineering, design, and marketing, to ensure that products are delivered successfully.
In a fast-paced market, companies need to stay ahead of the competition to maintain their market position. A senior hire can help identify market trends and customer needs, develop new products quickly and efficiently, and stay ahead of the competition.
How to hire a VP Product
Hiring a VP of Product Management is a critical decision that requires careful consideration of the company’s needs and available resources. See below for four key approaches to hiring a VP Product:
- Internal promotion: Consider promoting a high-performing product manager or other team member to the VP Product role. This can be a cost-effective way to fill the role and can also provide a sense of continuity and familiarity with the company’s product portfolio.
- Referral networks: Leverage your professional network and industry contacts to find qualified candidates for the VP role. You can also ask your current team members for referrals.
- Job boards and online platforms: Post the job listing on popular job boards and online platforms, such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or Indeed. These platforms often have a wide reach and can attract a large pool of qualified candidates.
- Executive retained search: Consider hiring a specialist Product executive retained search firm to help identify and recruit top-tier candidates for the VP Product role. Retained search firms typically have extensive networks and can provide valuable expertise in finding and assessing executive-level candidates. See our list of the best London executive search firms here.
When considering an executive retained search firm, here are some key factors to consider:
- Reputation and experience
- Expertise and network:
- Process and communication:
- Fees and terms:
Read more about the benefits of engaging an executive search head-hunter.
Assessing VP Product candidates
Before you start interviewing candidates, it is essential to be clear about the specific impact you need them to make. This could vary depending on the environment and the unique challenges that your company faces. For example, you may need someone who:
– can speed up historically slow decision making
– has specific domain knowledge or technical expertise
– has experience launching high-value products in a complex environment
Additionally, the full product lifecycle is broad, and the stakes can be incredibly high. It involves everything from product innovation and ideation to market sizing, business case development, product development, launch, and ongoing management.
To help you find the right fit for your company, we have compiled a list of product management interview questions that can help you evaluate a candidate’s experience against the specific skills and requirements of your business.
VP Product interview assessment
Here are three different assessment tasks that can be given to a VP Product at an interview:
Product strategy presentation
Ask the candidate to prepare a product strategy presentation for a hypothetical product that addresses a real-world problem in your industry. The presentation should cover aspects such as market analysis, customer needs, product features, competitive landscape, pricing, and go-to-market strategy. This will help you evaluate the candidate’s ability to think strategically, analyse the market, and develop a cohesive product strategy.
Product roadmap exercise
Provide the candidate with a set of hypothetical product scenarios and ask them to prioritise and create a roadmap for the product(s) that align with your company’s overall business goals. This will help you evaluate the candidate’s ability to make data-driven decisions, prioritise initiatives, and effectively communicate their vision to stakeholders.
Product Management case study
Present a hypothetical product management case study that involves a complex business challenge or a critical decision point in a product’s lifecycle. Ask the candidate to walk you through how they would approach the problem, identify potential solutions, evaluate risks, and make a final decision. This will help you evaluate the candidate’s problem-solving skills, ability to manage risk, and decision-making ability in real-world situations.