A product manager is responsible for the development of new products - whether these are physical retail, service or software products. They tend to work for a particular organisation, ensuring the smooth creation and release of new product offerings.
Product management involves forming the strategy behind the product and ensuring its functional requirements are met. A product manager is also in charge of overseeing any product adjustments and feature releases within the product’s lifecycle.
To be successful, product managers must work at the intersection of user experience, technology and business. They must, therefore, possess a wide variety of skills across disciplines.
In this article, we will review the tasks a product manager is required to perform, explore the skills and abilities needed to complete these to a high standard and take a look at which pre-employment tests could be usefully embedded within your recruitment process.
By assessing applicants with the right tests for the role, you can ensure the best candidate is hired.
What should a Product Manager be able to do?
A product manager has a number of responsibilities that they are expected to undertake effectively to ensure quality product releases.
Product managers oversee a product from design to development and then through to its launch. Their role in the product also extends to any feature updates or maintenance needed.
Managing this timeline means product managers work across product development, engineering, design and customer service, and may also have some marketing and sales responsibilities.
A product manager’s tasks include:
Identifying customer challenges and product needs.
Pitching initial product ideas to their internal team and facilitating a discussion to hear the opinions and ideas of others.
Devising a product vision with their internal team (encouraging teamwork and co-creation).
Developing a product strategy to ensure value is delivered to customers/end-users.
Identifying deliverables for the product design and development teams.
Distributing information across their teams and ensuring team members are clear on their objectives, and meet these.
Ensuring the product and any subsequent developments maximise customer value and business impact.
Prioritising the features of the product and balancing product function, quality and profitability.
Working alongside the design and development teams to create the initial product and to implement any adjustments required.
Overseeing the product’s launch to market.
Skills to look for in a Product Manager
To carry out their daily tasks and responsibilities effectively, product managers should possess certain skills. Below are the skills we recommend testing for when recruiting for product management roles:
Oral communication: good communication is essential to a management-level role, as managers work across a number of different teams and must be able to convey information clearly and concisely. Product managers need to have strong communication skills to convey their product vision to their team. They also need to be able to devise a clear product strategy that communicates clearly the value of the product to the end-user.
Written communication: as well as devising product designs and strategies, product managers must be able to translate these thoughts into written reports.
Software skills: as their work encompasses product design and working alongside designers, it is useful for product managers to have knowledge of design software and to understand its time requirements as they’ll be setting objectives and deliverables across their teams.
Attention to detail: attention to detail is important for a product manager, as they are responsible for reviewing the product and ensuring it meets specifications at each design stage.
Useful abilities for a Product Manager
To perform successfully, a product manager needs to possess a certain set of abilities. Below are the top abilities to look for in candidates applying for a product management role:
Problem-solving: product managers lead teams who design and create a solution to an end-user's challenge or problem. This means that problem solving is an integral part of the entire product creation process. Strong problem-solving skills are essential to come up with a product vision and strategy that is fit for purpose.
Problem sensitivity and social perceptiveness: the ability to understand and empathise with the end-user of the product and recognise potential or developing issues will help a product manager to anticipate and identify new features releases that are needed to keep their products relevant.
Flexibility and adaptation: not all design features in the initial vision will be achievable - product management is a balance between the value the product brings to the customer and the bottom line. Some concepts may not work as expected or be possible to implement due to budget constraints. A product manager needs to have flexibility in their vision for their products and be able to adapt the strategy as and when required.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a Product Manager?
You want your hiring process to result in the recruitment of the candidates best suited to the role. To ensure this is the case, pre-employment testing can be used to assess the soft skills present within your applicant pool.
Knowing these skills and strengths helps informed decisions to be made - these are much more likely to result in effective recruitment with longevity. Consider embedding the following soft skills tests within your recruitment process:
Communication: excellent communication skills are essential for management-level roles. A communication skills test assesses oral and written communication and is a worthwhile addition to your pre-employment testing package. It gives insight into communications abilities such as clarity, conciseness, empathy and appropriate tone for the audience.
Interpersonal skills: product managers must lead across multiple teams. An interpersonal skills test assesses communication skills as well as social interaction and team working. It is useful for determining whether a candidate has the right social skills to excel in a collaborative workplace - such as empathy, emotional awareness and good conflict resolution. During the test, prospective employees are presented with hypothetical scenarios and asked to select either the most or least effective way to respond to the given situation from a list of answer options.
Adaptability: we’ve already mentioned that product managers will likely need to be adaptable to meet their objectives around a product. An adaptability test presents candidates with theoretical scenarios and asks them to select the course of action that most closely resembles their own. This explores how well a candidate is likely to be able to deal with changes and pressures and, in turn, adapt to find workable solutions.
Time management: a product manager must be able to keep teams to the deadlines they have marked throughout the product design and creation process. They need good time management and awareness to successfully lead a product to market within the given timescale. A time management test helps to gauge whether a candidate has the temporal organisational skills needed to be successful in the role.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a Product Manager?
We recommend that pre-employment testing covers technical skills and aptitude as well as soft skills, to give the fullest possible picture of candidate potential. When hiring a product manager, consider including the following tests in your process:
Logical reasoning: a logical reasoning test assesses problem-solving ability by giving insight into a candidate’s ability to think logically and laterally. The test involves a series of patterns (featuring both shapes and symbols). Candidates will be required to analyse the patterns, deduce the rules governing them and select the correct next figure for the sequence.
Verbal reasoning: as we’ve covered, strong communication skills are vital for product managers and their multi-disciplinary work across teams. A verbal reasoning test is an excellent way of evaluating your prospective employees’ ability to understand, analyse and interpret written text. The test presents a series of passages and asks candidates to indicate whether related statements are ‘true’, ‘false’, or if they ‘cannot say’ given the information given.
Numerical reasoning: for certain products, product managers may work across technical design and engineering teams. A numerical reasoning test assesses a candidate’s comfort with handling numbers and performing calculations. The test presents data in charts, tables and graphs and asks candidates to perform mathematical functions involving concepts such as fractions, ratios, percentages, arithmetic and algebra.
Error checking: product managers are responsible for ensuring a product is fit for purpose - from the design stage through to development, launch and review. Therefore, good attention to detail is a valuable skill to have. An error checking test requires candidates to compare data sets and identify any discrepancies.
Our recommended test battery for a Product Manager
To ensure the most capable candidate is selected for your vacant role, we strongly suggest embedding pre-employment tests into your hiring process. At a minimum, you should require prospective employees to complete the following aptitude and skills tests:
Logical reasoning test: product managers need to be logical thinkers and rapid problem-solvers. Setting your prospective employees a logical reasoning test ensures they have the practical thinking skills to devise the right products to solve your identified problems.
Verbal reasoning test: product managers need to be strong communicators - to guide their internal teams, to devise strong visions and strategies and to assist with the communication of their products to the end-user. It is important that product managers can rapidly absorb new information and communicate the appropriate facts to their teams clearly and concisely - a verbal reasoning test is a good way of assessing this ability.
Decision-making skills test: you’ll want to ensure all prospective employees align with the culture and values of your organisation. A decision-making skills test presents a series of scenarios, for which candidates are required to select the course of action they would be most likely to take. The test is an effective way to gauge candidates’ behavioural preferences and ways of working to make sure they are a good fit for your organisation.