Panel: How Do Recruiters Really Evaluate Product Managers?

A photograph of a 1-on-1 meeting

September Event Review: “Recruiter Panel – How do recruiters really evaluate product managers?” with Tom Brouchoud, Director of Talent Acquisition at Visa; Britt Thomas, HR Operations at Synopsis; Amanda Hippe, Recruiting Strategist of Design and Product Management at Intuit; and Pramod Shintri, Talent Acquisition Lead at Phantom

By Jackie Holland

At the Silicon Valley Product Management Association’s September event, senior recruiters from leading companies that hire professionals in product management and product marketing weighed in on some of the opportunities and challenges that face today’s product managers.  Over the course of an hour, the panelists explored the state of the hiring market, skills needed to be a product manager, the hiring process from beginning to end, steps recruiters take to help the selection of the right candidate, and the general rules and guidelines for hiring.

The discussion, moderated by Brendon Wilson, SVPMA Board Member, spanned a broad range of the skills and tactics that define the modern product manager.  The edited highlights below begin with the discussion of the state of the hiring market for product managers.

 Amanda Hippe (Intuit): There are currently many available opportunities in the market.  Established companies and startups are looking for customer-obsessed product managers to help build great products; however, it is tough to find great people.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Even though the market is hot right now for product managers, there is no one common definition of a product manager; there are different definitions for what a product manager should be at a company because each company defines the role differently.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen your resume for keywords.  To make sure you pass the screening, be sure to include keywords for the specific job you are applying to that match the job posting.  Additionally, enhance your resume by including data such as size of your teams and key accomplishments.  Use all available resources, such as LinkedIn, and be sure to search engine optimize (SEO) your profile.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Companies are looking for relevant candidates that can hit the ground running when they are hired.  Product managers should have a strong technical background if they are looking to enter the cybersecurity market and be able to display leadership from the get-go; product managers are likened to “mini-CEOs” and should be able to “run and own it” starting from their first day.

What product manager skills are the most important for a product manager?

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Product managers should have skills in understanding what customers want, specifically, understanding a customer’s user experience with the product.  In the cybersecurity industry, product managers should understand the product market, boast a technical background and have an entrepreneurial attitude.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Generally, candidates will need to demonstrate how they can transition into managing the product lifecycle at the prospective company while also relating their work experience to the job they are interviewing for.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): At Flex, recruiters look for athlete candidates.  Athlete candidates are defined as having a broad background, are adaptable, and are able to manage short and long-term product lifecycles.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Recruiters at Intuit also are looking for athlete candidates, however they define these “athletes” in a different way.  Athlete candidates are defined as having “scrappiness”—worked in a startup environment—are customer-obsessed, and are able to understand the complexity of the company’s products.

What does the hiring process look at from beginning to end? And how are recruiters balancing what they are asking for with the reality of skillsets available?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Competitor analysis is used to determine industry-specific skills used to hire talent.  The hiring process involves understanding the candidate market, and understanding the probability  of finding specific skillsets.  Also, recruiters will partner with the hiring manager to determine the priorities of skillsets listed in the job description.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Good recruiters are trained to really understand the what, why and how of the job.  Recruiters go through lengthy discussions with the hiring manager to understand the skills, degrees, past work experiences, and leadership qualities that are necessary to fill the role.  Recruiters then will review many sources to retrieve resumes, such as internal applicants, LinkedIn, references and website applications to find which candidates meet a hiring manager’s needs.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): The hiring process is heavily reliant on established relationships.  A candidate has a greater chance of being considered for a role if someone in the company can vouch for the applicant.  When there aren’t established relationships, recruiters spend a large amount of money on tools, such as LinkedIn, that will match applicants to jobs.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Recruiters look at domain experience when hiring for candidates.  While having a technology background is important, hiring candidates that have broad skillsets and leadership credentials, such as an MBA, is desired.

What things do candidates do that are dramatically undermining their ability to get hired?

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Candidates undermine themselves when they show up with no knowledge or history of the company.  Good candidates are prepared and have looked at the company website, understand the company products and role of the job.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Candidates undermine themselves when they add inconsequential information on their resume.  Good candidates have relevant content on their resume that describes what they built, the impact they made and are professional in the interview.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Candidates undermine themselves by not trying out free versions of the company’s software and not proofreading their resume.  Candidates should avoid misspellings with their resume and be well-versed with company stocks, and press releases.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Candidates should never share proprietary information and should never dress poorly in an interview.  Even if a candidate is a top leader in the field, they still need to dress well for the interview.

We are in a dynamic environment and things change quickly.  What is the best advice for product managers who are career planning? What skills should they develop? What areas should they focus in?

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Product managers should learn to get really comfortable with continuous feedback.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Product managers will need to have perseverance.  Looking for a job is difficult; there is always another opportunity around the corner.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Preparation and practice are two things that we say we do but never do enough.  Product managers must be prepared.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Product managers should keep a pulse on the industry.  Leverage your current skills when looking at a new technology area.  Look at job descriptions often to see what companies and skillsets are trending.

What is the best recommendation to re-engage with a recruiter that messaged you in the past?

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Re-engage with recruiters by sending them open positions for your desired companies.  If a recruiter left their role, their LinkedIn InMail is still attached to the company and your message will be routed to another recruiter at that same company.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): When you message the LinkedIn recruiter, provide the job description and highlight 3-4 skills that you have that are relevant to the job.

What is the recommendation for an applicant applying for multiple product manager jobs on a company website?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): There are many applicants that apply to multiple roles within a company.  The best practice is to apply to a maximum of two roles on the company website and then find out who is recruiting product managers on LinkedIn.  Once you have found who the recruiter is, send them a LinkedIn InMail and let them know you just applied to two open roles and would like to chat regarding your fit in the roles in which you applied.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): The Senior Vice President (SVP) is interested in hiring top talent.  Write to the SVP via LinkedIn and let them know about how you would be a great fit at the company.  The key to the message is to be respectful and direct.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): For a large company, you may want to apply to many roles, just to make sure you aren’t passed over.

How do you answer compensation questions that are asked early in the interview process?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Product managers should know what they want to make in their next move.  Product managers should be genuine and know their market range.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): It is against the law to ask about compensation in San Francisco.  Soon, California may also pass legislation that makes it against the law to talk about compensation.  Companies want candidates to be compensated correctly, so answer honestly with consistent compensation requirements.

What should a product manager do if they are transitioning from one industry to another?

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): A candidate will need to get in front of the right people and articulate how they stand out from the pack of other applicants.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Try to leverage your network for a referral in that company

Do cover letters still matter?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Cover letters are typically not read.  Instead, the recruiter will review the resume to understand the candidate.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Have a cover letter so that you are not filtered out of a job.  Cover letters are great tools to explain deltas in your career history such as a job transition, or returning from a long leave of absence from the workforce.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Information in the cover letter should be added to your LinkedIn profile.

How many pages should there be in a resume?

All panelists – Two pages is the maximum unless the candidate is a PhD.  If a candidate is a PhD, it is acceptable to have a longer resume that includes the candidate’s patents, papers, research, etc.

Book recommendations from this panel include:

  • Sense and Respond by Jeff Gothelf
  • Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology by Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro
  • The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Jackie Holland has over five years of experience in product management, UX and educational technology.  She is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying for her Master’s in Software Management and can be contacted at

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