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If you’re looking to work in Product Management and don’t have long-term experience then you’re most likely applying for a Junior Product Manager position. This article highlights a number of qualities recruiters look out for when hiring junior product managers.
The Junior Product Manager is an entry-level Product Manager. They generally have the same responsibilities as the Product Manager however, they’re new to the role so it‘s very much a period of learning and getting comfortable with the requirements of being a product manager so that the Junior Product Manager can eventually develop a management style that works for them.
The Junior Product Manager supports the Product Manager in their job of developing and launching new products. They interact with the data, customers and other stakeholders to get new ideas and ways to improve the product suite.
The first thing is experience. The appeal of experience lies in the fact that the more you know, the less the Company has to teach you and therefore, their burden is lighter.
Fortunately, ‘experience’ does not necessarily mean product experience. Recruiters look through the applicant’s recent experiences to find those that match what they’re looking for. This could mean experience working in a high-performing environment or in a similar industry to that of the hiring company.
In discussing your experience, explain how your non Product Management experience has established your abilities to the point where you’re ready to be a Product Manager. It’s also helpful to show the ways in which your experiences added value to the companies you worked for.
Highlight any experience(s) that demonstrate an understanding of the problem that’s being solved at the company you’re applying to, or to the industry in general and talk about the general trends you have observed for the products/industry you are getting interviewed for. This way, you stand a chance to be ranked higher than other candidates.
Product Manager Recruiters want to see skills. In this role, both technical skills such as coding and design and soft skills which are more related to the applicant’s personality, are highly sought after.
At the top of the list is definitely communication skills – both written and oral. The Product Manager facilitates communication between stakeholders, teammates, company execs – everyone. Thus it is crucial to the success of the product manager that they understand the different languages spoken within the company environment and are able to present information to different stakeholders in the way that they understand.
The Junior Product Manager also needs to have excellent research skills. This skill comes in handy in finding out about the viability of a product but also writing product requirements and researching competitors.
Additionally, organizational skills are a key requirement. Because Product Managers are the central line that connects the sales team to internal designers, architects, field and internal customer support staff, and the executive team, they need to deal with a lot of information and be able to process and organize all of that and distil it to strategies, opportunities, requirements, schedules, threats, etc.
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3. Willingness to Learn
Recruiters rank higher, applicants for Junior Product Manager roles who reflect a willingness to learn. This is an important requirement for the role because such persons are new to the job of Product Management at that scale and will undoubtedly have a lot to learn.
It is important that the applicant shows enthusiasm at the prospect of learning new things; bonus points for those who can mention relevant occasions when they went after something new and succeded at it too.
The applicant must also be willing to learn in terms of adjusting to the culture of the new company. Recruiters are on the lookout for individuals that are open to putting aside their former way of doing things, if the need arises, and open to learning and contributing to the way that things are done at the hiring company.
4. Intelligence/Ability to Learn
The willingness to learn goes hand in hand with the ability to learn quickly. It’s great to be willing to learn something but it’s far more useful if you can actually learn that thing. As a junior product manager, it is important to appear credible in front of customers and internal design teams and from this stems the need to hit the ground running and quickly learn about the product and technology being offered at the hiring company.
It is also impossible to define the next generation product without understanding the technology. So between what is probably a new industry, a new role, new technology, new people, new work culture, the Junior Product Manager must be capable of juggling multiple balls at the same time, hopefully without letting any drop. This is what a recruiter looks out for.
5. Empathy and Diplomacy
Believe it or not, recruiters are looking for an empathetic person as a Junior Product Manager. Empathy is an often overlooked quality in a product manager yet it’s highly significant. It’s only by having user empathy that Product Managers can put themselves into the position of the user and create a product that solves the user’s pain points.
Customer empathy allows Product Managers to connect with their clients and really get the details of what the client desires from the product. Consequently, the Product Manager can then deduce the underlying needs and motivation of the client and is able to build a product that solves user pain points.
Diplomacy and tact are also qualities recruiters look out for because Product Management is a very people-centred role. On a day-to-day basis, the Product Manager is dealing with many different personalities and for that reason, he needs to employ a tactful leadership style to convince everyone all the way from developers to the executive team to follow your vision.
Additionally, there are circumstances where Product Managers need to get people to do things for them, even when they’re not the person’s direct manager. These are often dicey waters to navigate and that’s why recruiters gravitate towards candidates who reflect this diplomacy.
6. Strategic thinking
The best applicant for the role of Junior Product Manager is the one that has demonstrated that he is able to think strategically but act tactically. This will be important for developing roadmaps and handling a variety of day-to-day Product Management tasks. Often the Junior Product Manager has to make decisions based on set objectives and be able to back them up. It is also important in deciding which features to cut and when a product is ready to ship.
The job market is a rigorous ball game and as you might have observed, there is no hard and fast rule to getting a job. However, the above-listed points have been compiled from the responses of Junior Product Manager recruiters and also been tried and tested by many applicants. Having them in mind as you work towards a junior product management role allows you to put your best foot forward as you submit applications and attend interviews. Whether you have one or all of the qualities mentioned above, endeavor to do what works best for you in the end.
Pro Tip, apply internally. If your company is seeking product managers, apply there. You bring a ton of existing knowledge that they’d have to teach someone else. Leverage this. Above all, give the recruiters a reason to hire you. Talk yourself up without lying and let them know what they’ll benefit by bringing you on board. Best wishes!
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