Are you breaking into product management for the first time? Perhaps you’re an experienced Product Manager looking to level-up your skill set. Either way, developing these 29 product management skills will help you crush it both on the job and during the Product Manager job hunt.
There are three types of important skills to have when interviewing for a Product Manager position: technical skills, business skills, and interview skills.
Technical Product Management Skills
Product Manager positions have always been viewed as technical roles, which is often why people without a technical background are intimidated when breaking into the field. Yet, our members have proven that you do not need extensive technical skills to become a Product Manager.
If you can learn and develop these 10 technical product management skills, you will be fully prepared to take on your next Product Manager job.
1. Product Management Fundamentals
First and foremost, learn the basics. Be sure you understand what product management is on a general level, and be aware that the role may look a little different in each company. Think of this skill as “Product Management 101”. It means learning:
- What a Product Manager job description looks like
- The activitie that make up an average day in product management
- Product Managers main roles and responsibilities
To begin with, understand the standard operating systems for product management. Learn the lingo and how to incorporate it into your interviews and pitches. These first two skills are going to be the foundation of your success as a Product Manager. For example, you’ll need to know about:
- Agile Methodology
- Other popular or common product management frameworks and methodologies.
You do not need an engineering background to be a Product Manager. You will, however, be working with engineers. In this case, the goal is to understand the day-to-day life of your engineering team and the challenges they face so you can help them be successful. It might benefit you to practice how best to communicate with your software engineering team as well.
4. Understanding Technical Product Management
Similarly, you do not need a technical background to become a Product Manager. There is no reason to go and get a certification or degree in coding, but you can put in some effort to understand it a little more. The better you understand the roles of your team, the more able you will be to fulfill your role of making their lives easier.
5. Systems, Development, and Life Cycles
Having a clear understanding of the product life cycle and the stages of the development process from start to finish will not only make you a great Product Manager, it will also make you an extremely valuable candidate in the product management job hunt.
In a Product Manager job interview, you will likely be asked to walk the interviewer through your process, or to explain the product life cycle for a product or a company you previously worked for.
This is not a must-have skill, but it is good to have. Why not aim to go above and beyond with the product management skills you can reference in an interview?
Knowing how to integrate products will make you an attractive candidate and a better Product Manager. Plus, it is not incredibly difficult to learn. Having this skill in your back pocket at a job interview can give you a competitive edge against other candidates.
Most people preparing for a new product management role do not focus on design nearly enough. They are too busy stressing about the engineering aspect when realistically, you need an understanding of both. You will need to interview with UX designers to get the job, and continue to work with them closely on the job so it is imperative that you learn what they do and how you can help them succeed.
You’ll likely encounter product design interview questions in the second round of the interview process.
8. UX Research
As a Product Manager, you don’t need to understand the type of research that the UX team is doing. You just need to have an understanding of the role that UX researchers play on the team. We are seeing more and more companies prioritizing UX researchers and bringing them into the product management interviewing process, so it will benefit you greatly to familiarize yourself with the role.
It will be helpful in your job hunt and your position as a Product Manager to have a very basic understanding of data science. Beyond just pulling data for creating relevant dashboards, which we will touch on in the business skills section, a very entry level understanding of data science has become more attractive to recruiters over the last year or so.
10. Machine Learning
Just like data science, machine learning has gained popularity in the product management field recently. Still, do not spend time stressing about this particular product management skill. If you have an easily accessible way to develop this skill, go for it. If not, don’t worry about it. Machine learning may not keep its relevance long after 2021 and is not critical for you to become a great Product Manager.
Business Product Mangement Skills
In the last year, business centred product management skills have become far more important for Product Managers. They are probably more important than technical skills in your 2021 product management job hunt. Product management has become much more of a revenue-driving position since COVID-19 began versus the mainly technical position it was in the past.
11. Product Strategy
These first three business skills are critical to your success as a Product Manager and they build off of one another.
First, you need to set up and understand the strategy for this product’s success. Product Strategy will look different depending on the company and the product itself, but learning what it is and how to apply strategy in a general sense will give you a foundation to use when you dig into your specific role.
12. The Product Roadmap
After setting the strategy, the Product Manager is tasked with laying out the roadmap. You will need to identify where you are and where you need to go. Learn more about Product Roadmaps here.
13. How to Prioritize
Now that you’ve identified where you need to go, it is time to plan out and prioritize the steps it will take to get there. Prioritizing tasks, responsibilities, and portions of your time in a day can be the make or break factor in your success as a Product Manager. Most PMs make use of prioritization frameworks to help them structure their development of this product management skill.
Developing these three skills—strategy, roadmaps, and prioritization—before your first product management job will mentally prepare you for day-to-day life in the position and ultimately make you a better Product Manager.
14. Product Marketing
A large part of being a Product Manager is understanding how best to market your product. You have to know your target market intimately to be able to bring success to your company. A general knowledge of marketing will take you a long way in both your product management interview and your career.
15. Product Pricing
Understanding how to price a product appropriately is an extremely important part of the success of your product, and thus your job as a Product Manager. It is likely that you will discuss product prices on a daily basis. By having an understanding of what research goes into finding your prices, you are showing up to the interview prepared for the job.
16. A/B Testing
Understanding the importance of A/B testing and how to successfully conduct an A/B test is a key skill you will need to be a great Product Manager. You will need to draw more than one hypothesis and test them against each other on a daily basis.
17. Marketplace Management
In other words, what do you do when things go wrong? Markets are always changing. It is an unavoidable aspect of product management. Having the necessary skills to identify that change in market and adapt accordingly will be wildly beneficial as a Product Manager.
Just as A/B testing is a large part of your job as a Product Manager, experimentation is too. You can look at this as the next level of A/B testing.
It is not necessary to develop this product management skill to land the job, but it will certainly come in handy throughout your career.
19. Metrics and Dashboards
Identifying the right key performance indicators (KPIs) and setting up the dashboards correctly to track those KPIs is a huge part of product management. This is one of the major product management skills that you should master before you begin interviewing for the position you are aiming for.
20. Customer Discovery and Empathy
This is one of those skills that you don’t absolutely need to master, but it will certainly work in your favor during your product management job hunt. Learning about customer discovery and customer empathy are two great ways to develop this skill.
21. Managing Investor Expectations
As the Product Manager, you may be the one talking to investors when things are going wrong. Having the skillset to do this well is attractive to companies. Entering an interview with confidence and willingness to talk to the investors in times of tension will really make you a stand-out candidate.
Interview Product Management Skills
A large part of landing your product management dream job is having the proper skills to sell yourself in an interview. Having all of the above product management skills to be successful on the job is important, but arguably useless if you can ace the interview and secure the position.
22. How to Interview with Internal Recruiters
Internal recruiters work at the company that you are interviewing for and are a bit more invested in finding the perfect Product Manager for said company. Impressing the internal recruiters is your golden ticket to move forward in the interview process.
23. How to Interview with External Recruiters
External recruiters are hired through an agency to vet potential employees before sending them through to the company. Also, they are being paid on commission. The way to impress an external recruiter is going to differ slightly from how you impress an internal recruiter because they are motivated by different things.
24. How to Successfully Pitch your Background
Throughout the Product Management interview process you will interview with someone from every part of the company. Each stakeholder has different priorities. You need to know who you are talking to and why they are interested in you so that you can pitch your background to them in a way that will win them over.
25. Closing the Interview into an Offer
Too often people interview company after company and are left with radio silence. No rejection letter, but no offer letter. To avoid this, you need to learn how to close the interview into an offer. At the end of the day, how you fit in with the team will matter more than your technical or business skills. It is important to make that connection to the team in your interview.
26. Business Case Studies
As mentioned earlier, over the last couple of years the product management role has developed into more of a business role than a technical role. Because of that shift, we are seeing far more business case studies being conducted in the interview process.
It is not impossible to learn and develop the necessary skills to pass these case studies but it is definitely something you should look into before beginning your product management job hunt this year.
27. Technical Case Studies
As you know, it is not necessary to have a technical background to break into product management. That being said, there are still many companies that will perform technical case studies in the interview process. This is why you want to develop at least some basic skills and knowledge so that your technical case study is not a complete flop.
28. How to Whiteboard
As businesses are coming back to the office and interviews are beginning to be held in-person again, whiteboarding will be making its comeback as well. You’ll want to be prepared for it. The key to success here is to entertain. The people conducting the interview are looking for someone who can entertain, present, whiteboard, and answer questions all at the same time.
29. Fish Bowl Interviews
If you don’t know what fishbowl interviews are, it is clear that you are lacking the fundamentals and lingo of product management. First, go back and brush up on those. Then, you can prepare for fishbowl interviews.
How Many of These Product Management Skills Have You Mastered?
Don’t let this list of 29 product management skills intimidate you. The product management job hunt can be overwhelming but with good teachers and a supportive community you can learn and develop all the skills you need to crush your 2021 job hunt.
We cover all of these skills and more in our curriculum. Schedule a free career coaching session with our in-house team of coaches to learn more about how we can help you prepare for your product management job hunt. We’d love to answer any questions you may still have.