How to hire a Head of Product?


11th January 2021
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How to hire a Head of Product? Do you need to hire a Head of Product? 

Here’s when and how you should.

Often the case in startups, the CEO, along with a technical co-founder is the first person to focus on the company’s product. Then, as the company grows, the team grows in the form of engineers, designers, marketers and salespeople.

Everyone’s focused on making sure the product works, looks great and that there’s an appetite for it in the market.

As a CEO or business owner, if you’ve reached this stage-managing these different teams becomes a real challenge. It could be time to ask yourself. ‘do I need to hire a Head of Product?’

The role of a Head of Product

As is clear from the above, the role of a Head of Product is more often than not cross-functional. They have the responsibility for overseeing the product’s development and management, and therefore they need to work closely with the engineering, design, sales and marketing teams.

A Head of Product is responsible for managing the product’s roadmap, ultimately ensuring it falls in line with the company’s strategies and vision to meet the needs of the consumer.

It’s a complex, multi-faceted role which can incorporate:

Leadership: Having responsibility for team members across different experience levels and functions. It’s the role of a Head of Product that each member is performing their role effectively throughout the product’s development.

Collaboration: Partnering with other departmental heads is essential to ensure the achievement of the product’s vision and strategy. In doing so, they are responsible for maintaining the right level of support and input from those working in the team.

Product Evaluation: Analysis and investigating the product’s market is a critical part of any Head of Product’s role. This information needs to be gathered and processed before being fed back to the company’s stakeholders and used to inform future decisions on the project.

Innovation: Gathering this insight will give a Head of Product scope for innovation and their role will involve them overseeing the improvement of the product. They’re responsible for ensuring any time changes are made to meet the needs of the customer. Alongside this, their role will see them promote best working and productivity practices within the teams.

Problem Solving & Conflict Resolution: Should the strategies have issues or the team are not performing, the role of a Head of Product is to step in and manage these problems. It’s an essential responsibility as a range of issues could threaten the team’s ability to meet the products financial, technical or strategic goals.

When should you hire a Head of Product?

A startup’s product is the embodiment of the founders’ vision. Many founders will have a natural inclination towards developing a product, and during the early stages, they are essential in its development.

Over time, however, and your businesses grow more complex, it could be time to look into hiring a Head of Product.

When the leadership team is stretched

As alluded to earlier in the piece, as the business grows, no matter how influential the founders are at leading the product development, their attention will no doubt shift to other areas of the company. In essence, they become spread too thinly across the business and can no longer focus fully on delivering the product roadmap.

A Head of Product is needed once the business reaches this stage. In hiring a Head of Product at this stage, you will have a dedicated person in place to bridge the gap between the founder’s initial vision and the company’s products.

 When demand exceeds knowledge

Additionally, it might be time to bring in a Head of Product to lead when the demands of delivery exceed the level of knowledge within the team. Adding someone with the relevant product experience and leadership capabilities can be hugely beneficial if there is a limit on the team’s existing knowledge or delivery experience.

Their ability to problem-solve and draw on previous experience to overcome issues through the entire process is one that businesses would be remiss to overlook.

When growing the team is a priority

Bringing in a Head of Product during a period of significant growth is often a strategic move. Tapping into their insight into growing product teams and drawing on their experience of what to look for in a candidate can be a critical step to success.

Equally, during the onboarding phase and initial stages, having an experienced product professional at the helm can ensure a smooth integration into the team, maximising the chance for success in achieving the product’s vision and strategy.

How do you hire a Head of Product?

When a business reaches the stage where a Head of Product is needed to ensure successful delivery, finding the right product talent is essential. With the product space and its talent pool evolving at such a pace; getting a hiring strategy right can be a challenge.

As such, there are a number of things to consider when looking to hire a Head of Product into your business.

Have you got clarity on who and what you’re looking for?

Do you and your team have a list of specific qualities or criteria the candidate needs to meet?

Being clear on your ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ and linking these back to your product’s roadmap is a good way of being clear on how your new hire will help you build and deliver the product successfully.

Do their experiences align?

Knowing this information during the hiring process will help you identify the candidates who demonstrate experience and ambitions closely aligned to the product you’re building.

Consider the products they’ve been a part of previously and find out more about the challenges they faced throughout and the role they took in overcoming them to deliver. Have they worked on a similar product, or in a similar market? Does the size of the team or the make-up of the team differ from their previous roles?

Understanding these experiences should give you an indication of how they’ll adapt to the process and working with the existing team once they join.

Are you asking them the right questions?

Questions designed to get the candidates thinking about products from a different perspective and the problems they solve. For example, during interviews for his team, Dropbox’s VP, Todd Jackson will ask candidates to name him a product they think is exceptionally well-designed and why.

Ideally, these will be non-electronic/technical products, and in doing so, he tests their intellectual ability, communication and whether they know what customers want.

Are their foundations solid?

Can they demonstrate they have solid experience and foundations in a range of technical aspects? This could be engineering, creative, marketing or operational expertise, each of which will have shaped how they interact with their teams and work to deliver the product.

If you can define what skills are essential to you and your team, finding candidates who possess the necessary ones could be crucial to success.

Do you need help from a specialist recruitment agency?

Doing so will tap into their networks and experience, as well as saving you time.  

If you go down this route, it’s important to work with an agency that specialises in helping businesses to hire senior-level technology professionals and not a ‘one size fits all’ agency. A specialist will understand the current market conditions and what it takes to encourage a move so you can secure the best Head of Product talent.

If you decide that the time has come to hire a Head of Product into your business to deliver your product vision, make sure you understand the ideal candidate who possesses not only the requisite skills and experience but also the ability to fit into your team.

Revere Digital Recruitment have a wealth of experience hiring Head of Products into technology-driven business across the UK. If you need advice on whether hiring a Head of Product is right for your business, then get in touch.

This is the third in our When and How to Hire’ series which looks at hiring for senior-level technology talent. For more information, you can read our articles here.