IT organizations are increasingly shifting from project-based organizational structures to product-based methodologies, which involve cross-functional teams. These new building blocks of business include both tech and business pros, and they\u2019re generally led by a product manager, who acts as the point person throughout the product\u2019s lifecycle.\n\nProduct managers aren\u2019t a new job category by any means, but this shift means that they\u2019re newly prominent and important to many companies\u2019 strategies. As a result, many corporate leaders who are used to hiring for IT now have to learn what makes a good product manager as they seek to fill these roles.\n\nIf that\u2019s a position you find yourself in, don\u2019t panic. We spoke to a host of experts, including product managers and those who supervise, hire, and mentor them, about what you should be looking for if you\u2019re hiring a new PM for your team.\n\nSeth Dobbs, CTO at IT services and consulting firm Bounteous, gives a pretty good thumbnail sketch of what an ideal product manager would look like. \u201cThis is absolutely a hybrid role and requires a good mix of skills,\u201d he says. \u201cThey need to have enough knowledge in both technology and UX to at least be able to understand technical and experience constraints and tradeoffs, but need to be centered around business and customer value to drive decision-making around tradeoffs.\u201d\n\nDobbs says he also looks for adaptability given the rapid changes that often evolve in a product-based environment, in addition to the ability to \u201cmeet deadlines, budgets, and the overall business strategy as they work through these tradeoffs,\u201d he says. \u201cThey also need to have strong interpersonal skills and know how to lean into the experts to leverage their insights in forming a roadmap and plan, but also leverage their skills in getting the work done.\u201d\n\nThat\u2019s all easier said than done, of course, and in practice it\u2019ll be hard to find a candidate who can cover all those bases. But our experts gave us some pretty good guidance on specific qualities to look for in a candidate.\n\nLook for great communicators\n\nAlmost everyone we spoke to agreed that communications skills are a must when it comes to product management. \u201cI can typically tell within the first 15 minutes of a phone call whether or not I\u2019m going to hire someone,\u201d says Cait Porte, who is chief marketing officer at software development company Digibee and has a background in product management. \u201cThe people who can articulate themselves well can translate business and technology wording and phrasing in a way my team will respond well to. Effective communicators can not only articulate themselves well, but serve as translators between business and technology, ensuring that the right solutions are at the top of the priority list.\u201d\n\nTal Laufer, VP of products at cybersecurity firm Perimeter 81, explains that communication is a must-have in this job because of the role product managers play coordinating various stakeholders. \u201cA product manager serves as a bridge in the organization. Many aspects of their work involve connecting and bridging different teams and disciplines, striving for the success of the entire company,\u201d she says.\n\nSeek out those who go beyond the data\n\nMost businesses, especially in tech, pride themselves on making data-based decisions, and many of the team members a product manager will be working with will be very data-focused. That said, a product manager needs to both be able to understand what hard data is telling them \u2014 but also be comfortable making more intuitive and creative decisions. \u201cBeing technical is great \u2014 it allows you to understand the details \u2014 but it can also hold you back at times,\u201d says Luke Gannon, product manager at graph database company Neo4j. \u201cIf you can only view things with your developer\/computer scientist hat on, you run the risk of being closed off to new, creative ideas and suggestions.\u201d\n\n\u201cLots of folks are stressing metrics and being data-driven,\u201d says Shane Quinlan, director of product management at software development firm Kion. \u201cBut in most cases, you\u2019re starting with a dataset that\u2019s not statistically significant \u2014 we\u2019re not all building B2C at crazy scale. Yes, data is important. No, you don\u2019t need to wait on perfect data to make a decision. Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.\u201d\n\nEmphasize measurable outcomes\n\nNothing helps attune a candidate\u2019s intuition like experience. Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science, a product management coaching and consulting firm, says that a candidate\u2019s resume should show what they\u2019ve done in the field \u2014 and what they\u2019ve achieved. \u201cThe first thing a hiring manager should look for is measurable outcomes on their resume,\u201d she says. \u201cIt\u2019s not enough to say they\u2019ve gone through the motions of product management. The hiring manager needs to know what tangible improvements were achieved.\u201d\n\nAnd while there may be a stereotype of fresh-faced product managers with little real-world experience, many companies will choose candidates with in-depth knowledge of the business domain in which they\u2019ll be working, according to Stephanie White, director and head of product, technology, and professional at fintech recruiting company EC1. \u201cProduct managers who our clients hire have to be domain experts, understand how the product is being used commercially, as well as understand end-to-end product build technologically,\u201d she says. \u201cThis is so that they can attend client meetings and sell the user experience, as an extension to the sales and propositions teams.\u201d\n\nCharles Paumelle, chief product officer and co-founder of Microshare, a smart building data solutions company, agrees. \u201cBusiness and technical acumen is needed to answer the questions \u2018Why will customers spend money on our product?\u2019 and \u2018How can our organization deliver a cost-effective solution to the customer\u2019s needs?\u2019\u201d he says.\n\nLook beyond certs and education\n\nOn the flipside, many of the experts we spoke to held formal training and education in less esteem. \u201cCertifications are not the key to becoming a PM,\u201d says Kion\u2019s Quinlan. \u201cI don\u2019t care how many classes your previous employer paid $5,000 for, if you can\u2019t explain simply how a website works, talk about a product that inspires you, and prioritize work with some level of objectivity, you won\u2019t cut it.\u201d\n\nDigibee\u2019s Porte goes even further than that. \u201cHistorically, jobs for product managers were reserved for MBA graduates,\u201d she says. \u201cAs someone who both served as a hiring manager and obtained her MBA, I believe it shouldn\u2019t be a qualification as a product manager.\u201d It\u2019s not that having such as degree is a bad thing per se, she says, but \u201cpeople naturally think an MBA is enough of a qualification. In reality, it\u2019s so much more than that.\u201d\n\nUnderstand your specific product-based needs\n\nIf you\u2019re worried about finding someone who fits all of these bills perfectly, good news: In all probability you\u2019re going to have more than one product manager at your company, and different specific roles and experience levels may be called for.\n\n\u201cIn terms of experience, sometimes you are looking for someone who has experience in a certain market or with a certain technology, but other times you are ready to invest in someone who has the attitude and aptitude without the experience,\u201d says Trisha Price, chief product officer at software development company Pendo. \u201cThere is no one-size-fits-all, because diverse teams with diverse experiences are what drive the best outcomes and create the best cultures.\u201d\n\n\u201cThere are different \u2018flavors\u2019 of PMs in practice,\u201d says Kion\u2019s Quinlan. \u201cThere are startup PMs, go-to-market PMs, scale PMs, design PMs, platform PMs, data PMs, and more. Someone who\u2019s awesome at one flavor may not be the best at others (or there\u2019ll be an adjustment period). Understanding your problem is key to hiring the right product manager. That\u2019ll inform how you rate them on specific skills \u2014 more technical, more business-oriented, more design-oriented, a jack-of-all-trades.\u201d\n\n\u201cI consider is a candidate\u2019s ability and aspiration to be more of a \u2018pioneer,\u2019 a \u2018settler\u2019 or a \u2018farmer,\u2019\u201d says Microshare\u2019s Paumelle. \u201cProduct management ranges from pure innovation and R&D to create brand new products (the \u2018pioneer\u2019 heading into the unknown), to the productization of alpha products into a mainstream market (the \u2018settler\u2019 who establishes a community and builds the first structures), to the optimization of established products (the \u2018farmer\u2019 who increases the yield year after year).\u201d\n\nTailor your interview process\n\nYou might be able to suss out some of this via resumes and email exchanges, but a lot of your hiring decision will come down to the interview and how the candidate does in the room (or on the Zoom, as the case may be). Our experts had plenty of advice on how to assess a candidate in an interview:\n\nDon\u2019t lose sight of the intangibles\n\n\u201cI\u2019m a big fan of finding the \u2018raw talent\u2019 that would make a great PM,\u201d says Kion\u2019s Quinlan. \u201cFor an associate product manager, the day-to-day skills can be taught, but you can\u2019t fake or learn interest in the problem and empathy with your peers and users.\u201d In the end, most of our experts agreed, it\u2019s that interest in solving problems that\u2019s the most important quality to find in a candidate for product manager.\n\n\u201cI went into product management coming from a hardware development background,\u201d explains Perimeter 81\u2019s Laufer. \u201cEven as an engineer, I was always curious about the full picture. What do customers want? What is the market like? How can we build a better product for our customers? This curiosity and my love for working with people led me to a product focused role. I had to learn about a lot of subjects, all at once, but I had (and still have!) a blast doing so.\u201d\n\nShe adds: \u201cI love that part of the job, teaching young PMs how to do things right.\u201d We hope that the product managers you find go down this same successful path.