by • January 14, 2015 • UncategorizedComments (0)1687

Evaluating a Job Offer: Tips for Product Managers

jobimage Congratulations you got the job! But should you take it? Determining whether to take a job offer is a difficult decision. In a bad economy or if you’re eager  to leave your current job, it can be tempting to accept any offer. But before you take on a new job, you need to evaluate the situation carefully. In life often  the key to happiness is knowing which opportunities to accept and which to reject.

 So how do you decide?

 1. Can you be passionate about the product? To be successful a product manager must be passionate about the product. What fires you up?  Passion for the product or service is essential because it provides motivation to get through the many obstacles that impede a product’s progress. Passion  is contagious. Without passion it will be difficult to inspire the rest of the team such as developers, sales and the executive team to get behind a shared  vision. If you cannot be passionate about the product or service, it might be better to wait for another opportunity to come along.

 2. How is product management defined within the organization? Does it fit with your view or experience of product management? Some  product managers are more technical. Other product managers work more closely with sales and marketing.

If product management reports to someone without a background in product management, it may influence their concept of the role. For example, if you report to someone who has risen through the ranks in the sales channel, they are likely to expect the product manager to focus more on sales and marketing issues versus working with development.

3. Is it a newly created role? This is often the case for a start-up that has enjoyed sufficient success to realize that it needs a product manager for one or more products. There are particular challenges to this kind of set up because the role is often not clearly defined. Ask what the expectations are for the role. Has the product(s) been budgeted for this year? What are the sales goals and expectations?

Some product managers enjoy creating their own role (myself included), particularly if they will have the power to build up a product team from the ground up but it is in your best interest to determine whether you are comfortable with such ambiguity and any subsequent territory challenges. It is not uncommon for product managers in positions like this to be tasked with fixing everything (including the proverbial kitchen sink!) Likely you will have to be proactive in defining the role and in setting boundaries.

If you are going to work for an entrepreneurial type, they will often spend the interview talking about the company, the culture and not about what they want you to do. This is often because they don’t know! Drill down by asking them what success looks like.

Find out who currently holds some or all of the product management responsibilities. Who is in favor of a new product manager hire? Who sees this change as a gain or loss for themselves or their department?

Your potential manager should have a good idea of at least some of the challenges their potential hire might face. You’ll need their support once you are in the role. It is often the difference between success or failure.

5. Use the hiring process to forecast how the organization treats employees.As Maya Angelou says,”the first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Often we are so eager to get the job we fail to notice or ignore important cues. For example, if the hiring manager and other interviewers are not prepared to talk with you, distracted or fail to follow up until weeks after they said they would, assume that the work culture is also disorganized and chaotic.

Any company that has taken the trouble to bring you in for an interview should be showing you their best face. As one of my mentors says, if they treat you badly before they hire you, what can you expect afterward?

6. Evaluate your potential manager closely. You’ll learn a lot about their management style in the interview. For instance:

  • How does s/he treat you during the interview? Is s/he respectful of your time, attentive and interested in you, or is s/he vague or distracted?
  • How does s/he treat other employees? If you see your interviewer interacting with others during your visit, pay close attention. Watch how other employees react to your hiring manager as well.
  • Ask why the position is open, why the previous person left and how long they were there. If the person left after less than a year –you’ll want to know why. If the hiring manager badmouths the person you’d be replacing, view this is a red flag. This reveals a lack of professionalism.
  • Ask how s/he handles disagreements between a direct report, team or other departments.

7. Beware the company that tries to rush the interview process. This is especially true of opportunities that come to you. It can work out wonderfully but ask yourself if the position aligns with what you really want out of a job.

Opportunities that come to you often represent what someone else wants and needs from your talent. Flattering. Yes. Right for you? Perhaps not. Don’t let the heady feeling of being wanted cloud your judgment of what you want and need.

8. Do your homework. Check LinkedIn to see if you have connections to anyone who might know what the culture is really like and ask to talk to others who work there. Gather as many opinions as you can and watch for patterns.

Sites like Glassdoor also offer employees a place to anonymously review companies for whom they have worked. Sometimes they are written by ex-employees with an ax to grind but if you see recurring patterns that carries some weight. Look for reports of high turnover rates, low morale, or toxic cultures.

9. Listen to your instincts. If you feel uneasy about the job or the people you’d be working with, don’t ignore it. Those little warning signs will only increase your anxiety and dissatisfaction once you are there.

Be grateful for a job offer, it’s an honor but hold out for the one that is right for you. Good luck!

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Michelle Harper has led product management teams for almost 15 years in publishing. She can be found on Twitter at @mlharper.

Photo: iStock

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