PRODUCTHEAD: Recruiting the right stuff

PRODUCTHEAD: Recruiting the right stuff

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

planet product


Emotional intelligence is more important than technical skills

Hire people who will increase your rate of learning

A head of product needs prior experience as a product manager

Good candidates have initiative and passion to pursue their opinions


In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission landed the first humans on the Moon. The average age of the flight controllers at mission control that got them there and back safely was 27 years old.

Many documentaries focus on ‘the right stuff’ that the first intrepid astronauts exhibited. However, the selection process for the flight controllers was as rigorous, if not more so.

NASA recruited flight controllers from diverse backgrounds on the basis of qualities such as fast decision-making, excellent communication and the ability to deal with a constant onslaught of information from multiple sources — all while under tremendous pressure to perform.

Only the very best candidates made it through the selection process.

The potential flight controllers were preparing for emergencies by running repeated and varied simulations well over three months before the landing took place on July 20.

One of the last simulated emergencies the flight controllers faced before the actual mission was something called a ‘1202 program alarm’. This occurred when the landing module’s guidance computer became overwhelmed with too many tasks to complete — something that shouldn’t ordinarily happen.

13 minutes before Apollo 11 was due to land on the surface of the Moon, Neil Armstrong reported the very same 1202 program alarm to mission control.

Flight controllers Steve Bales (26) and Jack Garman (23) instantly recognised the problem and made the call:

“It’s the executive overflow. If it does not occur again, we’re fine.”

It took 15 seconds from them hearing the Apollo 11 crew flag the alarm to Bales making the decision to continue with the landing attempt. The rest, as they say, is history.

Product managers may not be (often) responsible for landing humans on other moons and planets, but it remains hugely important for them to communicate well, deal effectively with a firehose of information, and continue to make timely, well-informed decisions despite intense pressure to perform.

Do you recruit product managers based on these abilities, or irrelevant factors such as age, gender, market experience, which big-name companies they used to work for, or whether they went to a ‘good’ university?

This week I’ve pulled together some great content on how to recruit better product managers, more successfully.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Product EQ: The Secret Sauce to Hiring (& Keeping) Great Product People

What makes one product succeed where another fails? I say it’s the people behind all of these things. The way they think, communicate and relate. How they make decisions and show-up. Products are built for people by people.

Look to emotional intelligence and attributes [VIDEO]


How To Attract & Hire Good Product Managers

We interviewed Dave Thomson, [former] Head of Product at Skyscanner and discussed how to attract product managers to your business, how to test when hiring and some of his favourite interview questions.

Build a company that optimizes for learning


Product Management Coaching

Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.

We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.

A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity. Just reply to this email if you’re interested in finding out more.

Hiring a Head of Product

Over the last three decades, across 10 full-time jobs and 150 consulting clients, I’ve helped a dozen companies choose their head of product. Here are some patterns I’ve seen in picking successful heads of product.

Hire former product managers with experience running teams


The 3 Secrets to Getting Hired

I’ve been lucky enough over the years to be able to hire many people to the various teams I’ve led. Over the course of all of these interviews I’ve discovered that there are three core components that make a candidate a desirable addition to my team.

Do your candidates have these 3 traits?


recent posts

What technical skills do I need to be a product manager?

I am searching for a career change and Product Management/ Project Management are my areas of interest. I was looking to understand, based on your experience, if in such roles technical skills are required?

Read on for my answer


How to start a new product manager job

Starting a new product manager job can be daunting, particularly if you don’t change jobs very often. I work freelance, so I find myself in a new organisation roughly every 3-6 months. Let me share with you my tips for your first few months in a new role.

What to do in the first 30-90 days


Should a product manager have responsibility for profitability?

Should the product manager have some level or perhaps a great deal of responsibility for the profitability of the product? Should they understand things like the unit economics, that sort of thing?

Have a sense of your financials


The product leader’s guide to interviewing

Because I tend to help organisations build up their product team from scratch, I’m often involved in the interviewing and hiring process, so I’d like to share with you my product leader’s guide to interviewing product managers.

Countering unconscious bias in recruiting


upcoming talks and events

5th May 2021, 16:00 GMT


Online product management round table discussion (topic TBC)


can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

Product People Limited logo

Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from 1.21 gigawatts of power.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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