Technical Recruiting
Technical Recruiting Playbooks: Product Hiring for Early Stage Startups

Natasha Katoni

In the third installment of Technical Recruiting Playbooks Season #2, Amplify’s Talent Partner, Natasha Katoni interviews Denise Hemke, Charles Zedlewski and Chrix Finne about hiring for product roles at early stage startups. 

Denise Hemke

Denise Hemke, Chief Product Officer at Checkr, discusses the core responsibilities of a successful Product Manager (PM) and how these responsibilities evolve as a company develops. She highlights the importance of defining the "why" behind product decisions, executing product plans effectively, and collaborating with others. Regardless of the company's stage, these core responsibilities remain consistent. Denise emphasizes the significance of maintaining clear communication, alignment with the company's vision, and strategic thinking in hiring and evaluating PMs.

Show Notes:

  • The evolving roles of PMs in different company stages, from zero-to-one innovation to scaling existing products.
  • Practical advice on effective interview tactics for hiring PMs and insights on building successful product teams.
  • Tips for maintaining clear communication, alignment with the company's vision, and effective product prioritization

Charles Zedlewski

Charles Zedlewski, COO of Temporal, discusses the challenges and considerations of hiring product people for early-stage companies. Charles emphasizes that the decision to hire a product person should be based on the specific gap the founder wants to fill and the type of product leadership required. He identifies three primary profiles of product managers: those focused on execution and delivery, those shaping the roadmap for value-added features, and those enriching the product vision. Charles highlights common attributes shared by successful product people, including framework-driven decision-making, curiosity about customers and users, and effective collaboration with engineering teams. 

Show Notes:

  • How the decision to hire a product person depends on the specific gap the founder wants to fill and the type of product leadership required.
  • The three primary profiles of product hires: execution and delivery, roadmap shaping, and enriching product vision.
  • Common attributes, shared by the most successful product hires
  • Ways to use interview questions to assess candidates' orientation abilities and their approach to framework-driven decision-making.

Chrix Finne

Chrix Finne is a product leader with extensive experience at Google, Optimizely, Heap, and Confluent. He discusses his motivations for leaving Google and joining Optimizely, emphasizing his restlessness and desire for a tighter feedback loop and the accountability that smaller companies offer. He shares his insights into the qualities of an exceptional product manager, highlighting the importance of insight, communication, and grit. When discussing the right time for startups to hire their first product manager, Chrix suggests founders wait until the product has gained traction and they have a well-established feedback loop with customers. He also touches on common mistakes in product hiring, particularly the challenge of finding a candidate who fits in with the founder's vision and strategy.

Show Notes:

  • The essential qualities of a successful product manager: insight, communication, and grit.
  • Timing and considerations for hiring the first product manager in an early-stage startup. 
  • Common mistakes in product hiring, emphasizing the importance of alignment with founder vision and strategy.
  • The value of domain expertise in product management.