In order to replace my manager, who resigned last month, my organisation has finally chosen to hire a VP of Product. They were debating waiting until Q2 of the next year, but after a disastrous work period, they realised that we urgently need a product leader.
Nevertheless, I’ve been asked to brainstorm ideas for case studies or topics that applicants might present in a final round that will likely include our chief growth officer or CEO. As I don’t have enough experience, I wanted to ask here. Can anybody assist?
Coming to me with case studies of VP & CPO raises a red flag. This is a conversation level; talk about actual issues, not hypothetical ones. If your senior leadership can’t have a conversation, they seem to be somewhat out of touch with the issues at hand.
I’m a VP of Product and if they gave me a case-study I’d walk away (in fact I did, they called right back and waived the requirement).
The conversation should focus on where are we, where did you want to be and why you aren’t there, where are we going. What keeps you up at night about from here to the future place. It should encompass, business strategy, product strategy, culture, process, team strength / human capital profiles etc.
I can provide you with some ideas on what subjects or case studies candidates can present in a final round for a VP of Product role:
Product Strategy and Vision: Ask the candidate to present their approach to developing and executing product strategy, how they define success and how they measure it, and their experience creating a vision for a product and communicating it to stakeholders.
Team Leadership and Management: Inquire about their experience managing and developing product teams, how they ensure accountability and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. Ask for examples of how they have motivated and empowered their team to achieve great results.
Product Development Process: Request that they present their approach to product development, including ideation, prototyping, testing, and launching. Explore how they manage timelines, prioritize features, and make trade-offs. Ask them about their experience working with cross-functional teams and stakeholders to deliver successful products.
Data-Driven Decision Making: Discuss their experience and approach to using data to inform product decisions. Ask for examples of how they have used data to validate product hypotheses, measure success, and iterate on product features.
Customer Insights: Inquire about their process for understanding customer needs and preferences. Ask how they integrate customer feedback into the product development process, how they measure customer satisfaction, and how they stay current on market trends.
Business Acumen: Explore their understanding of the business model, the competitive landscape, and the market dynamics of your organization. Ask for examples of how they have contributed to the growth of a business through product innovation.
Innovation: Ask about their experience driving innovation in the products they have managed. Ask for examples of how they have taken risks to create new products and how they have managed to balance innovation with practicality.
Communication and Collaboration: Evaluate their ability to communicate effectively with stakeholders, manage conflict, and build consensus. Ask for examples of how they have worked collaboratively with cross-functional teams and influenced decision-making.
Industry Trends: Explore their knowledge of the latest industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices in product management. Ask how they stay up-to-date on these trends and how they apply them to their work.
These are just a few ideas to help you get started. You may want to tailor these to fit the specific needs and challenges of your organization. Good luck with your search!
I think that being a director at a big company could be harder and more demanding than being a VP at a small one. Without a case study, small firm leadership might not know how to hire for the position. I’m usually happy to participate in a case study if I’m enthusiastic about the company. I’ll pass if I’m not enthusiastic.
When applying for VP / CPO roles earlier this year, the interview process included a few conversations with founders and members of the executive team and ended with me giving a presentation with input looking something like this (there were very small variances from place to place).
Describe the key parts of a good product vision
Outline your path for putting together the product vision and strategy for XX.
Shares your thoughts around building and scaling the product organization - roles, locations, processes, tools
Answer the question of how product would be positioned in the company and how it would relate to other teams
Plot out key milestones you want to achieve in the first 90 days
I ended up preparing a 20 minute presentation, expecting there will be lots of discussions, together with the discussions the conversations took 1h-1.5h
Having recruited VPs of Product, I’d say the best case study is a realistic one that they’d face when they join. This way they get a glimpse into what they’re getting into and the team can see how they think about unstructured problems (the point of a case study). I’m also seeing a lot more teams do “jam sessions” to see the natural instincts of a candidate vs their ability to present.
Org structure. How should the team be organized as more hires are made (usually it’s a question of product, design and Eng pods)
Product Operations. How to level up processes like roadmapping, user research, metric reviews, prioritization, etc.
Vision / strategy. How to set a product vision and strategy to realize it over many years.
Coaching / mentoring. How to grow a team, especially if they’re junior.
I would advise you to push the executive team (CGO/CEO/others) and the product team (you and any coworkers who will report into this person) to document the key difficulties this VP Product will confront when they join the company before responding to this request (probably from the CGO/CEO?). Put this in a single document that all stakeholders may access.
Designing an interview to evaluate applicants, whether via case study or another method, requires a clear knowledge of what is going wrong (and, consequently, expectations for the candidate). Use this paper to talk about candidate evaluations after that; you might be surprised at how divergent interviewers’ impressions can be.
Case studies are a minefield, product director or CPO here. They are a waste of time if the subject is simply theoretical. I’m okay with making a presentation of sorts if it’s done in the context of an adult leadership level conversation. Any case study should ideally be written in formal business language, such as “we are concerned about losing market share to our competitors; describe your approach to developing a product that does both.”