Interviewing from Senior PM to PM role because the VP Product Manager thinks it is a better fit

Hey all! My friend is interviewing for a senior product manager role at a relatively well-known startup about to go public. After 4 rounds of meeting with the CPO, GM, VP Product Manager, and Director of SWE she got a call from the recruiter saying the “VP Product Manager” who she met for the last round does not think her experience of 7 years in Product Management equates to the role of Senior PM and they want to bring her as a Product Manager and reflect that on the salary (about $50k difference)…

She still has her last round of interviews, which is a presentation on a business solution. The company’s glassdoor has terrible reviews about management and indicates a lack of diversity.

What do you recommend she does? Is it worth it to continue conversations?

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All startups are about to go public and the stock options will be sky-rocketing.

But no. she’s interviewing for a Sr PM role, not a PM role. knocking her down a peg before she walks in the door doesn’t sound like a good way to start the relationship.

Her choice, but i wouldn’t do it.

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@MarcoSilva, I agree with you but I’m also trying to understand all arguments since a lot of women get kicked out of opportunities early on to avoid bad environments. She has worked really hard to be where she is (CS background, had her own startup and launched a lot of successful products) but the job market is rough and if you get a chance to work on an exciting product in an industry that is ripe for innovation- how does she navigate that? Also, I forgot to mention she’ll be the first female in any technical role at this company. So far, there have been no PMs or executives that are female. Frustrating because I don’t think this should be a limiting thing for her in 2021.

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There are no arguments. she’s qualified, has the experience, and they want to low-ball. Don’t make it overly complicated.

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@MarcoSilva, You may be right, but having “7 years of experience” is not clear evidence of competency.

It’s possible that the hiring committee is biased in some way, but given that she met with 4 people that all seem to agree that she doesn’t meet their criteria, it may just be lack of certain skills or experience.

Lots of PMs feel senior but significantly lack in strategy, pricing, leadership principles, or more.

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@DonovanOkang, What is strange to me is that the hiring manager decided they needed to hire a senior PM, but now they’re ok hiring a PM. If I was her, I’d be asking how the responsibilities of the role had changed since the job was posted because the job should dictate the seniority level required, not the candidate.

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@Karan, Unless 2 roles were open. Not enough information.

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@Donovan, Absolutely. All my PM interviews have been very specific to the team I’d be working on. It’d be yet another red flag if they didn’t mention that the team she’d be on was changing.

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@KaranTrivedi, The CPO was the person who recommended her for a Senior PM role. She got invited by the GM to interview with the company. It was only at the last round she had with the VP Product Manager that there was a change to the role of PM.

She has launched successful products in different fields, two that were used by the GM who recommended her for the role.

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Here are my two cents:

Having been a founder before myself, having launched products doesn’t mean you know how to do product management, if you take the definition of Cracking the PM or any of the leveling frameworks out there. People were launching products way before there was agile/scrum/lean/mvp, doesn’t mean that you know how to do “product”. I have tons of non-PM friends that have shipped products.

At the CPO level, you’d be generally assessing for fit and culture. Founders usually possess grit that I would find desirable. However, it’s usually the other interviews that would weed out more tactical and process abilities. So if the VP Product Manager has decided that she be placed in as a PM and not a Sr PM, I think you should give it a thought too. imo

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@NathanEndicott, Hmm interesting. Hard to do anything but speculate what happened then.

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Years of experience and competency are not directly related, AND there is no industry standard of what “senior” means. It is common AND REASONABLE to interview for one position and get leveled at a higher or lower point.

@HeatherKurtz, if the lower salary is unacceptable, then obviously don’t waste the time. But this idea that a company that is making the effort to find a spot for someone is somehow out to get that candidate is ridiculous. I’ve had multiple companies interview me for what was posted as a senior role and offer me non-senior positions - granted, I was <2 years into my career at the time, but if you don’t meet expectations for a senior role, it’s totally fine to get offered a more appropriate role.

The title is irrelevant here - titles DO NOT MATTER. There is no standardization. Compensation is what will tell you if the role is leveled at a mutual fit

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@RichardsonEva, I mean… titles matter a bit… especially when trying to interview for that next job.

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@AmyWalker, Every hiring manager knows titles are inconsistent across companies. The work and outcomes described in the resume matter much more than inflated titles.

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@RichardsonEva, I would have to respectfully disagree. For many companies hiring goes through HR or other such departments before ever getting to the actual hiring manager. In which case, titles do, in fact, matter.

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Nah, she needs to stand her ground and say it to the VP Product Manager that she is well experienced enough for a senior role, especially with having her own start up.

Don’t be fooled, there are plenty on women who are PMs, my last team at a large company was mostly women, even women PM leadership.

Shitty Glassdoor reviews and she’s already experiencing them trying to pay her 50k less and she’s not even hired yet? Hard pass. There are plenty of PM roles open right now.

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The job market isn’t THAT tough. If she feels she is qualified for the higher role and better salary, as she understand the requirements of the role, she should thank the company for their time and move on. There will definitely be some sunk cost fallacy emotions that she will need to work to overcome but the interview process is about finding a good mutual fit and if she has the means and ability to hold out for a better mutual fit, both she and her company will be happier in the long run.

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Couldn’t you question if this place is potentially arbitrarily knocking her down due to that presumed culture though. There’s tons of Srs here that can back up that 7 years in direct PM is more than sufficient for the role.

But you are right, sometimes you have to swallow your pride and take what’s on the table. Definitely a tough decision.

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@MariaWilson, Maybe for a google role you can swallow your pride and take it, but with 7 years experience and a start up under her belt, she shouldn’t sell herself short especially for some startup.

Sometimes women have a tendency to do this, me included, while I’ve watched countless men I know walk away when a company won’t negotiate the salary they want to only find someone who will pay it at the next interview they go on.

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@DaveKim, I mean yeah I’m agreeing with you here, it sounds like a random dig at her in one way or another that I’d say pass on. I guess I just didn’t want to say definitively do something without knowing her situation, is she out of work?, is she having trouble getting interviews?, etc.

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