Which professional and personal skills should product planners have?

Question: "I am recruiter and in the process of evaluating candidates for an open product planner position with a client (global software company). Which professional and personal skills should I be looking for in candidates for product planning positions? How can these skills be evaluated?"

Answer: Product Planning is a discipline that is focused on executing an ongoing process of identifying and articulating market requirements that define a product's feature set. Product Planner is a strategic role that is owned by a market expert who articulates the market problem and needs. The Product Planner researches the market, identifies the market opportunity, and articulates user and buyer needs in the form of market requirement statements.

The primary deliverable of the Product Planner is the Market Requirements Document (MRD), which reflects a complete, accurate, and true understanding of the market and its needs. Other supporting documents that might be prepared include product use cases, product roadmaps, and pricing models.

The following set of professional and personal skills, listed in alphabetical order, is essential to the Product Planner role and should be sought in any candidate:

  • Authoring Skills – Able to articulate and document the customers' market problem in a manner that encapsulates knowledge and represents a true understanding of the market and its needs.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Able to build strong rapport and relationships with customers as to gain in-depth understanding of customers' problems and needs.
  • Interview Skills – Able to interview customers in order to comprehensively understand their market problem.
  • Language Skills – Able to communicate, in written and verbal form, with diverse audiences, internal and external to the company, in a clear and comprehendible manner.
  • Methodological Skills – Able to structure and craft market requirements using a formal and structured methodology.
  • Process Skills – Able to implement and/or follow the product planning process component of the product delivery process.
  • Research Skills – Able to perform market research, market analysis, and competitive intelligence studies.

Evaluating these skills in a candidate can only be done via questioning in the context of a product management interview. The focus of many of the interview questions will be to explore the candidate's competency level in (primarily) authoring market requirements and (secondarily) abilities in all the other foundational skills that enable market requirement authorship.

For more information, please see the Blackblot Career Support web page, the Blackblot Product Definition Team Model, the "PMTK Role Descriptions" and "PMTK Interview Process" templates in Blackblot's Product Manager's Toolkit®, and the "Product Definition Team" chapter in the Product Manager's Toolkit book.

Blackblot Product Definition Team Model