The Product Manager Job Description & Career Guide

Explore the job description of a product manager and top skills needed to get hired as a product manger.

A product manager can transform the product development process, uniting cross-functional teams around a shared vision. If you’re thinking about adding this role to your product team, you might run into a challenge — since the job title is relatively new, it isn’t well-defined. Before you write a product manager job description, it’s helpful to explore the different ways the position might fit into your company structure.

A product manager unites cross-functional teams around a shared product vision.

What does a product manager do?

A product manager guides the product development process for a company. They oversee every step of the product lifecycle, from initial research to market launch.

Although a product manager’s role varies from company to company, it can usually be broken down into a few major phases:

  • Identifying product opportunities. In this stage, the product manager assesses the company’s goals, analyzes data and market research, tracks customer needs, and monitors the industry. Based on that information, they come up with ideas for new products that benefit the customers and the business. Then, they prioritize the ideas based on estimated costs and the potential return on investment and determine which ones are the most important to pursue.
  • Builds support for the new product. Once the product manager has chosen a new product, their job is to convince stakeholders to get behind the vision. They also set the criteria for a successful end result.
  • Owns the product roadmap. When everyone is on board, the product manager initiates the product-planning process and coordinates with teams to estimate timelines for each phase. They create a product roadmap that lays out each part of the project: milestones, product design strategy, ideation process, testing, launch, and monitoring.
  • Manages the ideation process. The product manager follows the product through various iterations, coordinating with teams and ensuring that stakeholders are operating with the same priorities. This process is different for every company but may include product design, building prototypes, testing, and beta releases.
  • Launch and tracking. When the final product launches, the product manager tracks the progress using predefined metrics. This provides valuable data and insights that inform future products.

Product manager skills

A product manager has a unique position in the company. They’re influential, but they don’t necessarily wield a great deal of authority. That’s what makes the product manager role so challenging — candidates must be able to drive product development without the ability to command participation.

This process requires highly developed communication skills. There’s a reason companies often refer to their product managers as “evangelists” — they’re exceptionally skilled at selling a product vision in a way that wins over stakeholders. Successful managers are persuasive and motivating, but they also have the data to back up their product ideas. They have a deep understanding of the product, customer, business, and industry, and they know how to convey it in a compelling manner.

Product managers have a deep understanding of the product, customer, business, and industry, and they know how to convey it in a compelling manner.

Product managers also need moderation and problem-solving skills. They know how to get team members to collaborate in a way that serves the product requirements. When conflict arises between the product designers and the marketing or engineering teams, for example, the product manager is often the person who guides the parties to a compromise.

Strategic and analytical skills are critical for project managers. They should be able to assess and analyze research, data, and the competitive landscape. Using that information, they must identify opportunities for new products and develop an appropriate product strategy.

Some of the most important product manager skills are:

  • Ability to make data-driven decisions
  • Organization and attention to detail
  • Prioritizing and multitasking
  • Working knowledge of product management tools
  • Understanding of Agile philosophy (when relevant)

product manager illustration

Product Manager Job Description

Writing the product manager job description is a great way to define what the role looks like in your company. Start by laying out the responsibilities of the job, and consider your required and desired qualifications. If you foresee hiring additional managers in the future, it’s helpful to turn your initial draft into a reusable template.

Job Overview

In the job overview section, provide a brief description of the role. Explain how the product manager fits into your company, and touch on the high-level goals for the position. Make sure to discuss the industry and the scope of the products the candidate will manage.

Product Manager Roles & Responsibilities

This section defines the product manager’s duties, both on a macro and micro level. The exact responsibilities will depend on factors such as the type of product and your company’s size, structure, and range of products.

Some of the duties you might consider including in a job description are:

  • Identify and evaluate potential product opportunities
  • Translate business goals and priorities to products
  • Champion customer or user needs
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Make data-driven decisions
  • Create positioning strategies for each product
  • Develop and maintain product roadmaps
  • Coordinate with cross-functional teams during the development and launch
  • Manage the technical documentation process
  • Keep all stakeholders aligned and motivated
  • Oversee the ideation process
  • Define and track key performance indicators
  • Ensure company products and pricing are aligned with market demands
  • Work with sales and marketing teams to refine product messaging
  • Oversee beta releases and pilot programs
  • Oversee the implementation and support process

The product manager responsibilities will vary considerably based on your company’s size and resources. Take data analysis, for example. If you run a large corporation, the candidate might be able to work with in-house analysts to segment and interpret data. In a smaller company, the project manager may need to tackle research, data collection, and analysis on their own.

Qualifications for a Product Manager

As you set qualifications for your product manager, consider the size of the products and how the role will impact the direction of the company. Product managers who oversee small projects may not need as much experience as someone who’s managing your entire product line.

  • Education: Most companies require a bachelor’s degree in business or a relevant field.
  • Industry experience: Because product managers need such in-depth knowledge of the product, customer, and industry, it’s typically a good idea to look for candidates with relevant professional experience. You might consider people who have worked in engineering, programming, technical sales, or product design jobs. The standard is about 5-10 years of experience, although your requirements may vary.
  • Certifications and training: If your company deals with highly technical, specialized, or regulated products, it may be necessary to find a candidate with specific training or certifications. This helps ensure that they have adequate knowledge to guide product development.

When to hire a product manager

Companies hire product managers for many reasons. You might consider adding the role if:

  • Your teams can’t agree. The project manager is an influencer — after they analyze and prioritize potential products, they rally other teams to their cause. A great product manager can build consensus and enthusiasm, getting your disparate teams on the same page.
  • You’re ready to grow. If your company is poised for expansion, the project manager can be instrumental in building new products or improving the existing lineup. They bring order to the process, ensuring that each project is in line with the company’s goals.
  • You want to improve your position in the market. The product manager keeps a close eye on the market and identifies ways you can improve the experience for the end user. Done successfully, this process can increase loyalty, build a bigger customer base, and help your company stand out from competitors.

As your company grows, you may bring on additional product managers. Eventually, you can add structure and leadership to the product management team by hiring a senior product manager or head of product.

Product Manager vs. Product Marketer

A product manager is responsible for identifying and prioritizing product ideas strategically and shepherding them through the development process. A product marketer comes in at the end of that process; they communicate the features and benefits of the product to the user. The product marketing team conducts market research, creates and executes marketing strategies, and tracks the performance of each campaign.

Is a product manager the same as a product owner?

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they aren’t the same. The product owner is a defined role in the Scrum methodology. The product manager takes a high-level, conceptual view of the project; the product owner has a more hands-on role. They work directly with the product development team to achieve smaller goals within the overall project plan. A product manager might also be responsible for decision-making and backlog management.

Great product manager job descriptions streamline hiring

A talented product manager can help your company improve product development and encourage strategic business growth. When you take the time to write a product manager job description that’s tailored to your industry and organizational structure, you can increase your chances of finding qualified candidates to take your company to the next level.