You’re hiring a product manager. Do you hire an experienced product manager who can acquire domain expertise or a domain expert that can learn how to be a product manager?

It’s a dilemma for many hiring managers. In the absence of the ideal candidate, an experienced product manager with strong domain expertise, you’re faced with a tough decision.

In all my years as a practitioner and 18 years listening to my clients, this is a no-brainer. Hire an experienced product manager! If history is any kind of teacher, your odds of success are much greater with an experienced product manager.


Here’s the bottom line. The ramp time for an experienced product manager to acquire domain expertise is significantly less than the ramp time for a domain expert to learn the product management ropes.

Experienced product managers know what to do right from the get-go. They know what questions to ask, who to ask, and most of all, they’re great facilitators of the process, none of which require domain expertise.

Domain experts on the other hand, come to the table with ready-to-go business requirements. But the time it takes to translate those business requirements into commercialized products is too long and presents too many speed bumps for someone without experience.

The most successful product managers I’ve ever worked came into the job without domain expertise. They had great product management experience. Their advantage was that they kept everyone focused on two things:

  1. Business value to the customer.
  2. Business and leadership skills required to make their products successful.

There are exceptions in every case when you’re hiring a product manager and there’s no guarantee of success or lack thereof in either scenario. Please share your experiences on this LinkedIn post.

Hiring product managers? Use this product manager job description to get started.

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