When To Hire a Chief Product Officer

Timing is everything when incorporating a new team member as part of a company. Hiring too soon can cause unnecessary financial stress, while waiting too long can put your business behind. The following are several points to help you when hiring a Chief Product Officer.

How to Determine When to Hire a Chief Product Officer

1. You need time to focus on other aspects of the business

You might be a phenomenal product developer, but the company needs you elsewhere. As the founder, you need to focus on other aspects of the business. Making important decisions, pitching to investors, interviews, and meetings can quickly fill up your calendar. If you feel your time could be best spent elsewhere, or you simply no longer have the time to lead this department, it’s time to hire a Chief Product Officer.

2. Your company is ready for expansion

Is your company ready to expand the product line into a new territory? Does the company have visions of new products and getting them into new locations? This type of expansive thinking will take your business to new heights but requires a dedicated CPO to lead the way.

As your company grows, you’ll need time to focus on executive responsibilities. If your company is ready for expansion, this means it’s also ready for a Chief Product Officer.

3. Your company needs product management

A product leader is essential for the operation of a business. A company needs to determine which product to prioritize, build it, and introduce it to the market. A Chief Product Officer can create and develop the product, be in charge of project management, and act as a team leader. Incorporating this leader as part of your company is a valuable decision that will translate into increased cooperation and direction within your team.

What to Look For in a Chief Product Officer

It’s time to start the hiring process, which means it’s also time to draft the job description. To attract the most qualified candidates, you need to articulate exactly what you want from your new team member. Wondering what to look for in a Chief Product Officer? The following are five important traits to consider.

1. They have the skills needed to succeed

The first thing to look for in a candidate is their skillset. Product development, customer segmentation, tech-savviness, understanding of marketing, and leadership are some of the most important skills to look for in this position.

2. They believe in your vision

You’ve explained the vision for your product in the job description, on your website, and during the interview. By now, the candidate should have enough information to understand your vision. However, it’s not just enough to understand it.

It’s important to find a candidate who truly believes in your vision.  Be attentive to candidates who have clearly done their research, brainstormed some ideas, and show enthusiasm about your company and what you do.

3. They can keep pace with your company

Startups and growing companies move at a fast pace. How nimble and responsive your Chief Product Officer largely depends on your company and product.

Whether you’re a tech startup releasing new software versions or an e-commerce startup, your CPO’s energy level should be complementary to your company’s need for speed to move forward.

4. They communicate well with all teams

Chief Product Officers should feel comfortable coordinating with all your teams— and they’ll have the personality and ability to manage those various personalities. The person you’re looking for knows how to work across various divisions and unify everyone to work toward the ultimate goal.

5. They understand operations

Although your Chief Product officer will be mainly directing the Product Management team, this team member should understand operations. They will also assist in supervising other departments such as UX and Marketing, be part of the hiring committee, and assist with training.

What to Pay a Chief Product Officer

Your company has determined it’s the right time to hire a Chief Product Officer; you know what qualities and skills to look for, and the right processes have been set-up. A few interviews have also taken place, and you’ve narrowed it down to a few potential candidates. Now it’s time to talk numbers, but how can you determine what to pay a Chief Product Officer?

1. Do they have the skills needed to succeed?

First and foremost, what to pay a Chief Product Officer— and most positions— largely comes down to their skillset. Product development, customer segmentation, tech-savviness, understanding of marketing, and leadership are some of the most important skills to look for.

CPOs are also process-minded and have a deep understanding of operations.

2. Professional certifications and training

Specialized courses, certifications and training further improve abilities, which should definitely be considered part of the salary equation.

It’s also important to know which certifications or training your Chief Product Officer might need to best perform in your industry or business.

3. How much are other companies paying their chief product officer?

Reach out to your connections in the industry and ask what they’re paying their CPO and/or similar positions. Becoming aware of what’s going on in your local community or industry is a good way to learn more about salary expectations. LinkedIn is a great tool to leverage on for this purpose.


Y Scouts is a purpose-based, performance-proven leadership search and development firm focused on transforming how people and organizations connect to work that matters. When you’re ready to hire a new leader, contact Y Scouts. If you are looking for your next leadership role within a purpose-driven, performance-focused organization, please join the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

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