Hiring a Great Beta Program Manager

There’s a lot that goes into hiring for your beta program and a lot that rides on your decision. The person will be managing a process that can make or break your product, saving or costing you large sums of money. But you don’t have to approach this undertaking without guidance. Whether you call the position Beta Program Manager, Beta Test Manager, or Beta Test Engineer, we’ve got advice that will help you target the right qualifications and candidates. We’ve even put together a sample beta job posting that you can use as a template.

When it comes to experience, what you’re looking for from your candidates is going to depend on the specific position and the demands of your company. Senior positions commonly require heavy experience and some form of post-graduate degree, and Beta Coordinator tends to be an entry-level position with low requirements. Beta Program Manager, though, could fall anywhere in between. It may or may not require a 4-year degree. Even prior beta management experience is sometimes optional (though definitely preferable). The only constant is that it’s a very important position to fill.

So, how do you go about finding the right person? For starters, you’ll want to think about how well a candidate fits with the overall goals of your program, especially if beta experience isn’t a strict requirement at your company. If your beta program is heavily focused on quality, consider targeting candidates with a QA background. If you’re focused more on Acceptance Testing, it might be more appropriate to look for business analysts. Lastly, while this is more rare, we do encounter startups who want to use beta primarily for market research and product positioning feedback. In that case, Product Managers and Product Marketing Managers make good candidates.

Certifications and relevant technical or product experience are also good ways to distinguish candidates. Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are frequently sought after for beta program positions. Technical certifications can be an excellent indicator of the knowledge to really understand your product or market needs (e.g., CCNP/CCIP, CISSP, etc.). But don’t focus on certifications at the exclusion of work experience in your field, which is just as important. In the quality arena, a background in Six Sigma or ISO 9000 can be very beneficial for potential hires, since they will be well-versed in major quality initiatives.

A candidate’s interpersonal and organizational acumen are also critical to success as a Beta Test Manager, especially in larger companies. Beta programs traditionally sit at the intersection of many groups, such as QA, Development, and Product Marketing. Thus, managing a beta often involves being able to understand those groups’ needs, creating a unified plan for satisfying those needs, and juggling priorities to ensure the plan is executed properly. Communication skills, empathy, and a knack for navigating cross-departmental politics greatly aid this process.

But perhaps the most important thing to consider when hiring for your beta program is feedback — specifically, the candidate’s potential for eliciting it. After all, your beta program is only as good as the results it generates. Achieving and maintaining high beta participation typically requires an outgoing beta manager who is willing to engage one-on-one with his or her testers via email, phone, or otherwise. Experience in beta, community management, or customer support is invaluable in using those touch points to get the most out of your beta testers. When interviewing an experienced candidate, be direct about discussing past beta results. A candidate that looks great on paper, but gets sheepish about participation rates, test planning, and ROI might not be equipped to deliver the results you need and expect.

To help you get your hiring process started quickly, here’s a sample job posting that you’re free to edit and reuse:

Beta Test Manager Position Available

Levantra, a leading mobile device company, has an opening for a Beta Test Manager. The ideal candidate will have the following experience and be prepared to perform the duties and responsibilities noted below.

Qualifications
  • Minimum of 4 years relevant technical experience or Bachelor’s Degree (BS, BA).
  • Minimum 1 Year Field Service or Call Center experience preferred or related experience in customer service.
  • Good work ethic with an ability to adjust to constantly shifting schedules and time demands.
  • High level of written and verbal communication skills. Works well with people.
  • Strong project and time management skills.
  • Excellent organizational skills and has the ability to track and support multiple projects. Very detail oriented.
  • Technically proficient with a variety of mobile operating systems and computer hardware and software. Should grasp complex technology easily and be able to learn new information quickly.
  • Previous beta testing experience helpful.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
  • Provides direct support to Levantra test participants through accurate and detailed support practices. Maintains friendly and helpful demeanor with testers at all times. Meets or exceeds departmental response times.
  • Identifies potential project pitfalls and helps ensure successful completion of beta tests through effective communication and flexibility.
  • Coordinates with internal Levantra stakeholders and test participants as appropriate on the resolution of problems. Is proactive in seeking assistance from other staff members as required to quickly resolve issues.
  • Maintains accurate records of time and duties performed.
  • Promptly advises management of any situation that will cause a substantial delay in resolving a customer problem.
  • Responds promptly to messages and email and confirms receipt to customer, estimating resolution time if possible.

Tip: If you’re looking to hire a beta manager, we may be able to send you some candidates. Because of our position in the beta industry, it’s not uncommon for beta managers to ask us about open opportunities. Let us know if we can help by emailing us at jobs@centercode.com

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Image courtesy of Flickr user photologue_np.

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