A senior product manager had a great interview the other day.
“I know the industry. I worked on the first generation of their product. I know their customers. I could do this job. I understand their problems. I showed them how I’d solved their problems in the past. I can do this again.
“It’s a little junior for me, but I don’t want a go-get-’em job. I’m at the point in my life where I want to take a little time for me. The kids area done with college. I want to take a little extra vacation time so I can spend more time on my hobbies and travel. That makes my salary competitive. I’m not ready to retire. I still want to challenge myself. But I don’t need to work like crazy either. This would be a great job.
“The people there said, ‘You’re like family.’ I’m the best candidate for the job. Why are they even interviewing the third candidate?”
When the economy is down or improving, hiring managers think they have a glut of candidates. They think they can take their time and hire slowly. They think they can wait for the best person.
This is a hiring trap.
What they do is postpone their pain, and allow terrific candidates, the best people to slip through their fingers. Do they think this product manager is going to wait for them to make up their minds? No. This guy is going to have offers, and fast.
He’s capable. He’s competitive. He knows how to solve the problems this and other companies need solved. And, just because this company can’t make up it’s mind quickly doesn’t mean other companies won’t.
We don’t really have a war for talent. We never did. But, you, the hiring manager are in a competition for the best people. The best people for you, are only an offer away. Do you really need to interview a slew of people to know who is best?
If you start describing someone as “family,” maybe you can stop looking. Just a thought.
If you think you need to keep looking, what are you looking for? Why drive the cost of a hire up?
Don’t fall into the trap of waiting for the best person. Hire a great person. Now.
When I speak to job hunters, they often think they can get a job doing what they studied, or what they have done, or they way they have always searched.
“But the last three times I looked, I looked exactly this way.”
“This is what I studied in school. I should be able to find a job.”
“I’ve been doing this for years. Why can’t I find a job doing this now?”
You used to look for a job that way. You studied that, yes. You did work that way, yes. You are correct. However, the world has changed. The world is not going to adapt to you. You need to adapt your job search. What do you do?
You need data.
If you are doing retrospectives as I suggest in Manage Your Job Search, and measuring the number of phone screens and interviews, you should have some data. Are you happy with the number of phone screens and interviews? If you are, okay. Maybe you don’t have to worry.
If you are not happy with the number of phone screens and interviews, you need to change something. Consider expanding your target network in some dimension.
If you were in the financial services domain in 2008, you were in a similar position. Remember 2008? We were in the not-recession? (Ahem. We were.) Technical people could still get jobs, but not in the financial services domain. Because of the banking problems, technical people had a real problem finding jobs. It didn’t matter how good they were. That was not the issue. The problem was the domain. If you restricted yourself to financial services, you were out of luck (for the most part).
What can you do?
If you have Manage Your Job Search, do a career timeline. That will help you determine what you valued about your job. If not, make a list of the parts of your job that you like. What about the domain that you have been in was the challenge that you enjoyed? Make a list.
Armed with that list, or your list of values, now, you can ask yourself this question:
What is close to that job, but employers value now?
You need to look for what I think of as tangential jobs. Close to what you had, but a little different.
If you used to work in banking, maybe it was the high-transaction, performance work that you liked. Well, Big Data might be for you. Maybe security is right. Maybe it was the regulatory work that appealed to you. You might want to move into pharma. Do you see how you can take something from your previous work, and transition to new work? These are examples. You will have to think, peruse the open jobs and see what employers want.
This allows you to stay in your geography (maybe), but revamp your resume, update your networking, and modify the way you consider your work. It’s difficult. It requires introspection. Then, you have to change your target network list. You might have to change all of your networking.
If you feel as if you’re back at the beginning, don’t worry. You have your personal kanban to keep you on track, and your retrospectives to help you see where you’re going.
Your data, how many phone screens you have and how many interviews you have weekly, can help you understand what you need to do.
It’s scary, looking for a job. But it’s scarier to be unemployed. Take control of your job search. Manage your job search. Don’t let yourself be boxed in by your past.
Have you read The next thing Silicon Valley needs to disrupt big time: its own culture? If not, it talks about hiring processes where companies
There’s more, but this is all done in the name of “meritocracy” and “cultural fit.”
You can call it cultural fit, but it’s not. It’s lazy interviewing. It’s bias against anyone who doesn’t look like us, sound like us, or is us, whomever us is. It creates an insular culture.
It’s a shame, because for any challenging product and knowledge work, you need diverse teams and diverse ideas to work together, to collaborate to create a great product. I’ve said it, in Great People Create Great Products. Anita Wooley says you need women in Defend Your Research: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women. If you read Diversity and Innovativeness in New Product Development Teams:
Diversity can be a resource that helps to strengthen the innovativeness of a NPD team.
On the other hand , diversity can act as a risk
that leads to diminished team cohesiveness and thus obstructs innovativeness.
I didn’t say it was easy.
Here’s the problem: if you are creating a product for the marketplace, where the people don’t all look like you, you need to understand your market. You need to understand how those people think, how they use the product, and what they might want to buy.
If you only hire people who look just like you, act just like you, are mini-me’s, you don’t know anything about your potential market. You cannot empathize with your customers. You have created an insular culture. You are on your way to mediocrity.
Why do I say mediocrity? Because you have no way to get new ideas. You have the same kinds of people, who have the same experiences, who dress the same way, who think the same way, who act the same way. You have group-think. You might be great now. Someone else will eclipse you, because they have better ideas. They have more diverse ideas. Where do you think those ideas come from?
What do you do?
Think about the most successful people and your most successful teams now. What differentiates them from the less successful people? I bet it’s qualities such as these:
Read Hiring Geeks That Fit to understand what to do. Hiring is your most important job. You can do it fast and do it right.
I will be at Agile 2014 next week. So will about 1800 other people.
I bet some of you are looking for new jobs. Would you like an Open Jam session about looking for a new job? I can conduct a timeboxed, up to one-hour session about Manage Your Job Search. If you only want the networking tips, I can do that. Only the job search tips and traps? I can do that.
The first step is this: let me know if you want an open jam session. If so, we’ll find time that we are all free.
Remember, a conference is a rich place for target networking.