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Recruitment Strategies to Implement When Hiring Niche Talent

Leadership
Collaboration
Hiring

14 October, 2021

James Tobias
James Tobias

Senior Product Manager at Mapware

James Tobias, Senior Product Manager at Mapware, shares how recruiting niche talents is a tough line of work and how to overcome the barriers.

Problem

Sometimes to find the perfect candidate for an open position, you may need to dig deeper. In my experience, I have seen that it’s easy to hire someone who has experience in product and someone who has product management experience, but it’s a challenge to find a candidate who overlaps both of those. During my time at one of the commercial banks, I was brought in as the first product manager to help get things started and going. However, I needed another colleague to assist and lead a second team.

We went through an intense hiring process, and that’s when we identified that if we needed someone with more industry experience or product background. We also had to set some goals for the position. If it was very much hands-on product ownership, deciding between working more with the engineering team or working with the customers and higher strategic vision pieces. Long story short, product management was more about having industry knowledge, whereas product ownership was all about product knowledge. This niche recruiting became an avalanche of challenges to find the qualified candidate who was passionate about the job.

Actions taken

To begin with, I worked closely with HR to find the right resumes. Generally, we didn’t have a shortage of candidates to choose from. Still, it was more about going through the interview process and ensuring that the right people were communicating with the potential co-worker. I also found that interviewing with a particular type of design challenges how the person would be in a product management role.

I gave the candidates a prompt to work on. Let’s say, if they were a product manager, given a product, how would they work on it? We gave them about 30 minutes to work it on the fly to see what directions they had, the kind of questions they had, etc. It was an excellent test to see where they are and if they would be the right cultural fit.

Other than that, we had another take-home assignment, whereby they were given a prompt ahead of time. All they had to do was pull up a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation based on that. The most basic one was a telephone interview with someone from HR, followed by the product team. If they did make it to the next round, they would be sent the prompt via email.

Fast-forwarding months later, the person we finally hired ended up quitting after six months, which created a whole different level of challenge. That’s when we had to go to ground zero and start over again. We quickly analyzed what the person had done in some good areas while was weak in other areas. In order to look for a new candidate, we had to focus on the strengths that we didn’t think were important before.

Lessons learned

  • When hiring someone, make sure that the person is a good cultural fit and invested in what they have signed up for. Don’t preach too much about the role too quickly, but be honest about what the role actually is all about.
  • Product ownership versus product management is an important aspect that we don’t talk about every day. When we hired for the second time, it was critical to get someone with industry knowledge rather than product knowledge, which helped a lot.

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