Posted on June 1, 2020A candidate described her current job search to me as “a fast locomotive barreling down the tracks hitting a concrete wall.” True. The last few years of robust hiring in Product Management came to a screeching halt as the pandemic set in. Many companies have gone into hiring lock-down mode as employers figure out how to adjust to the new normal. However, there are companies in New England that are bucking this hiring freeze and continue to interview and hire for selective roles, Product Management being among them. The current climate has offered companies the opportunity to attract talent that would have been much harder to find just a few months ago. Therefore, it makes sense for candidates to think of themselves as a product and find the right product-market fit. This means targeting job opportunities requiring their specific skill set and positioning themselves as the ‘right fit’ to stand out from the crowd.
Supply and Demand are Not Aligned
Not too long ago, candidates were sitting in an enviable position. The unemployment rate was low and the number of candidates in the market was small relative to the number of openings. That market dynamic shifted overnight with layoffs in many industries, venture capital firms pulling back, and a historically high unemployment rate. This deluge of workers on the open market has led many employers to believe that there is an abundance of candidates available. However, some hiring managers are realizing that identifying the right candidate is not easy. Those hiring managers want to adhere to the exact job requirements of a certain product management role but are finding it challenging to find the right fit as they sift through resumes received for each open position. Candidates should keep this in mind and seek to set themselves apart from the pack. They should concisely emphasize the skills and professional experience that speak to the job requirements of each position under consideration and be sure to highlight their past relevant accomplishments and deliverables.
Candidates must also consider adjacent positions where their related skills are easily identifiable, such as Product Marketing. Consider that the skills used in past roles that are not directly aligned to the job description may be less obvious to a hiring manager: candidates must underscore the skills they acquired in the past that could be relevant to the product management job they are applying for. For instance, a former Program Manager may have managed client and guest preferences, designed, and implemented strategy, and set specific objectives and roadmaps for success. Without calling out these skills, a hiring manager may never be able to relate to the candidate’s ability to handle the demands of a product role and fit the person into a fast-paced demanding environment.
The New Workplace
Office space and on-site requirements for employees will be guided by legal and health guidelines. The comfort of employees will be a major consideration upon return to reconfigured offices. Many local companies still want employees onsite at least a few days a week when State restrictions are lifted. They feel that in certain roles, productivity and team synergy is best when people are working in the office, even if for fewer days in a week. Some candidates however are opting out of interviewing with these companies because they are not comfortable with returning to an office, ever. Many candidates do not want to commute even when that commute may be reasonable, either via public transportation or by car, or the company is putting in place new standards that prioritize the employee's health and safety . While this may sound like cherry picking by candidates, it is surprisingly still happening in an environment where unemployment rate is at an all-time high. Candidates that show flexibility in their work environment expectations may have an edge.
Candidates can stand out by doing more research on companies than done before. Candidates must research a role and the company to ask more in-depth questions about revenue and expenses, relationships with customers, and employee retention history. In the end, candidates will benefit from learning that their future employer can weather potential ups/downs in the economy. While there are mixed opinions from our client companies as to whether these types of questions are examples of candidates being thorough or whether they come across as a sign of unnecessary entitlement, candidates must be mindful about asking the right type of question at the right time.
While the above recommendations may sound a daunting exercise when searching for a job, it is the candidate’s responsibility to stand out and truly shine.
Larry Kahn is the Vice President of Recruiting for New Dimensions in Technology(NDT) a Boston area permanent placement firm focused on the high technology industry. With over 26 years of recruiting experience in high technology, Larry has seen many swings in the job market, and his deep connections with both candidates and client companies bring a very real perspective. If you would like to contact Larry, he can be reached at LK@NDT.COM or visit www.ndt.com