Its 2023 – Here’s how to hire the best product talent
By Monika Dowal. Monika is a Partner at Zeren, leading the US Technology Practice. She has an extensive background working with high-growth businesses both as a search partner and a leader.
It’s 2023…here is how you hire the best product leaders in the current market.
“How are you finding the market?”
“How do you see the market going?”
Q1 is done, and with its ups and downs, the Zeren product team gets asked a lot of questions about how best to hire product leadership. Our answers often re-affirm people’s thoughts, as we all tend to digest the same information available to us. Where our responses become a little more unique is how the product leadership talent market is evolving, and ultimately – what candidates want in a new role within current market conditions.
I’ve condensed this into 5 areas, and if you can comfortably tick these boxes – your next product hire will go smoothly, and they will thrive.
Trust and autonomy
In tougher economic times, it’s only natural to keep closer to the detail and double, even triple-check things. However, remember why you are hiring a product leader…they need the space and autonomy to work and bring the needs of the customer to the table. Remember: this means they will say “no” (quite a lot), and invalidate your ideas for new features or assumptions. That’s ok though…that’s their job!
If you’re a founder, CEO or you have experienced product leaders reporting into you – keep your focus on vision, supporting on subject matter and team dynamics. Then watch them work their magic. You’ll know very quickly if you have made a great hire.
Stability and reassurance
It’s commonly known that great product leaders should be comfortable taking ambiguous problems, breaking them down, and building a hypothesis. However, in today’s market, more candidates are asking about the stability of clients’ funding, investment and investment into technology, their runway, and the roadmap. They are looking for the right signals.
Criteria lists have got longer, and appetites for solving more chaotic/dysfunctional problems are harder to find. On the flip side, we can also confidently say that product leaders are still looking for impact and complex problems, but they are asking a lot more questions up front and will be very curious about these topics specifically.
Set up for success
A simple one: How big is your engineering team? How is it structured? What is the tech stack? How do they currently work? How well-equipped are they? Make sure your answers are clear, punchy and compelling here. Remember: The Product team represents the “why” for the user, and the Engineering team represents the “how”.
This is a critical partnership. In the event your Engineering team is in need of some TLC or needs new talent, just be honest. The Product Leader will appreciate this, and they should even think about ways in which they can help support in improving this. Perhaps frame this into a set of interview questions…?
As we know, this applies to more than just product teams – but it’s incredibly prevalent when we speak with product leaders in today’s market. Product and Technology teams have proven that they can work well remotely, either in a fully remote setup, or hybrid.
Equally, the more senior the hire, the more they will appreciate there is a need for SLT collaboration, as well as culture building in person. However, any more than 2-3 days a week in the office is likely to put people off, with 3 days even being too much in some cases. How well are you set up for this, and how ‘flexible’ vs ‘mandatory’ is your policy?
Clarity of vision
In today’s market, it’s easy to take the eye off the customer – but a great product leader wants to see the clarity of vision from your leadership team particularly. This will help your product leader bring order, generate consensus, and galvanise cross-functional teams to push through what can be tougher times.
Hiring freezes, layoffs, uncertainty and caution – these are headlines we are seeing every day. The best thing you can do is execute against your company and product vision, reminding people of your purpose and why you are all working together. All you need to do now is put that into a compelling company pitch, and you’ll have a product leader’s attention!
This is by no means a finite list, but as we continue in 2023 with hope for the future, it’s important to be mindful of the impact you are making, and what resonates with top product talent who still has options.
Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.
We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment firm with teams and offices in San Francisco, Houston, New York, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.
We partner with high-growth, VC/PE-backed businesses and ambitious Corporate brands placing senior leaders, building exceptional teams, or providing critical interim and consulting talent.