There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling than seeing our respective happy outcomes: a couple happily dating, and a company that is thrilled with a new hire and vice-versa.
Welcome to the first-ever Talented Recruiting Thought Leadership Interview, where we have in-depth conversations with leaders in Product & Design. For my first interview, I spoke with Paddy Underwood, a Product Manager at Facebook who began his career as a lawyer and eventually found himself is drawn into the exciting, fast-paced and very impactful world of Product Management in tech.
It was great to reconnect with Paddy (Thanks Paddy! It was so great to connect with you!), and I walked away with a few key takeaways about being a PM in tech:
Being a PM means you get to have an incredible level of autonomy and ownership. At Facebook in particular, being a PM can sometimes feel like having your own start-up company.
It’s the ultimate cross-functional role. You will be working with Engineers, Product Designers, User Researchers, etc, so knowing how to communicate with a diverse group of people within a company is a critical component to the job.
There are many diverse pathways to becoming a PM (hint: you don’t have to be an Engineer), but what is required is an inherent passion and curiosity about how products are thought up, built and launched.
For the full interview- keep on reading!
TR: You’ve had an interesting career trajectory, beginning with being a lawyer and now working in product management. Tell me about what drew you to the world of product?
Paddy: My journey into product started before I went to law school. While growing up, I taught myself to code, and discovered that I loved to build websites and simple software. During college, I studied History & Economics and decided to go to law school. During law school, in addition to some really amazing legal opportunities, such as working at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Attorney's Office, I landed an internship in the Facebook legal department working on product, privacy, and ads.
Facebook then hired me out of law school to join the company as a lawyer. I was immediately drawn to a role called Product Counsel - so for every new feature that is being built, you are collaborating with the product team to meet legal and compliance obligations while also ensuring a good customer experience. I realized pretty quickly that I was really drawn to the Product side of the business.
TR: Tell me about how that transition - going from the Legal team to Product - formally happened. Was it a gradual process or an immediate transition?
Paddy: Facebook encourages people to move around the company - team to team, and also across functions. As a trained lawyer, I had a lot to learn about product to make the move. So I started leading projects at hackathons, spent time with Product and Engineering counterparts on product problem-solving initiatives that were in the scope of my role on the Legal team, and eventually found an advocate in the Product organization who sponsored my transfer to PM. With some solid experience and support from Facebook’s Product leadership, I interviewed for PM and quickly made the switch.
Since I moved to product six years ago, I’ve worked on many different product problems at Facebook. Initially, I led Facebook’s privacy product team launching the Privacy Checkup family of products and making new, safer privacy setting defaults. Later, on News Feed, my team created new ways to share and have conversations and built an internal-facing platform to make it fast and easy for Facebook teams to build great experiences in News Feed. And for the last year on Libra, Facebook’s cryptocurrency project, building a custodial wallet that our customers can use directly from Messenger, WhatsApp, or as a standalone app.
TR: How is the Product Management role structured at Facebook?
Paddy: At the end of the day, PMs at Facebook are responsible for ensuring their teams are successful. This means making sure the team has a great strategy, products that solve real problems for people, and excellent execution. PMs spend their days working with a diverse team of experts like designers, engineers, researchers, data scientists, and marketers making sure the team is firing on all cylinders. We have a saying at Facebook - “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” - this is especially true for PMs.
TR: What makes being a PM at Facebook unique to other tech companies?
Paddy: The scale of the products we are building is a major differentiator. Newsfeed has nearly 2 billion monthly active users. At Facebook you have the opportunity and the responsibility of building products that affect the daily lives of people around the world. This is simultaneously exhilarating and humbling. Also, the company culture at Facebook is unique. Facebook empowers product teams to set their own goals and strategy, to experiment, try things, and -- famously -- to “move fast.” Each product team has a lot of autonomy and ownership over the Products they are working on.
Given the immense diversity of people who use our products, teams at Facebook are excellent at using data and user research to make sure we’re focusing on solving the most important problems for people and validating that products we build are actually solving those problems. Facebook invests a lot of time and energy in amazing data and research tools to enable every team at the company to do this.
TR: How is accountability thought about and executed at Facebook?
Paddy: We have our performance review cycle - which is driven by peer feedback. The three biggest factors are measured in our performance cycle for PMs: 1. What did you measurably do to improve your product; 2. What did you do to help the overall organization be more impactful (i.e. did you help recruit great PMs to join your team? What else have you done at Facebook to impact the entire company? etc); 3. What do your peers and teammates think of your contribution to the team’s success?
TR: What does your day to day job consist of?
Paddy: There is no average day - but I try to spend time every day working on product and business strategy - thinking and working with my team; working on product definition and design; and execution (working cross-functionally to ensure products are being built, that we are analyzing data, etc). So basically: strategy, product definition, and execution are things I’m doing every day. I also make sure that the team is never blocked and we are on the same page with other important stakeholder teams -- this is critical in a large product organization like Facebook.
TR: On average - how many meetings do you have every day?
Paddy: PMs have a lot of meetings -- a big component of our job is communication. That said, over time, I’ve significantly reduced the amount of meetings I have every day. I’ve learned to be protective of my time and make sure I have time to do heads down creative work. One really important skill for a PM is scaled communication. For example, instead of doing 15 separate 1on1s during the week, make one post at the beginning of the week detailing your top three objectives for the week and share it with your peers. Encourage your peers to do the same. Good process can eliminate needless meetings.
TR: What attributes and skill sets (both “hard” and “soft”) are vital to being a good PM?
Paddy: Hard skills that are important include product and business strategy, understand customer needs and problems, taste in consumer experiences, data and measurement techniques, and project management. On soft skills, I focus on influence, coaching, giving/receiving feedback, and communication.
TR: What advice would you have for someone who is just starting out in the PM tech space?
Paddy: You can move to PM from many roles. No matter what your job title is today, look for opportunities to push the product forward. Some other things I’d recommend:
Build in your spare time
Make time to practice strategic thinking and product thinking
Get a mentor
When choosing a team, optimize for learning and growth, not sexy features or brand
There are many types of PMs (technical, design, consumer, data-driven, growth, etc.), find your strengths, what you enjoy, and find roles where those are the key skills
TR: What advice would you give to other companies in terms of making sure that Product Managers have a key seat at the decision-making table?
Paddy: PMs are an awesome organizational tool. If your company sells products or services at any scale, explore adding a Product Management role. If you have PMs already, empower them to really own and drive their product or business. Give them autonomy. You’ll get better output from teams when they own their destiny and are held accountable for success.
As Talent Acquisition professionals own serving as career fiduciaries to our candidates and hiring partners, and candidates and hiring managers look to us as such, the impact we have in creating a world where the best people are working at the best places and engaged in meaningful purposeful work is at an all-time high.
Product managers are the modern inventors - from concept to production and then through end of life, product managers spearhead the projects that nurture the design of new ideas and bring them to the public.
What that means is a product manager creates all day! Sound like a fun time to you? It is! But if you’re skeptical, here are five reasons you should absolutely not be a product manager:
You don’t want to make money. Salaries for product managers vary widely depending on experience, part of country, and field of product, but product managers in general make well over nationwide income average. On the low end, a product manager brings in $70,000. A technology product manager in Silicon Valley though can make $130,000.
So absolutely don’t become a product manager if you want to pay your bills, have
cash left over, and have some fun when you aren’t working!
You hate playing all day. Product managers are inventors and head up teams of inventors! We tinker with our inventions all day, finding and eliminating the flaws, making them more and more “sticky” for consumers. The product managers for fidget cubes, for example, play with toys all day.
Do you hate playing with delightful inventions that become your pride and joy when you see people all over the world playing with them too? You’ll hate this job, then.
Thinking is boring. Do you love to stare at ceilings with your mind completely blank and your mouth collecting flies? If you hate finding elusive solutions, and if you hate breakthroughs and breaking stalemates, product management is going to be the worst! Don’t choose a career that makes problem-solving a habit - who wants that!
You don’t like to win. Charlie Sheen probably should have gone into product management! But if you prefer losing and you don’t have tiger blood, you’ll definitely hate product management. We’re always playing games and keeping scores, keeping metrics to know when we’ve won. Don’t want to be a winner - don’t join our club!
You don’t get things done. Do you hate to prioritize? Do you have five minute tasks from 2015 still on the to-do list? Product management is going to be awful! All that checking things off and moving on to new challenges - awful!
There you are! You hate winning, playing, succeeding, thinking, and making money - then you definitely shouldn’t be a product manager!
Something I’ve always found interesting as an HR person is that everyone gets nervous for an interview, most of us do pretty poorly with them, and yet, at the same time, a lot of us think interview coaching is a big waste of time and we think we know what to do in one. If it’s a waste of time to have an interview coach, if we know how to interview - why in the world are we doing such a terrible job in them?
An interview coach helps people prefer for the Grand Inquisition - aka the job interview for the job we want. The name kind of gives it away! But it’s not just prepping us for how to answer the same boring questions we always have to answer. You’d be really surprised what services a coach can offer if you think that’s all they actually do.
Here are some reasons an interview coach can help you:
Do you get really nervous? An interview coach will help you practice until you’re confident.
Do you have a problem spot? Have you been fired before? Did you take a lot of time off? Changing careers? A coach can help you with messaging - and this definitely needs messaging!
Do you get a lot of interviews, but not many offers? That’s actually not that uncommon, but an interview coach can let you know if your average is off and can help you bump it up either way. You’ll find out if you’re overselling in your resume and letting them down at the interview, or if you’re underselling at the interview and not closing the deal.
It’s been a long time! Lucky you, haven’t had to do this torture in awhile! But now you’re back in the game and the interviewing process has changed. A coach will get you up to date.
This interview is for your dream job. Don’t let this one get away! A coach will help you land this for sure.
Interview coaching can take place in person, online, or on the phone. Typically a coach will do at least one mock interview and give a list of questions for the client to prepare for. They’ll provide feedback and then hopefully help you practice more. They’ll help you with body language, questions to ask of the company, and even work with you on how to dress appropriately.
The services of an interview coach can make the difference between a lot of wasted time in multiple interviews, or landing the job of your dreams in the first round. If you’re considering re-entering the job market, you’ll want to consider this so you have the upper hand!
Job interviews are a painful process for applicants, but not many people realize they can be pretty painful for recruiters and HR too. I love meeting new people, which is one of the reasons I love my job, but I’m not perfect (yet!) at the craft of conducting the mighty, feared job interview! But after years of honing my skill, I’m not a deer caught in headlights either. Here are five mistakes I know to avoid while in the interview process, and you should too!
Lack of prep. Every piece of advice on interviewing tells the candidate to prepare. And the interviewer will certainly notice if they don’t, and give them a big red strike! But not too many people remind the interviewer that we have to do the same. You can’t walk into every interview the same way - some candidates know the ropes, some don’t. Some have experience, many don’t. There are candidates you know you’re going to want in your arsenal, and there are others you have to evaluate first. The ball isn’t completely in your court; you have to sell the position almost as much as the candidate does themselves if you have a really hot match. An unprepared candidate risks losing a job opportunity, but in a way the recruiter has more at stake - the candidate you drop the ball on might be highly sought after and perfect for a few different roles you need to fill. Your client may need that client - you wouldn’t know which one you can “wing it” through and which one needs wining and dining, because you didn’t prepare in the first place! Treat all candidates equally when it comes to prep time.
Veering off track during the interview. There’s nothing wrong with small talk. I genuinely enjoy talking about the weather or what I did over the weekend. Small talk relaxes both parties and helps you get to know the candidate a little better, establishing a relationship for the benefit of both of you. But be careful - the interview process is delicate, and you don’t want to ask for any information that might be considered confidential. The candidate would need to volunteer it and you have to ensure it won’t affect your hiring process. Topics to steer clear of at this particular stage include (but aren’t limited to) family, religion, age, and health.
Keeping the interview too brief. Cutting short the interview is a HUGE no-no, and there’s a danger of it with any busy recruiter. In a short time you can’t judge the candidate’s responses and behavior, and a candidate who gets left in the pile of resumes when you choose someone else may blame you because you didn’t take time with them. Worse - they might be right. A candidate who shows up late to the appointment is a whole other story entirely, but as the recruiter, make sure you show up on time and make sure you stay engaged until the end, without appearing to rush the other person.
Rudeness. There are a lot of different behaviors that come off as impolite, and most of know not to cross those lines of propriety - keep your feet off your desk, don’t play Candy Crush while the candidate is in the room, don’t burp, don’t comment on how much you hate the candidate’s shoes. Those are some shocking examples but I use them to illustrate with a little levity what we know not to do. It’s surprisingly common though for a hiring manager to be brusque and fire off questions like an interrogation. This is usually because the person is understandably rushed, and oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. But the effect is that the candidate shuts down. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to go into an interview like this and may lead to much bigger problems of accusations of unfair treatment down the road. Not only is this extremely impolite, but it usually means you have either already decided against the candidate - violating other rules here - or you’ll have the candidate rule you out, or you’ll miss the ability to uncover valuable hidden assets and talents from the now ex-candidate.
Don’t be quick to judge. Not all candidates are good at talking about themselves. If you get the impression the interviewee is shy or nervous, put them at ease. Some also know they’re darn good at what they do but they’ve been taught a little humility - confidence is great and it’s ideal for the interview, but some people can’t shake the ingrained for decades notion that we can’t brag about ourselves. Make a rule not to choose the candidate today. Complete the process and reflect on everyone you meet. That’s a bummer for the Type-A, rushed recruiter who wants to close today, but it means you’ll actually close and do it well, taking far less time and bringing in more leads for the future.
Interviewing is an art form - recruiters training candidates will say this over and over. We have to remember it’s an art from our side too. It takes practice and trial and error, some research, and dedication - and not a little natural talent and inclination to enjoy people. If you’re a veteran you know how frustrating it can be and that may make you rush too. Take it slow, steady, and gain more in the long run.
A lot of people have started talking about Konmari, but as a slightly obsessive-compulsive neat freak, who’s also the Type A and overcommitment type, I discovered her years ago, while trying to rein in the terror of the clutter I amass because I run from one project to the next with no time to put things away. The founder of Konmari is Marie Kondo (the term “Konmari” is a combination of her first and last names), and she’s a Japanese organizing guru. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she says her method will change the way you organize and clean, but it will also teach you to arrange the space around you in a way that will accommodate your lifestyle - and she isn’t overselling.
Kondo comes from a Shinto background; I’m not an expert on that culture but she says it has been integral to her organizational outlook. She tells people to identify what brings them joy - and only keep things that spark that feeling. Belongings should be acknowledged for their service and thanked before being let go of, but if they no longer spark joy, they shouldn’t take up space in your life. She says to hold the item, and if you don’t feel joy, you thank it for the role it played in your life, and you pass it on.
I was drawn to this first because I found it effective - I was rarely home and my house was full of clutter from collecting things I never used or appreciated. While I still don’t spend as much time in my house as I’d like to - who does? - I found that I was avoiding the space because it wasn’t comfortable to me. As a minimalist kind of person anyway, her method spoke to me. It places a lot of emphasis on mindfulness, introspection, and optimism, things I need to ground me already.
When joy is your standard, you confront each possession with earnestness, and reflection will tell you whether they make you happy now. You also start to realize as you go through the process what items you want to surround yourself with and will give you an idea of what your happiness really is, what it feels like, if you didn’t already know. - You might surprise yourself and find that it is much different than what you previously believed.
You tidy in categories, one day you go through one group of items, and another something else. It’s less overwhelming that way. She also has great advice on what to do with the things we think we might one day need, but never reach for. Here’s how KonMari has changed my life:
I stopped buying paper books. They have to be a favorite or a great resource I’m ready to read right now for me to give up the shelf space. Since selling or donating about 80% of the collection, my house has much less clutter and more room to breathe. No one said I don’t have an epically long to-read list, and an almost as long to-buy list. My e-book collection is massive too, but that doesn’t take up any shelf space, and it stays well-organized on a small tablet. But the only books taking up space on my shelves are well-cherished works that bring me joy and I refer to often, or new books I plan to read and give up quickly.
My clothes are in order. I fold them and store them differently now. It takes a little longer, but it’s a meditative process and I get rid of the pieces that don’t make me happy anymore, or when they’re damaged. I love how neat and tidy it looks, and I save time searching for things.
Those aren’t just personal life improvements - they improve my professional day too. I know where all my things are, so I’m not rushing to work because I fell behind getting dressed, grabbing the latest research book I purchased, making my breakfast, or what have you. The same methods apply to my workspace - I don’t have 1,000 apps clogging my phone, making it move slow when I need information quickly. My desk isn’t cluttered with toys and piles of junk. My briefcase carries the essentials I can reach for quickly.
I went from being rushed, chaotic, and behind on everything, to operating with the reliability of a machine even though I’m now surrounded by joy. It has increased my productivity in every way. Every so often a life management system comes along that doesn’t need any improvement. Not every part will work for everyone, but the guidelines Kondo provides make perfect sense for people on the go or who want to feel comfortable in their offices and homes.
Hiring new staff is expensive! It takes a lot of time to develop the new job title, then you post the ads, and then, honestly, that’s where the nightmare begins. You get an onslaught of resumes and inquiries, and somewhere in that haystack is your needle. If you’re lucky you have a few good needles in that haystack and you have to find them all, then choose the best. It can take hours and even weeks of payroll to find the right person, and if you strike out you have to keep going.
You know what - stop right there - if this were a TV show we could play the record scratch sound effect here (this one, if you’re not already hearing it in your head). You really need to call an agency recruiter instead. Here’s why:
You’ll have the position filled faster. The best recruitment agencies have an arsenal of people looking for the right job, and yours might be it. They’ll post your job if they need to, but it’s entirely possible they won’t have to because they know several people who might just be perfect, and they’re going to immediately a few candidates and present you with just the right ones. You won’t be wading through a pool of resumes from unqualified applicants, and the agency will take care of the initial interview and reference checks too. Agencies are also devoted to this - so while you’d squeeze it in with your other duties, it’s what they do all day. You don’t have to take time out of your day until the agency has found A-list candidates for you to start narrowing down.
You’ll probably find someone better too! The right person may never see your Craigslist ad. But the right person might be in the talent recruiter’s contacts. These are a cultivated list of contacts as opposed to just anyone reading Craigslist ads and shooting off resumes at random.
You can eliminate or reduce a lot of hiring and training costs. Some agencies actually offer training to many jobseekers, but high-end recruiters don’t, and don’t really need to. The referrals that come through these agencies are already top of their field. They’ll need continuing education just like everyone else, but they don’t need a thing to get their foot in the door. Sometimes they might even teach us something!
You’ll decrease turnover and the expenses that come with it. A poor employee takes up an entire day of your week. Forget about it if you have a staff of twenty and five of them qualify. For everyone you have to replace, you lose more hours. Keep quality staff from the start and your turnover goes dramatically down. A recruiter vets candidates before you even hear about them and once more (highly skilled and qualified) person vouching for them.
Goodbye overtime! An agency recruiter takes one more thing off your plate and frees your schedule. But it also means you have highly trained individuals who get the job done effectively and fast - they won’t take five hours on a job that needs one. Your business will run like a well-oiled machine.
There is really no good reason NOT to hire a recruiting agency to take on high-level hires! You’ll save time and money that you may not have even realized you were losing - and your work productivity will increase too!
One of the greatest debates product designers take on is that of the design test - yes or no? It’s a nerve-wracking idea to send your product into the wild before you may have tested every last feature, and once you feel like you have tinkered it into perfection, you’re ready to just be done and let the public loose on it, confident that you’ve addressed every possible issue. There are many more arguments for a test than not - as far as we can see, the only reason you wouldn’t want to do one is because you’re just over the product and want to be done, and that isn’t the right attitude to have a successful launch or a sticky product in the long run.
First, if you’re running design tests, you can release in a beta market with some flaws still in the product. That’s the point of user testing. You can test the product to death but unless you have it in the hands of the user, you’ll never know exactly how they’ll use it and what you might have missed. This will cut down on development time and therefore reduce your budget as you aren’t paying designers to play over and over with the same features, potentially missing the biggest bugs users will find immediately.
Studies show that companies who do design testing have a 228% higher return on investment than average, and conversion increases faster than traffic. With user testing, you’ll quickly learn what parts of your design are loved, which aren’t, where they get lost or where they get hooked, and what makes them or keeps them from converting. Design tests are also great ways to build customer loyalty - first looks make users feel good, and they’ll be talking about your product before even they’re completely satisfied - you just have to make sure you listen to and quickly implement their feedback.
Another great reason to implement design testing is reduction in costs - increase in ROI, reduction in cost - what is there to discuss? Did you know that fixing an error in post-development is 100 times more expensive than doing it before? And engineers spend half their time fixing preventable errors. QA testing won’t tell you what navigational features are confusing - they make sense to the creator. It won’t tell you what behavioral assumptions are wrong, and it won’t tell you what features you love that no one else cares about.
You’ll reduce customer service costs too - errors fixed are errors people aren’t messaging and calling about. Every UX dollar brings in at least double and sometimes up to $100 in return.
Where do customers get stuck? You’ll know if you have a design test. They’ll let you know if they can’t get past log-ins, if buttons and features don’t work, if the navigation is wrong or confusing, and so on. Customers are going to use the product differently than you do in the office. They won’t give it their full attention, analyzing every detail. You need every area working flawlessly without patches. So it isn’t just about catching your own errors - you need it to be user-friendly so the users don’t get frustrated because it’s hard for them to use correctly.
User testing also gets you an unbiased perspective. What do you think of the product? Well you - you, personally - love it because it’s your baby. The user was functioning fine without it yesterday and you have to sell them on it. Their perspective is what will matter ultimately and get them to use the product and tell others.
So in the end, do you want a design test? Absolutely, you do! Customers know good design, they expect it, and they’ll pay for it. You’ll lose a client over poor UX and you might not get them back after an initial bad impression - your competition is a click away and they can’t be better than you. One way or the other you’ll get feedback - do you want it after you’ve tested it to death on your own, are a little weary of it, and ready to move on? Or do you want it in the beginning when you can figure out how to fix things the user uncovers, while you’re still fresh on the project? The second way is the best way to ensure you have the best launch possible.
Clients and candidates must be clear with one another to get the right results; this is essential in the recruitment process and in the workplace as well. Let's tackle a few of the issues both sides are often less than transparent about:
Candidate skills and experience. Resume padding is a dangerous game to play - the candidate should be forthcoming about skills and qualifications. Keep in mind that you don't always have to match 100% of qualifications. You might catch their eye in other ways and be able to prove your ability to catch up and surpass. Misrepresenting yourself though does far more harm. People say that trust isn't built overnight but I find that isn't true. People believe what you say until they find out it’s untrue. It's re-building trust that isn't overnight, and in a professional setting there's no obligation to that effort. You're immediately disqualified if the potential employer catches a lie; you can be terminated if they find it later. It isn't worth the risk.
Compensation and job expectations. Employers need candidates to be forthcoming about background and skills, that's a given. Likewise, candidates need their potential organization to be upfront about compensation and what they're looking for. “Commensurate with experience” without at least a range listed isn't very straightforward, and “you'll need to talk to HR/the CEO/my cousin Earl about the salary” is a waste of time. Candidates have bills to pay too and need to be adequately compensated. Vagueness about the job is a red flag that tells the candidate they'll either be free-falling without a net in the role or they'll be doing too much for the time and financial constraints of the position.
Luckily, these communication conflicts are where a recruiter comes in. The recruiter knows the questions to ask and information to obtain from both parties and is a somewhat impartial mediator to get both what they need. There is a negotiating process to be sure but this is essentially a matching process - what do you need, what experience do you have, what are your goals and values - here is the perfect match.
Communication is the key element for both clients and candidates and always with the recruiter as well. Candidates may be back in a few years with more experience under their belts and clients will often have multiple roles to fill. Another key element - be easy to reach! Answer your phone, always call back, keep your voicemail empty, monitor your inbox.
Candidates should make recruiters aware of current and forthcoming interviews, potential or concrete offers, and any interview feedback they receive. Likewise, the client should provide the same information. The recruiter her- or himself is not immune to this back and forth of information and should provide whatever non-private information they have. If the job is difficult to fill, pinpoint and explain why.
This transparency we seek in the job hunt and HR world in general is vital. Employees spend most waking hours on the job and need to know what to expect. This avoids confusion about the job description and salary, experience, and skills, needed and offered. The client has a brand to build and the candidate has a career to develop and bills to pay. The right job is a benefit for everyone involved and builds a relationship of honesty and full engagement. Transparency creates a healthy work environment - and that leads to a robust brand and a promising career!
The hardest part of recruitment is finding the best candidates - we don't want good, we want amazing - and clients need to feel like that's what we produce. When we all know there are tons of qualified candidates out there but they aren't knocking down our door, it's a daunting process.
What's going on? Why don't people want this job? There can be a few reasons. Let's take a look at the possibilities:
Your job description needs some work. You write these every day, but how much attention do you actually pay to them? Honestly, if they've become routine and you pump them out, they're probably not as good as you think. This is your first contact and you need to design it so that it only reaches people who are actually qualified for the job - but it needs to reach them, too. A bad description may mean your inbox fills with queries who are in no way qualified but those who are apply elsewhere. You're just wasting time if you aren't putting energy into your job descriptions.
You're looking in all the wrong places. This is tricky these days. Jobseekers no longer flip through classifieds; they turn to the internet and social media. Did you know that 92% of businesses now use social media for recruitment? But this is difficult because that means everyone can see it - you'll have to wade through the un-candidates to get to the strong ones you're going to want to meet. There are ways around this - look for websites of people looking for exactly the kinds of offers you provide. You should rely on word of mouth too - in an age of disconnect that is more important than you realize. We know more people but we don't know them as well. Reach out to your networks; as they reach into theirs, you'll touch on someone.
You're too demanding. Employers want ROI, we get it. But you can't hire for four jobs on a half of a salary for just one person. For that matter, even a substantial salary needs realistic workload. If you ask for too much you will only pull in the same people you want to avoid from numbers 1 and 2 - the people who can't find anything and will just take anything. In this same vein, be mindful of the “10 years experience required, job ideal for recent graduate” trap. You have to be realistic, and you also have to be fair.
You don't offer enough. Your candidates have bills to pay. They can't work for nothing. Be fair to the candidate - if you aren't trying to woo them from the gate and instead let them know immediately they'll be undervalued, they won't ever enter your company. Most employees report that their salary doesn't match the work performed. Quality work product demands that your employees feel valued.
A bad brand. This one is the hardest to fix and you need to do it ASAP. You got here probably because of numbers one through four. If you expect top candidates to move from your job description to your application process, you must treat employees and clients well and cultivate your brand. To find out if this is the problem (you probably already know!) find out what your current employees like and dislike about the company, and understand what kind of culture you want versus what they report having, then decide if you’re happy with where you stand.
If you want top clients the bottom line is simple: treat them well.
Laszlo Bock, former head of People Operations at Google, has been named Human Resources Executive of the Year by Human Resources Executive magazine and cultivated an atmosphere within the tech giant that got it named best company to work for and employer of choice many times worldwide. In his book Work Rules, he discusses how the company grew into the world leader of its field and argued that economics was not its development’s primary driver.
Bock’s account turns on its head the traditional top-down business model of financial incentive which employers use as their standard fare to mobilize and motivate employees in pursuit of corporate goals. While the market is flooded with tomes on Silicon Valley management methods, Work Rules stands out in the field because it offers internal views into the operations and processes behind the iconic organization’s HR efforts and policy development, with take-away guidance to apply the concepts to the HR functions of any company large or small, tech or non-tech.
One of the best books I've ever read in the subgenre of people management and Human Resources organization, it's filled with anecdotes about life at Google but that's not all - I closed the book in the end with a deeper understanding of performance management, what drives people and brings results, and how to be data-driven in my HR approaches. What stood out to me was the argument to be shaped by data and numbers without letting that shape experiences with each individual - bell curves are for groups but not for each person in the group.
Also helpful to me personally was the insight about constant feedback; as an employer my view of feedback is a bit different than that of the employee, but as a business owner I actually find myself in both roles. The employer becomes rushed and doesn't always have time to discuss concerns, so situations become quietly monitored until they blow up - if feedback isn't controlled. What causes much less time waste and helps quality control of work product is to keep the feedback flowing regardless of how time-pressed one is. Without that communication, work redos and overstressed confrontations lead to avoidable chaos. Google doesn't have time for that, and neither does your company with under ten staffers. More importantly than your company overall, if we’re being honest, your staff doesn't deserve that.
Work Rules is a manual on leadership above all else and guides HR executives to cultivate healthy and successful work cultures from within an organization - how to hire the best from the beginning and how to keep them productive and satisfied with their position. If you feel overwhelmed hiring a couple of people a few times a year, imagine how Google does it, hiring thousands a year and likely mining those candidates from many more. Google pioneers HR while many other companies stick with toxic formulas that being in subpar candidates and manage them into being even less so.
As head of HR at Google, Bock brazenly brought in unconventional recruiting concepts that built the team into one of the most impressive on the planet. Success isn't from a resume - the resume just tells you how to get in touch with someone interested in the work. Instead, the best candidates should be given a (compensated) work test. See the candidate in the work environment - keeping in mind of course they don't know what you're looking for, so don't rule out a candidate that misses the mark a bit. Go for work quality, creativity, and timeliness.
It's not the only great place to walk into work every day and the approach can be replicated. Here's a very quick overview as to how:
Set goals. We talk about that a lot at Talented Recruiting (here, and here, and here for starters). To properly develop and monitor them, rate performances using calibrations that disconnect rewards from development.
Give people more freedom than you're comfortable with - if YOU are comfortable, you need to go further. This is actually my favorite piece of advice from the book. I've learned to set my staff free and monitor at a distance, jump in where I need to, quickly and quietly see my way back out, and let them develop their talents on their own.
Hire the best. Hire better than you. Managers don't make the decisions alone - they are sometimes too close to see what they really need to strengthen the team and may make hiring decisions using flawed criteria. It's a group effort.
Be open. Be transparent. Seek feedback.
Don't trust your gut. Your gut is often wrong and even healthy ones are parasitic. Use data.
Bock’s Work Rules is an innovative work that not only opens up ideas for the recruitment and hiring process, but helps companies both small and large transform their work atmosphere to increase production and satisfaction while reducing toxicity and wastefulness. Whether a garage start-up or a corporate giant, HR people need to read this book and get started implementing the guidance to transform their workplace.
When a potential client requests your work samples, does it send you into cold sweats? Showcasing your work can be intimidating; as a content copywriter, your work is on display for all to see, but having a critical eye on it is nerve wracking. Truthfully though, the job can feel like your competition comes at a dime a dozen with the boom in digital nomading and work from home, but high quality is more important than ever as published content is increasing. Your only way to gain well-paying clients is to demonstrate your exceptional skill in a portfolio.
The Catch-22 of any portfolio creation is that you're building it to gain experience, but you need experience to have the content for presentation. There are a couple of options here - create some samples that aren't from actual hired jobs and present these. You can also offer your services to contacts for low prices to help them while gaining content for your own purposes. Don't offer your services for free - ever - but bargains in a mutual back-scratching arrangement are fine within limits. You might also check out some online content copywriting courses, if you're lacking the inspiration for sample works. As you work through the class, you'll create content that will be portfolio-ready.
You won't work on the same content in every job. Every client will request different writing styles, knowledge base, and platforms. One client may request an ebook while another wants website sales copy. Choose a few designs on a variety of topics to showcase. You can include articles and blogs, brochures and newsletters, social media, and other formats. Essentially, divide your work into categories - consider a cross-reference system too. For example, you may divide the portfolio between articles, website copy, social media, and physical print - base the sections on the work you have available of course - but within each section consider a color system or some other differentiation. This might mean yellow highlighting for creative content, red for sales, blue for SEO.
However you decide to divvy this up will depend on your work and goals, but organization is key. You'll want potential clients to find easily their own style, or if you don't have that to showcase yet, the range of your abilities.
Choosing your best
When you’re interviewing, you present yourself as best as possible to make a good impression, right? Your portfolio needs the same approach, and you need to choose the best samples to represent your work. Employers can analyze any detail and you won't know exactly what impresses each ot sets off their red flags, so you'll want to choose your best. Don't go for quantity, choose quality. Keep a minimum of five diverse pieces that demonstrate your range, craftsmanship, and skill level.
In my own case, I keep featured pieces in my portfolio, but archive all past work in a link that's provided in the portfolio. They can go down the rabbit hole if they're particularly impressed by the featured pieces, but they don't have to, and usually don't - even those who most enthusiastically hire. The ones who do are typically people who connect with my writing style and like to read, or they may be hiring for bigger jobs than the portfolio demonstrates and need more evidence of my range. The benefit of keeping a complete history available is that if it's good, when you see potential employers in the file, you know you have them on the hook, almost always.
Updating your portfolio
You'll constantly gain experience and hone your skills. In five years the portfolio that you boast today may very well mortify you! That's a good thing; it means you're growing. But as you get better and time marches on, your work will become outdated. Every couple of months, re-evaluate the content you feature in your portfolio. Is there a piece you could replace with a better fit and quality? Jump in and redo it - don't forget to keep it interesting and diverse.
A great portfolio opens the door to great jobs - ideally progressively better and better as your career takes off. Clients will look for different details, and if they are already represented in one of your works you have a much higher chance of receiving the job. It benefits both you and the client - no more gathering disorganized samples at last minute, and you have feedback to know your portfolio is already impressive (and if not - change it!), so the job will be yours in much less time with little effort.
Now you know how to make the perfect portfolio - it's up to you to cultivate the content!
You know your values now and you've found an organization with the ideals to complement yours. How are you going to help your team foster them and create your own valuable space? First, consider the team’s values. Keep in mind that every workplace, while putting their own unique trademark on the concepts, is going to want to embody in some way the traits of integrity, accountability, diligence, perseverance, and discipline.
So let’s discuss how to embrace these qualities in employees as well as how to help foster them in coworkers - in three easy steps each!
- Be trustworthy - in your work and errors, and in your confidences among coworkers.
- Don’t be negative about colleagues or the workspace.
- Hold yourself to just as high - or even higher - a standard as you do everyone else.
- Be responsible for your relationships.
- Seek conflict solutions and understand the part you may play.
- Choose your behaviors so that they promote unity and not divisiveness.
- Ask questions when you need to.
- Embrace deadlines and work toward them at pace.
- Follow-up when your inquiries aren’t responded to in a timely fashion.
- Find ways to solve the unsolvable - or at worst, come up with an alternative.
- Don’t put projects to the side. Always keep working on it even if priorities have to be shuffled.
- If the workload is too much, enlist help.
- At all times keep in mind your end goals - on your project, in your career.
- Step away if the stress becomes too much.
- Set a schedule and keep it.
Your values will guide your workplace performance. By embodying these traits, you’ll set an example for the rest of the team as well as stay on your own track for success. Remember that the workplace is diverse and multi-generational, so there are often disagreements and miscommunications, but focusing on these five traits and how to develop them within yourself will keep conflicts to a minimum and strengthen your team.
As talent recruiters, we talk a lot about goals. How do we set them and measure them? Are they right for us? Your goals are the little steps on your way to success; you’ll set them incrementally, getting you closer brick by brick to your final destination - which is, of course, success, what we’re here to talk about today.
First you need to define what success means to you. Why set a goal to do one thing when success is something else? Believe it or not, this happens all the time - because you’ve either allowed your goals or your definition of success to be determined by someone else. Is success retiring when you’re forty or waking up with a smile every day? Your goals on the way to that may look very, very different.
List what you want to achieve - and then list why. If you can’t define it well or can’t explain why you want it, congratulations, you have one nuisance to cross of the list. That isn’t your expectation, it’s one someone made for you that got into your subconscious. Another reason this helps on your path is the navigation of the actual route. There are a hundred ways to get to that year 40 retirement. Some of them will make you happy, some of them will make you miserable - and be careful what you wish for because some could land you in prison! If you know all the small things you want to accomplish on the way to retirement at age 40, you can put them in an order that will get you there. And cross off the felonies.
Life is hard - celebrate it. You’ll have failures and they’ll hurt. Some will be humiliating and some will be hard to forgive, but do your best to shake them off and learn. One of the best ways to rise above your failures is to talk about them. You learn more, you find out you aren’t alone in them, and you’ll create accountability so that they are less likely to happen again. Not to mention the help you will be to others, and that creates a level of trust in others that means they can rely on you and vice versa. Failure can actually expand your support network if you learn from it instead of hiding.
Don’t mind the detours. Take the scenic route, stop for photos and a hearty meal! Get lost but ask for directions. You’ll find your way out eventually and get back to where you’re going - or let’s be honest, sometimes your destination changes. But change it for the right reasons. Don’t question what you’re doing unless you know it no longer feels right to you. The path to success is winding and it has mountains and valleys; it’s sunny but it floods. Sometimes there’s construction; sometimes you’re out of gas or need maintenance. You’ll get where you’re going one way or the other!
There are Five Key Values any strong organization demonstrates in one way or another and will want to see in its candidates:
Integrity. From white lies to great risks, it’s better to be honest from the start. Don’t pad the resume and be forthcoming about your needs and skills. Your record will demonstrate your honesty and your employers will appreciate it.
Accountability. It runs parallel to integrity - do you take responsibility for your actions no matter the consequence? The answer should be yes - someone who is willing to be responsible for potential errors will make fewer in the first place.
Diligence. This is all about accuracy and paper trails and it can be boring and stressful - if you’re doing it completely wrong. We don’t need more forms, we need more practice to create strong, reliable products and concepts. It’s quality improvement, not mindless boredom and labor.
Perseverance. Now this is an easy one in a business, but it’s a hard one to practice in personal life - tired of repeating the same mistakes? Toss it and forget it! That’s how we handle at-home projects, but we can’t do that in business. We tinker until it’s ready for market. Show potential employers that you can stick out a difficult situation.
Discipline. This doesn’t look the same everywhere. A reporter’s discipline will be an ability to adapt, multitask, and think on their feet. An office administrator’s discipline will be skill in establishing and maintaining routines. Are you disciplined? Does your discipline match the organization’s?
Once you’ve identified your own values, you’ll be able to find the right organizations to help you flourish as a professional. The company’s values will match or at least coincide with your own. In order to make yourself attractive to the best companies who align with your core beliefs, establish yourself as someone who carries themselves with the Five Key Values. You’ll be a stand-out candidate and a stronger professional for it.
We enjoyed thirty of our clients and candidates at an evening of theater this week! Check out the photos from A Night At Aladdin with all of us at Talented Recruiting!
At Talented Recruiting, we look for product designers. We care about products and we recruit the designers and product managers who care about sticky products. So Hooked is a book about a subject that probably won’t surprise you - getting hooked on products. Author Nir Eyal is the author of the blog Nir And Far, and an educator and entrepreneur who writes on the intersections of psychology and technology with business.
While of course we suggest you read the book, here is the quickly digestible version:
Nir creates a Hook Model, four steps that companies use to encourage customer dependence and use of a product. Through consecutive cycles, the products bring users back multiple times without aggressive advertising and messaging. In the book, he tells readers how to create habits we’ll stick with - helping us personally and professionally, even if we don’t have a concept for a genius business idea in the back of our brains.
Essentially, to engage and keep a user of your product, you have to understand their motivators - is it pleasure or pain, safety or fear, acceptability or loneliness, or something else? Identify that and you can understand their triggers, replicating them in the product. The motivator is an internal trigger, replicated as an external trigger. Then what is the simplest behavior one can do to anticipate a reward, and does it fulfill them just enough but leave them wanting more? Then comes the investment - the work they put in for the reward to continue.
The best understanding of this concept will come from your own experience - watching yourself and your companions, how they interact with their environments and how they form or replace their habits. The best example for me personally is the fidget cube. The bane of existence for many teachers, I’ve had to ban them from everywhere but my children’s bedrooms, but in my situation, they save my day. I have ADHD and when I’m stressed, I have to have something in my hands. A fidget cube keeps me from reaching for something unhealthy like snacks or cigarettes, or something annoying to my officemates, like a noisy pen to click or drumming my fingers on the desk. My motivator is the stress, the external trigger is whatever the stressor is for the moment, while the behavior is playing with something in my hands. My reward is the satisfaction of the clicks and other repetitive sensations that lower my stress and keep me focused - which is where the investment comes in. I will continue clicking and rolling and flicking if it means my stress level stays low. I stay at my desk and get my work done, and I stay calm and focused.
This is an extremely useful concept for product managers who want to develop the sticky products that people keep coming back for, but it’s useful in life too. How do we replace bad habits and how do we develop good ones? While the book benefits designers, consider it self-help too!
With the holidays and 2018 looming on the horizon, we are already turning inward and thinking through the year we had, the goals we set forth, and how we measured up.
I believe a good goal needs three things - a perfect mixture of IAA - Inspiration, Accountability and Accessibility.
Early in my career I used a different acronym for judging my goals. You probably have heard the “SMART” formula: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The idea is, if any of these attributes are missing from a goal you are less likely to achieve it. SMART is a solid formula - I like it, it has served me well. I admit to getting lost in the actual planning. When using the SMART system I found that I got distracted by not having the perfect answer for one of the SMART letters. This can lead to planning so much that you never get around to executing.
Sometime in the last couple years I found a better way to think about goals. This completely changed my personal ‘goal protocol’. Instead of laboriously going through (or half making it through) the whole SMART thing, I stopped to think about what really mattered to me in a goal. Why do we have them, and why are they the key to success? Now before any personal goal ratification I simply ask myself these three questions.
- Inspiration: Does the goal inspire me to create a better version of myself or my business?
- Accountability: Does the goal put something at stake to keep me accountable?
- Accessibility: Do I have the resources (time, ability, etc.) in place to execute?
Once I get the go ahead to check those boxes, I use them to help me put together a “Goal Statement”. I shall share a personal example. :)
“Start my own executive search firm in the next five years”.
(Yup, that was my first serious IAA goal!)
Did it inspire me? Heck yeah it did. I was so excited about being able to figure out how to set up an actual business. I come from a family of small business owners and I was super-excited to personally develop as a business owner.
Think about a goal you have, or one that you have been toying with committing to. Are you inspired to be a better person? Will you be volunteering and helping others? Perhaps reading a book on a subject you love but have fallen out of touch with. If it is inspirational to your person, your business or your craft, you can check this box.
What was at stake? At the time I moved on to start my own business I was working at a super-exciting startup. I loved all of the startups I have worked at - truly. I just want to do it my way! Doesn’t that sound kind of terrible? I wouldn’t dare say that out loud in a team of 25; it sounds egotistical, aggressive, know it all-y. Change the scene to being in charge of your own company, no matter the size or scope, the good or the bad, it is completely allowed! Not being able to have this creative freedom at work was demotivating me. I want to live a life I design and I love, and so being able to recruit with my style, and my approach was at stake.
If your goal is to take your parents to Italy for their anniversary and you don’t hit your goal, how will that make you feel? If your goal is to write a book and five years later you realize you haven’t even written a blog post are you ashamed, embarrassed, determined? (Or is it time to switch goals? Just saying…)
Can I do it? This one took some time. Bob, the CEO of my first startup, Quid, early on suggested, or never let me forget, the idea of starting my own recruitment firm. I had other backers and supporters as well. In any case, I ran the numbers, and decided I would give it a try. That past two years have been awesome. I love bending and flexing my network and creating meaningful connections.
Do you have enough savings to take away from your current job? Do you have enough time to volunteer in the cancer ward? How is your family workload at the moment?
Once I have put my goal through my Inspiration, Accountability, and Accessibility lens, I like to write it out and post it on the corkboard above my desk for double the inspiration.
The best time to start setting goals is today. Don’t wait until the New Year when you can go into it clean, prepped, planned and ready to execute!
Happy Friday, Talented family! This week we presented recruiters with 3 daily practices to elevate internal recruiting practices. How do our own recruiters incorporate the daily practices? Check out what our CEO Danielle van Asch-Prevot had to say:
"I love making sure I stay in touch with my network. One of my 2017/18 initiatives is to keep my network alive and breathing. I take about 4 calls a day that are purely catching up. It is fun to connect with people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with before, and I love keeping track of recent successes, marriages, and other life milestones."
Thanks, Danielle! Do you have any daily practices you can't miss? Tell us in the comments!
Have a great weekend, friends! Be sure to check us out next week - on Tuesday we'll be talking about the three mistakes people make when goal setting, and on Friday we'll be right back here with the weekly roundtable talking about our own goal setting methods and errors!