Tag Archives: hiring slowdown

Does The Hiring Growth Impact Software Product Managers?

Looks like hiring in the Indian economy is growing again. E-commerce biggies such as Flipkart and Amazon are also making big bets on India. And with intense competition for top quality engineering talent, salaries in a few marquee firms are again shooting up. [ Note: the last is mainly based on anecdotal evidence] Lastly, there is a consensus that salaries in the IT industry will rise this year for most employees.

So does the software product manager also win by changing jobs or asking for a big hike in his firm?

If you are working in this field, you may already know the answer. There are multiple factors at play here which may prevent you from the list of people getting double-digit pay-hikes. These include

  • The company’s performance
  • The salary levels and job levels at the company you are targeting
  • The internal salary grade you are at
  • Your compa-ratio
  • The annual performance review
  • Performance of your business unit/group

Based on the factors listed above, you can peg your expected compensation growth as a product manager, even if the market for technical talent is heating up.

At the high end, I have heard of product managers earning 40 lakhs (total compensation), who got no pay hike for 4+ years, after changing multiple jobs to reach this level. I also know of product managers who have seen a compensation growth from 16 lakhs to 42 lakhs in 6 years in the same firm.

It is not difficult to then make a case for either staying in your current firm, or for moving to another job, based on a 3-4 year income projection from the current job or the target job in a new firm. Of course, such a skilled person also has international mobility, and can always move to an economy where he would earn more, but that is a different story.

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Who’s the Hiring Manager?

Based on the number of calls from recruiters these days, it looks like the Product Manager hiring season in India is on in full swing. However, one simple question makes it easy to identify which firms are likely to have a long and tedious recruitment process for a PM role, and which ones are really keen to hire new people.

And that question is a simple one…

“Who is the hiring manager for this role?”

Now some recruiters will hem and haw, while others will say we simply look for a fit between candidate and company (many internet firms still try this line). It’s very simple, if they are not able to give you a credible answer, then there is something very wrong with the picture. They can hide the compensation range and ask all details from you, but this is a very important question that the recruiter must answer. Actually, they should give full details on who is the hiring manager, what job grade the role is at, and which business unit is hiring.

I have observed that some startups and a few teams in large technology MNCs do try to be secretive, saying that they would reveal these details after you join them. And the recruiters also seem to avoid replying to this question. Well, that’s like buying a pig in a poke. No matter how good the brand name, you can still mess up your job change, and negatively impact your career.

Is the product development dream in India over?

A quick scan of LinkedIn reveals that there are only 16 jobs available across 9 firms with the designation “Product Manager” in the whole of India. Of these, you can discount the perennial ads from Yahoo, Google and Amazon (they have been running the same ads for more than 6 months now).

In the remaining firms, only BMC Software, Model N, Play Games 24X7, Electronic Arts, Angel Prime (an incubator) and a few others are looking to hire product managers in India. Additionally, the job description makes it clear that they are looking for help in the areas of product design and development, and no outbound activities are really described.

Another interesting fact to observe is that most of these are consumer facing product management roles, and very few enterprise product management roles are available now. Perhaps this would be a good time to start beefing up your skill set in the consumer product management areas.

If you look at job portals such as naukri.com and monster.com, you can see a similar trend. While there has been a distinct slowdown in hiring in the technology industry, the disappearance of PM jobs indicates something more drastic. Nobody seems to be making new investments in product development anymore. As this has become a buyer’s market, you can expect the salaries offered to crash based on the desperation of candidates.

Post a comment if you wish to discuss this.

The Startup PM Recruitment Scam in India

So you are a Product Manager looking for an opportunity to work in a small team, and you see a job ad for a startup. It says that they need a product manager and the job description is really exciting. You immediately customize your CV and shoot it over to the recruiter and start preparing for the interview call. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases in India, it is a scam.

An employment scam in the simplest form is a recruitment event where there is no intent to hire a candidate. It can be related to a general recruitment drive, where the intent is to obtain payments from candidates. This practice is illegal and widely covered in Indian media, here are one, two and three stories from the past month alone.

The Startup PM Recruitment Scam

A related scam that has come up now is in the field of Product Manager recruitment by startups in India. The way it works is this:

  1. The startup release an ad seeking resumes for PM roles
  2. It keep the job requirements vague to attract widest variety of resumes
  3. Candidates are shortlisted if:
    1. They are working for or have recently worked for a competitor
    2. They have useful domain knowledge or are from a top college (IIT/IIM/ISB)
    3. The hiring manager is curious about them, their salary etc
  4. After getting shortlisted, the candidates are called for an interview

The interview is actually an opportunity for the hiring manager to learn about the competitor, to get ideas for implementation in his firm and to research how other firms are solving problems in a specific domain (e.g. web analytics experiment design in e-commerce).

How to identify a fake interview?

A huge red flag in such interviews is the focus on questions such as “identify 3 issues with our current website/product and how you would solve them”, or “work with us as a paid consultant for 2-3 days to identify a new market opportunity in the VAS space” or “write-up a detailed proposal on how you would introduce a service into the Indian market” or “find 2 ways to improve our product/feature”. The idea behind these questions is not to test the candidate, but to actually get new ideas for product development.

After the interview, the candidate gets a polite rejection letter and the cycle restarts with the next candidate. This is completely unethical, and a startup e-commerce firm in Bangalore, a matrimony portal and some product development startups are known to indulge in this practice. A quick scan at the company reviews on glassdoor.com will reveal which firms use candidate interviews for ideation only.

Also, in case your compensation comes up in the shortlisting process, and you know that you are highly paid (you can check this on glassdoor.com, payscale.com etc) as compared to the hiring company then it is very likely that you are going to have a fake interview, which will not proceed beyond a phone call.

How do you avoid this?

It is pretty simple actually, if called for an interview you must:

  1. Review the feedback of other candidates called for interviews
  2. Decline all questions related to the live product, or analysis of a new opportunity in the same domain
  3. Explain that you cannot reveal confidential details about their competitor (your former employer), and they should focus on your skills and expertise
  4. Insist that they focus on case studies or other methods of interview (competency based interview etc) at this time
  5. If they want to work with you for a short while to check the “fit”, then ask for a 3-month, consulting assignment at a reasonable pay. This will give you time to search other jobs, and keep you working in the same domain

The pressure to agree

In this slowing economy, when interviews are hard to come by, it is very hard to not agree to almost anything asked by the recruiter. Just remain confident that the people who are actually hiring, will hire you in a professional, ethical manner, and if you are seeing these red flags, then you are extremely unlikely to be hired anyways. Maintain your poise and calm and this will actually help you in the long run.

In a future post, I will explain why this scam is less prevalent in established firms.

Hiring Slowdown in India

A quick look at the number of job ads on popular sites such as shine.com, monsterindia.com and naukri.com will show the obvious. There has been a marked hiring slowdown in this quarter. So what could be the causes of this slowdown?

For sure, the following macro factors have had an impact:

a. Slow Recovery in the US

Most offshore R&D centers have slowed down or put off hiring in India, as their parent firm is itself cautious about spending money. This has affected the hiring for posts of product managers in India apart from the regular engineering roles.

b. Slowdown in Indian Market

Thanks to the awesome policies and the wonderful government here, there is neither growth in industrial investment (apart from some core sectors) nor in consumption (due to uncertainties and price hikes). Overall the job market is usually lacklustre in the 4th quarter, but this year things have been worse than usual

c. “Bring Jobs Back” movement in the US, after Obama reelection

This has definitely changed the number of high-end jobs (read: PM roles) that R&D centers in India could offer. In fact, the “value of outsourcing to India” debate has again begun in earnest.

d. Disinterested VCs funding new technology ventures in India

After a funding frenzy in the beginning of 2011, all major VCs have either shifted their focus from technology, social media and consumer web to enterprise software and other sectors. This has had an impact on the startups who managed to get angel funding but could not get a term sheet approved.

Thanks to these factors, all 4 types of product managers are significantly impacted, with little opportunity for lateral movement or growth. I know of several people who had to take a pay cut and do low quality work, simply to show continuity in their résumé.

Thoughts, comments?