Tag Archives: product manager recruitment

Product Manager Recruitment in India is in Trouble

Some issues which I came across, and have posted about before:

  • Candidates barely get to speak to hiring managers during the recruitment process. A colleague mentioned how he was interviewed by a solution architect and the HR manager for a PM role in an IT services firm.
  • You are likely to find a “young inexperienced star” running the product function in many startups today, who then looks for senior, experienced folks to report to him.
  • Hiring managers in most startups are unable to understand the job needs and make generic job specification (very common across e-commerce websites).
  • Resumes are so filled with jargon that they give no sign of a candidates skills, capabilities or achievements.
  • 90-95% of applications on job portals may not be viewed by a human.
  • PM training is reduced to a few certifications or some short term courses.
  • Promoting from within (along with limited PM training) is reducing the firm’s ability to actually deliver great products.
  • Recruitment teams are not able to filter good candidates, which is why candidates should start networking with anyone at the firm who can promote their application.
  • Many business analysts or solution architects are positioning themselves as product managers, without having the necessary skills to do a good job.

More to follow

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10 Reasons why “MBA preferred” appears in Product Manager recruitment ads

10. The recruitment team wants to shortlist candidates from thousands of applicants for an entry-level role, and MBA/PMP is chosen as a criterion. This is fairly common in large firms.

9. The Product Manager is actually required to have business modeling/statistical analysis or product pricing/marketing skills. This is very rarely needed in India, for both offshore roles and for Indian market facing roles.

8. The “MBA preferred” lets the recruitment team decline internal applicants who want to move out of an engineering role into product management.

7. The head of product management/hiring manager has an MBA

6. This product management role reports to the local sales head, and it is actually a category/brand management role for India/Asia-Pacific. Such roles are quite prevalent in hardware/mobile firms.

5. The role requires the product manager to work with vendors/clients/account teams etc. based in India, and a person with an MBA might have an edge in relationship building and management, as per the hiring manager.

4. The ad wants applicants with a full-time MBA from a top business school, but the recruitment team was not sure if they would actually get many applicants. This is often the case with senior level positions.

3. The PM head wants a “business oriented” product manager, even though the role is actually completely engineering facing, and requires strong domain knowledge. This often happens in offshore R&D centers, and often leads to a bad hire.

2. The “MBA preferred” can be interpreted as a code for highly paid candidates to apply for the job.

1. (My favorite) The ad was copied from a standard template and it contained the words “MBA preferred” in the original ad.

Web Recruitment Ad – 6: For A General Manager

Now this is an interesting recruitment ad on LinkedIn (job posting is removed):

Designation: General Manager-Web Publisher Products

Location: Bangalore

And here’s the interesting part, in the description of Professional Background and Experience, the ad states that “A degree in Computer Science or a related field is highly preferred”.

It is remarkable that for selecting a person in such a senior role (at least in the Indian arm of Amazon), the undergraduate major is “highly desirable”. Does this mean that a top manager without a computer science or related background is unlikely to be hired, or may not have a good career at Amazon India? And perhaps this also indicates their lack on interest in hiring MBAs in such roles.

Now this may be a typo in the ad, and I do not have the inside information on why they would insist on this, but if you add in this news report that the Yahoo CEO is looking for computer science graduates from top colleges, then things become murky.

Here are 3 things to ponder:

a) If you are a product manager in the web world and do not have a computer science background, are you likely to hit a glass ceiling?

b) How is a computer science degree correlated to success in a general management role?

c) Is this ad a self-selective ad, which indicates that IITians with a computer science background, who have been successful in their careers, are what Amazon is actually looking for among the applicant pool?

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Amazon.com and the work they do in India and overseas. I was just curious about this report on Yahoo and the Amazon recruitment ad, and hence this blog post.

Facing The Phone Interview In India

With hundreds of resumes coming for every open position, the phone interview should be a useful way to screen candidates quickly and cheaply. Unfortunately, this tactic has been frequently subverted in India. Many times, the hiring manager does not conduct the interview himself, but passes it on to a junior PM (this is rampant at most internet firms including the MNCs). Occasionally, the HR team itself conducts a phone screening session before even short listing your resume.

Here are some of different types of phone interviews in India.

The Salary Screening Interview

Based on many discussions with recruiters at all kinds of firms, it seems that their dream is to hire candidates for free. However, as slave labor is illegal, they would definitely want to hire you at the lowest possible cost. For this, the screening interview is all about your willingness or desperation for the job. And the questions are deeply probing, designed to elicit your intent to join and the minimum salary that you are willing to accept. There is no discussion about the workplace, the team, the culture, the role or anything else.

At the end, either the candidate is so turned off by the process and does not wish to join. Or the desperate candidate is willing to accept any condition for employment.

The Peer PM Phone Interview

[I will publish a longer piece on this next week.]

The peer phone interview has its own set of problems which include:

  • Short listing candidates from the same school or former employer as the interviewer
  • Fear of competition from a brilliant candidate
  • Misuse of informal networking to pre-judge the candidate
  • Rejecting candidates because the panelist is not trained properly
  • Rejecting candidates not referred by existing employees
  • Rejecting candidate referred to by existing employees
  • The interview is just a formality to complete the process, candidate’s resume is already rejected by the hiring manager

Fundamentally, merit is often ignored when peer product managers conduct phone interviews. And this makes it very difficult for a good PM, without connections, to get to the next stage in the recruitment process in any top firm.

Interview By The Hiring Manager

The hiring manager is the stakeholder with the most to gain by hiring a good candidate. He is concerned by the salary expectations, but is not looking to bargain about salary. Neither is going to reject a candidate because he is brilliant or from a different college. And the hiring manager will seldom take the interview simply to gain knowledge about a competitor, or pick the candidate’s brain for new ideas about his product. If he does this, you can expect him not to last long in his role.

Looking at the above scenarios, it is clear that there are few chances for an ordinary candidate to pass this round of screening. And this leads to the homogenous group of mediocre product managers at many firms. My strong suggestion for a candidate would be to insist with the recruiter that they

a) reveal the panelist’s name,

b) identify the hiring manager’s name and designation

c) provide the opportunity to speak to the hiring manager directly

In case the hiring manager is “too busy” to speak to you, this is a huge red flag, and perhaps you should avoid this firm altogether.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 5

On Feb 8th, Ebay posted a recruitment ad for a Director, Product Management in Bangalore.

The complete JD is available on the link above. In December 2012, they had hired Ramkumar Narayanan, VP Product Management, Yahoo!, as the GM for their India center, so their focus is shifting to Bangalore. Should be an exciting time to join them.

Location: Bangalore
Desired Qualification: Long list of experience, capabilities and personality traits listed in the ad
Desired Experience: Not mentioned

Here are some points to consider about the role and the firm:

  • This looks like a new, senior level role in their eBay India Center of Excellence.
  • The ad mentions the job title as Director, Product Management 1 – Tech. so it is definitely for someone with a strong product engineering background.
  • Networking skills and industry reputation will be the key to getting an interview for this role.
  • Based on data available on glassdoor.com and other internet sources, the typical salary for this role should be more than 45 lpa CTC. This would exclude RSU/Stock Grant/ESOPS or other bonuses. The ceiling could be a total package of Rs. 65-70 lakhs all inclusive for a very, very good candidate.
  • Roadmapping is a key requirement for this role, and hence someone with an MBA and many years of product management experience should be an ideal fit.
  • The role will involve building and grooming a team of product managers. Given that such roles typically go to people with an MS/MBA from a top school in the US and significant US work experience, the product managers hired later would likely have a similar profile.
  • You can expect ads for junior level product managers once this position is filled out.
  • India engineering, US senior management and India leadership team will be the key stakeholders.
  • This role is unlikely to carry P&L responsibility for a product line, but would probably focus more on building the product management competency in India.
  • Growth after this role could be to another organization in the e-commerce space or an IT consultancy or strategy firm. Or you could join a startup as a CEO, CXO etc.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Ebay.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to help them to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

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.

True Story: Compensation Negotiation at an MNC R&D Center

negotiations

The Candidate

My friend has a strong technical background. He complete his B.Tech. from an NIT, worked for 7 years in different IT services firms, spent 3 years in the US, and then returned to do his MBA at an IIM. Being a savvy person, he opted for the 1 year PGP program for senior executives, where he got in because of his engineering undergrad, his overseas experience and good GMAT scores. Post MBA, he joined a firm in Hyderabad as a product manager.

The Interview and Subsequent Discussion

In 2008, he was working in an offshore enterprise product management role in a large R&D center focusing on enterprise IT. Around 2008, he was approached by another enterprise software firm, that was looking to hire senior product managers for their center in Bangalore. [They are big on telecom, and he has a strong background in that domain.] He went through multiple rounds of interviews (one of them was an overseas phone interview) and the HR indicated that they were ready to roll out an offer.

The HR manager asked about his current compensation and breakup. At that time, he used to get 18 fixed + 2.5 variable + 1.5 signing bonus + 1.5 worth of stock every year for a total package of Rs. 23.5 lakhs per annum. They asked about his salary expectation, he indicated that he was expecting a cash package of Rs. 30 lakhs and other benefits on top.

Obviously, the HR team did not wish to give a 30% increment to him, so they offered 25 cash + 2 lakhs signing bonus. Now, this happened during the last IT boom in Bangalore, and a sign-on bonus was commonplace. He refused to budge from his demand. After 2 conversations, they finally offered him 27 lakhs and a 2 lakhs signing bonus (apparently, stocks were only offered on performance after joining). He refused and continued with his current firm.

In early 2009, he was again approached by the same firm for another product management role. By this time, he had completed a year in his current firm, and gotten a 15% salary increment due to his strong performance. He went through 2 rounds of interviews and was then offered a salary of 35 lakhs but no signing bonus. He accepted the offer and happily joined the firm.

What this means for PM candidates

Several things become very obvious after learning about this. First, if you are a strong candidate, have a good background and a stable job, it is easy to demand your own salary. Second, if you are not fully satisfied with the compensation offered, then you can always say no without any risk. Third, he never told his existing firm about the first offer he got, thereby ensuring that he was not sidelined during performance evaluation. So the complete discussion could be held again without putting his existing job at risk.

One last thing to note, the new firm had asked for a reference from his earlier managers. He offered a fellow manager as a contact and not his direct supervisor to avoid any problems in the reference check after he had resigned and before the offer was finalized.

Note: salary figures are accurate, as are the technology domains