Tag Archives: startups

True Story – “We Intend to Hire”

A well-known e-commerce/internet firm based in North India contacted an ex-colleague in the last quarter of 2014. He works as a product manager in an offshore setup, is very well versed in technology and business management and is originally from North India.

The recruiter first asked if he is willing to move to the NCR region. My friend said that for family reasons he is only looking at opportunities in Bangalore. The recruiter then said that they are establishing an engineering center in Bangalore and that he would only be interviewed for roles in Bangalore. The recruiter asked for his résumé, salary, current designation and a brief description of his current responsibilities. In addition, he was asked about the expected salary, and he said, “It’s negotiable, depending on the package, but I am expecting a 20% hike in salary”. After providing these details, my pal asked them about the role and the next steps in the process. The recruiter mentioned “someone will get back to you” and that was the end of the discussion.

Three months later, in January, a well-known head-hunting firm reached out to him for a role in the same e-commerce firm. When asked about expected salary, he gave the same answer as before. After providing all details, he asked if the role was for NCR or Bangalore. The head-hunter replied that they are actively recruiting product managers for Bangalore and he would only be interviewed for Bangalore. After this call, nothing further happened in the process.

Last week, another recruiter from the same e-commerce firm called him after viewing his profile on LinkedIn. This time, my pal said that he is willing to relocate to NCR if required, although he prefers Bangalore. The recruiter then said that we only have product management positions in NCR at this time but “we intend to recruit” product managers for Bangalore in future. He also said that the Bangalore center is yet to take off. After hearing this, he decided to look elsewhere for a job.

Lesson learnt!

[To avoid such situations you must try to identify the hiring manager at the earliest]

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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

Offshore Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 5

Druva Software has a job posting for a product manager on LinkedIn. This was created today, and it looks like one of the least informative job ads you can come across. However, Druva is one of the rare technology product startups in India, which also has good traction in the market, so it makes sense to understand the job requirements.

Here is some more information:

Location: Pune, India

Designation: Product Manager

Job Description: Drive product development – from conception to launch – at the #1 Endpoint backup company

The ad vaguely describes the role and responsibilities and ends with a description of Druva. However, you can consider the following points while applying for the role.

  • This is an offshore enterprise product management role, with some exposure to the Indian market.
  • The total work experience expected is not more than 5 years. So the salary offered would not be more than Rs. 6-8 lakhs (considering that Pune is a Tier 2 city), and Rs. 10 lakhs at the high end.
  • Only 1-2 years of actual product management experience is expected from candidates. As the company operates in a niche segment, you can apply with any enterprise product management background. Domain expertise is probably not important.
  • This is a very junior role and the work will be equivalent to that done by IT Business Analysts. Use case development and visual design will be useful skills here.
  • Druva had their 2nd round of funding in the middle of 2011, and they have launched few products since then. Do not expect to lead any product launches there initially.
  • The work could be mainly about enhancements to existing products and might include competitive analysis and market research.
  • Fresh MBAs and Senior software engineers can consider this position favorably. A top college MBA will probably be overkill, someone from Tier 2 MBA colleges or an engineering degree and a background in storage technologies will fit better here.
  • Since it’s a startup do not expect much career growth unless the firm grows substantially or is acquired. You can leverage this to join a larger technology firm later. However, you will have to spend a minimum of 3 years in this firm to get a good salary and a track record in product management. Otherwise you could move to a client facing or a solution sales role within the firm.

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

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.