As I mentioned in the chapter “People: priority # 1, always” we spend money and energy to attract, hire and retain the best people. Having people as the number one priority is the key to achieving any other goal. And the first step in having the best people on your team is hiring.
The work of hiring people must be done in conjunction with HR. It’s teamwork. I have seen situations where this process is fully delegated to the HR team, and the person who is hiring is just asking “where are the candidates?” and “why is HR taking so long to fill this position?” Defining a profile, finding candidates, interviewing, selecting, and onboarding is as much the responsibility of HR as the head of product and her team.
The first step in hiring the right people for your team is to define the profile of who you are looking for to join the team. When I speak of a profile, I am thinking not only of technical knowledge but also of behavioral seniority and cultural fit, that is, what values â€‹â€‹one needs to have to work in this team. It is important to build this profile in collaboration with more people on the team. From that profile, the job description will come out.
Having the profile defined, it is necessary to advertise the vacancy to bring candidates. It is the work of attracting people. Here marketing can help. Just as we need to tell the world about the problem we solve with our products and how the product solves it to find the right people who will be interested in becoming our customers, we need to tell the world about the type of people we need in our team.
For this reason, it is important to work on your employer branding, to tell the world why your company is an interesting company to work for. Tell on social networks and at events about the work done by the team, the challenges and achievements, the environment and culture of the team. This is all part of employer branding and helps to attract people interested in working on your product development team. This is a work done in partnership between HR, marketing and the product development team.
Another excellent source of new applications is internal referrals. Ask people on the team to refer people they have worked with elsewhere and who they would like to work with again. It is even possible to encourage these referrals by giving prizes to the referee if the referred person is hired.
It is important to have a well-defined interview sequence. Who are the people who are going to interview? In what order? Will there be individual or group interviews? Will there be a case to be solved? Usually, in the companies where I worked, the first interview is done by HR, to present the opportunity and the company and to understand a little more about the candidate’s behavioral profile. HR may use some behavioral testing for this.
Then there are the interviews with the people on the product development team. If you are hiring for a position that will interact a lot with other areas of the company, it is important that the candidate is also interviewed by people from those other areas. I usually suggest that the direct leader be the first to interview, then the person should be interviewed by peers from the product development team and other areas, if applicable.
If the person is going to lead a team, I suggest the opportunity for some people on the team to also interview the candidates. Despite making the process longer, I find it more interesting for more people to interview for two reasons: first, it gives the opportunity for more people to get to know the candidates and, when the decision is made, more people are committed to the success of this new team member; second, it gives the candidate the opportunity to get to know the company and the people who this person may work with if she gets an offer.
An important piece of advice for interviewers is to try to ask the same questions to all candidates, so you can compare the answers to choose the one that best fits the profile you are looking for. Regarding what kind of questions to ask, I usually listen to the person’s story and ask about successes, mistakes, relationships with other team members and with people from other areas.
During the interview process, it may be interesting to ask the candidate to solve a problem at home and then present the solution. This process is quite common in both product management, UX and engineering jobs. The purpose of this test is to better understand the ability to solve problems, the thought process and the ability to present solutions. And this presentation of the solution is a good opportunity to understand how the person expresses himself and how he deals with questions.
I prefer that the case to be solved is a practical case of the company, in which the team is working or intends to work at some point. I have heard criticism that this is free consulting and that later the company will use the best solution. It is important to make it clear that case resolution has two objectives, to give the people who are hiring the opportunity to get to know the candidate better, how he solves problems and presents his solutions, as well as giving the candidate the opportunity to know what kind of problems he will find in everyday life if he joins the company.
It is worth mentioning that when asking for a case resolution, there is a danger of losing candidates. Therefore, it is important to make it clear that the process will have this phase, and it is important to enchant the candidate before presenting the case to be solved to make him willing to resolve the case.
As I mentioned, this is a long process, with several interviews and tests, which can make you lose good applications. That is why it is important to keep this process attractive, to tell the candidate how she is doing, what stage she is in and what remaining steps needed to reach the end of the process. I’ve heard reports of companies that manage to do this whole process in one day, reaching the end of the day with candidates receiving an offer, but I never had the opportunity to witness such a process.
After the interviews and tests, it was time to select the best candidate. The best way to do this is to bring together the people who interviewed the candidates to share their impressions of each candidate so that the leader of the position can make the decision on who to choose. The decision of who to hire is of the leader who has the position open, but this time to exchange perceptions and interview notes is important. I usually call this meeting the “hiring committee”, which gives the opportunity not only to choose the best candidate, but also to better understand how people are doing the interview process and, eventually, align some points in relation to this process. This makes team members more engaged with the success of the person to be hired.
Once you have defined who the person is, you need to design the offer that will be made for them. It is important that the offer is financially relevant. It is not common for a person to accept receiving less than he is currently receiving. And it is important to balance short-term (salary and benefits), medium-term (bonus) and long-term (stock options) incentives. Be careful not to make an offer that is too inconsistent with what the current people on the team already have, so as not to create differences that can undermine teamwork.
Assuming that the candidate accepted the offer, we reached a new phase of the process, onboarding, that is, that of bringing the person to the team and becoming part of that team. HR will take care of the most bureaucratic part of this process, but it is also necessary to design with HR all the onboarding steps to ensure that the new hire feels welcomed and understands more about the company, the team and the challenges she will face.
At Conta Azul, we had a very cool onboarding process, coordinated by HR, where all new employees went through a week of immersion to get to know all areas of the company and the main members of those areas. Then, people had a local onboarding in the team that they would be part of. At Gympass, in addition to onboarding, everyone was invited to participate in some “activations”, which was the moment when we went to a customer to present the Gympass corporate benefit to their employees. It is important to give the new person who is joining the team the opportunity to learn more about the other areas of the company and the customer before they start working.
HR conversations with the person after 45 and 90 days after the person was hired can help to perceive points of improvement in the onboarding process. These first days of the person in your new team are fundamental to the success of the future relationship, so it is important to monitor closely.
The title of this chapter is “Hiring the right people”, but it is not enough to just hire, it is also necessary to take care of people for the entire time that she is on the team.
I wrote an entire chapter on “Feedback and performance evaluation”, but I want to mention this topic here since feedback is something very important for the people who are part of your team. How can they know they are on the right track? How can they improve? What are they doing and what should they continue to do? What are they not doing that they should start doing? What are they doing that they should stop doing?
It is very important to make it clear to each person on your team about these points. And it is very important to remember that feedback is a two-way street, meaning you should also look for what you can do to help the person.
Eventually, you can make the decision to terminate someone, what is known as involuntary turnover. Or someone on your team can make the decision to leave your team, the voluntary turnover. This is always a difficult moment, a rupture, but it is important to understand the reasons that ended up building this decision. Could it be avoided? If inevitable, could it have happened in a more planned way, avoiding disruption for the team?
In the next chapter, we will understand how to provide feedback and performance management.
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