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Five Myths Not to Believe When Recruiting Product Talent in Boston

We recently covered the top five myths that can negatively impact the hiring process. While these myths hold true across the board, we started to think about the local legends as well. 

The hiring myths seem to develop and stick in certain geographies and how these regionalized myths can hurt a hiring community. When working with Boston-based companies and candidates, we started to notice some of these local myths playing out and resulting in negative outcomes.

To help all our CEO/Founders looking to grow their organizations, here are the top five Boston-based recruiting myths to avoid:  

 

1. A "candidate's market" makes it easier.

It's easy to assume that when it's a candidate's market, especially in a market as hot as Boston, candidates will be more interested in making a career change. Therefore, more interest must equal more available candidates, right? 

Being in a market with lots of available people doesn't mean they are the right people for your role or organization. In addition, the willingness to interview versus willingness to accept an offer are two separate things. 

A candidate’s market means more choice for the candidate, but not always more choice for the employer. Attracting and engaging candidates is only the first step. Employers need to move faster and with more enticing offers to attract top talent in a competitive candidate market. 

See the Five Steps this B2B SaaS Organization Took to Land a VP Product in Just 33 Days

 

2. Once healthtech, always healthtech.

One of the great things about the Boston product management community is the depth of subject matter expertise in a few areas (i.e. healthtech and biotech). So it should not come as a surprise that there is a large concentration of tech companies in the Boston area who are continually seeking to disrupt how the healthcare industry delivers service or care to patients or to care service providers.

It can be very easy to make assumptions that candidates who have invested time and developed successfully in the healthcare vertical are only interested in continuing a career in the health tech vertical.

Product Managers in general have a propensity to learn, grow and solve new problems. Sometimes candidates are interested in continuing the pursuit of those interests within the broader vertical they have been working in, but there's another community of candidates who seek to make bigger changes.

One should never assume that "once a healthcare Product Manager always a healthcare Product Manager". If you are an employer evaluating candidates and perhaps feeling frustrated by what you consider to be a limited pool, consider the actual experiences a Product Manager has been working towards and has achieved.

Take a look at those experiences from the point of view that the skills required to see success in a complex, compliant heavy industry like healthtech or biotech are transferable across many industries. These skill-sets may be the 'Olympic level training' your organization and product team needs to get to the next level of success.

3. Boston talent is expensive.

There is some truth to this, but it’s not always the case. While Boston is the 8th most expensive city to live in, with the cost of living 51% above the US average, it's not even close to their friends on the west coast.

Salaries of tech talent in Boston vary as they do in all tech hubs. The density of students and the steady flow of new graduates provide a fresh pool of talent who is far from their peak earning potential. 

Depending on the seniority of the position, it may be wise to consider hiring for potential versus experience. Or if specific experience is required, expand hiring zones to include less expensive or global markets (like Toronto and Montreal). 

4. The timezone difference is a hurdle.

One of the interesting topics of discussion we have with Founders and tech leaders is the subject of candidate location and how COVID has created an appetite and opportunity to hire without borders. 

While many companies admit excitement about access to global talent, there remains a community of leaders who see the East Coast/West Coast time difference as an extreme roadblock.

"How could we expect someone in Boston to work within our West Coast workday?" This very question came up in a client call last month.

What we found is, with a record-setting number of startups, it’s not unusual for Boston product teams to work alongside colleagues or service partners in offshore locations. If juggling Zooms with Poland, Belarus, or Bangalore is normal for a Product Manager, PST might not seem so bad.

Also, due to the number of regional offices of global players who have a presence in Boston (Microsoft, IBM, Google, etc.), more people than not will be familiar with working PST zones. 

5. Get me the person from Hubspot.

Ah yes, we often get a list of companies from Founders who feel that these specific sets of employees are the answer to their product prayers. If only Hubspot's VP Product or API PM would join them then imagine the possibility!

While it's normal to have our sights set on an aspirational hire, sometimes they just aren’t a match (either salary band-wise, past experiences, or even culture fit).

Instead of focusing on a mythical unicorn hire, figure out the reason why you want someone from that brand. Is it a cache reason? An experience/tech stack reason? Culture reason? Distill down the why and focus on candidates who meet that expectation, not just ones from Hubspot. 

For Example: If you are a B2B SaaS vendor with a marketing automation solution, SaaS experience might be essential but how important is it that your hire comes from another Martech? Is a candidate from a preptech or fintech a realistic option for your stakeholders to seriously consider as well?

At the end of the day, these localized myths are just hiring stories we tell ourselves. Stories that can hold us back from finding talent we need. Leading to longer, more expensive hiring processes, or worse mis-hires and employee churn. 

It’s time to shake off these hiring myths and focus on the task at hand - finding a candidate with the right experiences for the role and the right attitude for your organization's culture.  

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