Lessons Learned from Recruiting in Boston

The current state of hiring across the tech industry has been fueled predominantly by two factors:

  1. significant venture investment  
  2. a digital-first perspective to an employee’s location

Boston has been no exception. 

Our firm has been recruiting in the Boston area for 20 years, and we have found that the interest in hiring and competition for talent remains high. This is especially true across our two largest practice areas; Product Management and Enterprise Sales. 

Here are the 3 lessons we have learned from recruiting tech talent in Boston and how to better prepare yourself to land top candidates from this city.

It's going to take a whole lot more than "being a well-funded startup" to get someone to move.

Tech employees are generally known for making a career move every 2.5 years. While this constant movement may make them more willing to learn about an opportunity, it shouldn’t be the assumed that interest equals willingness to actually make a move.

Boston has an interesting past when it comes to tech. Before Silicon Valley was what it is today, Boston founded tech companies that were the cornerstone of the young tech industry (DEC, Wang, and Prime).

At this time in Boston, there was also the cultural expectation that employees should be committed to their employer and work for one company for their entire career. Non-competes were a standard that was not only issued but enforced.

By contrast, in the early days of the west coast tech community, an opposite point of view had emerged; no non-competes and encouragement of people to exit and start their own companies. There was an attitude of entrepreneurship. One example of this is the infamous PayPal Mafia. 

All of this was made possible by an unusual characteristic of California law where the courts could (and often did) refuse to enforce contracts that limited employee mobility. (This book tells the tale of Silicon Valley vs Boston.)

So all of this history to say, there is an underlying strength and loyalty that underpins many Bostonians’ attitude towards their employer, even today.  

To assume it will be easy to attract someone based on marketing buzz or venture cap alone is a mistake. You’ll only have to complete one search in the Boston area for one thing to become clear: there are plenty of long-term employees in local tech companies. 

Storytelling Matters

With the largest concentration of HealthTech, Biotech, and Pharma companies globally, there is also a heavily concentrated pool of subject matter experts.

However, in a market where only a few subject matters dominate, what are the rest of the tech companies to do when they need talent outside of these verticals? From a Product Management hiring point of view, our experience building product teams has taught us that the path into product is varied. Many talented product executives have backgrounds in marketing, customer success, engineering, and even within sales.

So, it would make sense when Product Managers are looking for a job change, they often seek opportunities to increase personal learning and solve a new problem they have not yet solved for. 

These practical realities often cause a willingness in product candidates to be more open to learning about an opportunity to understand how their experience could be applied to other products and/or product categories.

These types of conversations require human contact. Digital recruitment bots or AI algorithms that mysteriously place a job posting in front of someone will not necessarily capture the attention of someone who is already employed. 

The high-touch service of storytelling person-to-person is a critical part of recruiting in Boston. A Product Manager needs to be sold a story. Not only a story about the company and its trajectory, but also how their PM skills will be a valuable asset, how they will assist in this growth, and what new skills they will be able to learn. 

Engaging, attracting, and seeking to understand what matters to the career move of a human is essential to attracting Boston talent. The employers who see value in having their talent acquisition team and/or external search partners intentionally target specific functional skills or specific previous experiences and go sell the position to these candidates will always win the war for talent.

Be in a Position of Readiness 

Boston is a hot market! Even in the anxiety of the pandemic, downsizings were fewer in Boston, and companies experienced less duress on account of the substantial startup ecosystems that were not employing excess weight that they needed to lay off.

Being in a position of readiness to go to war for the talent you need is very much required in Boston. So what does being in a position of readiness look like? 

Well, it boils down to having your list of candidate requirements ready, getting your interview process nailed down, and prepping offer letters (so it can get out the door ASAP) to ensure hiring efficiency. 

If your organization is struggling with any of these three issues, then hiring talented Boston-based product talent will be an uphill battle. As Boston hiring experts, we have both the local and broader industry knowledge as well as recruitment experience needed to help you secure top Boston Product talent.