As Product Management recruiters, we often engage with Founders/CEOs who specifically ask us to look in the Bay Area for the talent they need. They are hoping to hire a Product Manager from a recognizable brand (you can guess the list of companies they want us to target—it’s exactly who you’re thinking of), and they want this candidate to be ready to relocate to Canada.
Now, will we do this for clients? Absolutely! We’ve had some successful placements from this kind of targeted recruiting. But we don’t start until we understand your business needs, and ask you to consider the whole recruiting picture.
Before we start, our first question is always “why do you feel that a Bay Area candidate is the best option for your business?” Canada’s tech ecosystem heavily favours B2B software vendors, while the largest and most successful B2C companies are still located in the Bay Area and the USA. So if you need a Product Manager who’s worked on a B2C platform with millions or billions of users, looking to the Bay Area makes sense.
However, we’ve found that most of the time, Founders/CEOs have stars in their eyes, and think that recruiting a candidate from the Bay Area is a sign of prestige. From outside of Silicon Valley, it looks like a magical utopia—the place that contains all talent that will unlock wild success for your business. If only we could entice one of these people away from the Bay Area, that would be the ticket to to unbelievable growth, right? The grass looks mighty green in Silicon Valley. It’s not quite that simple.
The reality is that building a business is incredibly difficult, even for the people who have done it successfully. A candidate who has worked inside a successful tech company has some perspective on what it takes, but that’s not a guarantee that they’d be a good fit in your business.
Furthermore, often the candidate profile you’d like to target isn’t the person who built something from the ground up—they stepped in to support a scaling product and team. How much of that company’s success can be tied to one person’s contributions, vs. the visibility of the global brand they work for? Chances are, the “startup” they work at is now a large organization, with all of the resources, and in-place processes that go along with that. Are you sure that’s the profile of candidate your business needs?
If you’ve thought about all of these factors, and are absolutely sure that you want to actively recruit Product talent from the Bay Area and relocate them to Canada, there are 3 things that you should keep top of mind:
- Time: how much do you have?
- Money: what are you willing to pay?
- Readiness: are you ready to move, and move quickly?
It's going to take longer to recruit someone out of the Bay Area. At the time of writing this, Silicon Valley is still the hottest job market for tech workers—unemployment has never been lower. Google alone receives more than 2 million applications per year.
And that’s just within the Bay Area! Just as you are hoping to land this talent—so are many other Founders/CEOs in tech markets around the world. We hear from candidates in Toronto who receive up to 5 LinkedIn messages about opportunities every day. How many messages do you think candidates in Silicon Valley receive?
Expect that the process of researching, identifying, and then actually getting in touch with those candidates is going to take some time. You’re going to need a very compelling story to tell about your opportunity—and even then, your recruiter is going to need to reach out to a lot of people to generate interest. And when they do get candidates who will take an initial call, many will never get around to sending a resume, let alone think seriously about the opportunity. Be prepared for a long journey.
Job hoppers are always going to be ready to take a recruiter’s phone call, and Silicon Valley is a noisy market. Unfortunately those folks don’t stay anywhere long enough to make a real difference. When you want to target the real talent, that’s going to take time, and a very compelling story.
Creating a compelling compensation package that will entice talent from the Bay Area to Canada is more complicated than you might think.
Yes, the cost of living in Canada is much lower. Yes, there are far fewer out of pocket healthcare expenses. Sure, Canada is generally safer and more inclusive, and you’re going to help the candidate out with the costs of relocating. You’re obviously going to factor the exchange rate into any offers you present.
Even with all of that in consideration, a candidate from the Bay Area is likely going to be losing money to join your organization.
Depending on their personal circumstances, they may want to retain home ownership in the USA, have responsibilities for their kids tuition in US colleges, need to travel back to see family frequently, or a whole host of other factors that you haven’t yet considered. What about their spouse/significant other? How will a move affect their career prospects?
There’s also a mindset component to overcome—the exchange rate can loom large, and (at the risk of generalizing) Americans have different attitudes toward money than Canadians do. Once they take a position that pays less than their current salary, it can affect their earning potential down the road. The candidate will have to make a calculation about the risks they’re taking.
As you think about the level of compensation you can offer, you should keep all of these complicating factors in mind, and be prepared to come up with the strongest possible offer you can afford for the right candidate.
The only part of the process that you’ll reasonably be able to control is your position of readiness. Yes, it will likely be a time consuming process—but because of all the complicating factors I’ve already discussed, you need to be prepared to move at a lightning speed when a candidate is interested. You also have to be prepared to roll out the red carpet, and sell them on your vision/mission/opportunity.
Waiting a week to set up an interview or give feedback won’t cut it. Expecting a candidate to see the value in your opportunity on their own is definitely not going to cut it.
Are you ready to sell the candidate on your opportunity? What is the exciting problem they will be solving? Who will they be speaking with on your team who can paint them a picture of how great it is to work with you?
A candidate is likely to have a lot more questions about logistics than a local hire, so you want to have answers/systems in place and at your fingertips. What relocation services do you use, and what level of service do they provide? How will you help them get the necessary paperwork lined up? What does the housing market look like in your area? Do you have a realtor on standby who can answer their questions? What about schools for their kids, or leads on jobs for their partner? Be ready to offer answers and support to candidates who are open to a move.
Recruiting Product talent out of the Bay Area to relocate to Canada is difficult, but not impossible. Before you start looking for a Product Manager from that recognizable brand in Silicon Valley, ask yourself: is this truly essential for my business, or am I just enamoured with the idea? Are there other tech markets that I can look to?
Relocating Product talent to Canada can be done, and done well. This article is a beautifully written account of a New Yorker’s relocation to Waterloo, and illustrates the many benefits of moving to Canada. But you should be prepared for it to be a complex recruiting journey.