Most of What I Know

Most of What I Know

Today we have another person joining us at one of my Melbourne SaaS clients and we’re totally stoked that we were able to secure him, he’s going to be a great addition to the team he’s joining. We’ve got another two new starters in different teams over the next couple of weeks, making that 27 hires in 31 weeks since I started at MMG in January.

It’s been busy, no doubt, but it’s also been enlightening, rewarding, at times frustrating but above all, really good fun. I was initially drawn to the challenge of building a top-class product team within 3 months, which was my original contract engagement.

I remember sitting on the tram after interviewing with the team and thinking, “So how do you do this? How do you attract and engage great Product Managers and Owners to a business that doesn’t do product? Nice one Simon, you’ve set yourself up to look really stupid this time” A good old shot of self-doubt after a healthy serve of interview bravado.

So that 3 month term was extended and 8 months and 27 hires later I’ve been reminded that the learning never stops, and that reflection is a good thing. I think these are the best learnings I’ve had this year.

Be Visible

I walk around the office a lot, so much so that my Fitbit actually emailed me the other day asking for a break. If I can have a conversation face to face rather than on email I will. Good recruiting is made up of a lot of little things done really well. Sometimes (Ok, a lot of the time) you need other people to do some of those things, by having a conversation at their desk with my laptop, I’ve found I can get through a lot of these and move things along quicker than if I was waiting for responses to emails.

It also gives me the chance to check in on our recent starters, or stop by a hiring manager and remind them that they have an interview tomorrow, or check to see if they’ve got any questions about the resumes I left on their desk in a Manila folder (emails get unopened, and if I think we’ll have some competition for a candidate, for example, I’ll leave a resume on a managers keyboard asking for them to take a look when they get two minutes and then ping me on Slack when they have time for a quick chat at their desk).

Sitting in on the team meetings or stand-ups of the teams you’re hiring into is also invaluable. You’ll get a feel for the make-up of the team, what they’re working on, how they communicate with each other, how they interact with their manager/leader etc. These are all things you can use to your advantage when engaging with potential candidates. This depth of insight makes your conversations with potential candidates that much richer, and ultimately more human. I lied, I don’t have a Fitbit.

Leverage your leaders

In the SaaS and Tech world people join organisations because they’re attracted to the tech stack, complex problems to solve, the scale they work at, and the mission of the business; these things are all important to job seekers (Along with the Ping pong tables, food, back rubs and sit/stand desks).

But there’s no denying that one of the key factors, is the team they’d be working with and more importantly, the manager they’d be reporting to. Leveraging your managers is, I’ve found, incredibly powerful. Unexpectedly so in fact.

My main stakeholder at MMG was initially the Chief Product Officer and at first, the plan was to produce some short sharp video clips of him talking about Product Management and why people should consider a career with us. In other words, why should people care what we were doing? What was in it for them? Remember when people are looking for work, they want to improve their position in some way, (better manager, new location, job security, more career progression, less travel, more realistic sales targets etc.

By the way it’s rarely more money) not your companies’. As it turned out he had a whole bunch of YouTube clips that were great, so we used those. Our candidates felt like they had a really good feel for who he was and his Product Management philosophy, This, coupled with well-written ad copy and some good company profile documents helped us immensely. We had 100% offer acceptance for these roles which as brilliant, I think we did a great job of painting a realistic picture of what people could expect.

I’ve recently carried on doing this by using the YouTube clip of another manager delivering a technical talk at a conference, and I’ve had similar responses.

Reject with empathy

The things I’ve mentioned in these two points can be powerful in helping to convert open requisitions to closed ones. That work can be undone though if your rejection is sub-par.

Empathetic feedback can really only be delivered with real information, meaning you have to debrief well with your interviewers, meaning you need to have booked that time in, meaning you have to have set the expectation with them that this needs to happen (you can reinforce this when you’re doing the stuff in the first dot point).

A few months ago I wrote about a small sample survey I carried out and that people, in general, are fine with rejection as long as it’s validated. If the stuff in dot point two has been done, you should have some people really keen to join your business.

Unfortunately, you can generally only hire one, meaning someone will probably miss out. Making them want to keep talking to you in the future despite the rejection is possible, and empathy goes a long way to do this.

Don’t compare candidates to each other

We’ve evolved this theory that we need things in threes in order to make a good decision, it’s clearly designed to help us validate our decisions in the future.

We get three quotes for the tiling, and for some reason we want three candidates to “compare”. My advice, don’t. Compare candidates only to the requirements of the role, the PD, not to each other.

We’re all different, we’ve all had varying life experiences, we rarely approach the same problem with the same lens.

Comparing candidates is an exercise in futility and generally, a validation exercise to hire someone we’re not comfortable with “Mmmm, we interviewed three candidates, he was the best of a bad bunch I guess”.

Compare candidates to what you need them to do, and make the best-informed decision you can on whether you and your team can work with them. Get the input of several of your team, the interview squad, and you can get a more balanced view.

The minute you let one person make the sole decision you’re in a bad place.


So there they are, they’re my biggest learns, this year. They’re probably things you already know, and if they are then maybe this can be a reminder. If they’re not things you’ve considered, try them out, let me know how they work for you.

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