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2018: The year of the product leader

Rarely in the last twenty years has the European technology industry experienced such an imbalance of supply and demand for a particular type of leader: 2018 is truly the year of the product expert.

The labour market is no more immune that any other to the imbalances of supply and demand. As the technology industry grows, and new sectors and specialisms are created, the supply of labour in those areas often fails to match the demand. This is certainly the case when it comes to hiring product leaders, with product searches in the internet, games and software sectors proving our most popular request from clients during 2018.

What can your company do to give itself the best chance of hiring a strong product leader?

Avoid digital nomads – The truth is that it takes time to make an impact as a product leader, and to build or iterate digital products. If a candidate has moved jobs every two years, chances are they won’t have made that much of a difference to many of their employers

Look internationally – Even in a relatively large hub such as London or Berlin, the supply of product leaders is constrained. This problem is even more acute if you are based in a more unusual location in Europe or beyond. It’s very easy to exhaust the supply of talent in your geography without finding the answer, so be prepared to relocate a candidate from abroad. Asking candidates to relocate will significantly reduce your conversion rate, but it can also offer a massively enhanced supply of candidates to mitigate against that and expand your options.

Sell the dream – At heart, all product leaders want to build cool stuff. They want to make a difference, and build products that impact lives and make the world a better place. You need to win candidates’ hearts as well as minds, and really get them to buy into the mission of what you do.

Look in the right places – The nature of competition within a particular segment goes a long way to determining what sort of product leaders exist within it. Highly competitive segments with little core product differentiation like online travel and gambling (poker is poker, and an identical flight is sold by two competitors) tend to have product leaders with very strong experience of on site conversion and performance marketing techniques to drive acquisition and retention. More brand heavy sectors such as online retail, particularly at the luxury end, will have to build online products that showcase their products sensitively and will often have a strong focus on design. Fintech is a highly regulated environment, where you find product leaders with a good understanding of compliance and often adept at driving back-end efficiencies to create a stronger experience for customers. Product leaders within the mobile games industry may be more focussed towards game design in some cases, or have a strong focus on monetization and converting users within a free-to-play title. What sort of product leader does your business really need? What does gaining market share and differentiation in your industry rest upon

Test their vision – At the end of your interview process, it’s often a great idea to test the thinking of your candidates with a real life case study. Provide them with data, have them sign an NDA if need be, and ask them to present on a real-life issue you face. Whilst they probably won’t be able to instantly find a solution, this will give you a real, practical insight into how they work and approach problems, massively de-risking the hire for you.