My Job is Me

Posted by | May 26, 2019 | Thoughts on Life | No Comments

I had yet anther interesting and fun conversation with my colleague who sparked a fun question: why don’t people hire me because I’m Matt?

Here’s the back story. My colleagues and I interview a lot of different candidate each week. I think our average right now is probably 3-5 candidates a week ranging from entry level positions to director level. We’re hiring them for a specific job, such as Director of Engineering or Product Manager over a certain domain.

It’s always interesting being on the interviewer side because we get to briefly review a resume that has a list of accolades related to their history that maps to the job they are applying for. We often come in with strong assumptions around whether we are going to like the candidate or not. It’s hard not to be biased in these situations because we often know what we’re looking for and the words on their resume either map or don’t to the job description.

What we often find is that we’re wrong on our assumptions (rocket science level statement right there!). The problem is that we often really like the people we interview but they just aren’t a good fit for the existing role. Otherwise, we’d hire them in a heartbeat!

Part of what is tricky is that everyone has what they’ve done on their resume but there’s no context on how they got it done. That’s the art form that is missing. It’s not on there because it would look super weird and potentially off putting if someone said “Drove $5M in revenue through strategic political bachkchanneling” or “Rapidly pushed product through to the market by obfuscating a department through automation”.

Here’s the real ugly truth that’s a bitch to explain in reality: those traits are implied both in what an interviewee has delivered and how they explain that in the interview process. No one will every outright say that they had to make a massive political campaign to get the ball over the line, but rather explain it as “I influence the right people to move it forward”.

What we see is the job description and the resume. What we don’t see, and often don’t hear, is the art form in which they accomplished that.

For example, within product management, there are a ton of different ways to get the job done. There are general qualities that you want to look for but it really is an art form much like any other role. Product managers can be really strong on the quantitative analysis. They can be heavy on the business model side. They can also be a pure play product manager where they heavily focus simply on delivery to the market. They can be technically focused. The point is that they come in all different shapes, sizes, and expertise.

Now, I’m sure folks will argue that a product manager should have qualities that cover a wide range of the above skills sets. I don’t disagree but the reality is that individuals will skew in certain directions based on their education and experience. Finding someone who is well rounded in all of them is finding a unicorn and, I’d argue, someone that you actually don’t want because they are likely too shallow in each domain.

This goes back to the beginning of this post which is this: why can’t people hire me for me? It’s true that companies need specific skill sets at different stages of their life. But it would be interest to see a different type of hiring model where instead of hiring specific skills, we instead hire for art form styles of a domain. Meaning, we qualitatively look at an individual who has applied for a job in a certain domain (eg. UX, product, etc.) and identify how that individuals unique art form maps to areas of where the business needs.

There are some companies that do this by saying “we’re hiring product managers” and then map an individual to a product line of interest or art form need. Those are the minority, however, and it would be really interesting to see if both the employee and company are more happy than the traditional route of hiring.

At the end of the day, I want people to hire me – Ryan – because I have certain valuable skills but have an invaluable art form of applying those skills. I think that’s where the intersection of happiness between employees and companies may stem from.