Market update 2019: Product Management

Market Trends

With the national unemployment rate declining throughout 2017, 2018 saw a shift in hiring practices as we saw a move toward a “Candidate’s Market”. The tech industry continued to grow, and candidates had the luxury of being highly sought after for positions requiring niche skillsets, and were less likely to pursue roles that did not offer rare and promising opportunities. However, once candidates began to reenter the market, the trend was to interview broadly, casting a wide net, while ultimately pursuing a select few roles with serious intent.

Candidates felt a particular draw toward companies driven by disruptive technologies, with many professionals interested in roles related to machine learning, personalization, behavioral change and AI. While early 2018 saw interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency rise, hiring dropped noticeably as stability in both areas fluctuated. Candidates have proven to be increasingly drawn toward more “traditional” industries that have not seen much technical innovation but have an established user base and vast market reach, ripe for disruption and broad consumerization. 

Hiring Trends

As demand for engineering talent continued to increase, the need for product managers increased in parallel. The volume of roles at the senior individual contributor level grew, as early-stage companies hired PMs in volume, targeting hands-on candidates with the ideal trifecta of technical experience, strategic business acumen and an eye for intuitive design. Maturing startups (post product/market-fit) saw an increased demand for more senior candidates, as scaling organizations sought seasoned product managers with prior team leadership experience and strategy ownership through periods of growth.

Another interesting hiring trend was increased transparency from hiring managers. With 2018 legislation calling for explicit salary ranges for any given role, candidates now have additional context before jumping into an interview process. Similarly, hiring managers expected greater commitment from the candidates – specifically, hiring managers set a high bar for candidates to be knowledgeable about the company they were interviewing for, product, role and major competitors prior to interviewing. Informed candidates who put in the extra time to become fluent in the space were better received and more likely to receive offers of employment.

As is common in the product space, title manipulation was a tool used by hiring managers and candidates alike in the negotiation process, making title comparison more challenging as title becomes increasingly subjective. Companies utilized both flat organizations and title bumps to better compete, particularly in earlier-stage, cash-conscious environments. Looking to combat title inflation while still enticing candidates, the all-encompassing “Product Manager” title gained support among some hiring teams, as a generic title that allows the candidate to brand themselves with a more generally interpreted scope of responsibility and ownership. In other organizations, title inflation was preferred as an inexpensive alternative to increased compensation packages during offer negotiation.

2019 Forecast

As technologies continue to advance rapidly, hiring volumes will increase throughout 2019. Consumerization of enterprise software and the development of self-service enterprise solutions will become increasingly widespread. As technical development continues to surge in sectors such as AI, machine learning, IoT, blockchain, VR/AR and robotics, hiring in engineering and subsequently product management will undoubtedly flourish. These disruptive technologies will seep into many industries, increasing hiring needs across the board and setting a high bar for the qualifications and commitment of candidates.

To discuss the current market, or get help with your hiring, please reach out to:

Eric Soni, Senior Manager - Product Management

Dir: +1 415 549 2005