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How do you overcome domain hiring bias while looking for product roles?

5 Answers
Melissa Ushakov
Melissa Ushakov
GitLab Group Manager, Product ManagementMarch 7

Domain experience is not at the top of the list of things I look for in a candidate. I have changed domains a couple of times in my career and it has helped me get a richer perspective. For this reason, I prefer to see some variety in product management candidates. 

Domain experience can be a challenge in some scenarios and I have faced this problem in the past when interviewing for roles. There are a couple of techniques I have applied:

  • Do enough research to learn the fundamentals. It is important for you to be able to have basic conversations on the topic to have a successful interview. It also shows that you are proactive and interested in this domain. 
  • Take some time to outline a plan for how you would learn about this space. Create a document that you can share proactively with the hiring manager and if the topic arises with others. 
  • As I mentioned in another one of my answers, it's important for product managers to demonstrate the ability to learn new things. Talk about how you have learned new skills in the past. Specifically call out in your resume when you've had to learn a new domain or skillset for a role.
  • While you may not have domain knowledge, there's other relevant experience that you bring to the table. Domain knowledge isn't everything! Think about the best way to position your background with the company/role. Ask the interviewers what they are looking for in the ideal candidate. Then talk about how you would bring that to the role.
884 Views
Anton Kravchenko
Anton Kravchenko
Carta Sr. Director of Product ManagementMarch 14

I like to challenge those I hire with questions that don't fit the usual narrative. Below is an example of my Friday fun question:

Imagine humans decided to take the moon and push it through a giant rock grinder. The rock and matter that comes from another side of the grinder are dumped on earth. Question — would a human need an oxygen mask at the top of that rock structure?

I look for out-of-the-box thinking and thoughtful process to derive the answer.

378 Views
Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Care Solace Chief Product OfficerDecember 5

Innovation is best achieved by diversity of ideas. Diversity can be achieved by many ways - one of which is including views from multiple industries and domains. While hiring for a generalist role, it is important to leverage interview questions that are going after the skill vs. domain knowledge - I try to use questions that are not from my current industry.

There are always a few specialist roles that require a deep understanding of the domain - but we're clear on those job requirements from the beginning vs. inviting generalists applications.

411 Views
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Networks Sr. Director, Product ManagementJanuary 31

To overcome domain hiring bias in product roles, emphasize the transferability of your PM skills and your aptitude for learning in your resume. Highlight experiences that showcase your adaptability, problem-solving abilities, and your knack for quickly grasping new domains. Stress on your track record of successfully managing products or projects across various industries, if applicable. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and adapt can be as compelling as specific domain experience, as the core competencies of product management are largely universal and adaptable across different domains.

376 Views
Orit Golowinski
Orit Golowinski
Jit.io VP of Product ManagementApril 17

In the past year, while searching to recruit for product management roles at Jit.io, a DevSecOps platform focused on simplifying continuous security for cloud applications, I often seek candidates with developer backgrounds or experience in security tools. This preference stems from the belief that such individuals possess a deeper understanding of the target persona and domain intricacies, facilitating more effective product management.

However, to address domain hiring bias, I implement several strategies. Firstly, I prioritize internal referrals, recognizing the value of peer insights into a candidate's character and fit within the team. If a team member recommends someone, it indicates a level of trust and compatibility that transcends specific domain expertise.

Additionally, I design an assignment that assesses candidates' problem-solving abilities, curiosity, presentation skills, and overall approach to new challenges. This task is intentionally unrelated to the product domain, allowing candidates from diverse backgrounds to showcase their capabilities on an equal footing. It provides valuable insights into their adaptability and potential for learning new domains, which are essential qualities for successful product managers.

As someone who transitioned from different disciplines and domains myself, I understand firsthand that the ability to learn and adapt quickly is pivotal in product management. While domain expertise can be beneficial, it is not a definitive criterion for success. Ultimately, I prioritize qualities such as drive, passion, and a willingness to learn, recognizing that these attributes often outweigh specific domain knowledge in the long run.

388 Views
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