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SmartDreamers' Perspectives: Building a Product in the HR Industry

Oana Korda
Product Manager
4 min. read
Recruitment. Hiring. All of these fields are changing so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. As a product manager at SmartDreamers, I get to see first hand all of the ways that recruitment software products are evolving to keep up with this rapid pace of change. In fact, I get to play a big role in that evolution, helping to create synergy between marketing, development, customer success, and other teams to create the best possible product for our customers’ unique needs.


The more things change, the more we at SmartDreamers are concerned with maintaining a consistent approach to product development and a set of best practices for delighting our customers. How do we learn about our customers’ challenges and aspirations, and how do we incorporate that into our offerings? How do we make sure that we’re anticipating recruiters’ and hiring managers’ needs? What’s the best mindset for creating a product that people won’t just use, but will really and truly get a lot of value from?

Start with The Necessities


If I had to sum up our general product philosophy at SmartDreamers, it would be this: we don’t build things that people do not need. Some startups get carried away building out new features and designing products that are cool, edgy, or interesting from an engineering perspective. Sometimes this leads to interesting results, and people wind up really benefiting from something that they didn’t immediately see the value of. But that’s not what we do here. Because hiring is undergoing such a pronounced transformation (with recruiters and hiring managers facing increasingly stiff competition for talent and an increased emphasis on things like employer branding), we do our best to tailor our products specifically to our customers. As we roll out new features and products, we take customer feedback into account at every stage to ensure that what we’re creating will directly make the lives of recruiters easier.


That’s not to say that this is always easy. We constantly have to balance the needs of marketers and recruiters in our designs, and we sometimes have to insist upon things that might (pleasantly!) surprise our users. But at the end of the day we don’t build things for ourselves, we build them for our customers. This means really doing our best to get a handle on any day-to-day challenges that we have the power to make easier.

Jobs Aren’t Products  


The approach that I’ve outline above might not seem too radical. To an extent, any successful product manager should be adept at giving her clients the features and functionality that they need. But when it comes to recruitment and HR software in particular, there are added considerations. Even as recruitment becomes more like marketing, marketing a job or growing an employer brand still isn’t the same as marketing a product; making a hiring decision isn’t the same as making a purchase. Thus, our products need to account for the fact that, even as recruiters work (sometimes with us) to make their hiring processes faster and more efficient, no hiring process can be instantaneous.


Even looking beyond the fact that it literally does take time to sift through resumes, screen applicants, perform interviews, and deliberate between potential candidates, it also takes time for businesses to establish a strong enough employer brand with strong enough brand gravity that applicants will come to them in the first place. We find ourselves creating products for a fast-paced industry in which we know it can take 4-6 months to really see results from one’s efforts. Thus, our challenge is to build a certain amount of credibility into the platform itself. I.e. we need to find ways to show our customers value even before the high-quality new hires come in. This partially takes the form of UX design—we try to show people that we’re not just giving them a set of tools, but a platform with its own context and process. More than that, however, it’s about letting people understand that, even before the results have full materialized, all of their recruiting marketing activities can be done more efficiently, and their strategies can be implemented more quickly.  

Intuitive Innovation


While hiring must be one of the world’s oldest professional activities, recruitment marketing is actually a pretty new concept. From our perspective, that fact is super exciting—it means we get to innovate! It means that we’re in an environment where outside-the-box thinking (within the context of our customers’ needs) is rewarded, and we’re able to put our creativity to hard use. But it also means that we need to deliver UX that can make complicated concepts like employer branding intuitive to our users. We operate based on the philosophy that effective recruitment comes from the ability to reach passive job candidates with a strong employer brand narrative, and our goal is to automate the processes associated with doing so. Since this is a new idea for many people, a user who logs into our software for the first time should almost immediately understand that philosophy. At SmartDreamers we’re pretty great at blending knowhow with technology, so customers choose us not because we go out of our way to be new, flashy, and cutting edge, but because we're doing a good job of helping them define what recruitment marketing and employer branding means for them, while providing a software tool that empowers them to deliver sustainable results. We strive to make things so easy and logical for our users that these concepts become self-evident. When we surprise our users with new and exciting features, we work to do so within these parameters. 


In this way, even our most innovative products (especially our most innovative products) are all about the end-user. The hiring world is changing, and the best thing we can do is to prepare hiring managers and recruiters for that change. As we communicate with our customers about all the things we can do to make their lives easier and give them the tools to succeed, this spirit of intuitive innovation is always kept in mind. Lots of startups talk about disruptions, but we don’t want to disrupt things for our users—we want to make things as seamless as possible. How do we do that? By listening twice as much as we talk, and by leveraging feedback into products that seek out the intersection of HR and UX. If this sounds appealing, you're going to love what we do next...

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