As part of my final project for Product School, I created a unique product idea that addresses problems in the recruiting industry and took it through the product management lifecycle. In this write-up, I walk through the market research, opportunity analysis, validation, storytelling, wire-framing, and metrics of the process, as well as my go to market strategy and roadmap for potential future development. It is my hope that this will someday be developed in order to help alleviate many of roadblocks currently facing the industry.
After stumbling into staffing following graduation, I soon realized how incredibly fast paced the industry was, full of endless moving parts and numerous stakeholders. I vividly remember one of my first days as a recruiter, quickly trying to learn new concepts like CAPA and network security, all while managing my call list of 200+ candidates and making sure to prepare for my mandatory orientation meetings. After the first couple days as I was walking to my car, I thought to myself, is this what real life is like? (probably a thought every new grad has at some point) Eventually, things did become much easier and I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. There are many constantly changing components to the job and what I’ve noticed is that everyone has their own style and process that works for them. While tools like Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) do help recruiters manage their day, if not used efficiently and consistently, it can become easy even for an experienced recruiter to miss out on opportunities and become overwhelmed.
A couple years later when I got into sales, it was a whole new ball game. New challenges were thrown at me and I was once again outside of my comfort zone. This was probably one of the most rewarding moves I could have made at the time as I was forced to think outside the box and get creative with a “solutions-oriented” mindset since no client interaction was the same. Additionally, this role gave me a new perspective on the industry and further emphasized areas that were lacking – particularly within the hiring process.
Finding the opportunity
Fast forward several years. When I joined Product School, I had a pretty good sense of what I was getting myself into based on testimonials and my conversation with one of their campus directors. I soon found out though that the instructor pretty much gave us autonomy on all assignments and projects, other than just the basic guidelines. On day two we chose ten companies that we would like to work at, on day four we narrowed the list down to one company for our final project, and on day six we came up with a new product idea.
Given my background in the industry and my habitual LinkedIn usage throughout any given day, the company seemed like a good choice. Additionally though, there were a few reasons that seemed to reaffirm my decision:
- Since inception in 2002, LinkedIn has become the most used platform amongst Fortune 500 companies.
- Microsoft was willing to pay $26.2 billion for it, so a hefty price paid by a big name indicates potential.
- Assuming our world continues to become increasingly more digital, and consumers continue to prioritize their online professional presence, LinkedIn should therefore continue to increase in value.
- LinkedIn continues to be a market leader, dominating both the employment market and the content space.
LinkedIn’s mission statement is, “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” LinkedIn is in the business of connecting people in a meaningful way to help them build relationships and establish themselves in the professional world. What this information told me was that the company is continuing to innovate and make themselves relevant, staying ahead of the growing trends and providing quality content that people want. This was good enough for me.
Who are LinkedIn’s Customers?
Now that I had chosen my target company and understood its core values, it was time to look at personas and use cases in order to determine the pain point I wanted to solve. Although LinkedIn’s customers come from numerous demographics, all with different goals in mind, I ended up choosing three to focus on: candidates, hiring managers, and recruiters.
Julia is an ambitious new graduate in her early twenties who just graduated with her BA in Business Administration. She has been actively applying to open positions on LinkedIn for the last couple weeks, however, she has not had any luck and has received no any callbacks yet. When she finally does get an interview request, it’s always through an internal app like Zoom or Skype and it never seems to go smoothly due to technical difficulties or someone providing the wrong link. Additionally, due to the high number of applicants per job, she feels her resume sometimes get’s lost in the mix and is worried she is not getting an opportunity to shine. Julia’s goal is to land her first job and get her foot in the industry.
Cory is a busy hiring manager in his early forties who has been working at a large corporation for the last ten years. He manages a team of over fifty people and has back to back meetings every day without much down time. A big project was just approved by his executive team and he will need to ramp up production to meet the deadline, which will require hiring ten new employees. He typically uses LinkedIn to find and assess candidates, however due to his busy schedule, he wants the hiring process to be as streamlined as possible and doesn’t want to have to deal with logistics. His recruiting team is helpful, but a lot of the work still ends up falling on his shoulders and it makes him overwhelmed. Cory’s goal is to have peace of mind knowing all of his interviews can be conveniently hosted in one location.
Ronnie is a hard-working recruiter in his early thirties working at a growing staffing agency. He has been working in the industry for about five years now, so he has definitely found his rhythm and become fairly successful in the role. Ronnie regularly uses LinkedIn to source candidates and reach out about potential job opportunities via InMail. Even though Ronnie is somewhat experienced though, the constant screenings with candidates and coordination of interviews with hiring managers can get overwhelming, especially with the recent COVID-19 situation. Additionally, candidate’s do not always show their true colors on the initial phone call, so it would be nice to have a way to do a quick video screen with someone directly through LinkedIn after they connect to get a real sense of their background and personality prior to sending them to a client. Ronnie’s goal is to be able to organize and coordinate all of his interviews and screens through one platform seamlessly without having to deal with emails or third party applications.
Bringing it all together
So what is the overarching theme here? Lack of convenience! All of these users have their own goal for the LinkedIn platform, and for the most part those goals are satisfied. However, there is a component in each case that makes the tasks just a little bit harder, and this can be a big annoyance over time for busy people who are looking for efficiency. People want to be able to focus on what’s important and less about trivial details.
With this concept in mind, I came up with a solution that could help users streamline their processes. I proudly present: LinkedIn Video, a new product seamlessly integrated into the LinkedIn platform that will help users do their jobs more effectively with both convenience and security in mind. At a high level, this will be accomplished by giving users a direct line of video communication with other members without having to leave the website or mobile app to use third party applications. Due to the growing user base, popularity of the platform among job seekers and hiring managers, and wide array of existing features, LinkedIn Video would seek to capitalize on the companies current resources and provide a new tool to aid in the hiring process.
Validating the opportunity
Before diving into the strategy and product development, I needed to determine if there was a real need for this product in the market by validating my idea. I began with an opportunity hypothesis:
If LinkedIn increases the capacity of communication on their platform by adding a video conferencing feature, it will increase productivity and make hiring more convenient for recruiters, candidates, and hiring managers.
My first step was to validate my hypothesis in a reasonable yet sufficient way with the resources at my disposal, which I accomplished using several methods.
Alignment with LinkedIn’s Mission
The first and most straightforward reason to justify this as LinkedIn’s next logical product was its direct alignment with the companies core values. LinkedIn already prides itself in being one of the best resources on the market for business networking and recruiting, so why not secure that foothold by adding an additional tool to help users increase productivity and do their jobs more effectively?
Society is continuing to move towards a more virtual ecosystem and remote activities are becoming more commonplace. This product would put LinkedIn in a better position to capitalize on this opportunity and contribute to a shift away from conventional methods of online communication, giving users another avenue to meet and create meaningful connections.
As someone who works in the staffing industry alongside all the personas described (even being in the shoes of a couple myself), I immediately knew this product would alleviate many of the stresses my team has to go through on a daily basis. Over the last several years, LinkedIn has become the dominant recruiting tool at my company for identifying and contacting candidates, even more so than our own ATS. The main reason for this is that more and more professionals have realized the potential of the platform and are using it to set up their business profiles to gain visibility, especially those with highly technical backgrounds. With the constant updates and improvements to products like Recruiter, there is really no reason to use other tools due to the functionality it offers.
Additionally, it can sometimes be incredibly tough to get in touch with candidates for various reasons, and many do not take kindly to recruiters calling their cell phone. LinkedIn Video would effectively bridge the gap between stakeholders in the hiring process, centralizing communication and making it more comfortable and straightforward.
As you can see below, user growth has been on an upward trend for the last 10 years. There are now over 690 million users in 2020 and over 150 million active users using platform every day. (LinkedIn’s goal is to reach 3 billion in the next 5-10 years!)
In terms of data related to job postings, over 122 million users have been invited to an interview through LinkedIn, and there are over 30 million jobs listed on the platform at any given time, with over 3 million jobs being posted in the US each month. This number only continues to grow and further emphasizes the platforms potential in the employment market.
Since COVID-19 came around, remote video conferencing has gained tremendous traction, with the most buzz around companies like Zoom and Teledoc. From early 2019 to just a couple months ago, Zoom’s revenue has doubled from $300 million to $600 million. Additionally, total users went from 10 million in December of last year to over 300 million in April of this year. Granted, the pandemic has definitely helped bolster these numbers and pushed society towards this movement much quicker than anticipated, however, assuming that we continue to see this trend develop, it doesn’t look like video communication is going away any time soon.
What this shows us is that there is a growing market for these capabilities dominated by only a few players at this time, and with Microsoft’s backing it may not be that difficult for a new player to step in, especially this early in the game.
Lastly, I looked within my own industry. Out of 42 people surveyed in staffing (Recruiters and Salespeople) 90% said this feature would be helpful and would help make their lives easier, while 10% were indifferent. As someone who works alongside all the personas mentioned above on a daily basis, this product would alleviate many of the stresses my team has to go through and make many aspects of our job more convenient.
Before moving into design and development, I still needed to decide what metrics I was going to use to assess the product after launch. How was I going to determine whether or not it was successful? With the overall goal of increased revenue in mind, I chose three key metrics to look at and referenced these against my objectives:
These metrics could be assessed over a 6-12 month period to determine whether or not the impact was significant. While I do not have exact thresholds determined yet, I think it would be safe to assume a target of at least a 20-25% increase for each based on LinkedIn’s current user growth and the growth of competitors.
Thinking about design
While it is true that the back end components of any new feature are undeniably necessary for a product to succeed, the design and ease of use is arguably just as important, especially for a consumer. In order to map out how I wanted LinkedIn Video to look on the desktop (mobile wireframes coming soon), I used Balsamiq to create basic wireframes showcasing the users journey and broke the features down into four main categories:
- Mobile (iOS/Android) and desktop compatibility.
- Webcam and microphone access.
- Ability to access video page from the home page “Work” tab.
- Watch short tutorial
- View Video History
- View Scheduled Videos
- Schedule a conference
- Search for recipient
- Enter subject line
- Type message
- Adjust date, time, zone
- Add to calendar
- Submit and send invite
Conference Center (from invitation notification)
- Accept invite
- Decline invite
- Propose new time
- Respond with message
- View profile
Other than the features laid out above, several additional features were considered that could be added in future iterations depending on adoption, including the possibility of being able to invite someone to a video directly through messaging, and the ability to add multiple users to a conference. (designs coming soon!)
What about an MVP?
Typically for a software feature at a large company like LinkedIn, a development team should not have a problem cranking out a prototype. Given the effort that would be required to build out an entirely new feature on the platform, I looked at potential MVP options that could be launched in less time for a lower cost. The most viable solution would be to utilize the existing MS Teams software and integrate it into the LinkedIn platform, allowing users to generate links that could be added to a calendar or sent via messaging. Even though they have the resources and manpower to build a fully functional product, this seemed like a good alternative to first prove the concept.
Getting it out to the market
For the go to market strategy, things were kept simple and straightforward:
- The product would be bundled in with existing plans (premium, recruiter, sales navigator, etc), and free hosting would be provided for all paid users. Recipients would be allowed to participate in hosted videos free of charge, but only upon an invitation from a paid subscriber. So essentially the product would be at no cost as long as you had a current plan, which would ideally entice non-subscribers to upgrade due to the increased ROI. This is also competitive with Zoom pricing as their plans run anywhere from $15.99 – $59.99, but for video capabilities only.
- Several months prior to launch, email communication would be sent to all users announcing the release of LinkedIn Video and provide details on how to gain access. The feature would be advertised directly on users feeds and sold exclusively through the platform by sales reps during demos along with other products.
- A prototype would be released internally prior to the official launch to get LinkedIn employees excited about it. It could be used for all internal hiring in order to get people familiar with the features and allow the development team to discover any potential bugs ahead of time.
- LinkedIn would rely on content marketing and social branding for advertising. Eventually, after enough people used the product, earned media could then be a contributing factor as well.
Final Thoughts and Considerations
With more positions needing to be filled quickly and society becoming increasingly more virtual, LinkedIn Video could become a valuable asset to the platform in the future. It has the ability to make hiring more convenient, while also giving regular people a tool to connect and network in a new and engaging way without having to disclose any personal information. While there would still need to be a few things worked out such as security measures and data storage, overall this product would help LinkedIn solidify their position in the market and help create a “one-stop-shop” for recruiting professionals.