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How To Interview For A Product Manager Position

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What Does A Product Manager Do

How to Nail the Product Manager Interview by Gayle McDowell

Come in hot out of the gate and get them to share their understanding of the role. Since there is so much variety from one organization to the next, many people have different expectations for a product manager. This question helps ensure theyre applying for a job they want and wont be overwhelmed/frustrated/disappointed when they start working in your available position.

What Do You Do In Your Spare Time

Questions PurposeYour hobbies tell them a lot about you. It says whether you are a Type A or Type B person. They want somebody competitive, sets high goals for themselves, and works aggressively towards them and they want to see that reflected in your hobbies.

How to AnswerYour hobbies should tell a story of your Type A personality traits. They dont want to hear stuff like, I have kids and they take all my time, I like to hike, or I like to read and I read a lot. They want a story about a personal life-goal that you are working towards in your spare time. Like me for instance, I want to be a writer and I write fiction and non-fiction, and I study and take writing courses in my spare time to improve my skills and abilities.

Stick to this formula: Aspirational Life Goal + Activities Working Towards Goal == Good Answer.

How Do You Measure Success

Setting goals and evaluating success is an important managerial duty. This question allows the interviewer to see how you identify, set and meet goals. It is wise to describe your orientation toward group success in your answer rather than focusing on personal goals.

Example:Just as I set attainable goals for myself, I aim to measure my teams progress toward a large goal by creating and celebrating small milestones. In my last position, I led a marketing campaign that required everyone on the team to finish several assignments per week. I held weekly meetings with my team to ensure I had a pulse on any roadblocks preventing them from meeting their goals, and we finished the campaign above and beyond the clients standards.

Related: Guide to Key Performance Indicators

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Tell Me About A Time You Had To Prioritize Tasks

Between internal demands and external feature requests, product managers are constantly juggling product priorities.

The product manager candidates answer to this question will tell you:

  • If they have the skills to do the job. Youre not just asking them if they do youre taking it a step further by asking them to tell you about a time where they have demonstrated it.
  • What their working style is. Does it align with what youre looking for?

Ideally, your product manager candidate will tell you about a time they had to prioritize product-related tasks. But its OK if they talk about a time they juggled tasks in other contexts. Prioritization is a transferable skill.

What Characterize A Good Product Manager

Recruiter Interview vs. Hiring

You can talk about an ability to understand the market, to think one step ahead , to understand the needs of the customers and an ability to transform these needs to a particular product design and marketing plan, the technical skills required for the job, and so on.

Show them that you know what it takes to become a great product manager, and ensure them that you have the skills .

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Why Did You Leave Your Last Job

Questions PurposePM is a high-pressure job with lots of moving parts that can go extremely wrong. They want to know if you were fired, swept out for poor performance, re-orged into irrelevancy, and so on.

How to AnswerThe truth can be tricky. If nothing is wrong and youre leaving because the new company is a cool opportunity, then answering is easy. Just focus on what makes the new company so wonderful and why you are the perfect fit for it. Easy-peasy.

But if youve got some skeletons in the closet, then answering this question is challenging. Dont lie. It can come back on you. Be truthful but focus on the positives, just like you would if you were giving stakeholders bad news.

  • FiredUltimately, my manager and I had a very hard conversation and we both felt this wasnt the right place for me. What I learned from the experience is X, Y, Z, and heres how I can apply that to your company.
  • Re-orgedChange is the only constant at the company and Im grateful for the time I got to spend there because I got to learn X, Y, Z, which made me a much stronger PM and in a good position to execute X, Y, Z at your company.
  • Poor performanceMy last performance review wasnt nearly as good as the ones before that. What I learned from that is

Typical Microsoft Interview Questions

The questions youll be asked in your interview obviously depend on the type of product and technology youll be working on. Weve compiled the ultimate list of the commonly asked Product Management interview questions.

Youll be asked to give a run through of your resume, so be sure to know it back to front, and be able to go into details. Dont just tell them what you did, tell them how you did it, what the effect was, and what youd do differently now.

Weve also found some examples of questions asked in real Product Management interviews at Microsoft, which range from practical questions about your PM performance, and hypotheticals to test your critical thinking.

  • As a PM how can you make a project more profitable?
  • How would you develop a coffee machine product?
  • How would you divide a cake into 8 pieces with only 3 cuts?
  • How would you explain calculus to a 5 year old?
  • Write a program for monitoring a patients heartbeat and calculating the average over the last 10 detection.
  • What is the difference between C++ and Java?

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Show How You Prioritize Decisions

Riechers is hardly alone in viewing workflow prioritization as a crucial skill set for PMs to demonstrate its a point echoed by several sources who say backlogs can quickly become graveyards for good ideas.

There is no right way to answer Riechers standard question on the subject, which is this: For a product you owned, how did you prioritize what you worked on? Rather, a thoughtful response will show a candidate is aware of useful prioritization tools, such as the Three Feature Buckets framework, and applies a data-driven mindset to produce results.

Tell Me Of A Time When You Failed At A Project

How to Succeed in a Product Manager Interview by Uber PM

Questions PurposeThey want to gauge the level of your PM maturity and your honesty. Honesty is critical to being a PM. If you are not honest, then you are not trustworthy and they will not place an entire developer team and a critical project in your untrustworthy hands.

How to AnswerEvery PM under the sun has failed at a project and the interviewer knows that. The best answer isnt about the failure itself, its about the lessons learned. A mature PM will have done a solid analysis/retro on any failure they experienced and have strong lessons-learned to take to the next project. So when answering this question, outline the failure so they have the context but spend most of the time explaining what you learned from it. Bonus points if you can connect those learnings to the new jobs challenges.

Dont be afraid of that failure, embrace it and be excited to tell them what you learned from it.

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Share Some Examples Of The Ways In Which Youve Impacted Worker Safety

What They Want to Know: Occupational health and safety is a major concern of employers, especially in high-hazard workplaces like factories, chemical labs, and construction sites. Describing how youve positively impacted worker safety is a good way to add value to the impression youre providing of your management skillset.

Leadership And Communication Questions

Even at a junior level, a Product Manager is a kind of leader. So even entry-level PM roles will come with questions about leadership. But dont worry, they wont be too high-level or philosophical until you reach seniority. Theyll be more similar to behavioural questions, and theyre just trying to see how you interact and communicate with the people on your teams.

  • Whats the best way to work with executives?
  • Is consensus always a good thing?
  • What is the best way to work with customers and users?
  • What kinds of people do you like to work with?
  • What kind of people do you have a hard time working with?
  • What would you do to get a team to stick to a schedule?
  • Whats the difference between leadership and management?

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What Was Most And Least Rewarding About Your Last Position

What They Want to Know: This is another situation where its how you answer that is most important. Align your answers to what you know the employer is seeking in their next manager your most rewarding scenario should reflect a quality they want, and your least rewarding example should describe a skill or situation that isnt relevant to your ability to succeed in your new management role.

Quantitative Prioritization Techniques: Do You Like Math

How to Ace Your Next Product Manager Job Interview

No gut instincts in this department. These prioritization frameworks use cold, hard arithmetic to divine which features should jump the front of the queue.

The RICE scoring model uses four elements for feature prioritization: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. This puts the emphasis on what the real effect on the business will be for each potential project, but with a little consideration regarding how much work it will be.

RICE works best in a group setting and forces stakeholders to publicly state what results they think each feature could have, instead of just saying its important. The downside is that youll have to do some homework to really quantify the market effect of each potential item.

Weighted scoring is another number-heavy prioritization technique where each feature receives a score for various attributes. Add them all up and the feature with the most points gets the top spot.

This is a great method when youre looking for something truly objective and qualitative as theres no editorial elementthe numbers speak for themselves. The problem with this framework is that it doesnt factor in any level of effort. Plus, you must do some upfront work to figure out how much weight to give each attribute.

Also Check: How To Interview A Caregiver

The Product Manager Life

This useful talk by a former Product Manager for Microsoft gives you an in-depth overview into what its like to be a PM. This is especially helpful if youre moving into your first product role, but also if this is your first time working at Microsoft. Every company does PM a little differently, so its good to get some insights before diving in.

You may also be interested in: Introvert or Extrovert: Which is Better for Product Management?

Overcome Inherent Biases And Use Metrics In Your Product Decisions

We dont always realize were relying on our instincts because, well, theyre instinctual! Just like we dont think about our breathing, were constantly assessing multiple variables. Then, we make decisions based on the information at our disposal without even realizing it.

But I implore you, to make data-driven decisions, weve got to resist our instincts. Instead, try to intentionally short-circuit your default behavior and inject an additional step in the process. Thats where Ive found processes and checklists can come in handy.

If part of your decision-making process is to validate against existing data, collect new data, or run experiments its far more likely to happen.

Another advantage of relying on data to corroborate our assumptions about features is that well stand a far better chance of overcoming the inherent biases we all carry with us.

Bias is the culprit behind the numerous faulty ways we perceive information and can lead us into making irrational decisions. They are pitfalls of our self-delusion where we judge situations through the filters of our personal experience and preferences while being completely ignorant of the fact that we are being affected, says Hayden Hsu of GreenOrbit. By going with our intuition, we dont stop to consider all the details so we save time and energy and therefore are more efficient at decision making, but are we effective?

Learn how to prioritize the right initiatives that will make the largest impact:

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Technical Knowledge Interview Questions

The purpose of these questions is to verify how far your technical knowledge goes. Some positions require less technical know-how while others have a strong focus on the development phase of the product.

If you are interviewing for a company with complex technical solutions, expect to hear several of these questions. Your interview will also have a strong focus on this type of interview question if you are interviewing for a Technical Product Manager position.

  • If you could redesign one of our products now, which one would it be? Why?
  • How have you previously integrated the development team with the product vision?
  • What would you say that separates a product averagely designed to a product exceptionally designed?
  • Our engineering team develops products using Agile Scrum methodology . How familiar are you with it?
  • How would you describe our product to an engineer that doesnt know the product?
  • Have you ever had to cut a product feature even if it would make your product more usable, for priority reasons? How did you convey this to your developing team?
  • How do you see the importance of the engineering team as a stakeholder?
  • Can you tell me about a technical solution that you designed with engineers that became a commercial product?
  • How do you decide what is not worth it to build?
  • How do you integrate quality assurance procedures into the products development?
  • What strategies do you use to translate strategy aspects into technical requirements?

List Of Product Manager Interview Questions From Top Companies

How to Shine in a Product Manager Interview by former Facebook PM

Examples of Product Manager interview questions that some of the top tech companies ask candidates include:

  • Pick a product that you used this morning and tell me why you like it.
  • Pick a product you hate and tell me how you would improve it.
  • Which tech trend are you following at the moment?
  • What is your take on leadership?
  • Tell me about a time you had a difficult problem to solve.
  • Tell me about an unpopular decision you made on the job.
  • Tell me about your greatest innovation.
  • What is something that you learned from a failure?
  • How would you improve X product?
  • How would you design X product for Y people?
  • Tell me about a competitive move by a company in the past six months and what you think about it.
  • Explain the concept of “protocol” to a four-year-old child using an ice cream store as an analogy.
  • Describe a typical page load time distribution on desktop. What about on mobile?
  • Pick an app or product. How would you improve it?
  • Take any production chain. How would you optimize the production process?
  • How would you motivate users to use an app every single day for a month?

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What Skills Do I Need To Be Hired As A Product Manager At Google

Technical background. Google values hiring product managers that are former engineers or have a proven track record working with engineers.

Product sense. PMs are ultimately responsible for if a product works or not. Youll need to show that you can cleverly assess a potential product. Does it meet user needs? Is there room for improvement? What would the key features be?

The way that PMs like to assess product sense varies a lot there is no one right way to do it, so youve got to be ready for anything. I have a friend who used to bring a bag of various products, ask someone to pull out a random product and then discuss the merits and faults of that product.

Satyajeet Salgar, Director of Product Management at Google

Start-up experience or mindset. In contrast to other large tech companies, Googles culture resembles that of a start-up. Here Product Managers have more influence in major decision-making about the product and offer more strategic input. Think of Google as a large company made up of many smaller start-ups, and the Product Managers as the heads of these mini businesses. Because of this, having experience either as the founder or early employee of a start-up is seen as a major plus.

Google is very much a not-invented-here, build-it-ourselves culture.

Eric Schmidt, ex Google CEO

Best Practices And Tips For Being A Great Product Manager

Just as there isnt only one kind of team, one of the most exciting aspects of the product manager role is that there isnt only one way to do it. During the last two decades, the craft has exploded both in popularity and approach. Unlike designers who have successfully segmented themselves into interaction designers, graphic designers, motion designers, and so on, product managers, as a whole, are still wrestling with how to label their different strengths.

To complicate matters, people are only beginning to pursue product management as their intended discipline. Where older generations fell into product management from engineering, design, finance, or marketing, younger generations are starting their careers with product management in mind.

That said, there are a handful of skills and practices that any good product manager will need to develop.

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