Getting ready for an upcoming product manager interview?
If you are trying to land a product management job in a fast-growing company you can expect to go through a tough interview process.
Because product managers play a crucial role in the company’s long-term success, selecting the right candidate is a big responsibility for hiring managers.
The good news is that you can make the process go smoother if you equip yourself with appropriate knowledge and resources. Taking the time to go over a few common interview questions gives you the chance to organize your thoughts to communicate your abilities more effectively during the interview.
This guide will help you to get to your interview prepared to excel even the most challenging questions.
What to Expect from a Product Manager Job Interview Process
Most product manager job interviews are at least two weeks long. Most companies organize their interview process in five stages:
- Phone screen
- Video interview
- Take-home assignment
- On-site interviews
- Job offer
The phone screen’s purpose is to filter the candidates to select who has the minimum requirements to perform the job. These short interviews are held by human resources team members. This person will ask general questions about your background and your expectations for the job.
If you seem to be the right fit, you will go through a video interview -- likely with your potential manager on the job. At this stage, the interviewer will look for more job-specific knowledge besides general background questions.
The next phase of the interview process tends to be an assignment. The intent of this assignment is to evaluate your ability to materialize requests and deliver high-quality projects within a deadline.
If your assignment meets the standards that the team is looking for, you get the chance to spend a few hours at the company’s office to be interviewed by a few people. This phase is the most decisive part of the process. During these interviews, you will be asked every sort of question -- from basic background questions to complex technical questions.
And guess what? The more prepared you are, the better your chances to demonstrate confidence in your answers.
Product Manager Interview Questions
To ensure that they have a thorough perspective of your skillset and background, hiring managers divide product manager interview questions into several categories. These include:
- Perspective and background questions
- General product management questions
- Technical knowledge questions
- Product strategy knowledge questions
- Interpersonal skills questions
Depending on the position you will be interviewed for, there might be a bigger concentration of one or two types of questions. This depends on the seniority level of the position, and on the job title.
The interview for a product marketing manager position will involve fewer technical knowledge questions than an interview for an engineering product manager role, for example.
Let’s explore a few questions within each category:
Perspective and Background Interview Questions
These are the questions that the interviewers will ask to get some perspective about your aspirations and to learn about your background.
You will hear these questions often at the beginning of each interview. Also, your phone screen will mostly be composed of this category of questions.
- Can you tell me about yourself? (the classic first question of every interview)
- How did you hear about this position?
- What made you apply for this position?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What do you like most about your current job?
- Why do you think that this industry is the right one for you?
- What are your expectations for this product manager role?
- Why do you want to work at this company?
- What motivates you?
- How would your previous co-workers describe you?
- Why should we hire you?
- What is the best manager you ever had? Why?
- What your career goals for the next 5 years?
- What is the most difficult decision that you ever had to make?
When answering these questions, it is crucial that you align your personal desires and goals with what the position has to offer.
I can almost guarantee that you will be asked to give a brief introduction of yourself at the beginning of the interview. This is your chance to set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Be sure to keep your answer short and relevant. Talk about aspects of your life that matter for the job and that indicate that you are likely to succeed in the job.
General Product Management Knowledge Interview Questions
With these product management questions, the interviewer will start getting an idea of how your knowledge can benefit the company. They will analyze whether your previous experiences have qualified you for the position at stake.
Expect to hear these questions in any stage of the interview process and for any product position you are applying for -- entry-level to executive positions.
- What differentiates you as a product manager?
- What are the qualities of the best product managers you know?
- How do you create, implement, and product projects? And how do you measure its success?
- What resources do you use to obtain product management knowledge?
- Can you tell me about a product that you owned from the vision ideation to launch?
- How did you impact your previous company as a product manager?
- What was your biggest mistake as a product manager?
- What aspects of product management do you find the most exciting?
- How do you balance gut decisions with the use of data?
- What aspects of product management do you find the least interesting?
- What was the most challenging problem that you faced as a product manager?
- Think of a product that you use regularly. How would you improve it and why?
- How do you define an excellent user experience?
- What is one improvement you would implement for our product?
These questions give you the opportunity to showcase your strengths in the field. Most of these questions leave room for you to link the answer to a situation, experience, or belief that you would like to highlight.
The questions that ask about the most challenging situation or your biggest mistake in the field might be harder to answer since you don’t want to show weaknesses to your hiring manager. The secret to giving a powerful answer is being honest about the challenging situation but making sure to finish the answer explaining how you successfully overcame the adversity, and what you learned from it.
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 (could also be Kanban or other). How familiar are you with it?
- How would you describe our product to an engineer that doesn’t 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 (QA) procedures into the product’s development?
- What strategies do you use to translate strategy aspects into technical requirements?
Answering these questions might be challenging for candidates who don’t have much experience as product managers and don’t have an engineering or computer science background. If that is your case, I recommend applying for entry-level positions or product marketing manager roles.
Product Strategy Knowledge Questions
You will likely hear a few of these questions on interviews for intermediate-to-senior product management positions. By asking these questions, interviewers intend to learn about how you approach product management processes, and how deep is your expertise.
- How do you manage marketing strategies (advertising, pricing, positioning, etc.) in each stage of the product life-cycle?
- What metrics do you use to measure a product’s success?
- Do you have experience devising a product’s vision? What the product successful?
- How did you manage the roadmap for one of your previous products?
- How do you make sure that every team member is on the same page regarding the product roadmap?
- What is your preferred prioritization framework?
- Can you tell me about a time that you used market research data to iterate a product, or create a new product or new feature?
- What are your processes to access customers’ needs and requirements?
- Can you tell me about an instance that you developed a prototype or an MVP that failed?
- Can you walk me through an instance where you or your team had to adjust the product messaging to boost demand and revenue?
- What type of questions are you constantly asking yourself as a product manager?
A few of these questions give you the opportunity to outline your product management processes. Aim to be straightforward as you explain your practices and previous achievements. Using examples and results is a great way to strengthen your answers.
Interpersonal Skills Questions
Being able to build relationships and manage cross-functional teams is a big part of a product manager’s job. These questions are used by interviewers to evaluate how you leverage internal and external relationships.
You can expect to be asked interpersonal-skills-related questions in every stage of the interview process.
- How frequently did you interact with cross-functional teams in your previous position?
- How do you make sure that your team is as motivated as you are?
- What strategies do you use to translate strategy aspects into technical requirements?
- How do you balance communication, from speaking with a strategy-minded executive with no technical expertise to a development-focused engineer?
- How do you approach relationships with clients?
- What types of people do you work best with?
- How would you describe our product design to a non-technical person?
- What approach do you use to handle difficult situations when interacting with clients?
- How do you evaluate whether your users are satisfied with your product offerings?
- What is your process for gathering feedback from product users?
- What motivates you to build better solutions to people in our industry?
When responding to these questions, it is crucial that you demonstrate a close relationship with users, that motivates you to keep delighting them with remarkable products and features. It is important that you outline your process to get users’ feedback.
These questions are also a great opportunity for you to showcase your communication skills and ability to influence team members.
Ace Your Product Manager Interview
Mentally answering this collection of product manager interview questions will help you to get your ideas organized to speak with confidence during the interview.
Keep in mind that most questions do not have a right or wrong answer. I recommend looking at every question as an opportunity to showcase your strengths and relevant experiences.
Don’t forget to prepare some questions for you to ask the interviewers at the end. You can ask questions about the expectations for the position, about the company, or even about the interviewer’s role. Asking questions not only helps you to get a better grasp of what your potential job will look like but also demonstrates your interest for the position.
Good luck with your preparation!