The questions that you may be asked in a product manager interview depend on your role. As a product manager, you could be deciding what products to make, ensuring that those products get to market, overseeing product design and engineering, or reporting back on existing products. So, to prepare for your interview, it is crucial that you do some research on your exact product manager job.
Your HR contact should be able to give you a detailed job description or put you in touch with someone who can. Failing that, search the company on LinkedIn to find a possible contact. This will give you a better grasp of the skills your interviewer might be looking for.
That said, there are some key skills that all product managers need and that an interviewer will want to see, including:
Ability to think strategically.
Sufficient technical skills.
Ability to execute and oversee a project.
Ability to understand the role of the user.
Below is a deep dive into some questions and answers for each key skill and a list of product manager interview questions that will help your interview prep.
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As a product manager, you are in charge of your product, which means you must think strategically. This involves effectively managing the product roadmap at all stages of the product's life cycle. That could mean developing the product concept, designing it, getting it to market, or beta testing the product once it has been launched.
Basically, you need to think like a manager from a 10,000-foot level yet also have a fluent grasp of the technical details, concept, and user experience.
Questions that an interviewer may ask to determine your ability to think strategically.
Your answer to this question should show that you can identify a problem and solve it. A good answer here is to talk about management tools that raise red flags, such as missing deadlines or unexpected costs.
It is not your job as the manager to gather all the data that you need to have a birds-eye view of your product, but it is your job to have the right team in place to deliver the information and analytics that you need. Therefore, it’s wise to convey your understanding that much of product strategy is preparing a competent team and setting up clear roles that prevent a project from going off-track.
A lot of strategy is, unfortunately, politics, and finding common goals among different stakeholders is key to advancing product development. One way to do this is to consult with each party involved to find a path that works for everyone.
How you communicate with customers, sponsors, and stakeholders depends on their styles and preferences. The goal here is to show the interviewer your communication skills and people management savvy.
Ok. So, this is a bit of a trick question, and there is no right answer unless the company clearly lays out the answer in its mission statement. As an example, Amazon makes it clear that the most important to them is the customer).
Most candidates will say the customer is most important because the product and the business depend on the customer. However, a confident product leader may choose themself as most important. A strong leader with the courage to stand up to difficult people and challenging circumstances might be just what the company is looking for.
Do your research on the company and the corporate culture to determine the best way to approach the question. Whatever answer you go with, be sure to make a strong case for why you chose it.
Product managers don’t need to be experts in Python, but they do need to be proficient in a product's design and technology. Proficiency will help the manager to understand the product's value to the company and in the marketplace.
As the overall manager, you need to be aware of the possibilities and options where decisions are concerned. For example, if you are managing a payments solution, you should know what other solutions exist and what type of end-customer they serve.
Having good technological knowledge also helps the product manager understand the demands and constraints of the product team, such as designers and engineers. This will strengthen the trust and the relationships between the manager and the team members.
Questions that an interviewer may ask to determine your technical know-how.
The interviewer wants to find out how deep you went in the development of a product. The level of skill the interviewer will want to see depends on what your role will be as a product manager. Be honest. If you lack the depth of skill that you think the interviewer needs, show that you are capable of coming up to speed quickly, and give an example of when you have done so in the past.
Again, the best answer here is the truth. No one can be a technical expert in everything. Assure the interviewer that you appreciate the need to be conversant in the product and its design so you can make strategic decisions.
Explain that you would lean on other experts—designers, engineers, marketers—to help you develop sufficient knowledge to be effective as the product manager. You could also use the know-how of your engineering teams to help bring you up to speed on the technology, the market, and its competitors.
The ability to execute requires the ability to motivate teams. The product manager must pay sufficient attention to detail, yet have the ability to step back and let the team do their job. Leading is not an easy thing to do and calls for a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ).
The manager must understand that it is their job to make sure their team has the resources it needs to perform at a high level both internally and externally, including the right team structure and communication tools.
The manager must be a natural communicator, use appropriate messaging, and understand the need for shared goals, methodology, expectations, trust, and understanding.
Perhaps the hardest skill for a product manager to develop is the ability to let go and delegate. Even if it is your favorite product, as the product manager, you must step back. The product manager is also the hiring manager. They must find the right people and then trust them to complete tasks without micromanaging.
Lastly, the product manager must manage any conflict that arises among teams, across the organization, or with external partners.
An interviewer may want to determine your ability to execute from product concept through product launch and under certain conditions, for example, within a startup or a large corporation.
Questions that an interviewer may ask to determine your ability to execute.
Most likely, the team had to change the way it interacted during the pandemic. Your answer to this question is an opportunity to show various execution skills.
First, if you organized regular virtual team meetings and used collaborative platforms, like Slack or Trello, you can demonstrate that you understand the need for a team to be connected. This is even more crucial under difficult circumstances, such as remote teamwork.
By listing collaborative platforms and other workflow solutions, you demonstrate technical knowledge.
Lastly, show your empathy and concern for team members who may have experienced psychological strain from working in isolation.
Here, the interviewer is assessing your ability to organize your team’s workflow, pivot when you need to, and meet deadlines. The interviewer may also want to see how good your technological know-how is. For example, various tools help managers to apply their resources and time effectively, such as Asana.
Prioritizing requires assessing your deliverables considering the time constraints, your resources, and the value to the customer. The Eisenhower Matrix, the Moscow Method, the Kano model, and the Pareto Principle are strategies and concepts that a good product manager should be aware of and use.
Customer value will likely be the primary metric for prioritization, but this may depend on the product and the tech company, so your research will be important here. Your answer should be one that the company would want to adopt.
The interviewer is assessing your level of emotional intelligence, and they will be most impressed if you can give a real example.
Think of a time that you stepped in and managed to de-escalate a brewing issue. For example, perhaps you managed to get a group of people to agree on the next steps in product creation when there were conflicting opinions on the budget.
The main thing is to show your powers of persuasion and influence, which requires first establishing a common goal, making sure everyone listens to each other, and then finding a way to move forward that benefits all parties involved. There is always a way!
This question is similar to number 2 on prioritizing tasks. Show the interviewer that leading is not just about organizing your team, it is also about organizing yourself. As a leader, you have to be prepared to let things go and trust others. That way, you can focus on the bigger picture.
For example, perhaps your background is engineering. As a product manager, you will have to delegate the engineering work even though you might be more comfortable doing the engineering yourself. Another point to make with regard to delegating is to match tasks with an individual’s skill set and preferences.
As a product manager, you must have a vision of the end product and think about it from the perspective of the user. This skill set is critical for product development, product features, pricing, and marketing.
Questions that you may be asked in the interview process to show your understanding of the product-user relationship.
The interviewer wants to see how you have considered the end-user in previous product development. Think of ways that you have engaged customers or end-users in product creation or used analytics to better understand consumers.
Have you performed beta testing that led to a more successful product? Have you analyzed whether consumers prefer a competitor product, and why that might be the case? Market research efforts are all ways to determine the product-consumer relationship.
The answer to this question should demonstrate the ability to respond to user feedback. Even an initial concept is designed with the consumer in mind. The main thing is to show the interviewer that you can pivot on a course of action or decision based on what you learn from customer data.
Product managers must always be concerned with the customer and how their products are perceived. This requires attention to the end-user and the need for new features throughout the product’s life. It also requires knowing what technical questions to ask, when to exit a product, update it, or re-brand it.
Show your knowledge of consumer touchpoints and how to apply analytics to business decisions.
While being a product manager doesn't come with the same broad vantage point as a company CEO, it's still helpful to think from a CEO frame of mind. As a product manager, you must be prepared to make hard decisions and trade-offs and take responsibility for the outcomes. In your interview, use the questions as an opportunity to demonstrate how you have done so in the past.
Most importantly, try to find someone within the organization who can give you insights into your role, the company's culture, its product development approach, and its vision for the future. That way, you can wow your interview panel with your knowledge and enthusiasm to pursue that vision.
This approach requires strategic thinking, people skills, product know-how, and the ability to understand the customer (the interviewer). Follow our advice, and you will ace the interview!