Top 6 Product Manager Job Interview Tips
March 11th, 2011 by lewisTweet
SEE ALSO: Google PM interview study class, Amazon PM interview study class, Facebook PM interview study class
It’s no surprise that job candidates are overwhelmed when preparing for product manager interviews. Product managers seem to do it all – from requirements to positioning to analyzing market trends. To help you get prepared for your upcoming product manager interview, here are our tips on how to perform your best and get the job.
Top 6 Product Manager Job Interview Tips
Use a clear framework for product design questions. Product design questions can be a simple critique such as “What do you like or not like about the new Apple iPad 2?” Or they can be an end-to-end design question like “How would you design a toaster?” Before you give your solution, make sure you have the appropriate context and a clear framework for breaking down problem. Some questions you need to ask:
- Who is the user?
- What are the customers’ goals?
- What are the business goals?
- What are the gaps between existing solutions and the customer’s ideal solution?
- What are the different product alternatives?
Impress the interviewer by white-boarding your response. Kintan Brahmbhatt, the Head of Products at Amazon.com, has an excellent product manager design template for white-board interviews.
Be prepared for analytical questions. Some interviewers evaluate analytical capabilities with a series of on-the-job questions. Saeed Khan, a blogger for On Product Management, says “I’d focus on a couple of business or competitive scenarios, related to potential new product introductions. I’d ask them to walk me through their thought process on analyzing the issues and decision making criteria for those new products.”
Other interviewers evaluate analytical ability with hypothetical market sizing questions such as “How many piano tuners are in Chicago?” For market sizing questions, it’s important to layout a thoughtful problem solving structure, communicate key assumptions with the interviewer, and do math under a pressure situation.
Show how you are a team leader
You’ve heard the saying, “Product managers have all of the responsibility, and none of the authority.” As a result, candidates need to be ready for interview questions around leadership and how they influence others.
Jim Holland, Director at Rally Software, tell us that during product manager interviews he likes to “ask questions about team experiences, contribution, and leadership.” Khan adds, “I want to understand how they make change happen at a company.”
Demonstrate your customer empathy
Steven Sinofsky, President of Microsoft’s Windows division explains, “as a PM you are the voice of the customer so you have to really understand their point of view and context.” Holland mentions that some of his favorite questions to test customer understanding include:
- Tell me about the worst Win/Loss interview you’ve ever conducted?
- What the best market problem you’ve ever surfaced and how what problem was solved?
- What was the last product you bought and why?
- What problem were you trying to solve when you bought the product?
- Describe your buying process and what influenced your buying decision.
Showcase your business savvy and strategy
Khan tells us, “I like product management candidates who are not simply focused on technology but also think about the business. For example, something as simple as price or license change can generate more revenue than a big new product release. The same is true when thinking about positioning and messaging. It’s really those who devote time and energy to these ‘non-technical’ issues that stand out and have the potential to be great.”
Don’t forget the technical interview portion
As a product manager, you must carry influence with engineers. As a result, you need to demonstrate sufficient technical proficiency, especially at top tech companies like Google and Facebook. One of the top technical interview coaches on Impact Interview advises that you get comfortable with data structures and evaluate algorithm run times using Big O notation. Your programming syntax does not have to be perfect, but the interviewer expects you to be familiar with these concepts and write pseudo code.
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