Posts Tagged ‘interview prep’


Famous sketch note artist, Sacha Chua, put together the ultimate product manager interview cheat sheet. This beautiful one-page visual summarizes tips, advice, and framework from my book, Decode and Conquer, the world’s first book focused on product management interview preparation.

Sacha’s cheat sheet covers all the goodies from the book:

  • CIRCLES Method™ for answering product design questions
  • AARM Method™ for answering metrics questions
  • DIGS Method™ for answering behavioral interview questions

And her cheat sheet doesn’t stop there. It has reminders on how to solve technical, estimation, strategy, and stress interview questions.

There wasn’t enough room to fit all the interview answers from the book, so do check out Decode and Conquer.


Thank you everyone for all the positive feedback, comments, and suggestions on this article since I published it back in September 2013.

I’ve updated this article to reflect the latest questions, interview reports, and comments I’ve received about the Google product manager process through Impact Interview’s 1:1 work with clients.

You can find the updated article and tips at this new location:

How to Prepare for the Google Product Manager Interview

Photo Credit: Antonio Manfredonio

The 20 Best Behavioral Interview Answers

March 27th, 2013 by lewis

SEE ALSO: 10+ Killer Salary Negotiation Scripts

The quickest way to get the hiring manager to say yes to the interview candidate is through behavioral interview stories.  However, there’s one thing that a lot of interview seekers fail to do when they tell their stories at the job interview, they don’t pour in the drama.

Why is it important to tell a story with an emotional hook?  Susan Weinschenk, a designer with a PhD in psychology, explains that anecdotes are always more powerful that just data.  A story invokes empathy, which triggers an emotional reaction.  With emotional reactions, it’ll help people process data and feelings.  It’ll also help activate one’s memory centers.

So when interviewing, always use anecdotes, preferably one with emotion.  Here are 15 of our favorite interview story answers from Quintcareers:

1. Best interview answer: convincing a supervisor

Last summer, I wanted to help organize a summer camp for local low-income children. My supervisor knew the demand would be there but feared we would not have enough staff. I convinced her that since I went to the facility daily, I could network with acquaintances and convince them of the importance of this camp. My supervisor trusted me. We had hundreds of children sign up for the program, and I had reached so many people that we were able fully staff the camp, as well as have a backup supply of people who were willing to volunteer their time and services to the organization.

2. Best interview answer: receiving criticism

Another manager became upset with me since some projects were not being completed. Without discussing the situation with me first, she criticized me in front of one of the employees I directly supervised. I was upset that she made me look bad in front of my workers, but I remained calm and asked her to step into the office so that we could talk about it in more detail. We discussed the problem, and she learned that the non-completion of the tasks was not my fault. Another manager did not receive his instructions telling him the tasks he needed to complete. After that I learned not to jump to conclusions when dealing with others that I work and that sometimes a miscommunication can lead to a much larger problem. I’ve learned to get the complete facts.

3.Best interview answer: coming up with an innovative solution

The trucks at Wal-Mart come loaded by personnel at a distribution center, box-by-box. After receiving a few trucks, I noticed that my employees were unloading broken merchandise that took a lot of time to clean up before the rest of the truck could be finished. The broken glass, paint, or whatever material it was, prevented the employees from proceeding farther into the truck, causing more person-hours than normal. I noticed that the merchandise was broken because heavier boxes were on top of lighter boxes. After a couple of days of this situation, productivity decreasing, I learned that the rest of the stores in my district faced the same problem. As a result, I asked each store to take pictures of the mess so the distribution centers could see exactly what was happening. I also asked each one to write down how many additional person-hours it took to clean up the mess. After we gathered this information for a four-week period, we had a pretty a good estimate of how much the company was losing, approximately $9.50 per person-hour… an average of $125 per store times 15 stores times 30 nights a month, amounts to a substantial sum. We took the information as a group to our district manager. Once he realized how much money his district was losing each month because of broken merchandise in the trucks, he contacted his regional manager, and the trucks after that were loaded more carefully. The district made our Profit and Loss the next month by a 9 percent increase.

4. Best interview answer: getting along with others

When I worked for a law firm, my co-workers and I had a huge mailing to complete. We had the choice of working more efficiently as a team — or individually in a much more time-consuming manner. My two co-workers did not care for each other and they wanted to complete the mail-out on an individual level. When I presented them with the evidence that we would finish at least an hour earlier by working together, they decided that working together was the right path to take. As a result, we finished the mail-out in a short period and could work on other tasks that day.

5. Best interview answer: going above and beyond

The day we had inventory at Best Buy, I worked a 13-hour day. I did this because I knew we were understaffed and that a lot of the lower-level employees who would be working with the inventory team were very nervous about being in charge of the inventory when many of them had never done it before. Conveniently, I used to work for the inventory company that was handling our store, so I still had a fairly deep understanding of their processes and methods. I typically work 8-9 hour shifts, but I stayed longer after my shift to ensure that our lower-level employees felt comfortable and that the inventory got started on time and that it took off in the right direction. I met with a few of these employees, and I told them a few tips on how to solve problems they may encounter, and it worked; they all seemed to feel a little more comfortable. Then I walked the store and made sure that it was presentable for our guests and in case we got a surprise visit from headquarters. I couldn’t stay for the inventory myself because it would’ve put me over my 40 hours for the week, but I was glad I could stay long enough to make everyone feel a little more comfortable, and that I had time to make them all feel appreciated.

6. Best interview answer: showing initiative

During my internship with World Market, we were asked to pick an area or a problem and create a way to improve World Market process. I noticed that our food vendors were not really pulling their weight — with the economic downturn and the price of gas especially, our sales are down right now, which often means decreased payroll — so at this juncture, it was critical that our vendors perform up to par so we didn’t have to waste our payroll hours doing their work. Initially I just wanted to change our vendor survey. The survey had 4 questions for each vendor, who got rated green (good) or red (bad) on each question. So I turned it into 10 questions that each fell under the categories of one of the initial 4 questions. I also changed the rating scale to a 1-5 scale, 1-2 were red, 3-4 were yellow, and 5 was green. I did a Likert scale rather than a simple red, yellow, green concept because I wanted to be better able to track improvement. This didn’t seem like enough to me; I decided there were so many other ways I could tweak the process. So then I created a new vendor scorecard (their feedback — this shows them their weekly ratings in each area) and a new Vendor notes card (this is where any comments go and shows them any specific dates we had problems with their products, like spoiled milk, for example). I also created a new vendor expectations guide that was a little more professional and attuned to be consistent with the changed I made to the survey. Finally I created an idea for development, putting the survey on a hand-held scanning device so the Team Leader in charge of that area of the store could take the scanner around with her as she did the survey, increasing its accuracy. The survey would also show the vendors’ scorecard history (last month, quarterly average, biannual average, and annual average) so we could determine whether or not the vendor was improving.

7. Best interview answer: dealing with a difficult customer

While managing a high-end mall jewelry store in which the clientele are usually quite well-mannered and soft-spoken, I returned from a lunch break to find one of our newer sales associates struggling with an irate and somewhat irrational customer. Voices were escalating, with the customer spewing negative comments that could be heard from within the mall. While maintaining good relationships with our customers is a hallmark of our company, this particular situation was not ordinary by any means. I could tell the sales associate was in over his head with this encounter, so I quickly walked into the conversation — argument — and proceeded to ask the customer several key questions so that I could both calm her down while also discovering more about her situation so that I could then defuse the confrontation and restore order in the store. In the process of talking with her, I found we had a common love of dogs and were able to talk about our dogs — sharing some funny stories — before getting back to her specific problem with the store. In the end, it turns out the company that handles our credit card had been double-billing her account, and I was able to make a phone call and solve her problem.

8. Best interview answer: apologizing for a mistake

Recently I had a situation where I was giving a presentation to a company and one of the upper managers had to step out during my presentation. He returned after I was done and was taking down my setup, and he asked if he could ask a question, I jokingly replied “no more questions” and then offered, “yes, of course, I would be happy to answer a question for you.” Despite the fact that he had laughed at my initial joke, it was clear to me that it had not been received well. I then made certain that I went up to him and apologized and made it clear that I meant no disrespect and that sometimes I just become comfortable with people very quickly. He told me that I needed to be aware of my audience. This is something I have always known, but I believe the sting of this specific event has really brought it to light for me.

9. Best interview answer: dealing with a difficult boss

I had a boss who would micro-manage every single project, often causing missed deadlines and frustration throughout the department. We all worried about our department’s reputation within the organization, but since he was our boss, we felt helpless to try and change anything. It was indeed frustrating knowing you could complete a project on time, only to have your boss need to stop you and question what you were doing and suggest changes. But I got the idea that maybe if I talked with the boss and showed him that we could get more done as a department if we all worked together to have better communications and to trust each other to ask for help and direction when we needed it. Since we worked together, rather than against each other, the boss gained confidence in us to do our jobs, and we were able to do our jobs and also regain the reputation of the department.

10. Best interview answer: biggest accomplishment

Last semester my organization raised more than $1,500 for a local organization, The Children’s Home Society. It was a last-minute fundraiser. We did this over the course of a week, and it was right before the holiday season. There were 16 children who we were looking to help, and the goal of our campus was to raise $200 per child. Ultimately the campus just took the total amount raised and divided it by the number of children; it came out to about $179/child. This money was to help give these underprivileged kids who came from broken homes a good holiday season. What the math comes out to is that we made this happen for approximately 9 children. I was the one who took on this challenge and made and distributed fliers to the business-school faculty. I orchestrated the event, and I like to think that everyone in our organization feels as good about it as I do. I get goose bumps talking about it because it is one of the things of which I am most proud — I really feel like I had a positive impact on a few lives, and that is what I live for — I hope I made others in my organization feel the same. I am fairly certain I did.

11. Best interview answer: ethical dilemma

I worked for a magazine that had two main competitors, and at the time I worked there, the economy was a bit slow, and the competition for readers and advertisers among these three publications was fierce. We had just finished a market-research study that showed that our audience was just a bit larger and more attractive (better educated, higher incomes) than our competition. We sent the good news to our publisher, who called us in for a meeting to tell us he wanted to combine some numbers to make our position appear even stronger — and then put those numbers in an ad campaign touting how much better we were than our competition. We told the publisher that he was mistaken and that you could not combine the numbers the way he suggested, but he replied he knew that, but no one else would, and it would strengthen our position in a bad market. It took a lot of courage, but after the meeting, I went back and talked with him one-on-one so as not to embarrass him in front of my colleagues, and told him that what he was doing was dishonest — and could get us all fired. I knew I risked getting fired for even talking to him this way, but I felt pretty sure he was not dishonest at heart. He did not decide right then, bit he did call back the next day to say he decided not to run the ad.

12. Best interview answer: biggest obstacle

The day after I turned 15 I had to get a job to help support my Mom and myself as my Mom struggled to find employment. During my sophomore year of high school I worked two jobs, approximately 45 hours a week, to help pay the bills. It was tough managing homework, six extracurricular organizations, and two jobs, but in the end I learned a valuable lesson about hard work and the value of a dollar.

13. Best interview answer: dealing with deadlines

While working at K-mart, I was one of three people to work in the electronics department. One day upon arriving at work, I was told the district manager was coming the next day to do a store inspection. The were two other people who worked in electronics. Neither could lift heavy objects, and one refused to work at all. As a result, the electronics department was usually left to me to keep stocked with product and kept in order. I had about five hours of work time to get the entire department in shape. Those five hours passed, and there was still a substantial amount of work to be done. I asked the store manager if I could stay and work after hours while the overnight stockers were there. He said that because of the employment budget, he could not let me. I was faced with bringing the entire store’s rating down, so I suggested a creative staffing solution, allowing me to work the extra hours while temporarily reducing the hours of the other two members of the department. Because of this solution, in a matter of hours, the department was in tip-top shape — and still under budget. And the results? The electronics department got an inspection score of 95 out of 100.

14. Best interview answer: communicating a difficult sitaution

As an Administrative Coordinator, I had a staff of 27 students. Having such a large student staff all working different shifts and having varying class schedules meant that meetings could not be held with everyone at one time. I needed to communicate with everyone about important policies and information often, so I came up with the idea of designing a Web page for my staff with written announcements. Each Desk Assistant was required to check the Web page daily at the beginning of his/her shift. I also sent email communications by a distribution list that allowed each Desk Assistant to keep informed about anything. The one situation that stands out in my mind is a last-minute summer camp that decided to come in a day early with only one day’s notice. I had no staff scheduled to check in the campers or to organize the keys. I posted an update to the Web page and sent an email. Within four hours, I had the following day completely staffed and desk assistants there to organize room keys for the campers that night.

15. Best interview answer: disagreed with a decision

When I worked at Home Depot as an assistant manager, I was always looking for way to boost my employees’ morale. Unloading trucks is a very routine and physical job and can become very boring and exhausting, so to improve the unloaders’ attitude toward their duties and make the best of the situation, I put a radio in the receiving dock. It worked; however, the district manager did not approve of the radio in the workplace even though it did not interfere with any set policy or company objectives. The radio was also out of any areas where customers would hear the music. I did not agree with my DM’s decision to remove the radio; however, I understood his point of view once he explained it to me and promptly complied with his request. The employees were not happy that their radio was gone, so I found an alternative method of reward and morale boosting by implementing a program in which we provided lunch for the unloaders from any restaurant of their choice if they unloaded the trucks faster than normal. This program succeeded by increasing their unloading time from 2 1/2 hours to only 1 1/2, a savings in payroll of 8 percent of sales for that shift.

16. Best interview answer: adapting to a changing situation

The bank in which I worked instituted a policy that centralized the lending process. An application was to be taken from the client and sent off to be approved/declined, processed, prepared, and returned to the branch to be signed by the client. While the process was streamlined, it also took away valuable face-to-face knowledge about the client and the loan. If the employee did not have any prior lending experience, he or she couldn’t answer simple loan questions from the client. While I appreciated the newly created time on my schedule, I felt that the clients were being slighted. I did adjust quickly to the new procedure and did my best to help those around me by sharing my knowledge.

17. Best interview answer: getting along with experienced co-workers

When I first began working at the YMCA, I was the newest member of the staff. A co-worker, who had worked at the YMCA for 20 years, claimed she “knew the ropes” of the place. When I first got there she barely acknowledged my presence, and through word of mouth I discovered that she thought that I was too new to successfully fulfill my duties. She assumed I was immature. So I did my job and took every opportunity to make a good impression. I was a very diligent worker and behaved in a highly professional manner at all times, learning quickly the best way to do things. After about two weeks of the silent treatment from her, she came up to me and told me how impressed she was with me. She told me that I had done an excellent job and was the fastest learner that she had ever seen. She apologized to me for ignoring me and took me under her wing and shared what she knew with me.

18. Best interview answer: suggestions for employer

After examining several sources, including your company’s annual report and Web site, as well as some of your competitors’ sources, I see that you have a strong product line with good demographic segments, in a growing industry. I did notice that your competitors seem to direct more of their efforts to the baby boom market, and while that is certainly a large market for your products, I think you have a great opportunity to expand your target market and increase your market share by marketing your product line to the Baby Boomers’ kids — Generation Y. These teens and preteens are extremely brand-conscious and have a high discretionary income — and you are in a great position to attract them to your product and build a very large core of brand loyal consumers on top of your existing customer base.

19. Best interview answer: keeping track of projects

I keep an electronic hand-held organizer that I synchronize with a schedule on my computer. I keep track of each task in order of priority and due date. I use an electronic organizer because it is very portable and has an alarm to remind me of about what is due so I don’t have to waste time by looking at my organizer every hour. I start with the projects with the closest due date and the highest priority. I take these tasks and then schedule times in my calendar for me to work on them to ensure I meet deadlines. I stay focused by going over my organizer each night before bed so I know immediately what I have accomplished and where I need to start the next day. Here let me show you…

20. Best interview answer: solved a business problem

When I was working as a receptionist at an apartment complex, a tenant argued that he had turned in his rent payment the day it was due. He stated that he had slipped it under the door because our office was closed for the day. I decided to consult my manager because I realized that maybe the office needed a sign that stated that we did not accept rent money that is slipped under the door. My boss agreed, and we posted the sign. We never again had a problem with tenants who claimed they’d paid their rent that way.

SEE ALSO: 60+ Killer Salary Negotiation Scripts

Performance-based interview questions are similar to behavioral interview questions.  That is, the interviewer is using your past performance to gauge your future success.  Here are 20 popular performance-based interview questions:

  1. What was the most creative idea you introduced on the job? How did you persuade your superior?
  2. Describe a time when voicing your opinion was uncomfortable or could have had serious consequences, but you did it because you believed so strongly in the value of your perspective.
  3. Give me an example of the most complex project/assignment you have had, including your role and the outcome.
  4. Describe a situation at work when you had to make a decision and were uncertain about the outcome.
  5. What do you do when you are communicating with someone and it becomes apparent that they don’t understand what you’re saying or vice versa?
  6. Describe a situation in which you developed a group into a strong working team.
  7. Communication and leadership go hand in hand. Tell me about a time when your communication skills enabled you to influence the way others thought or acted, even in a very difficult situation.
  8. What important goals have you set in the past and how you accomplished them successfully?
  9. Describe how you delegate responsibility in your current job.
  10. Describe a time when you had to sell an idea to your manager or another authority figure.
  11. Give me an example taken from your experiences in report writing, preparation of memos, or general correspondence which illustrates the extent of your written communication skills.
  12. Give me an example of a time when you built rapport with an individual or group at work, even when the situation was difficult.
  13. Solving problems requires more than good plans; it means taking action. Give me an example of a time when you were able to take meaningful action to resolve a problem.
  14. Sometimes it is necessary to work in unsettled or rapidly changing circumstances. When have you found yourself in this position? Tell me exactly what you did and the outcome.
  15. Tell me about a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands.
  16. What examples can you recall of instances in which you were responsive to your customer or successful in completing a quality job?
  17. How have you improved existing processes and procedures?
  18. Give me an example of how you have demonstrated technical or functional expertise?
  19. Give me an example of how cooperative interaction with other members of a team has been a part of your work.
  20. Give me an example of a time when others have been able to count on you “being there” time after time, project after project.

SEE ALSO: Salary Negotiation Letter Sample: A Magical One-Minute Script

“What is your biggest weakness?” is one of the most common interview questions a candidate will get. Talking about one’s shortcomings is never fun.  But look at this as an opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness as well as self-confidence in one’s flaws.

If you have a readily apparent weakness, discuss how you’ve addressed it and why it won’t be an issue in the job.  For example, if you’re a non-native English speaker, you might want to mention your accent as a weakness.  Hopefully you’ve already demonstrated that an accent hasn’t prevented you from communicating effectively and getting your point across during the interview.  And let’s say you participate in your local Toastmasters Club, a worldwide, nonprofit organization committed to helping over 200,000 people to improve their public speaking, then mention it!  The interviewer will be impressed by your commitment to improving your weakness.