4 revealing interview questions to ask product managers

It is hard to evaluate a person’s role fit from an hour-long conversation, but hiring managers can make it count by adding these 4 questions to your interviews.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Many people think that product manager job interviews are only taxing for candidates. Truth be told, interviewers have it hard, too.

While making sense of the interviewees’ answers, they have to evaluate whether the answers demonstrate the qualities required for the job, and decide on follow-up questions.

In order to make the product management interview more effective, consider the following questions that could help both the candidate and yourself understand each other better.

Hypothetical questions on real-life situations will help the interviewers understand how well the candidates would fare on the job if hired. The candidates will also have a glimpse of how the role is actually like.

Choose situations that are typical to the product manager role in question. Below are a few examples for your consideration.

  • Situations related to stakeholder management: what would you do if the requirement raised by your business stakeholder affected their KPI significantly but overall had no benefits for the customers?
  • Situations related to prioritisation: how would you prioritise competing requirements from different requestors?
  • Situations related to collaboration with designers: what would you do if you disagree with the designers on a design?
  • Situations related to collaboration with engineers: how would you convince an engineer to fix a critical bug that happens while he/she is not on duty?

A more generic version of this question that might be more suitable for junior candidates is: “What do you like and dislike about your favourite product?”.

The answer to this question demonstrates how the candidate thinks as a product manager.

It is understandable if they do not have an in-depth understanding of the product problems and internal priorities your company has.

However, a logical response of possible improvements based on their observations as a user or of how they plan to discover areas of problems can showcase their problem-solving skills.

Furthermore, a follow-up question on how they plan to go about implementing their suggestions can help probe their ability to execute further.

For example, a candidate might answer that he/she wants to improve the search and recommendation experience in the app because as a user, many times, he/she does not receive relevant search results.

The next question can be about how the candidate would plan to improve the search and recommendation experience.

For interviewees that do not have prior product manager experience, the question can be about a failure in their previous line of work.

How they describe their failures and lessons learnt speaks volumes about their ability to reflect and recover from setbacks.

In addition, this question creates an opportunity for the candidates to showcase their ownership, product sense, thought maturity, problem-solving skills, stakeholder management, and leadership, etc.

I personally would look out for evidence of humility, which is important in every job, but especially so in a product manager role.

More often than not, there is no one right answer when it comes to product decisions. The ability to accept that as a product manager, one can be wrong, and one’s stakeholders, and customers might know of a better way of doing things will allow the product manager to be open and inclusive.

How the candidates ask questions about the product, as well as the role, can say a lot about how they think as product managers.

Raising questions related to market fit and competitive advantage for an early-stage product shows that they are aware of the importance of these factors to a new business. It also leaves room for them to showcase their domain knowledge.

Asking about the team’s upcoming priorities, and which areas of knowledge they should prepare for shows how the candidates think ahead about how to contribute.

Note: If you are a potential candidate who is reading this piece, feel free to check out these 4 questions to make an impact in a product management interview.

I have never thought of a job interview as a test that interviewees need to pass. It is a conversation between two parties who would like to assess if there is a match. The interviewers’ objective is to seek to understand if the candidates will be able to excel in this job, and in the company’s environment.

Before you leave, click here to take a peek at a not-so-sexy day in the life of a product manager, or click here to see how a language barrier makes a product team more agile.

On a quest to build products that customers love. Have survived both the startup life and the corporate product career with tales behindaproduct.com to tell