Product Manager Interview Questions: A Guide to the Most Common Q&A
The product manager interview revolves around the abilities to create and test a great product.
- Who is a Product Manager?
- Tasks of a Product Manager
- Traits of a Good Product Manager
- Common Requirements for the Position of Product Manager in Technological Companies
- The Recruitment Process of the Product Manager in Technological Companies
- General Questions in the Product Manager Interview
- Specific Questions in the Product Manager Interview
- Technological Product — From Design to Launch — Examples of Questions
- Conclusion – Key Takeaways in Preparing the Product Manager Interview
In today’s article, we share examples of interview questions for the product manager position with the help of two books in the field, Behind every great product by Martin Cagan, and Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle Laakmann Mcdowell and Jackie Bavaro.
Who is a Product Manager?
The product manager is the leader of a team that delivers a certain product. The product manager makes sure that what is delivered to the customers is good enough to stand out on the market and to attract with its innovative features.
Every company wants to launch new products that are different from the products of the competitors. In the technological industry, the products have changed in time by bringing new structures, functions, and designs to the customers. These changes, once settled and recognized by the industry, transformed the way product managers work.
The road from idea to the factory is no longer linear. Interventions are made by the customers, partners, innovators, and influencers. Digital tools create an unprecedented exchange of ideas that connect the people. And the final result is a complex product. The product manager, alongside their team, integrates these ideas into the fabric of the product itself.
Lumeer is a project management and productivity tracking software. Our product is designed to help especially small and medium businesses. There is also a free version of the app available for individual users.
Building this kind of software is difficult but extraordinary. We had to make sure that our product manager knows how to:
- handle both the creation and the launch of the product,
- combine design (what we sell) with technology (what digital solution the product brings) with business (how we sell it),
- emphasize the story behind the product: Your humble servant is helping your team in multiple ways!
Tasks of a Product Manager
- Deliver a product.
First of all, according to the job description, the Product Manager is creating, testing, and launching a product. This needs to be highlighted in the product manager interview.
- Understand the target audience of the product.
Secondly, the Project Manager has to understand why and how the product could be used by the possible users. They have to understand the needs of the clients, trace the patterns and design a product that fits the patterns.
- Lead and collaborate with a team.
A product cannot be delivered without the ideas of the team. The teams work hard. Their work can bring innovation that will improve the lives of many people.
- Take the responsibility for the product.
The product manager has the responsibility to get the best out of the ideas of the team. And also to pave the road to the successful launch of the product.
- Solve complex challenges.
Skills like flexibility, curiosity, growth mindset, excellent communication and negotiation skills are important when solving complex challenges. When the pressure on the delivery is too large, the product manager must share it with the team members. He also has to fuel the motivation of the employees to get it done.
- Combine technical skills with business and design.
One of the hardest things is to combine technology with design and business. The Product Manager has to use these 3 layers to create, test, and launch a successful product.
Traits of a Good Product Manager
Product passion. A restless passion for a certain product that could be delivered to the world is very important.
Here are some examples:
- Thomas Edison with his passion for electricity and lighting solutions.
- Jiro Horikoshi with his passion for airplanes and opening the air space for ordinary citizens.
- Hewlett and Packard with their passion for transistors that can revolutionize technology.
- Steve Jobs with his passion for computers that can be used by everyone at home.
- Melanie Perkins with her passion to change the world of design.
- Kike Oniwinde with her passion for providing help to people of colour in the area of career and professional development.
Customer empathy. Understand the needs, the desires, and the patterns of the customers. A product is never released in thin air, it is designed for a target audience, a certain type of audience. When the customers see the real use of the product, the mission of the product manager is accomplished.
Intelligence and intuition. A good product manager knows how to handle intelligence (the rational perspective) and intuition (the emotional perspective). She then combines the practical side of a product with the beauty of it. In other words, making a balance between technical solutions and social/psychological effects.
Communication skills. The ability to communicate a meaningful message to people from various cultural backgrounds. Next, the ability to respond to different questions, to have strong arguments, and to be assertive. And finally, the ability to present the essential ideas to a wider audience.
Integrity and work ethic. To be a person that values responsible, honest, correct, and collaborative work. Being a person that pays attention and respects the needs and wishes of the customers, team, and their superiors. Although markets don’t always value the moral side, the products should be designed to make life better.
Confidence. Each product holds the blueprint of the people that created it in the first place. If those people had confidence, this will be shown in the characteristics of the final product. A good product manager has to be confident in his skills, ideas, actions, feelings and the work of the team. Whenever they buy a product, the customers also get the confidence that the product will solve their problems.
Common Requirements for the Position of Product Manager in Technological Companies
- Industry expertise.
Industry expertise and experience is the ultimate asset for getting the job of product manager. Usually, companies select individuals that have already designed and launched at least one good product on the market. But there are also exceptions when an individual can demonstrate spectacular innovation and drive.
- Basic knowledge of computer science and software development.
This will be important for the logical, computational, and solution-oriented mindset of the product manager. This will also ease the collaboration with the software engineers and developers.
- Courses in economics/business/financial markets/consumer behavior/engineering.
This will be correlated with the task of combining technology, design, and business.
- Proven leadership and coordination abilities.
This will be important for leading a team made of people with multiple backgrounds and using the results of their work successfully.
The Recruitment Process of the Product Manager in Technological Companies
The product manager interview is only one part of the recruitment process which has more phases. Here are the phases that are the most common in technological companies.
Phase 1: Preliminary screening of the CVs and motivation letters
The CVs and motivation letters of the candidates are analysed by the recruiters. Sometimes, the candidates will also need to provide an essay on the business strategy that they want to use for their future company. A candidate can enter the next phase although they don’t hold a degree in computer science, economy or business. This happens if he proves extraordinary knowledge, skills, passion for the product/company, and willingness to learn.
Phase 2: Technical product manager interview covering the technical aspects of the job and the technical abilities of the candidate
The interviewers will test how candidates plan to design a product from scratch. It will also test the ability to elaborate on a story behind that particular product. In this phase, a candidate without a degree in computer science, economy or business, has to know at least the most general technicalities regarding the product created by the company.
Phase 3: The Product Manager Interview
This is the core interview. In this phase, the candidates will be tested for product knowledge, experience, flexibility, leadership abilities, and vision.
For the purpose of the sample product manager interview, we’ve created a fictional interview with a fictional candidate Phillip Kerry. In the next section, there are the possible answers that the candidate would give to the most common interview questions. The specific position is a Product Manager at a tech company.
|Education||Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science Master’s Degree in Design Thinking|
|Experience||Junior Software Developer at Central Tech Inc (3 years) Software Developer at Central Tech Inc (4 years)Assistant to Product Manager at Heritu (3 years)|
|General skills||Problem-solving, Reliability, Creativity, Teamwork, Time and energy management, Future-oriented mindset|
|Digital skills||Java, C, Python, React, Adobe Photoshop, Filmora|
|Open position||Product Manager at Sunreach Software, a company that sells a team management software|
Phase 4: Feedback about the interview
This phase covers the feedback of the candidates. The candidates should emphasize that they learned something new from this experience and they understood the core essence of the interview.
Phase 5: Selection of the winning candidate
All the candidates will receive the final answer from the interviewers. This phase depends on each company. Every company makes its schedule. Sometimes, it can take just a few hours to select the winning candidate. In other cases, it can take even a few days to clarify the final decision.
Phase 6: Onboard the accepted candidate
The selected candidate becomes the new Product Manager. He will start the work alongside a specific team. The moment of the truth, when the candidate sees who the team members are, is quite challenging. The onboarding phase, if done correctly, can lead to the formation of an excellent leader and product manager. Time and the skills will do the rest.
General Questions in the Product Manager Interview
1. Tell me about yourself!
Advice: Connect your experience with the job you’re interviewing for. Tell how you can help the company through your skills and personality.
Answer: “I worked in Software Development for 7 years and as an Assistant to the Product Manager for 3 years. Now, I think it’s the proper time to make an important leap and to become a Product Manager at Sunreach. I am a reliable and skillful person that pays attention to details. I helped the Product Manager at my former company make their project management software more attractive to customers.”
3. Why do you want to work for our company?
Advice: Show that you have passion for the product, the company, and the role itself. Make them hire you because of what you did and what you can do.
Answer: “Sunreach Software is one of the biggest companies in Central and Eastern Europe. From what I’ve understood, you are planning to strengthen your position on the market by delivering new features to your team management software. After 3 years of assisting the Product Manager, I think I have the mindset and the skills to fit into your organization. My main motivation is to make your product a house-hold name to worldwide users. I would also love to innovate, not just the software, but also the team management as a whole.”
3. Why should we hire you for our company?
Advice: Prove them that you are fit for the company itself, for its organizational culture. Emphasize the possible benefits that you could bring onto the table.
Answer: “You should hire me because I do my work taking into consideration not only the customers’ needs and business needs but also the overall economic landscape. You want someone to deliver new attractive features to the software. My teamwork abilities would help me take the best ideas of my future team and put them into practice.
I am ready to integrate as many new features as you wish and to do this by innovating team practices and the workplace. I have worked for 3 years with a professional and successful Product Manager.
The stakes of this position are well known to me. I have the confidence that your product and your company will sparkle the interest of millions of worldwide users.
The best way to sparkle this interest is to give the customers something they like and they can use on a daily basis. I plan to do that by learning from all the experts that your company has and by taking into consideration all the latest developments in the software industry and not only.”
4. Why are you leaving your current job?
Advice: Focus on the positive aspects such as learning new things, curiosity for other environments, the desire to experience new challenges. Use a convincing story-telling answer.
Answer: “My 3-years experience as an Assistant to the Product Manager has meant a lot to me. I delivered good ideas and now it’s time to deliver even better ones. My curiosity for new things and new environments has let me take into consideration this position. I have the know-how to kick off this new project, to run the team and to demonstrate to you what I have learned and valid results.”
5. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Advice: The best answers the interviewers can get are: exploring new environments, learning each day, volunteering, doing a sport, traveling, reading, spending time with the family, listening to music, etc. Even such a question during the product manager interview can be used to your advantage.
Answer: “I am a big fan of sports, especially football, badminton and tennis. I play whenever I get the chance. When I find a free weekend, I like to have a city break with my wife and my daughter. Every time I see a new city I come back with fresh ideas for the company.”
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Advice: Tell how the future will look for you inside the company. Tell what you wish to create by having a strong team by your side. Outline what is your general ambition and vision.
Answer: “I see myself as a successful Product Manager supported by a team of professional and creative people. I know that I will gain so much knowledge in the next 5 years because I will learn constantly and because I will surround myself with trustworthy and skillful people.”
7. What are your weaknesses and strengths?
Advice: Describe your flaws and emphasize what you learned from them. An important aspect during this part of the product manager interview is to demonstrate the learning process. Tell the interviewers how you cope with them and how you compensate for these flaws. Describe the strengths that you gained while doing your previous jobs. Describe how you can help a team with your strengths.
Answer: “I could say that I have two major flaws: I sometimes ask too many questions and I become quite nervous when a deadline approaches. When I ask questions I don’t do it to bother somebody. I do it because I want to see the whole perspective of a task. I do become nervous when the deadline approaches because I keep thinking that we don’t have all the things done.
Lately, I’ve been trying to get relief by discussing with other people close to the project. My strengths are: sense of responsibility, good teamwork, creativity, time and energy management, problem solving and work ethic.
I think work ethic is crucial for every workplace. I like to be creative when I solve a problem and I like to ask for advice from the team. For complex products, you definitely have to rely on a team of experts and on their solid opinions. These skills are the ones that will help me as I transition into the Product Manager position.”
Specific Questions in the Product Manager Interview
Leadership – Examples of Questions
1. Describe a time when you had to motivate employees or coworkers.
Answer: “There was a moment when me and my team ran out of ideas. One day, I stumbled upon a TED Talk about generating ideas and told my colleagues that we should try those strategies. At first, they didn’t pay attention to it. I’ve told them that we should make a small contest and the person that comes up with the first best idea would win a paid dinner at a fancy restaurant. My colleagues suddenly jumped on board. I was very excited about how things turned out.”
2. Tell me about a time when you showed initiative.
Answer: “When I was an assistant to the Product Manager, I had to help the marketing team to do important research. There were 5 people in the marketing team at that time. Their overall idea was to plan a new social media strategy for the product, to test it and to keep only the best elements of the strategy for the near future.
I proposed to them a more competitive approach: let everyone in the team come with their strategy, test it for one month and after that, select the best elements from each strategy. I also told them I could provide help in presenting the best elements to the Product Manager when the time comes.
At first, the marketing team was a little bit hesitant but the members of the team eventually accepted it. I argued that a healthy competition inside the team is helpful to discover new solutions and to think about each business problem from more than one perspective.”
3. Tell me about a time when you had to give a presentation to people who disagreed with you.
Answer: “Usually, my presentations were created to show the progress of a major task or project. If I were to give a presentation to people I disagree with, I would talk about the certainties of that particular topic and let them know that I am open to collaborate for new ideas and that they should be as open as myself because they will gain more valuable work experience.”
4. Tell me about a time when you had to make an unpopular decision.
Answer: “I am afraid I didn’t make too many unpopular decisions. However, from time to time, a team leader has to make a few unpopular decisions. The best strategy is to show the long-term benefits of the decision and to let everyone apply that decision in an autonomous way or at least in a flexible framework. I am telling my people what goal we have and I let them work at their own pace and use the best resources that the company has.”
5. Tell me about a time when you had to sell another person or team on your idea.
Answer: “In my last year as a software developer I had to convince my team leader that we needed more time to deliver a task. I argued that in order to bring that particular solution on the table, we had to fine tune some crucial details. Fortunately, we had the resources to do it but not the time. Buying us a few more days would have been pivotal. I told him that that wasn’t a delay but a compromise between making things at a fast pace and making them in an innovative way that would bring value in the long-term. He did accept my proposal in the end.”
6. Tell me about a time when you’ve built a team.
Advice: Tell the interviewers how you have built your leadership abilities inside teams, projects and various life situations related to helping and leading a group of people.
This is a great opportunity during the product manager interview to demonstrate some important abilities. Describe moments when you took the initiative and inspired team members to join that initiative. Describe moments when you convinced a specific group of people to stay by your side and to deliver good results.
Answer: “I haven’t built a team so far but I am mentally and physically prepared to do so at Sunreach Software. Let me provide my envisioned timeline of the team construction.
First, I will have a general meeting with all the people to get to know each other. Then, I will invite them to present their ideas for new features for the software. I will present my own ideas as well and fine tune the best ideas. Then, I will create a flexible schedule with the goals for each phase and the tasks for accomplishing those goals. Mainly by providing help whenever asked and collaboration with other departments inside the company to share our latest developments.
I will evaluate the work and the results of my team. I will congratulate them for their accomplishments. They must learn that every success and failure is part of life and I will encourage them to think outside the box.”
Challenges – Examples of Questions
1. Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge and overcame it.
Answer: “I remember that at the end of my 4-year experience as a Junior Software Developer I was offered a position as a Software Developer at the same company, Central Tech Inc. I wanted to continue inside the company, to show them that I am a reliable person but at the same time I wanted to expand my horizons.
A possible relocation to the United States for a similar job was very exciting to me. I made a fictional presentation of my possible relocation, I analyzed the advantages and the disadvantages, I calculated my intrinsic and extrinsic benefits.
In the end, I chose to take the Software Developer position at the same company because I thought that I could expand my horizon as well there and by trying to do things differently from the rest of my colleagues.”
2. Tell me about a time when you weren’t able to reach a deadline.
Answer: “I had to make a presentation about the code for an important client. At the same time I was caught in another project. I couldn’t make the presentation as I planned. However, I managed to invite the client to look at the highlights of the code without having a draft presentation prepared. It was me, my code and my client. I nailed it. We all know that life for a modern company is based on deadlines and that can sometimes reduce our level of motivation. But we have to go beyond the deadline and to see the meaningful work behind each task.”
3. Describe a major change that occurred in a job that you held. How did you adapt to this change?
Answer: “One major change was working remotely for 6 months due to some issues at the company headquarters. At that time, I was living in a noisy neighborhood and working from home was nerve-racking. I managed to solve the problem by working in a co-working space offered by a non-profit organization. I arranged an action-plan for each day and stuck to it. After that period, I enjoyed working at the headquarters of the company. Now I master remote work and this fact is helping me a lot.”
4. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with changing priorities. How did you handle it?
Answer: “A day in the life of a Product Manager can be quite hectic. When I was assistant to the Product Manager I had to work under the pressure of changing priorities. My strategy of handling this change of priorities was to ask for two things: resources and autonomy. Sometimes I got both, sometimes I got none. Despite these situations I learned how to better organize my time, my energy and my mind and to become more flexible while understanding the ultimate reason behind the priorities of a company.”
5. Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision quickly or with insufficient data.
Answer: “Once, I had to decide whether to join a new project in 24 hours. It was right before successfully closing a project. I had to ask myself if I wanted to embark myself on a new project that was filled with uncertainties at that time. I chose to focus on my usual tasks and not to join the project. However, I did a full initial research for my colleagues that went on doing the project in order to show my support for them.”
6. Tell me about a time when you handled a risky situation.
Advice: Change is the only constant nowadays. Focus on the idea of responding to challenges with a smart attitude and proper actions.
Every company and employee faces challenges and the way they respond to those challenges is vital for shaping their future in the business.
This doesn’t mean that you are going to give up your most important priorities and the priorities of the company every time a change appears. Instead, it means that you keep the goal in mind and modify your way to get to it in a better way.
Answer: “I dealt with a risky situation regarding the client onboarding for the team management software. Me and other members of the team had to work on a new welcome packet for a large company that wanted to buy the enterprise plan of our product.
When we showed our new version of the welcome package, the manager of that company became a little bit confused and wanted to put a pause on buying the enterprise plan. I told him to reconsider this option and to invite some of his employees to test the package on their own since they will be the ones working with it more often than the manager himself.
I also told him that if his employees appreciate the welcome package, other minor difficulties can be solved with no major headache. We finished our meeting by agreeing that for every problem that could arise, we will solve things and that the client can always trust in our ability to handle difficult situations.”
Mistakes – Examples of Questions
1. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake.
Advice: Making a mistake is not the end of the world. Emphasize the fact that you learned from the mistakes of the past and, most importantly, you will change strategy whenever bad situations or malfunctions appear.
If you understand the root cause of the common mistakes, you will be able to fix those mistakes or, at least, mitigate their negative effects.
When building a product, the review of the team, stakeholders and even customers is good for understanding where things have gone wrong and from where you can start the improvement.
Answer: “I once messed up some code when I was working as a Junior Software Development. Luckily, I received help from two colleagues that were more experienced than me. After that, I used their tips to finish writing the code. In exchange, I offered myself to help them with some minor tasks as a way of thanking them for their efforts.”
2. Tell me about your strategy when you fail at something at work.
Answer: “You fail when you don’t understand the root cause of a problem and you don’t know what things can be improved. I failed a couple of times. My response to failure is to sit back, look at it from the perspective of an objective observer, outline the major causes of the failure and find practical and creative solutions. If you are armed with a “get over it and come back bigger” strategy, you are more likely to be prepared for the next possible failures.”
3. Tell me about a time when you improperly analyzed a situation.
Answer: ”I had some information about that particular customer and prepared a mix of strategies. Unfortunately, the market position of that customer was at risk at that time. I considered that the small profit was the only problem our customer had and talked to him about how our product was fit for the digitalization of the company and the relative small costs of the product.
However, in order to deliver a complete and effective digitalization, our customer had to rethink the way employees use digital resources at work. My mix of strategies was not that helpful because it mentioned a more idealized situation rather than a practical setup for employees who need to change an entire workflow. After realizing that, I started to look for a more complete picture of the workflow inside the company of our client.”
4. Tell me about a time when you were disappointed with yourself.
Answer: “At the beginning of my 3-years experience as assistant for the Product Manager, I had a couple of rough weeks. I was disappointed because I couldn’t find creative ways to do my job. For me it was like a constant race. The Product Manager told me that we can’t be creative all day long. It’s ok to follow classical paths from time to time. He said that the most important time when I need to use creativity at its best is in difficult situations, when all the stakeholders expect the company and its people to do a great job.”
5. Tell me about a time when you were unable to juggle all your responsibilities.
Answer: “In one hectic day at my former company, I was a little bit confused about my tasks. I remember asking the Product Manager new questions every 5 minutes. That was a rough day, but not the only one. I think all the employees should learn how to cope with hectic days. I told myself I would be more aware of my role and responsibilities. Planning is important but execution is even more important.”
Success – Examples of Questions
1. Tell me about something you’re proud of accomplishing.
Answer: “Becoming an assistant to the Product Manager was an important accomplishment for me. The interviewers told me that I did a fantastic job. Later on, I got to demonstrate that I can provide valuable support to the Manager and innovative solutions when developing a product that was widely appreciated and bought by customers.”
2. Tell me about a time when you reached an important goal.
Answer: “When I was a Software Developer, I managed to help my team with a big project for the biggest music festival in Europe at that time. My work received kudos and our company was promoted on TV. My goal was to design a customer journey map for their event app. I did it and it turned out fantastic.”
3. Tell me a specific insight you gained from something outside of work.
Answer: “When I did my Master’s Degree in Design Thinking, I met a professor who taught at Stanford Graduate School of Business. I asked him a lot about how companies can use design thinking to improve their businesses. I could say that he was the one that sparked my interest and my hunger for creativity. Later, I applied many of his strategies in my work with great results.”
4. Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
Answer: “One example that could illustrate how I went beyond the call of duty is the one when I helped the Product Manger to make a technical presentation for our product at the world’s biggest conference in technology. The Manager had some problems in his personal life and he was very distracted at that time. I remember my relatives coming to my house and me telling them that I was very busy helping my manager. Luckily, my relatives understood that and accepted my chaotic schedule.”
5. Tell me about a time when you had to show innovation.
Advice: Tell the recruiters that you are familiar with success and that you understand how to be successful not just for yourself but also for a team and a company.
A successful product solves a real life problem, has a fair price and attracts the customers through its unique features. A successful product manager knows how to deliver that product and to satisfy the need for that product.
Answer: “Innovation is a topic that I am very fond of. One example is this one: I proposed an innovative proof-of-concept workshop with our corporate clients when I was an assistant to the Product Manager. I gathered all my expertise in software development and product management and put it into that workshop. Basically, I transformed the 2-way typical communication into a role play for all the participants. I chose this format so that everyone could understand their role and enjoy the workshop. The clients liked it, they liked to play with the product and to talk about its features during the presentation that I prepared for them.”
Teamwork — Examples of Questions
1. Tell me about a time when you had to work across teams to accomplish something.
Answer: “In my first year as a Junior Software Developer I had to work on a project that required expertise from multiple fields. I was shy at the beginning when asking for help but then I managed to take the lead and to create a special chat group where we could discuss our work. Discussion is important for the software industry. If I become a Product Manager at Sunreach, I plan to rely on the expertise of unique and different people and to debate ways to make our product a house-hold name. I would definitely use the democratic style when it comes to leadership.”
2. Tell me about a time when you mentored or aided a coworker.
Answer: “As a Software Developer, I was in charge a few times with helping and giving advice to our junior software developers. I provided help right in their first month from their arrival at the company, especially with code debugging. I helped them because I wanted to share my expertise and also because they reminded me of my early days as a junior inside the company.”
3. Tell me about a time when you had to compromise.
Answer: “One compromise was made when I was assistant to the Product Manager. He gave me an important task to deliver, using his own methods. I wanted to have full autonomy. He didn’t agree. I had to solve the tasks using his methods. In exchange, I proposed to him to let me help with the next tasks by using my own methods.”
4. Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict.
Answer: “I remember a conflict based on misunderstanding the roles of team members when I was software developer at Central Tech Inc. For that particular project, I had to work on some settings of the product and my colleague had to test the settings and propose, if necessary, ideas for improvement.
The only thing was that my colleague started to propose ideas without testing the settings in depth. He told me that he had more experience than me and that he knows how things work. I proposed to have a one day break while continuing to work on the rest of the tasks and then we would see each other to look at the most important elements of the settings.
I told him that testing the settings in depth, not just proposing ideas, is not a waste of time but a new way to improve his excellent analytical skills. Later, I used a combination between letting things go for a while in order to improve the working atmosphere and peer recognition.”
5. Do you think you can handle our team and make use of everyone’ skills?
Advice: This is your opportunity during the product manager interview to demonstrate to the interviewers that you:
- can handle working with a diverse group of people,
- understand how to interact with the coworkers,
- are capable of applying strategies to maintain a good professional relationship with the team members,
- learned how to move on beyond possible conflicts and misunderstandings with optimism and confidence.
Answer: “Handling a team is a full-time commitment. You need to use the skills of each team member and to develop new skills in everyone. You needi to work on a product that attracts and satisfies the customers.
I want to keep a professional relationship with all the employees, allow them to work on their interests related to various aspects of product development and management. I consider using work motivators to improve the performance of the team.
More than this, I am eager to collaborate with the team members and to find innovative solutions. Innovation is important in our industry. Only innovators can rule the world of tomorrow. And I am ready to work for your company so that you can be the one that rules and shapes a new tomorrow.”
Technological Product — From Design to Launch — Examples of Questions
General questions about managing technological products
1. How would you improve a technological product for online learning?
Answer: “I’m going to tackle this in a few parts. First, I would think about the goals I would have to achieve when improving the product for online learning such as getting more customers for an online learning platform, diversifying the educational packages for both youth and adults or improving collection of customer feedback. We can decide if we also want to provide our customers with various open opportunities for learning at a more local or a more international level.
For a tech product for online learning we can think of improving features like: play or download audio and video materials, save, edit and preview the user documents, chat interaction with other members who use the product, hold and record meetings, manage the personal account of the user or rating the overall experience.”
2. How would you build buzz around our product?
Answer: “Sunreach is selling a team management software and its vision is to innovate the way every team works. We should build buzz around the idea that teams can behave in an innovative way once they use our product. I even thought about a motto: “Your way of innovation in business!”.
Social media is the second most important element that can help us promote the product. I would build 4 campaigns for these 4 major channels: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Youtube.
I would create posts on Facebook on how the daily tasks can be solved in an innovative way using our team management software. On Instagram I would focus on the people behind the product, their vision and their hobbies, hence promoting not just the product but also our organizational culture. On LinkedIn I would create behind the scenes posts where we build new features for the product and how these features keep up with the trends in the industry.
When it comes to Youtube, I would create a series of testimonials with case studies of team leaders that use the Sunreach software. A testimonial is more powerful than a plain image with a message. Basically, the buzz would be built around the ideas of innovative teams, product features and good reviews from the customers.”
3. Would you launch an early minimum-viable product (MVP), or would you wait until the product is fairly full featured?
Answer: “Thank you for this interesting question. There is no black or white answer for this question. Do we refer to your team management software? Do we refer to technical products in general? What might sound like a dilemma – launching what we already have vs. improving the product before selling it – is actually a problem of perspective. Let’s talk about the launch of the software.
First, we must consider what the leaders of the company want and what are the market conditions at that particular moment.
Second, we must consider whether we can afford to add new features to the product while staying alive on that market. We must have a source of profit for sure.
Third, we must figure out what features of the product can be part of the MVP, in other words, prioritize the features that could be the most attractive for the potential customers. The most important features make the MVP, that version that can be used by customers.
Nonetheless, we must think of the competitors and what other similar products might appear meanwhile on the market. To draw a conclusion, launching an early version of the product with 3 or 4 major features is better than waiting for a full featured product.”
4. Your VP demands that you double revenue within four years. How would you go about creating a plan to do this?
Answer: “There are a few classical ways to increase and to double revenues: growing the number of sales and customers, increasing the sales for premium products, decreasing our prices at some point in time, improving our user and customer experience, scaling, acquisitions or even winning important grants from international bodies.
When doing a plan to double the revenues we must take into consideration more categories of actions. The first category is about researching the market position of the company. We should ask questions like “What is our position on the market among the rest of the competitors?”. We need to find out if we can expand our network of customers by appealing to the customers of our competitors, for example. In addition to that, we have to research how the pricing plans affect our sales, especially the standard and premium plans. We need to know if we can rely on both large companies and ordinary customers.
The second category of actions is about investing in attracting new customers as well as innovating the product itself. This could mean, for example, implementing a new type of communication with the customers and working on the actual features of the product. Attraction and innovation are the key components of increasing the brand awareness and the revenues at the same time.
The third category of actions is related to the use of social media in promoting the product and converting our followers into active users and eventually, buyers. The social media content of a company is one important tool for advertising the product, communicating with followers and expressing the real benefits of the product to potential buyers.
As a general rule, I would look at the market trends, the customer behavior patterns and the resources that the company can have to assure these efforts really pay off.”
5. You manage a product with three pricing plans: free, standard, and premium. What would you do if you saw that the sales of the premium product have fallen but those of the standard product have increased?
Answer: “It depends on the context of our business, whether it is B2B (selling the product to companies) or B2C (selling the product to individual customers). A company can select to focus more on ordinary customers or on big customers like enterprises.
If the premium sales for a product have fallen, I would verify with my team more elements: what premium features are being less used by customers and why some customers might give up on them, in other words revisiting the customer journey map for the premium product.
Second, we must check if we can afford to migrate one or more features from the premium plan to the standard plan, thus making this plan even more attractive for the customers.
Third, we must consider how the decreased premium sales affect the overall revenue of the company and how we can compensate for these losses. As a general action to prevent big damages, I would continue to increase the sales for the standard plan and come up with ways to improve the features of the premium product.
Or, even a better idea, we could ask what new features would persuade the clients of the standard plan to migrate to the premium plan.
6. You are about to launch a major change to the user interface of your company’s website. What sort of metrics would you want to monitor to notify you if there’s a problem?
Answer: “There are a couple of typical problems that can occur when you bring a major change to your website: creating an initial confusion among the users, existence of broken links, increased error rate, difficulties of search on the website and many others. In this context, you can monitor these problems by looking at some simple metrics such as returning visitors, time on page, average time spent on the website and the number of helpdesk requests. A decrease in one of these metrics would imply a certain problem.
I would say that the time spent on the website is an important metric. If you don’t spend time on the website it means first of all that you don’t like what you see. Of course, there is also the actual content, but this is another challenge of running a website. If the users don’t spend time on the website, the engagement rate drops. Another defining metric would be the number of returning visitors. Those visitors that looked on the website before the makeover and still return on the website are proof that the website is still attractive to them.”
Brand-specific questions about managing famous technological products
1. Facebook (now Meta) bought Instagram for about $1 billion, even though Instagram was making no money. Why do you think Facebook did this?
Answer: “Let me break this down by discussing the key components of the acquisition and then how those aligned with or threatened Facebook’s mission. Facebook’s mission is to connect people and help them share their lives.
This acquisition involved acquiring three things: the company (employees), the product, and the users. Let’s think about these with respect to Facebook. While I’m sure Instagram had some very talented employees, the company was still pretty small at that time. I can’t imagine that was a strong driver of the $1 billion acquisition.
The product is a bit more interesting. Instagram created a beautiful photo sharing product, and this was probably pretty scary to Facebook. Photo sharing is really vital to a company whose mission is helping people share their lives; it was a big draw of Facebook and a key strength.
The users are the other big part of the acquisition. As I recall, Instagram had a lot of users as of the acquisition and had essentially built its own social network. This is of course what Facebook is all about and, again, Instagram has succeeded there. The size of Facebook’s user base is the big entry barrier for competitors.
Ultimately, it seems like what Facebook might have seen is this hot, young startup which had suddenly started excelling in two areas of strength for Facebook: photos and community. Facebook probably felt they couldn’t afford to risk those areas or even allow another major player there. This is why Facebook might have done this acquisition.”
2. How would you market Gmail in China?
Answer: “Gmail is used around the globe by over 1,5 billion customers. Bringing Gmail to the Chinese customers would mean making the product available for the users, building a message around the product, creating a demand for the product and promoting the product to a larger audience.
First of all, we could consider promoting the idea that Gmail is one of the simplest digital tools that every person should use in their job. We should envision Gmail as more than a messaging app because I am sure that there are plenty of local messaging apps (to give two examples: Wechat or Baidu Tieba). When it comes to increasing the demand for Gmail, I would focus on its online conferencing feature and its free storage up to 15 GB. I would also add an option for migrating the starred emails to a special folder so that the most important emails would be easy to find.
We should also focus on the free plan and the intuitive user interface. I would also create testimonials with Chinese customers and social media contests to make the product more appealing to the potential users from this country.”
3. What do you think of Google’s app marketplace?
Answer: “Nowadays, pretty much all of the products designed by Google are deeply integrated in our lives and in our behaviors. Moreover, Google also stands out when it comes to its app marketplace. Google Play is one of the most well-known online platforms that provides access to apps that can be downloaded by the internet users. This platform allows companies and developers to share their apps and to gain money (in the case of paid apps).
I must say this app has an intuitive user interface and solves a specific problem of the users in a clever way. When it comes to improving the overall marketing strategy for this product, I would focus more on the unique features of the product, features that cannot be found on the platforms of their competitors such as Facebook and Microsoft.”
4. How would you manage a new version of Google Workspace for large enterprises?
Advice: Answering such questions during the product manager interview means designing strategies at both micro and macro levels. Frameworks such as SWOT and Marketing Mix (Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People) could be used for that. Prepare a list with the most common strategies that companies can use when improving their businesses. Examples of strategies:
- Diversify revenue sources,
- Be the “One-Stop Shop for A Type of Product”,
- Be the Low-Cost Leader,
- Reduce Reliance on a Key Buyer or Supplier,
- Test a New Market.
Usually, the interviewers don’t want an automatic answer or an exact solution. They are looking for ideas that demonstrate you have understood:
- the needs and mission of a particular company,
- customers, their behaviors and their purchase patterns,
- the market competition and the economic landscape,
- the driving forces within the industry and the trends that will shape the future of a certain product.
Ask questions to understand the problem and provide a structure within your answer. Identify why the customers might use that product. Find out what other similar products are on the market, what are their strengths and weaknesses. Think of the features that can be improved and how you would implement these features by collaborating with the team.
Answer: “Making a product launch means making a product available for customers. Google can afford to have a team that handles the product launch itself. If I were to manage this kind of team at Google, I would focus on 3 categories of elements: pre-launch of the product, the launch of the product itself and the aftermath of the launch of the product.
The first category is organizing the launch of the product. We should take into consideration the calendar of the launch and the product roadmap, from what point we started to improve Google Workspace for enterprises and at what point we are now with this new version of the product. Next, establish the success metrics of the launch, what can we measure to see if the launch went well. Then, we have the features of the product and establish very clearly how these features can bring tangible benefits to big customers. We should also review the final tests for this new version of Google Docs and see what lessons we learned from these final tests.
The second category is the launch of the product itself. The launch could be an actual physical event. There would be certain logistics involved: venue of the launch, guests and keynote-speakers, presentations for the audience, the availability of demos for participants, concluding remarks, promotion of the event on the social media channels of the company and getting feedback from the participants at the launch.
The third category is represented by the aftermath of the launch of the product, how well the product was received by the target audience, the media and the social media followers. We should focus on the feedback of the most important stakeholders of the company, the customers themselves. Then we should take a look at what we did in terms of successful metrics of the launch. As a general rule, you get to see the real success of a product launch once the users rate their experience as an excellent one when using your product or your new version of the product.”
As a general rule, you get to see the real success of a product launch once the users rate their experience as an excellent one when using your product or the new version of your product.”
5. You are working at Apple and instructed to launch a product that is not technical. What ideas can you come up with?
Answer: “I have 7 years experience in software development and 3 years experience as an assistant to the product manager, so my work revolves around technical products. However, I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and to experiment with non-technical products such as furniture, cars, electronics or clothes. There are 2 aspects to start with: today, even a non-technical product still has technology incorporated in and what makes a product successful are its core attributes that solve a specific problem and bring a benefit to a customer.
Moving on to our Apple launch with a non-technical product, I could think of several elements that can be done alongside with my team: preparation of the launch of the product, the launch itself and evaluation of the launch.
For the preparation of the launch, we could have the following steps: doing a research on the product itself and its core attributes; ensuring that all the tests made with the product were successful, ensuring that all the legal and financial requirements are met and establishing the success metrics for the launch itself. There is also another important step which is to create the user-documentation to make it easier for our potential customers to interact and use our product.
For the launch itself, we should focus on presenting the practical benefits for customers when using the product, how we innovated along the way to get the final product, how can we solve the needs of our customers with this product, allowing the participants to test the product and make sure we integrate the newly product into the mainstream of the industry. Perhaps, we could even host a physical after party event to involve the stakeholders, the participants and mass media in the promotion of the product.
For the evaluation of the launch of this non-technical product, we should focus on measuring the success of the launch by looking at the number of participants, the intensity of social media promotion, the number of positive reviews or the quality of interaction with the guests and participants. Getting feedback is also important. Our potential customers need to be put first and we have to make sure we understand their expectations and their attitude towards the product itself.”
Conclusion – Key Takeaways in Preparing the Product Manager Interview
Dear candidates for Product Manager positions, here is a summary of the most important things you should take into consideration when preparing for such an interview:
- Interviewers are looking for candidates who will do the following:
- Structure a problem: Even seemingly open-ended questions can, and should be, broken down into components. Find a way to tackle a problem in a structured way.
- Show strong instincts: A good future PM should be able to make good business decisions, even in the absence of exhaustive data.
- Drive, Not Ride: You might not be the CEO of the product, but you are a leader. Show this by driving the product manager interview forward. Be relatively exhaustive in your response to a question and backup your answers with reasons.
- Think of more perspectives when answering these questions and most importantly, focus on the needs of the customers first of all. Then, focus on the need of the company to deliver a good product and to stand out in front of the competitors. The recruiters want to see your way of thinking and your way of solving in a creative and innovative manner all sorts of tasks, issues and dilemmas.
- Express your creativity when bringing a solution to the table. Describe what resources, people and tricks you could use when solving that particular task. Demonstrate that you are open to novelty yet you rely on the classic formulas that worked for the world’s most successful companies.
- Focus on the idea of responding to challenges with a smart attitude and proper actions. Challenges are constant nowadays. Every company and employee faces challenges and the way they respond to those challenges is vital for shaping their future in the business.
- Engage in a mock-session with a professional working in product development, product management or for a technological company in general in order to see how you can handle the most common questions and try to convince them that you are a great person for the Product Manager position.
- Be confident in yourself. The entire recruiting process can be a very complicated task for one person. However, that person should prove to herself first that she can be confident in her skills and abilities, face the challenge of a long and meaningful product manager interview and nevertheless, understand the stakes of being a successful product manager.
We wish you good luck!
And once you become a product manager, you might want to try out one of our product management templates.