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Interviewing for Product Management is an Art

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Finding the right people for your team is an art. And true to artistic stereotype, suffering through the interviews can be agony–both for the interviewer and the interviewee. Short of cutting off your own ear, it pays to spend some time anguishing over the technical and emotional needs for the position.

Trust me, you’ll be more uncomfortable—and so will your team—letting the wrong person go, than you will spending a little extra time or money making sure the right person gets hired in the first place. Here are three categories of questions to get you started:

Problem solving/skill sets:

  1. Describe an assumption you once held about a product you managed that was proven completely false. How did you respond?
  2. Describe a cognitive bias that product managers frequently fall victim to. Why?
  3. If you were to create and share a product manager evaluation report card with a cross-functional team, what 5 aspects would be be graded?
  4. Describe how you have used both qualitative and quantitative data in the past.
  5. When jumping between the forest and the trees, how do you effectively change context?
  6. What makes a viable experiment? Describe an experiment you conducted, your methodology, and a summary of those findings.
  7. What is the difference between user experience and design?
  8. How do you handle a rapidly changing environment?
  9. What is your general approach to story decomposition? When do you diverge from the traditional story template? How? Why?
  10. You are entering a new domain / competitive landscape. You are asked to get up to speed in 5 days. How do you analyze a market and opportunity? Describe your methodology.

Team dynamics:

  1. How do you approach forming trusting relationships with engineers and designers?
  2. How do you want to be remembered by the engineers and designers you work with? What will they single out as defining traits?
  3. How do you handle situations where the team pushes back on your decision?
  4. What’s the best or worst team project you have worked on? What made it great/terrible?
  5. Describe the ideal team.

Personality:

  1. When can you trust your intuition? When do you distrust your intuition?
  2. Do you regard yourself as a planner, a visionary, a doer, an analyst, or an advocate and why?
  3. In four years where do you want to be? What are your opinions on career advancement within a product team?
  4. What energizes and inspires you about your work? What parts drag you down?
  5. If you were to do one other job at a software development company or anywhere, what would it be?

So, before your first round of interviewees shows up looking more nervous than a 15-year-old on a first date: take a deep breath, pull yourself together and think about A) what you really want in a candidate and B) what you really need. Above all, have empathy for the person across the table. They want this relationship to work out well just as much as you do.

On the interviewee side: How can you make sure this company, and this team are people you really, really, really want to spend 8+ hours of your life with almost every day? Speed dating is not an option. (Hint: there’s a few great tips from our senior product manager, John Cutler).


Share some of the best and worst interview questions you’ve ever been asked with us and we’ll add them here. Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss those updates, plus our regular blog of great PM tips and stories delivered right to your inbox every week.


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