A product manager role is as exciting as it is eclectic: it requires you to fill a unique gap in the organization. You often juggle multiple hats, and are responsible for making sure that everything that needs to be handled is handled. Ensuring you align all resources and teams to get your product shipped is a challenging task – and can be overwhelming at times.
You will need to be strategic in your thinking; convincing in your leadership, and inspiring in your execution. And you will also need to be willing to assess the gaps in your team and do the jobs that nobody else can do well.
Congratulations if you’re that person, and are ready to land your dream product management job. In this article, we will help you prepare for the D-day – so that you walk in that interview room capable of handling any question that is thrown at you,
Keep in mind that for a job that has such high-stakes, there would be questions from all paradigms that you need to know, prepare, and answer the right way to get through. There may also be some questions asked which may not have a direct answer but are asked to test you for your thought process, problem-solving skills, and check how analytical and out of the box you can be.
As promised in the title, here is a set of questions (and answers, we won’t bail you out on that!) that would help you understand and prepare yourself the best before the D-Day:
Q1. What are some indicators of a product that is designed well?
Answers to such questions speak about your understanding and clarity in the role of KPI’s in the life cycle of a product. This would make your interviewer aware of your approach to the product, the current demand, current competitor positions, and features, etc. Here are some indicators of a good product:
“It just works” – The user doesn’t have to constantly think about how to use functionality within the app. It just works intuitively.
The product has just the right number of features. It is very normal for a popular product to start putting in more and more features until it starts suffering from ‘featuritis’. Remember that ‘Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away’.
Fast response times. The product should always respond in as short a time as possible for any user action. Slow response times can kill an app even if it has killer features.
The product shouldn’t incorporate features just because the competition has them. A feature should be incorporated only if it suits the overall vision and design of the product.
Optimal use of the real estate available for a product. If you take the example of a web app, each page should suitably use the real estate (screen space) that is available to it. Every visual element on the page should be placed in its appropriate position (A place for everything and everything in its place). Care should also be taken to ensure that there is enough white space around the visual elements.
Aesthetically appealing: A pleasant looking UI which is easy on the eye.
Q2. How will you build a go-to-market strategy for our product?
This is a bookish question that you can undoubtedly expect. The answer can be somewhere along the lines of what is explained below.
A go-to-market strategy is what lays the roadmap to your product launch, gives your brand a refresh, or helps you reach a new audience.
Essentially, a go-to-market strategy should answer the following questions:
- What is the best time for your product to hit the market? What exactly are you expecting from the launch?
- What problem is your product solving? How is your product different from similar products in the market?
- Have you woven your product into a story that you’ll tell your audience to explain your product?
- What marketing strategies and channels are you looking to capitalize on? Are you looking at a fixed budget for it?
- How does your current and future budget look like?
- What are the KPIs of your product?
Once you’re aware of the answers to those questions, you’ll be one step closer to devising the perfect go-to-market strategy for your product.
Q3. Why do you want to become a Product Manager?
You need to be sure that you have the answer to this question before you walk into that interview room. While we can’t answer this for you, we can help you with some questions you can ask yourself to find the bigger answer:
+ Are you good at managing people?
+ Do you have a “get things done” attitude?
+ Do you like leading teams and are you good at it?
+ Do you enjoy responsibility and can push through resistance?
+ Can you juggle a lot of tasks and not cave under pressure?
+ Do you have knowledge spanning multiple verticals of an organization?
+ Can you inspire and lead people from diverse backgrounds and company departments?
Once you have the answers to the above questions, you can lead your response as you want the narration to start from right from the skills and abilities or the experience. Also, you can talk about particular ideas that you may have, any specific insight that you’ve gained after using the company’s products, etc.
Q4. What do you like about [Insert Company’s Product Name]? What can be improved?
Show them that you did your homework and you know what they do in the company and have an apparent reason why you applied for a job with them. Start with things that you like in their product features, the user experience, or how well their solution is designed to fit the problem.
Interviewers are looking for real-time insights into your communication and prioritization skills. Try to include the following in your answers:
- User testimonials
- Specific product features
- Cost-benefit overview
Q5. How would you go about building a relationship with a key remote department head/department head that is based in another location?
In a world where technology is helping blur geographical boundaries, people are choosing more and more to work remotely. This can sometimes create challenges in relationship building and managing them effectively.
However, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. A product manager can begin by asking the remote colleague about their job, and what can be done to provide him with support. The product manager can explore the problems that the department head is facing, and work out solutions to resolve them. The key is regular communication, and without that, it’ll be impossible to build a good relationship with the department head. If possible, they should make arrangements to meet the department heads in person during early on in their career and build a rapport, so they feel more connected to the organization and to the product manager – which will motivate them to put the best foot forward.
Q6. What are the identifiable differences between a project manager and a product manager?
Before you begin answering this question, you should take a moment and explain how exactly do you differentiate between a ‘product’ and a ‘project’. After all, these two concepts are often confused, while in practice, they are extremely different.
To begin with, a project is a temporary endeavor – it has a beginning and an end date. Product, on the other hand, is permanent, and needs to continuously evolve to meet the changing needs of the users – it has no end date, it’s a lifecycle of iterations and evolution.
With that in place, you can guide the interviewer through the differences between a product manager and a project manager.
Since projects are temporary endeavours, a project manager is required to oversee a fixed scope of requirements. Their job will be to work along with the strategies defined by the product manager or leadership team. Their primary aim is to ensure the successful delivery of a project within the constraints of time, scope, and budget.
A product manager, on the other hand, can be thought of as a mini-CEO of the product. They set the vision of the product and lay out a strategized roadmap to bring the best results. Product managers interact with customers to decide what is to be prioritized. The entire lifecycle of a product is managed by the product manager, and that is the reason why their efforts are always ongoing.
Q7. When an important decision needs to be made and key players have differing opinions, how would you proceed?
Product managers are facilitators with strong leadership skills to turn conflicts into opportunities. The development of any product is generally overseen by different teams across the organization – IT, marketing, sales, HR, and more. With so many cooks, a product manager is the one who has to make sure that the broth isn’t spoiled. So, this is one question you can definitely expect at any product manager interview.
The best way to proceed when different key players are having conflicting opinions can be understood by following these:
- Listening: First, a product manager needs to be a good listener. He should be capable of handling a chaotic situation in a way that each voice gets heard. Only when every point is on the table can sense be made out of anything at all.
- Agreeing: Now, with everything on the table, you need to find common, agreeable grounds. No matter the conflict, the central goal of every contributor is mostly the same. A product manager needs to decide on an agreement point which will pave the way ahead.
- Focusing: Once common ground is set, a product manager is required to focus on the problem at hand, and with all the solutions in front of him, come up with a common solution, that aligns with the ideas of most of the (if not each) people involved.
Q8. And finally, a B-School favourite Case Question. How many windows are in NYC / How many footballs will it take to cover the CenturyLink Field stadium in Seattle?
There’s no one number answer to that question. But believe us, the answer isn’t that difficult as it appears from the problem and it all lies in understanding the issues first.
The recruiters see the effort, identify how you reason strategically and analytically.
Windows can be divided into three main categories – residential, offices and retail. You can calculate each separately. This would give you an initial number to start with. Nearly 10 million people are living in New York, and each person would have at least have three windows on an average in 2-person apartments. That gives a total of 30 million residential windows and 30 million official windows (using the same three windows average in office scenarios).
There is no right or wrong answer.
Apart from the above-discussed questions, it’d help if you’re acquainted with the latest tools, technologies, and trends in the Product Management domain. You can also explore some case studies and understand the differences between good and bad product management.
With that, we come to the end of our list. Don’t stress too much while preparing for the interview, relax, be yourself, and you’ll do good!
All the best.