A job interview for your next Product Manager role doesn’t have to be scary.
You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room to succeed as a Product Manager (or in any job). I believe there are two universal qualities to succeed in anything:
- A strong work ethic
- An ability to prepare for anything
Master these two habits and you’ll surpass most people.
As my dad always says to me “Amy, it’s not hard to beat the average.” That might sound a bit funny, telling me to be above average rather than the best. What he is really saying is that at each level you reach be sure to put in that 1% extra than other people and it will pay off.
How many people here wing a job interview?
It’s ok, I used to as well. That was until IW who follows my blog taught me that was a bad idea and how to properly prepare for a Product Manager job interview.
So you really want that Product Manager position? You’re passionate about it? You want to beat the competition?
Well, get ready to prepare. There’s no room for winging it around here.
Here are some of my tips for crushing your next job interview:
Google “Company X” in the Google News tab
This is my top hack for quickly reading up on a company and the industry. You’ll also get a read of what people are saying about them.
It’s so easy and yet so many people don’t do it! This is a gold mine for understanding the strategy and vision of the company you’re interviewing for.
Did you know Transport for NSW are investing in quantum computing to improve transport scheduling? Neither did I…until I googled it!
Don’t forget to save your key findings about the company as a bullet point list in a document.
You can expand from here by reading company websites and socials. Have you noticed that Westpac ad that keeps popping up on your Newsfeed? Screenshot it and mention it if the opportunity arises.
Review and use the product
Know the product you could be working on. Applying to work on Amex credit cards? Take a look at their website and note down what you like and 3 quick improvements they could make.
If possible, you want to use their product or app to get a good sense of how it works and what you would change as a user.
Think about and write notes for common job interview questions
Some of the common questions you’ll want to think about:
- “Tell me about yourself”
- “Why do you want to work for company X?” (bonus points if you can weave this response into the “tell me about yourself response”)
- “Why are you leaving your company?” / “Why do you have a career gap?”
- “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
- “What’s your biggest strength/weakness?”
You definitely don’t want to sound like a robot but you do want some level of structure when answering these questions. To me, this is like the multiple choice section of the exam where you know one of these things will come up. You should be able to smash these questions to make a good impression and show off your personality.
Every time you do an interview, add in any new questions they ask to keep your document up to date and comprehensive. Your future self will thank you.
Use the job description to match your experience to potential questions
What does the job description say? You’ll want to think about what examples you have on hand that you can talk about that demonstrate your experience across the key job requirements. Also, make sure the job description you’re provided is current.
If it’s a behavioural style interview you’re likely to be asked questions that directly relate to these requirements. You want to be able to showcase your best experiences and respond using the STAR model.
The way I prepare for this is to create a table with all of the key requirements listed out in one column. I then go through each one and list my key experiences as bullet points. I don’t memorise all my responses but what this exercise helps me to do is get super clear on which experiences I want to showcase.
How will these tips help you land your dream job?
Presentation is everything. Having a clear story about who you are and why you want the job is sure to impress. If you get a bit nervous then it’s even more important that you practise and prepare.
In most product interviews I have been asked some variation of the question “What do you like about our products and what would you change?” If you have done any level of research and preparation as outlined above, you’re not going to be caught off guard. You’ll look so clever when you can confidently offer an answer and maybe even show off some research!
If you are passionate about product, you’ll enjoy thinking about this question anyway and your passion will shine through in the interview.
What’s the most difficult question I’ve been asked?
I was once asked “What would be your 1 year, 2 year, 5 year and 10 year roadmap for product X?” I thought this was a brilliant question as it cut right to the heart of my ability as a Product Manager. As a result of my prepartion I was able to frame my response around initiatives I’d roll out based on my own user experience and industry trends I’d seen in my research.
By the way, there is no right and wrong here. I didn’t know much about the industry but my response showed my ability to think critically about a product and how I’d approach building it out. I directly quoted the volume of app downloads I knew they had from my research. My personal strengths shone through.
Other Product Manager questions I’ve been asked:
- “How would you build and launch a new product?” (I got asked this in my graduate interview!)
- “How would you go about solving a problem?”
- “What do you think is the most important quality of a Product Manager?”
- “Tell us about a time you used data to make improvements to a product?”
- “How many wheels are in Australia?” (to test problem solving ability! You can’t be sure if they’ll include a question like this, but typically you just need to use an anchor number like the population of Australia for example. Pick easy numbers to do calculations as well)
- “Tell us about a time you had to influence and motivate stakeholders”
Finally, Product Plan has an awesome post that outlines in further detail the qualities hiring managers look for in a Product Manager. It has also has some fantastic information on how to answer some of the more challenging questions you might be asked.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU
Feel free to reach out via any of my channels if you want help to practise questions or prepare for a Product Manager interview. I always have time for anyone who needs help.