Product Manager Interview: How to tackle difficult questions
Product manager job interviews are tough. As there is a combination of interview rounds in a product manager interview that would otherwise appear for different positions. That includes position like project management, product design, software engineering, management consultant, and marketing. Product manager interview can be divided into five sections:
- Product design round
- Technical round
- Analytical round
- Strategy or business round
- Personal Round
In the article, we will be providing you ways in which you can approach product manager interview by breaking it into different categories.
Product design round
The product design round can be one of the most difficult parts of the product manager interview process. Candidates generally tend to stumble in this area. Simply because many a time the candidates do not have a clue about what the answer is. Hence, they go on to improvise a solution while giving an answer. By the end of the product manager interview, candidates are not very sure whether they have given the right answer.
The question that can be asked in this round can vary from designing a desktop application, webpage or website, mobile app, consumer product to even a service. Therefore, to deal with a product design interview, one needs to take a different approach that reflects a way in which a Product Manager works on a day to day basis.
Some sample questions:
- How would you improve our product?
- Design an alarm clock for a blind person
Here are a few steps which candidates must follow while answering product design questions.
- Understand the situation
- Find out who your customers are
- Take into account your customer needs
- Make a list of solutions
- Assess tradeoffs
- Summarise recommendations
Understand the situation
Before jumping into a solution, candidates should first analyze the question. Take a pause. Understand the question; there can be a situation in which one doesn't know about the product at all. Therefore, it is very important to ask questions to the interviewer. So what are questions that you can ask the interviewer?
- What is it for?
- Who is it for?
- Why do they need it?
- How does it work?If in a case, the interviewer refuses to answer these questions, then make assumptions based on what you know.
Find out who your customers are
Not everyone knows the answers to all questions. In the interview, the candidate wants to recommend an amazing product. Therefore it is very important to focus on a single customer persona. Yes, there could be many personas that could be built. But, since you have limited time, stick to one.
Take into account your customer needs
This can also be called use cases, user story or users requirement in a daily language. A use case has to convey what an end user wants to do in everyday language. Do not provide solutions at this stage. For example: As a social media influencer, I want scheduling tool for social media so that I schedule my post. You can have two or three use cases.
Prioritization imitates on the real-world problem. In the real world, you will be limited by time, money and labor. Hence, you need to choose among the use cases. So pick one. When you are making the choice, you are showcasing your ability to prioritize, assess trade-offs, and come to a decision.
User Story Revenue Customer Satisfaction Ease of implementation Overall
The above is the matrix method that can be used to prioritize, as it helps the decision maker to analyze what is important and what is not.
Make a list of solutions
Listing the solutions is where most of the candidates stumble. So to avoid this, one should follow the given approach step by step.
Trade-offs are an important part of the decision-making process in product management. Therefore, it is very important to define a tradeoff. You can start by taking in a few criteria such as customer satisfaction, ease of implementation, revenue potential, etc. Analyze all the solutions by making a list of pros and cons.
Summarise the list of recommendations
After you have listed out the tradeoffs, tell the interview which product or feature you would recommend. Recall what it is and why it is beneficial. Also, explain why you preferred this solution over the other.
- First, figure out what is being asked by the interviewer. If necessary ask to clarify the goal and the problem statement.
- Work through a simple base case. The solution and clarification accompanying the questions will be more apparent as you work through it.
- Talk aloud. It will help the interviewer understand where you are headed. The interviewer may even provide you with helpful guidance.
- Review code. Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and revise as necessary.Before going to the interview, brush up on your core computer science concepts like sorting algorithms, trees, and hash tables, etc. Some sample questions:
- There is a server bottleneck. How would you solve it?
- How would you reduce the storage of Gmail?
Product managers make decisions all the time: whether to respond to the complaint on a feature A versus B or how many servers to order for a new service. Therefore, the analytical round is important for product manager interview.
Some sample questions:
- Estimate the revenue of KFC.
- How would you price Flipkart plus?Therefore, good judgment calls are very important. In the analytical round, there can be 2 types of questions:
Estimation questions have been wrongly tagged as puzzles or brain-teasers in a product manager interview. This might be because some estimation questions seem too cliche to be taken seriously. The interviewer also uses estimation questions to judge your listening and problem-solving skills of the product manager. There are two ways to tackle estimation questions in product manager interview:
Top-down Estimation Method
The top-down approach starts with the whole and working its way down to the parts. For instance, to estimate the sales of LED television, the top-down approach starts from the total available market. That is anyone who can afford an LED television. In this case, a candidate might start with the Indian population, a little over 1.32 billion, then go on the target market, which is a subset of the available market.
Bottom-up estimation method
The bottom-up approach is based on observations. Therefore, one collects a single data. And then only when assuming that was true for a single data, can we assume the data in question. For instance, if we are trying to estimate LED Television sales in India, we might start by visiting a single electronic store in Delhi.
We might ask our consumers whether they bought an LED television. After an hour worth of the data, we can make a conclusion on how many LED televisions are sold in a store in a given day, month, or year. And from there, we can infer the sales across all electronic stores in the country.
Pricing interview establishes whether a candidate can identify dubious situations, formulate a structured way of solving it and make hard decisions that could make or break an organization. When it comes to price, there are three things to keep in mind:
- The most important thing is to know what the customers are willing to pay.
- For products that are creating brand new categories, this is the pricing of building a particular product from scratch.
- For products that compete in the existing category, there is the competitor's price plus additional accessories, all customization necessary to achieve parity with the competition in the real world. The best way to finalize pricing is a different price.
You can survey customers instead, but know that the service can lead to an overly optimistic prediction on price points and volumes. You will have to take that data and adjust accordingly to have a more accurate assessment.
Strategy or business round
Some sample questions:
- Explain why display advertisement is a bad decision.
- How would you convince our CEO that a feature is needed for our product even if he/she disagreed?
- Start a new category, division or international market for Myntra? What would you choose and why?
When it comes to strategies interview round, the most prevalent and satisfying analysis tool is pros versus con analysis. It also feels complete if one were to evaluate the pros and cons of an idea, across three to five different dimensions, this analysis would easily consume 2 to 4 minutes.
To answer interview questions on entering new markets, one has to the first characterize the market into size, market growth, profit margins, and market trends including changing customer preference and regulatory changes.
Then see how a competitive environment functions. This will include the number of competitors, competitive resource, competitors distribution channels, etc. Another important area to look while answering a new market question is how the company fits. This would include expertise, the economy of scale, access to distribution and channels, a good relationship with suppliers, etc.
CEO level strategy questions
There is no need for a separate framework for a CEO level issue. Rather, it is important to think of how to make money and what the critical drivers for the business are.There can be four issues related to CEO strategy question.
- Competitive issues
- Acquisition opportunity
- Complementary products
- Corporate values
When you are after a particular job, and there are other individuals equally keen on landing the same job, the personal interview gives the recruiter an understanding of who you are. Therefore, the questions for the product manager interview will be as follows:
- Tell us something about yourself.
- Why are you looking for a new opportunity?
- Tell me about your experience with “XYZ Company.”
- What team did you work on?
- What’s the project you’re most proud of and how did it impact the company?
- What excites you about a career in product management?
- What are your career goals?
You might see these question several times throughout the interview process. As it will help the interviewers to understand you better.