Finding a new product management job — what I learned so far

Anna-Lena König
Sep 13, 2018 · 5 min read

“What’s your favorite product?”, he asked. It struck me immediately — this must be a typical question that you need to think about before the interview. I had not prepared an answer to this question. So I quickly checked my phone, looked at the app icons on my homescreen and decided for the To-Do app that I use. As it turned out, this wasn’t the best choice. Later in this post, I’ll tell you why…

This is just one situation where I learned something about job interviews and hiring processes, especially related to product management positions. In this article I describe a few learnings and give some insights in my personal experience until now. My goal is to help others who are also in search of a new interesting challenge.

<insert some analogy about hiking and career paths here>

About me: I am currently spending some months with my grandmothers in Southern Germany, while also focusing on creative activities like wedding photography and writing. Usually, I live in Berlin and work as a Product Manager for mobile apps. I’m currently open for a new challenge in this field, which is why I had a few interesting job interviews during the last weeks. Find out more on (in German).

Related article: 2018 is the year I do something that I can’t do later

There are typical questions that everybody asks

When I answered the question about my favorite product, I wasn’t prepared for the follow-up questions. Now I know them, so I can give a better answer. You shouldn’t name a product that is so simple and well done, that you can’t think of anything that you strongly dislike about it. They will ask you “what would you change about this product; what’s annoying about it?”. Before an interview, think of an app that you’re passionate about but which also frustrates you in some aspects. In the future, i’d probably mention Spotify or Strava. You should also be able to answer questions about the target group of this app and the strengths, weeknesses, opportunites and threats (SWOT analysis).

Other common questions are about prioritization of feature development, how you handle stakeholder requests, your approach to estimations or how you measure the app’s success. Once, I was asked which digital tool I would build if I had 1 million Euro*.

*I’d build a platform that matches people from all over the world to be a mentor for each other — similar to language tandems and not like classical mentor-mentee relationships.

How to get invited for the interview

Do you know someone who works at the company? Send them a message and ask if they appreciate when their employees connect you with HR. You still need to write a motivational letter along with sending your CV, but the chances to be invited are better. If you don’t know anyone there, try it by being passionate and going the extra mile. Maybe you can use the company’s product in some way or tell a (short) personal story about your connection to the product. This has worked for me several times in the past. However, I have also been rejected a few times right away, even when writing very individual motivational letters, picking up the product’s mission, highlighting my personal relation to the topic, mentioning the apps I have worked on in the past etc. This leads me right to the next point…

Believe in yourself and in your abilities

It’s easy to start doubting yourself after a few rejections. To avoid that, every time you don’t succeed, make sure you don’t feel bad for too long. It’s okay to be disappointed at first, but don’t let it get you down. If you do get helpful feedback regarding your skills, use that information to decide if you want to take an online course to strengthen your knowledge in a specific area — but don’t over-analyze for ages, until you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not good enough and never will be.

“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” — unknown

Focus on learning and improving, check out new opportunities and stay confident. If it didn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be.

Don’t be afraid to criticize their product

It may feel strange to criticise the company’s product, because you never know if the person you’re talking to can handle it well. However, most people really appreciate your feedback. It’s a good way to show your analytical skills and your product knowledge. You can describe a difficulty that you had with the app and make a suggestion for improvement. I often tell them that I have a certain assumption and that — as a product manager/owner of this app — I would take the following measures to test this assumption and find out if the feature needs to be changed accordingly. Most hiring teams like when you have a suggestion for improvement if you can explain it well — and they like to be surprised with an approach which they have not thought about yet.

Tell people that you’re available for hire

Every time I mention on social media that I am currently open for a new challenge as a product manager, several people share this information with their network (if you’re one of them: thank you!)— and each time there is at least one person who gets in touch with me because they have heard of something.

Got a job offer? How to decide

My favorite approach to decision-making is simple: think about all the benefits and downsides, write them down in lists, talk about them with a good friend. But instead of making your decision by counting the pros and cons, first sleep over it one night and then listen to your gut. You will probably know what to do. It needs to feel right. I don’t suggest to deny a job offer easily, but you probably shouldn’t accept it if it feels totally wrong and you don’t even want to go there on the first day. Otherwise you’ll soon be on the next job search. The situation might of course change over time, but in the first weeks of your search you can still be optimistic and aim at finding the right challenge for you.

One more thing

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with a friend who’s also looking for a job. And if you have something to add, please do so with a response.

Anna-Lena König

Written by

Product Owner for mobile apps at Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen. Runner, tech enthusiast, photographer, music lover. Blogging on since 2008.

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