Product Manager interview questions

A quick framework

I’m grouping these questions based on the type of Product Manager you’re looking to hire: Product Leader, Product Manager, Product Owner. Even though this is not an official separation of roles and there are many variations to the meanings that people attach to these terms, I’m going to make an informal split of these three roles as such:

  • Product Leader: Someone who builds and empowers teams of Product Managers and doesn’t work directly with customers and delivery teams. This might overlap with roles such as VP/Head of Product, Group Product Manager, Product Director, Chief Product Officer — in general roles that are more about “people” than the “product”.
  • Product Manager: Maybe the role you already have in mind. The person that falls right in the middle of Marty Cagan’s definition of a Product manager: a person who discovers a valuable, usable and feasible product. She works equally closely with a delivery team and the users. Communication with stakeholders is as, if not more, important than delivery skills and she keeps a close eye to the market.
  • Product Owner: At the end of this unofficial spectrum you find the role that people refer to as “the hat that a Product Manager wears in a Scrum team” which in many companies is limited to just the activity of backlog management. There is no heavy discovery work done by them, they are usually more tech-savvy and they are working very closely with the delivery team. I’m not judging if this is a right thing or not (many will debate around that: 1, 2, 3) but it is a reality. Just look at the job descriptions of many Product Owner roles in LinkedIn and you will find postings that focus heavier on these last skills than the above.

Questions for a Product Owner

Aim to learn more about their experience working closely with delivery teams. Lean methods, user story mapping and specifically slicing product increments, user testing, experience with metrics and experiments are some of the areas that you want to tap into.

Questions for a Product Manager

Here you want to move a bit further away from the “how” and see how comfortable the candidate is with not knowing the “why” and more importantly, how they arrive at its discovery.

  • How close were they to the users of their product?
  • How well did they combine qualitative with quantitative insights?
  • How close did they keep an eye on their competitors’ features?
  • How was the business outcome defined?
  • How comfortable are they with letting go of control of what the solution will be?

Questions for a Product Leader

I have to admit that I don’t have direct experience with the below but having, I believe, a good understanding of the role’s needs, I can suggest some questions to ask.

Other resources

I am not the first person to write about this topic but I tried to create a list based, as much as possible, on personal experience rather than online research. If you wish to delve deeper in the topic, you can have a look at the following resources which are just some of my favorite and then keep digging from there.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store