Ever wondered what kind of questions you’ll get asked in a product manager interview? Here’s a breakdown that types of questions that I have been asked:

Product

Product questions are aimed at assessing your product thinking and skills. This is the bread and butter, the lifeblood, the core of what it means to be a product manager. You are figuring out what to build, when to build, and why it matters. You’re prioritizing and scoping, planning and executing. And while the title says product, always remember that product managers are problem solvers, not product creators. Product thinking should always be foundationally based on the customer and the problem you are going to fix for them. The three categories I will address here are Product Design, Analysis, and Vision.

Product Design

These questions are designed to assess your ability to identify a problem as it relates to a specific market or context and solve those problems.

Keep In Mind:

  • Identify the core problem(s) that the product is going to address
  • Identify who you are trying to solve this problem for
  • Identify the needs of that market as it relates to the initial problem statement
  • Identify any other constraints that you must operate under and/or product must-do’s
  • Design logical solutions to each identified problem, taking into account the things you have identified, including talking through a brief assessment of options and picking the best solution to each problem
  • Always Be Clarifying (ABC) to make sure you’re always solving the right problem, and not substituting to solve a different or an easier problem

Examples

Non-traditional User Population

  • Design a washing machine for blind people. As a next step, design a laundromat of those washing machines and describe the experience from the moment you walk in until the moment you leave.
  • Design a toothpaste tube. As a next step, how would Apple do it?
  • How would you design a specific part of the city if humans could climb things like monkeys?
  • Design the Facebook newsfeed for someone who cannot read.

Non-traditional Use Case of an App

  • How would you design an app for burritos?
  • Design a mobile app to be used by parents at an amusement park.

Non-tech Related

  • Design an alarm clock.
  • Design an elevator system.
  • Design to move a metric
  • How would you redesign the Youtube mobile app for increased ad traffic?
  • How would you improve the signup process of LinkedIn to increase conversion?
  • Take a feature X and make it easier to use.

Product Analysis

These questions are aimed at understanding your ability to determine the success or failure of a product as it relates to usability, design, and value delivered.

Keep In Mind:

  • Identify the problem the product is trying to solve and the market they are trying to solve it for
  • What are the goals of this product?
  • With equal importance, who are the target customer segment(s) for this product — what does each look like (demographics, age, job) and what is the #1 use case scenario for each?
  • What are the “metrics” that ultimately define success of the product? (e.g. for Facebook — $ in ad revenue, for a fridge — ability to consistently keep products at the precisely cold temperature). With that in mind, what are the shortcomings of this product?
  • Based on the needs of this market, how does the product score in intuitive UI design, usability, and feature set (does this product fill all of my needs? If not, what needs are not being met and how could this product fill them?)

Examples

Pick your [favorite/least favorite] [technical/non-technical] product.

  • What do you like/dislike about it?
  • What are two features you would build?
  • Which would you prioritize and why?
  • How would you test that these features work? Using which metrics?
  • What does the ideal user journey with this feature look like?

What products do you feel missed the mark?

  • Why?
  • What changes would you make?

Talk about a product that is marketed well.

  • How does the product differentiate itself from its competitor?
  • How does the product demonstrate that it is something you need, and more importantly solves a problem that you have?

What product do you feel like has a lot of potential but hasn’t achieved it yet?

  • Why?
  • What would you build to help this product become successful?

Product Vision

These questions are aimed at understanding how you can think about the evolution of a product over short and long periods of time.

Keep In Mind:

  • In the short term, where should this company focus to maximize its value?
  • In the long term, what new markets could this product move in to (solve the same problem for new users) or new areas this company could move in to (solve a different, related problem for the same users)?

Examples

What is a product you like?

  • Describe its mission, core market, and value.
  • What metrics do you think we monitor to determine its success?
  • What do you think are its current key challenges for success?
  • Who are the product’s biggest competitors?
  • Why do you think the product is successful/unsuccessful today?
  • What is an area that you think this product could grow?
  • How will that area of your chosen product look in 2 years? 5? 10?
  • Say you are starting a startup that will address the needs of that areas in 5–10 years… What would it look like? What would it do? Describe the startup.

What is a heavily underrated or overrated product?

What startups do you watch?

Conceptualizing, designing, and building a new feature is only half the battle. How do you launch a new feature?

  • How does it get incorporated into the existing product?
  • Does that stay stable over time, or does this feature change throughout a user’s lifetime?

Technical

Technical questions aimed at assessing your technical chops and basic engineering knowledge. Technical expectations will vary across companies, but all product managers will be tasked with communicating, understanding, and translating technical information to both very technical and completely non technical team members. The two main areas I will cover are tactful coding and general engineering knowledge.

Coding/High Level Algorithms

Coding ability requirements will hugely vary depending on the company and product that you are applying for. This can mean anything from describing an implementation of an algorithm all the way to pseudo-coding or actually coding solutions.

Keep In Mind:

  • Do you understand what you can and cannot do in code?
  • Can you structure and organize code efficiently?
  • Do you know basic things like classes, methods, recursion, arrays, dictionaries, etc.?
  • How do you logically attack a tough question?

Examples

  • Working on a music streaming service, describe an algorithm for determining a song to play next
  • Say you have a black box. You input a search query and output related searches. What attributes do you want to consider on the backend to give you the best possible related searches?
  • Given an array of unsorted ints and a target integer, how would you find if two numbers in the array add up to the target integer? What is the runtime of your solution?
  • What is the difference between arrays and hashing and when would you use it?
  • When would you use server side caching?
  • Write a SQL query that returns the total number of products sold. As a next step, write a SQL query that returns the total number of unique products sold.

Basic Engineering

Assessing your understanding of basic engineering concepts and systems.

Keep In Mind:

  • Do you actually know what this stuff is?
  • Can you understand technical information given to you by an engineer? Can you explain it to a non technical person?
  • Do you understand this enough for it to inform your product decisions?
  • You’re expected to be able to have a holistic understanding of past and future projects that you work on — that includes the engineering architecture and design decisions you made.

Examples

  • Access times (memory vs. lock vs. reading from disc vs. over the internet)
  • Concurrency\
  • Threads/locks
  • Divide and conquer
  • Stack vs. queue
  • B-Trees
  • Big-O
  • MVC
  • How does a message get sent from one computer to another?
  • When you type a URL into a web browser and press ‘Enter’, what happens? What’s the process that occurs from when you click enter to when the website actually loads?
  • How does TCP work?

Data (Analytical)

One of the most important skills a product manager must have is making data driven decisions. As Edward Deming famously said, “In G-d we trust. Everyone else bring data.” As a product manager, you will be tasked with validating hypotheses with numbers, carefully defining and measuring metrics, and assessing success with analytics. You must know which numbers are important and which ones aren’t and be creative about the way you slice em’ and dice em’ to get the information that you’re looking for. These questions will help assess whether you know the right questions to ask and can define the correct metrics with respect to evaluating the success of something you do.

Keep In Mind:

  • Clearly identify success criteria and metrics that will measure if you have hit that criteria
  • Keep in mind the different types, inclcuding % change (increase/decrease), # active users over a period of time (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly), conversion rates, clicks, pageviews, metrics related to the space the company operates in
  • Are you asking the right questions?
  • Identify trends in data — cohort/segment analysis
  • Being able to separate different types of users and their individual needs from data

Examples

  • If you were the chief marketing manager for a company and someone told you that $X in spending on online ads led to $Y revenue from offline purchases, what questions would you want answered to validate this?
  • What experiment would you create to learn how effective online advertising was relative to advertising on other platforms in leading to offline purchases?
  • What metrics will you look at in order to evaluate the success of [company’s] product
  • Ads have publishers (website where advertisements are shown) and advertisers (companies who advertise products). I want to create a analytical dashboard for advertisers. What would you put in there?

Design

Great product design can be what makes or breaks the success of a product. From big decisions like core workflows to seemingly small ones like choosing between two very similar fonts, the design of your product will impact everything from users’ first impressions to the experience they have using it. Design questions aim at assessing your ability to create, analyze, and give feedback on product design. These could be tactful design ability or design assessment skills.

Design Skills

Assessing your ability to create and/or iterate on a design that optimizes usability and aesthetics.

Keep In Mind:

  • Understand the target market and any usability limitations they might have
  • Potential use of creative interaction design where appropriate (audio, vocal, movement, etc)
  • Good eye for aesthetics, colors, button placement, use of images, simplicity, etc
  • UI best practices

Examples

  • Design our product for [certain non-traditional market].
  • How would you redesign [product]?
  • Design the Facebook newsfeed for illiterate users.

Design Analysis

As a PM, you will work closely with designers, driving the direction of the design as well as evaluating and giving feedback on design iterations.

Keep In Mind:

  • Understand the target market and any usability limitations they might have
  • Understand how and where design might create pain points for users
  • Give clear, constructive design critique
  • Understand User Stories — show that you’re user centric → As a <product> user, I want to be able to <action>, in order to <reason>.

Examples

  • Which design is the best out of multiple options?
  • What is a product that is well designed?
  • What is a product that is poorly designed?

Basic PM Skills

These questions will aim at understanding your basic PM skills. Communicating. Thinking. Problem Solving. Leading. Facilitating. Selling. Planning. Leading. The list is long because a product manager needs to be able to contribute in any situation. Fundamental disagreement with your tech lead? Gotta figure it out. Unforeseen outage? Can’t let it hurt your roadmap. Can you build a team? Can you inspire others? You must be a jack of all traits, and then some.

Problem Solving

Keep in Mind:

  • Get clear on the problem definition and impact
  • Break the problem up into smaller, manageable subproblems
  • Find solutions to each subproblem
  • Regroup and summarize solution
  • Know what next steps to take (what data to find, who to reach out to, how to get the process started). Ideas aren’t enough as PMs, need to EXECUTE

Examples

  • You discover the app is using too much data for users… How would you systematically diagnose and fix this problem?
  • You’re launching a product in a new market/city and don’t know what tactic to use. Where do you start?

Leadership & Communication

Keep in Mind:

  • Can you clearly communicate tough/complex concepts to people that don’t know anything about them?
  • Can you convince people of your point of view when you need to?
  • Do you have empathy for people that you work with?
  • Can you manage conflict and drive the team to an agreeable solution?
  • How do you balance compromising with driving the team in the direction you think it should go?
  • How do you handle criticism/disagreement?

Examples

  • How would you describe [product] to your grandma in 2–3 sentences?
  • Tell me about your role on your team and how you work with your partners?
  • Tell me about a time that you disagreed with a partner.
  • When was a time that you worked in a group and someone wasn’t pulling their weight?
  • When was a time you worked with someone and you disagreed?
  • How would you get X & Y teams to buy into your proposed change

Business Acumen

Keep in Mind:

  • Knowledge of where business opportunities are, where the largest markets are, etc.
  • General concept of ‘solving the problems that actually matter’
  • Knowing when to give up on something because it’s not profitable and knowing when to keep going → managing tradeoffs!

Examples

  • What product do you think LinkedIn should invest in going forward and which ones does it not have to invest too much in?
  • Where do you see [market] in five years?
  • How will you monetize xyz?
  • What is the most disruptive product in Mobile right now?
  • How do you decide what to build?
  • What would be your the strategy for X?
  • How do you keep up with tech?
  • User growth strategies
  • How will you promote a new feature?
  • How do you launch product X in location Y?

Brain Teasers/Case Questions

You probably won’t get asked questions like this, but if you do, it’s more about the way you solve the problem that matters, and less about the actual conclusion you come up with.

Keep in Mind:

  • Break the problem up into smaller, manageable subproblems
  • Clearly identify and validate all assumptions that you make. If you are assuming something with a number (population, price, etc) make sure to show all of the calculations how you got there. Try to define a baseline from an outside perspective before you make any assumptions/predictions (i.e avoid using only your experiences to make predictions)
  • Get to a clear, explicit, logical solution
  • Summarize your the major assumptions you made and the steps you took to solve the problem at the end

Examples

  • You have 3 jars of jelly beans that are all mislabeled. One jar contains Banana, another contains Lemon and the third jar contains a mixture of both Lemon and Banana. You are allowed to pick out as many jelly beans as you want from each jar in order to fix the labels on the jars. What is the minimum number of jelly beans that you have to pick out and from which jars to correctly label them?
  • You own a burrito shop and you want to advertise in a fleet of 200 cabs in San Francisco. The ad will be seen only by the passenger(s) in that cab. How much are you willing to pay per advertisement per month?
  • How many zagat reviews are written in a month?
  • How many toilets are flushing right now?

Basic Interview Questions

These are basic questions about yourself that you should be able to answer in an interview. Companies will ask these to get you talking, to get a pulse on who you are, and to see if you are prepared. These questions are easy to prepare for and to crush. Anything other than that will be a negative indicator.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Should be able to do this in 30 seconds / 1 minute / 2 minutes / 5 minutes
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What’s your greatest strength?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Tell us about a time you failed.
  • What is your greatest achievement to date?
  • Tell me about your current role?
  • Why [company]?
  • Why do you want to be a product manager?
  • Why do you think you will do a good job at product management?

Special thanks to Ben Dreier, Nikhil Goel, Dennis Zhao, and Nahom Workie for the help!

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