How to Interview a Product Manager

Hiring product managers is time consuming. Finding great people is challenging and it’s frustrating when you realize too late it was a bad fit on both sides. So how can you increase your chances of hiring the right people?

In any job interview, there’s a set of standard questions that you should almost always ask, regardless of the role. This is the part that you can expect and you can 100% prepare for.

In my experience, however, in order to increase your chances of hiring an exceptional product manager and getting the most out of the limited time you have to decide on making an offer, you have to segment your questions into five different categories and touch on all of them in to get a complete view of the candidate. Here are my five segments.

1. Product

In depth knowledge on the skills that are required to do the job is necessary. The questions below can support you in learning whether the candidate has sufficient experience and whether they have what we call a “product eye.”

  • What is the most important thing you would change on website X and why?
  • When creating the roadmap for product X, how are business value and prioritization defined?
  • Name a product you really love. It can be anything from an app, a physical product like a car, a gadget to a household product. What is the problem this product solves for you?
  • What does working Agile mean to you?

2. Communication

The PM role is one of those roles where you have to talk to different groups of people that do not necessarily share the same knowledge or background with you. If communicating, presenting, convincing, explaining, confronting others and saying “no” is not really their cup of tea, then the candidate is not the right fit for the job.

The following questions can help you run a communication check with your interviewee:

  • Choose a technical topic and explain it to someone with 0 technical background.
  • When do you use each communication tool (e.g Slack, 1:1, email, etc.)?
  • Describe how the iPhone works to someone that woke up after a 15-year coma.

3. Mindset

Touching the area of how the candidate thinks in general or what they value is also important during the interview. Try asking the following questions:

  • What does failure mean to you?
  • What company values would you put in place in your own company?

4. Situational

My favorite questions are those where you provide a situation to the candidate. It gives them freedom to express themselves without feeling they are being interrogated and it gives you space to understand their practical experience.

Let‘s check out some examples:

  • You are not happy with the results department X has provided on a given project. How do you react to solve it? Where do you think the problem lies?
  • Talk about a time you were assigned a task that you believed was not valuable. What did you do?
  • Your team is working on a project and the submission deadline is in one week. You realize you are only half way through the project. How do you handle this?

5. Data driven

Product management requires dealing with numbers. Maybe not doing the actual analysis but you have to be able to ask the right questions, know what you want to measure for the success of your product and be able to make decisions based on numbers that are provided to you.

Will you kill the feature, continue testing or roll it out to all locales?

Here are some questions that will help you understand if the candidate is data-driven:

  • Do you see an absolute correlation between probability to return (increase in user retention) and creation of a member account?
  • Do you consider it a must for users to interact with features (or engage with content) before clicking through (or performing the most important action for your website)? What would you derive if they directly clicked through?
  • A test you performed is negative in revenue but has a positive impact on other KPIs. How would you handle the situation and what steps would you take?