Nailing Product Manager Take-Home Assignments

🎯 My recipe for success and some content tips

Image Source: Unsplash

If you’re a product manager or aspiring to become one, you’re likely familiar with take-home assignments, which are a common part of today’s application process. Take-home assignments are used to weed out applicants— they help demonstrate how you think, how you communicate, and how you work.

I’m not here to talk about what they are, but how to leverage these assignments to showcase your product sense and strategic storytelling…so let’s get on with it!

As a product manager, you must have a knack for structured thinking and the ability to synthesize complex problems into simple terms (paraphrased from a job description). The first step to proving that you have these skills is to create a framework for your presentation — an agenda, if you will.

My format is derived from the structure that I use for on-site case study interviews, which is similar to the CIRCLES framework, but adjusted based on my preferences and made for take-home exercises.

One final note before we dive in: As you’re creating your deck, it’s important to keep in mind the flow. Remember, that you’re telling an overarching narrative, so transitions between slides should be seamless and organic. You can achieve this with my framework below and layering in your own talk track.

My Recipe For Take-Home Assignments

For ease of explanation, we’ll say the take-home assignment is for Bubbls (same fictional brand from Your Product Metrics Should Be Ratios — I guess it’s my go-to now).

Slide 1 → Title

This is the first impression — the book cover — so it’s important to strike a fine balance between being simple and creative.

Slide 2 → Introduction

Before diving into the assignment, introduce yourself. Give your audience some insight into who you are with a few bullets. Feel free to add some flair — I like to add emojis because I‘m quirky and it suits my personal brand.

You can also use this space to explain why you’re passionate about the company and its mission.

💡Pro Tip: For awesome stock photos, check out Unsplash and Pexels. For iconography, visit Flat Icon.

Sample Slide 1+2

Slide 3 → Divider

This is a simple slide to break up the sections of your presentation.

As part of your talk track for this slide, you can briefly review the prompt to set the scene.

Slide 4 → Agenda

Introduce your framework so that your audience knows what to expect. Keep your agenda simple, but use your voiceover to briefly highlight the importance of each section. For example, “… Then, we’ll define our users and identify their problems in order to propose solutions.”

Slide 5 → Mission

Include a slide for the company’s mission. It should be your north star that guides your approach and solutions in the coming slides. If there isn’t a mission (maybe the company is fictional or a mission slide just doesn’t make sense), then you can either make one up or skip this slide entirely.

Sample Slide 3–5

Here’s where the fun begins! And to make it even more fun, from here on out, I will no longer be sharing sample slides. I want to focus on helping you hone in on your content, while giving you the space to craft your own unique vision and personal style.

Slide 6→ Objective

Read the prompt and determine the objective. Then peel back a layer and ask yourself: What is the impetus of the objective? Are we solving a problem, seizing an opportunity, or both? Use these questions to guide the content on this slide.

Next, consider what success looks like. You can either add your success metrics on this slide or create an entirely new one dedicated to them.

Slide 7 → User

Identify the customer or user. What are their goals, wants, needs, demographics, and behaviors? And what are their pain points? What is preventing them from achieving their goals?

It’s important to be intentional through and through, so list the pain points in priority order with the most painful first.

Slide 8 → Solutions

Time to flex those product muscles! Take what you know about the user and their pain points to develop a few solutions. The solutions should:

  • Ease or solve the user pain points
  • Tie back to the objective (solve a problem, seize an opportunity, or both)
  • Align with the company’s mission; so, in Bubbls’ case, the solutions should be at least one of the following: customizable, convenient, and affordable.

Next, list the trade-offs. What are the pros and cons of each solution?

Slide 9 → Recommendation

Evaluate the trade-offs and determine priority to make a recommendation. Similar to the CIRCLES framework, recap the what and why of your proposal.

You can also use this opportunity to talk about which priority frameworks or strategies you used.

Slide ? → More Content

If you have time and space, here are some other ideas you can include:

  • Questions → What questions would you ask before starting? What data would you look at?
  • Assumptions → State your assumptions. You can either sprinkle your assumptions throughout or have a dedicated slide upfront for them.
  • MVP → Deep dive into your recommended solution and include high-level requirements, wireframes, and plan.

Final Words

As with any recipe, tweak to your liking — this framework is only a suggestion to get you started. In fact, I can guarantee that you will need to fine tune based on your assignment. With that, happy creating!

Thank you for taking the time to read and for being a part of my product manager growth journey.

Have some thoughts, comments, opinions? Let me know what’s on your mind — after all, “feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

Check out my LinkTree to see what else I’ve been up to. 🚀

Edit: I’ve been getting a few requests for help. As long as I have the time, I’d be happy to help — feel free to shoot me a message on LinkedIn.

- Claire & Harley

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I am my own work-in-progress product and this is just another product manager’s growth journey.

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Claire Ha

Claire Ha

Product @ HubSpot. Passionate about personal and professional growth.

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