Product Manager Interview Questions
The product management interview is hard.
Recognizing that hiring managers are asking candidates to “show me, don’t tell me”, Lin’s mission is to prepare product managers for the astonishing array of questions which can come up during a product management interview.
It’s no longer enough to talk about your past accomplishments, interviews now focus on testing candidates to think in real time and develop solutions on the spot. Interviews can involve take home assignments or pre-interview work of some type. Even without these extra requirements, interviews are heavily weighted towards case studies. This requires you to be quick on your feet with estimation, product design, metrics, strategy, technical questions.
PM Interview Questions contains 160+ questions and extended answers grouped into analytics, product design, metrics, hypothetical, strategy, technical, and behavioral sections.
The analytics group contains questions about estimation, data science, and pricing. Estimation questions start with the dreaded “how many” or “how much”. For example, “Estimate how much revenue Google AdWords generates” or “How many reviews are there on the Apple app store each day?” Lin shows each solution and gives the key assumptions required for each answer (e.g., number of Google AdWords accounts, number of Apple app store apps). To be successful with these questions requires not only a solid framework, but also knowledge of key data about the company and market, many of which can be identified beforehand (e.g., user base, revenue, population). Data science questions are essentially advanced math word problems. Product pricing questions can be tricky if your previous experience doesn’t include pricing decisions. Pricing questions are typically about hypothetical products or modifications of prices of existing products. For example, “How much should you charge for drone delivery?” or “How much should amazon charge for a bundle including physical, electronic and audio formats?” Keys to pricing questions are to consider customer value, competitive pricing, and cost of goods. Lin gives an extended discussion for each pricing question so you get a sense of the framework and pattern to follow.
Product design questions are a staple of the product management interview. Typical questions are “As product manager for product X, what are some changes you’d make and why?” This is asked either about your favorite product in a category or the product that you are interviewing to manage. Lin provides examples like “Brainstorm 10 ways in which amazon can leverage voice control.” He includes a section with questions that involve describing a customer journey map and pain points. There are also several in-depth feature design questions which will prepare you for a whiteboard UI sketching question along. The product design questions in the book include a variety of product types and companies so you’ll have a good opportunity to practice on various levels and perspectives of design.
The metrics questions are a great way to prepare for a product interview because they rely on your knowledge of the business and the dynamics of customer acquisition, growth, and engagement. The answers differ for consumer and business-to-business companies, but are critical for a product manager to have at their disposal. In addition to knowing the metrics, you should be prepared with baselines and industry averages which will communicate your knowledge of the user base and product category. Questions in this category start with “what are the top metrics for industry/product/company?”
Lin’s hypothetical questions deal with product management process and methodology. Topics like roadmaps, prioritization, working with other teams are included here along with open-ended questions like “what’s the biggest challenge for product managers?” and “what is your favorite part of being a product manager?” There are business problem-solving questions which put you in the shoes of a senior leader at the company who has a product, marketing, or operational challenge to solve: “If you were the CEO of company X…”
Strategy questions focus on go to market strategy, competitive positioning, distribution channel, and new business venture scenarios. Preparing for these requires reading about the current challenges facing the company you are interested in and thinking about their future strategic moves. Industry research is a must since you must be conversant with the position of the company relative to competitors and their history of success and failures. Knowledge of industry-wide dynamics and customer segments will serve you well since strategy choices are informed by current and future customer needs along with competitive positioning. Feasibility plays an important role in these answers since you don’t want to suggest something to your interviewer that is clearly not profitable, good for customers, or achievable in the relevant timeframe. Specific types of questions in this category include mergers & acquisitions, new product introductions, and market expansion.
Lin’s section on technical questions will give you a sense for what might be asked that takes you out of the business and user experience realm and into the development domain. These questions depend highly on the role you are interviewing for and the company culture and expectations for product managers. Questions in this category could be on topics like recommendation algorithms, ranking methods, search engines, performance, resource usage, or matching (“how would you match people on tinder?”).
Lin concludes with behavioral questions. These are common for any job role: “Tell me about a time when…” These questions focus on your problem solving skills, learning (“tell me about a time you made a mistake and what you learned from it”), interpersonal skills (“tell me about a time you had to diffuse an angry executive?”), negotiation, and innovation (“tell me about your most innovative idea”).
PM Interview Questions is more than just a list of questions and answers. Lin provides a complete schedule and steps for preparing for an interview. You’ll enjoy answering the questions, pondering the answers, and gain confidence for your next job.
Lewis Lin’s PM Interview Questions is an interview coach-in-a-box. In addition to an exhaustive inventory of interview questions and answers, the book includes a step-by-step study guide and specific practice plans tailored for companies like amazon, Google, and facebook.
The book is organized around a structured set of partner practice sessions and includes a rating sheet for the person playing the role of the interviewer. There are specific day-by-day practice plans and areas of focus depending on how much time you have before your interview and what company, or type of company you are interviewing with.
Lin includes plenty of frameworks and patterns so you’ll have a solid methodology with you for your interview.