Preparing for a product interview
YOU'VE LANDED THE INTERVIEW! NOW WHAT?
Where do you start with your interview preparation? Anish Patel, Head of Product, discusses how best to go about preparing for a Product Management interview.
There are a few ways to do this, and each one is different, here is one you can try out.
I advise you to prepare in the exact way a Product Manager should, using the MoScOw method. To get the role as a Product Manager, let’s take a look at the requirements.
I have started you off, but it’s worth filling this in for yourself as every role, stage of interview and type of interview is different. This is a conversation you should have with your interview consultant.
- Check the website
- Understand the job description
- Be groomed
- Turn up on time
- Phone interview consultant immediately after
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Understand the domain
- Download the app
- Jot down notes and take with you
- Stalk on LinkedIn
- Check out Glassdoor reviews
- Ask mutual connections for information
- Get drunk the night before!
Now you have a bit of an overview of what you can do in the lead up to your interview, let’s take a peek at the three main parts to a Product Manager interview.
1. CAN YOU DO THE JOB?
It sounds really obvious but there are far too many interview mismatches occurring due to:
- Made up CVs
- Recruiters chasing bonuses
- Genuine misunderstandings on the role
- Firms wanting to fill a role quickly
- Firms having their own definition of a Product Manager
You need to demonstrate that you have the skill base to be a Product Manager. Read the list below, if anything feels "new" then there might be a mismatch and it’s great you caught it before you entered the room!
- User stories
- Sprint planning
- Acceptance criteria
If you are still reading, then great. If you lack one of those skills, then have a chat with your recruiter!
You will be asked all sorts of questions, but make sure you show that you have done this kind of role before. Think about the product life cycle, where the question is coming from, and apply your Product skills accordingly.
Remember, the Product Manager role is relatively new and varies so much between firms.
Some expect you to be on point for Project Management responsibilities (so will judge you on your knowledge of sprint planning, booking meetings, leading the troops etc.)
Some expect you to leave that to the PMO.
Some will expect you to create prototypes (so will judge you on your knowledge of Photoshop, user testing etc).
Others will see that as the role of the UX Design team.
Success for this part of the interview is the hiring manager feeling as though you have read the job description, done your research and shown tangible examples of areas of the role that you have done before.
There are going to be areas and times you can’t do this, and you can get past that by the next part of the process.
2. DO YOU WANT THE JOB?
Not all Product Manager roles are created equal. If you have never had the duty of prioritization for instance, but know what it is, and have a few methods you have learned to help then demonstrating you WANT this role will help you move to the next stage.
You need to demonstrate your passion. You need to show that you may not have done something, but have the tools and ability to learn, iterate and make it work.
If you have prepared item 1 in this blog post then chances are you won’t be expected to demonstrate too much outside of your current comfort zone.
The Product Manager role is so ill-defined that you almost need to market yourself as a “hands-on leader”. Sometimes, a leader means just getting stuck in and filling gaps.
You need to show you are going to do this, it might be showing passion by proposing you do prototypes or mentioning that you will set up Friday beers. If you are unsure, as a Product Manager it might be YOUR job, so show that you want it.
Success here is showing the hiring manager that you genuinely want the role for more reasons than just money or a better commute. You have demonstrated how working in a new place adds to your career and fuels a passion you have.
3. CAN YOU FIT IN?
So, you can do the job and you really want it... that’s all you need right? Hell no!
This part is probably one of the most important, if not THE most important part of the interview.
Are you going to go for Friday drinks? If you don’t drink, that's fine, will you get involved in chats about Fashion or Game of Thrones? You get the picture?
You can’t do well as a Product Manager without an emphasis on getting to know your colleagues and most of that will happen outside of formal meetings. Every company wants someone that will match the culture the company has or seeks to have.
To summarize, if you have an interview coming up, aim to leave the interviewer under no impression that you cannot do this role. Demonstrate tangible transferable skills. Show how passionate you are about that particular role, not every role. Leave the hiring manager already feeling that your pink hair fits in perfectly with the office!
Written by Anish Patel. Anish has 15 yrs + Experience working on global b2c/b2b products, corporate and startup with over 1 Billion unique users.