Asking and Answering General Questions in a Product Management Interview

Most people who are looking for Product Manager positions believe that having an MBA will help them in their job hunt, but that is usually not the case.

During a first-round Product Manager interview you will ask and answer questions specific to your experiences and skills pertaining to the Product Management field and the company, but there will also be questions about more general topics, such as the interviewing process.

 

Asking Questions

Here are some areas you should clarify during the first-round interview.

Team Size

When asking questions, if you can make it more specific to the company, the better. For example, instead of just asking for the size of the team, you can ask what constitutes the team. Some other questions you can ask are:

  • “Are there engineers, designers, data scientists, researchers on the team?”
  • “Are there just engineers or is it just Product Managers?”

Hiring Timeline

You also want to ask questions about where they are in the timeline for hiring, such as:

  • “Have they been hired within six months (or eight months, or two weeks, for example)?”
  • “Are they looking to place someone as soon as possible or within a couple of months?”
  • “Do they have a couple of people in the second or third rounds of interviews right now?”

Asking questions about where they are in terms of hiring can be used to create urgency and to negotiate a timeline with them.

Interview Process

For every first-round interview make sure to ask about what the interviewing process looks like and who you’re going to be interviewing with. But keep in mind to always have questions that are more general about the company itself than anything too specific. The first-round recruiter will rarely have knowledge about the specific software or the specific interactions you will have on the job.

More general questions would be like:

  • What is the culture like?
  • What is the size of the company?
  • How long has (this recruiter) been at the company?
  • How has the company absorbed change?

You have to be able to ask more general questions instead of more specific Product Management questions, because they may feel bad or insecure if they are not able to answer them.

 

Answering Questions

Here is how to answer questions that you will get asked in the first-round interview.

Interviews at Other Companies

The recruiter will always ask you if you have interviewed with other companies, and the answer is always YES.  When they ask where you are in the process of interviewing, the answer is always one step ahead of what stage you are currently interviewing in.  For example, if this is your first round interview, say you already have a second round interview scheduled with another company.

Salary and Compensation

When asked if you have any idea what you want your salary to be, try not to give them a specific number. Instead, ask what their budget is for the available role and then agree or deny based on the range that they give you.

Primary Responsibilities

This is another way to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Since they asked what your primary responsibilities are, everything you answer here has to be product-related or related to Product Management. You can mention if you have built an analytical product for different customers, especially if you name your biggest clients, but you want to be able to list out a specific analytics product.

Ask yourself:

  • “What was the customer’s paying point?”
  • “How did you deliver a product?”
  • “What success metrics did you look at?”

Mention all the Product Management buzzwords and be able to pick a very specific case of something you have done product-related. The strategy when talking about this is to go very broad. For example, one would say,

I have built analytical products for X, Y, and Z companies. One of the products was ABC, and the customer paying point was (blank).

After you listed those specific responsibilities, you have to give a specific example of when you used analytics that answer questions like “What was the success rate of the customer paying points?”

Essentially, the recruiter has a checklist of what they’re looking for in a Product Manager, and everything you say that fits that criteria checks off each box on that list.  

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