Most people think of the interview process as something that is strictly about the company examining the candidate to determine if they are a good fit for their needs. While this is certainly half of the process, it’s equally important to consider how to find the right company to work for. Remember that as a candidate you are also interviewing the company to determine if they are the best fit for you!
This is especially true for those of you interviewing for Product Manager roles. As a Product Manager, you will have to be fully engaged and bought into your company’s team, product, and mission to be effective in your role.
Why Interview the Company?
In this article, we will go over some practical ways of how to find the right company to work for, so that you can make sure you are interviewing companies effectively. Utilizing these techniques has the added benefit of setting a great impression during the interview process. You will present as confident, strategic, and a leader — all qualities of a great Product Manager.
One time during an interview with a CTO, I got the feedback at the end that he usually expected this level of questioning from executive candidates, not Product Managers! That impression, along with my demonstrated thoughtfulness, landed me the role. However, I ended up going with a different company that was more aligned with what I was looking for. And I only was able to make that decision because of the information I collected during the interview process.
As you continue in this article, I would ask you to take out a piece of paper and a pen and write out what the ideal position looks like for you. It is important to have a vision of what that is so that when you are interviewing, you not only know how to find the right company to work for, but you are also able to identify a good fit when you encounter it. Similarly, you’ll know when a company is not the right match for what you want.
Roles and Responsibilities
The first area that is important to understand is what exactly the role of the Product Manager looks like at this company. Product Manager roles can vary greatly between companies. You want to make sure that what a Product Manager is actually expected to accomplish on a day-to-day basis at this company is something that makes you happy and matches your skills and the areas you want to grow. Below are some questions that you can ask during the interview process to get a better understanding of this:
- What will be my top 3 responsibilities and goals during my onboarding period? What about during my first year?
- Has there been a PM in this position before? What have they been working on?
- What does a typical day (or week) look like for you? What are you working on in a typical workday?
- Who are the primary stakeholders that I will be working with?
- Will I have a dedicated engineering team to work with? What about design?
- How involved am I in goal setting?
- How much ownership do I have over setting the goals and driving the roadmap for my product area?
- What level of technical skill, if any, should I have for this role? If I do need technical skills, how will I use them in my job?
- (For interviews with stakeholders) How do you see me helping you in this role?
Whether you are interviewing for your first Product Manager job or an executive position, the growth opportunity a company provides can be one of the most important factors to your long-term career success. Below are some questions to help you figure that out.
- (If the company is not public) What stage of funding is the company at now?
- How big is the company?
- What is the size of my team? How many engineers will I be working with on my team?
- Is the product area I am interviewing for in the discovery, growth, or maintenance stage?
- What are the company’s top goals over the next year, and how will I be helping us hit those targets?
- Am I the only PM for my product area?
- What is an ideal career trajectory for someone in this role at the company?
- What do you hope this person can accomplish in 1, 5, and 10 years?
I do want to note that it is important you have a clear picture of how important growth is to you and where you are at in your career and life. A high-growth position has a lot of benefits, but can come with a lot of work and stress! It is okay to want a more balanced position in which case the below questions will help you illuminate companies that are too intense for you right now.
Culture is something that is difficult to articulate but easily one of the most influential parts of a company in terms of work satisfaction. Again, it’s especially important you understand what type of culture works best for you before beginning the interview process. Having an understanding of yourself, what matters to you, and what environment you thrive in will ensure you land there.
- What is communication like at the company and within the product team?
- Would you describe the culture here as collaborative? What are some of your favorite examples of that in action?
- What are your company’s values? Which is your favorite and how do you see it play out at the company?
- What is your favorite part about working here, and what is something that you hope to see improved?
- How do coworkers engage with each other inside and outside of work?
- How long have you been at the company? (Look for a good balance of tenured and new folks)
- What brought you to the company?
Red Flags to Watch for
There are a few responses that can be Red Flags during the interview process that the company and position will not bring you a successful experience. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but if you encounter these, definitely dig in deeper.
- The company has not raised funding in a long time, is not profitable or growing, and/or is not on the verge of a significant exit. Be careful here — you don’t want to be on a sinking ship at worst and in a stagnant environment at best.
- You hear negative reviews about the company. Whether through online forums or a friend of a friend, excessive negative discourse around a company or its leadership is usually a bad sign. Often, this type of information is leaking out and the situation internally can be direr than described. Don’t create unnecessary stress for yourself.
- Your interviewers, especially your potential manager, do not answer your questions or do not show enthusiasm into diving deeper to make sure you have the information you need as well. This may indicate a lack of support that you will face in the position.
How to Find the Right Company to Work for
Overall, remembering that the interview process is a two-way street is a great way to make sure you land the best role for yourself and impress your interviewers at the same time. With a clear vision of who you are and what you want, you will be able to navigate the interview process with the focus and determination of a Product Manager.
Ready to find the company that’s a perfect fit for you? Take a look at our curated Product Manager job board to explore exclusive job posts.
Samidha Visai is currently at KPCB-backed security startup Secureframe as the first Product Manager hire. Her career started in Software Engineering, with experience at Microsoft and Lyft, and led her to entrepreneurship where she launched a clothing rental startup. She is passionate about bringing together diverse ideas and stakeholders along with strong empathy to build the best products possible. She currently lives and works in San Francisco and spends her free time diving deep into the practices of yoga and meditation.