This blog series is for product managers who are in the recruiting and hiring cycle, working with recruitment agencies, working with product management recruiters and anyone looking to hone the interview skills needed for product management.
How do I prep for a second round interview for a Product Manager position?
If you’ve followed Product Management Interview Questions and Prep, Part 1 – then you will have successfully:
- Received the name of the Product Manager who is interviewing you
- Know where in the hiring process the recruiting is at
- Communicated some competency in your personal backstory and pitch
So what are you going to do next with this information?
- Before the call, you have to refine your backstory and pitch with examples. It’s very likely that the person you will be speaking on the phone with, in this second round call, is the hiring manager i.e. the person you will be reporting to if you get the job. Spewing out product management buzzwords may work for the first round call with a recruiter, but not with a practicing Product Manager.
- What specific examples in your pitch do you have to refine? Mostly stakeholders. A larger part of a Product Manager’s job is to balance relations with other working professionals on the team. Questions on more technical Product Management related concepts like writing user stories or epics can be easily tested with a whiteboarding session or a homework assignment. Focus on the stakeholders – these examples need to include:
- Times you’ve dealt with conflict
- Times you’ve had to push back on Management, or other stakeholders
- Times you’ve dealt with deadlines
- Times you had to prioritize and balance multiple, competing interests.
- Times you’ve had to work with a Designer, Engineer, Marketer, Sales, Business Strategy, etc.
When you give your answers – make sure to tell a story. Set it up so that you become the hero of your own scenario.
- Prepare questions about the product specifically and about the Hiring Manager who will manage you and ultimately the product you will be owning for. How do you come up with these questions? The best ones deal with change. How has the hiring manager changed or implemented product processes? Is S/he looking for you to do that? How has the product team grown? The structure of the team, etc?
- Create rapport by relating to their background. To prepare for this, you really have to do your due diligence in finding commonalities in their background. If you’ve done your first call right, you should be able to pull them up on LinkedIn. Did you go to the same University as them? Volunteering opportunity that you’re interested in? Similar industry right out of college? Find something that you can build rapport in because your hiring manager really has to like you to hire you.
Hiring managers and Product Managers are not professional interviewers. Product Managers focus on customer empathy and end-user experience. In essence, you are their end-user and they will be trying to analyze and create empathy with you. The result of this is a clear BS meter. If you sound fake or disinterested in them, they will be able to call you out on it and worse, they will take it as an insult.
- Figure out the structure of the organization. If you’ve done your first call right, you should have asked about the Product organization, its size, how many people at each level of the hierarchy, etc. If not, go on LinkedIn and try to find it. Find how many Product Managers of each title there are and you’ll get a better understanding of how large the teams are. Have you ever worked in this large or small of a team? If so, find an example that really facilitated progress and make sure to bring it up on the call. If not, find an example where you worked on a specific task of a project in a small team. Otherwise, do your best to relate to how you progressed in your career when you worked on a team of that size. This communicates future success.
- Use details you learned from the first call with the recruiter to inform you. The recruiter likely gave you an overview of the company, the product, and the industry they operate in. Use these details to craft a story about how you’ve worked with or in some capacity with these details. Whether that’s a B2B role, a sales capacity, servicing similar end users with an identical demographic, etc. Be ready to use this when they ask you “so why our company?”