How to Salvage a Product Manager Interview When the Company Has Not Hired Your Boss Yet

We just received word from one of our students in San Francisco that her final interview although positive did not go in the direction that she had hoped. The company that she interviewed for has not hired the Director of Platform Products yet, so they are hesitant on hiring her as a Product Manager without a mentor to follow.

We just received word from one of our students in San Francisco that her final interview although positive did not go in the direction that she had hoped. The company that she interviewed for has not hired the Director of Platform Products yet, so they are hesitant on hiring her as a Product Manager without a mentor to follow. This is the message that she sent us:

I had my final on-site with last Friday and then just got off a call with the recruiter who told me that the feedback was super positive, the hiring team saw a ton of potential in my ability to come in and take ownership quickly.

She said it was a hard decision, but they want someone a bit more senior and don’t want to put me into a position where I’m set-up to not succeed without a strong mentor, because the role for Director of Platform Products (which is supposed to be the hiring manager for this role) is also open and they haven’t hired.

They said that when that person is hired then perhaps they could consider me for this opportunity if it’s not already filled.

I guess it’s a bit hard for me to take this feedback and not feel the urge to try and push back on it or try to find a way to convince them otherwise. What are your thoughts?

On the phone I didn’t say much other than thank the recruiter for giving me the feedback since I needed some time to process and digest the info before really responding if at all.

Is this salvageable?

 

Problem

This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. This company has decided to interview Product Managers before they hired the Director of Product. It is a rookie mistake regardless of the size of the company, but there is no use crying over spilled milk now. We have to make the best out of the situation. Getting a Product Manager job is not about you, it’s about them.

 

Solution

There are no guarantees in life and this is no different. If we do nothing, we will have nothing. Whenever a company says that they will reach out to you when this “offer is filled,” chances are they will not. Nothing is impossible, just the likelihood of you ever hearing back from this company is pretty low. We need them to hire you first by pitching to them that you are going to dramatically improve their chances of hiring the RIGHT Director. The company in this scenario is clearly slipping. They only have so much time to interview people throughout the week, and if this Director position was so important, then they have no business interviewing our student. The company does not know what they want. You have to help them figure this situation out.

 

Implementation

Get them back on the phone (which is the preferred method of communication for this scenario), then send them a quick email saying simply, “I was thinking about this all day and I might have a solution for everyone.” We need to contact the recruiter back and we need to regenerate all those good feelings about you.

You need to know why they are interested in you, why this position hasn’t been filled yet, and what is this major problem only the director can solve.  

Get on the phone with them and ask the following questions:

  • “How long has the Director position been vacant?”
  • “How many candidates did you interview for the Director position?”
  • “Where is everybody falling short?”
  • “What problem is the Director going to solve?”

Here is a sample of what you can say once you get in contact with them:

“I wanted to call you guys one more time because I just received a verbal offer from another company, but you guys are still my #1 choice. The fact that you guys wanted to make sure I was in a position to succeed, made me even more interested in joining this company. I wish I would have known about this challenge earlier because I have participated in hiring my boss before and as you know, it’s even more challenging filling director positions. Whether or not you guys decide to move forward with me, it sounds like there is already a body of work that nobody is owning right now. Considering I made it to the final round, I would be happy to hop on another call or give another presentation on how I would hit the ground running. How does that sound?”

 

Impact

Show them that you are a leader that can think and punch above your weight. There are no guarantees that this is going to work, but at least you are going to give it your best shot. Frankly, you might have dodged a bullet being passed up for this position. This company clearly did not manage their priorities correctly.

This is why it is so important to ask qualifying questions first! Questions like, “What was it about my background that impressed you guys so much that prompted you to schedule a call with me?” Another question you should always ask during the first interview is, “Who will I report to?” Past is past. We live and we learn.

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