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.
Interviewing is a muscle. Your first few calls will sound the worst because you haven’t been exercising this muscle. You’re not comfortable talking about yourself and that’s fine. You need to picture yourself doing it and practice sounding like a product manager.
You always want to have your pitch ready before you start applying. Many times when you are picking up a first-round call from a recruiter, it’s likely that you have not been interviewing for a long time.
- Have the first few words that you want to say ready. Rehearse the first few words that you’re going to say in the opening. Use it as a transition into what you want to communicate. Say it to yourself in front of a mirror and make sure you don’t stutter or stop.
- Don’t forget the reasons for leaving. Recruiters have picked out your resume out of hundreds, perhaps thousands of submissions. Don’t give them a red flag to discount you on the first call. When you talk about the reasons for leaving, don’t forget to focus on areas which you had no control over. If you mention something personal, it’s likely that it will reflect poorly on you.
- Mention only the product relevant pieces of your experience. Don’t just focus on what you are comfortable in. Translate that into something more product focused or talk simply more about the product experience as it relates to your resume. You may not have had a product manager title, but if you’ve ‘built consensus across multiple stakeholders in cross-functional teams” then mention that and highlight it.
- Don’t get too industry-technical and use jargon. You are already a working professional and you come from an already established industry. What tends to happen in first round calls is that you will usually default to what you’re comfortable with, so you end up talking a lot using industry jargon. You have to understand that these recruiters are likely not from your industry. Sometimes they’re barely knowledgeable of the industry that they’re recruiting for. If you use too much time talking jargon, it actually confuses them.
- When you get to asking them questions, always ask them questions about an organization in general. Culture. How has it changed? What do they think about the organization? They won’t be able to answer any questions that are product specific because that is something that, if you make it to the second round, they will be able to answer. But also if you ask too many product questions that you know that they don’t know, you’ll make them feel stupid.
- You MUST ask them what the process is. You have to ask what the processes for the next steps are. Is it going to be two, three, four calls? Who is it gonna be with? Be as detailed as possible. You have to extract as much information in the beginning rounds if you expect to do well in the later rounds.