For starters, product manager interviews, in general consist of four rounds. The first round is a simple HR phone screen, followed by another phone interview/video interview with a member from the product team, followed by an onsite interview – most likely to discuss the case study (check out our e-book to learn how to answer case study questions!) you have been asked to solve after your previous round, followed by a final interview with the Head of Product, VP of Product or even the CEO (depending on the size of the company)!
While it may seem like the most qualifying aspect of the product manager interview is the case study, the final onsite is the ultimate opportunity for you to display your capabilities and credibility to the senior leadership. At the end of the day, these people will make the final decision, so you have to be at your best.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR FINAL ONSITE INTERVIEW
If you have gotten this far into the process, it is likely that you already know enough about the role or the Product Manager. What you need to demonstrate during this interview is a genuine interest in the role and competency in communicating knowledge. This ties very specifically to asking good questions about the business and strategy. So, what kinds of questions should you ask? Here’s a list of well thought-out and genuine questions that clearly display your interest in the company’s future.
WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK SENIOR LEADERSHIP
When you talk to these individuals — whether they are the president, founder, CEO, or visionaries — it is important to understand that they are very focused on the company vision. This means that every question you ask, or every answer you give to their questions, has to be focused on the company vision. It is a good idea to go to the company website and read its “About” page to have a good sense of the company’s vision. Take note of the specific wording and examples they use as it is highly likely that the interviewers will use similar vocabulary and tone.
Whether addressing your reason for leaving or discussing product development lifecycles, always focus on company vision. Some questions you can ask might include:
- Talk to me about your company’s ten-year plan.
- Do you think that your primary product is going to be acquired?
- Do you have an exit strategy?
- Are you looking to go public?
- Are you looking to sell the company and be a feature on Google?
- What is the long-term strategy?
Note that some of these questions might not apply to you, depending on the company you are interviewing with. If you are interviewing with Google, for instance, (please!) avoid asking questions about going public or exit strategies. Such questions are mostly geared towards small to mid-sized companies.
Also, notice that the questions have a general approach, meaning that they don’t focus on the specific product or team that you’ll be involved with. As we mentioned before, the main focus of this round is to have a generalistic conversation about the company’s overall strategy.
If you want to impress and have a really good shot at winning this interview, don’t stop at listing what questions to ask. Do your research about the company and be prepared to have a more in-depth conversation. Here’s a roadmap to crafting your company/strategy research.
WHAT TO LEARN ABOUT THE COMPANY
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to craft your research, there are a few items that you should know about the company that you are interviewing with. Here’s a list of them:
- CEO and Senior Leadership: Learn who is running the company and the team behind the product, sales, technology, operations, and strategy. Google their names, check their LinkedIn profiles and understand what background they are coming from. Look for any interviews, news articles or podcasts they published. Write down a couple of important points they made about the future direction of the company and/or the product.
- Define and Understand the Product: This is an essential activity to do and by now you must have understood the product in and out. To understand where the product falls short and where it dominates the market, go on to the company website, read their description and whitepaper. It is not uncommon for most companies to include explanatory videos there too, which could explain the product in a couple of minutes. Have a couple of interesting things about the product written down before your onsite interview.
- Understand Who the Clients Are: Who is this company serving the product to? Many companies now list their most impressive, if not all, clients (especially in case of B2B) on their website. Be able to name a few and understand what industry the majority comes from.
- Product Overview: Is the product available to you? If yes, try to understand the product and see how you feel about it from the perspective of a client. We have been emphasizing the importance of client empathy in all of our posts and therefore, it is essential for you to review the product from the client’s perspective. How is the product designed? Are there any bugs? Is it user-friendly? Can you figure it out with minimal help? Be sure to have a couple of ideas about the product ready to share. Having objective and well-thought views on the product is something that would impress the senior leadership for sure.
- Main Competition and Market Landscape: Who are the main competitors? What advantages/disadvantages do their products/services have? There are many useful templates to easily structure your research on the company’s place on the market. Here’s a list of few templates to get you started:
- Porter’s Five Forces Diagram: Fill in this diagram to understand where the product stands in the market. Do your research on the market structure and competitors. Have a few questions ready about them.
- SWOT analysis: It’s very important to understand what the company is doing right and what kinds of opportunities it is missing out on. So make sure you have a few things to say.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND
Remember to ask questions about change. When a CEO/founder/president hears that from you, it tells them you are thinking of staying with the company longer term, as you are evaluating the business at both short-term and long-term.
Again, it is important to understand that these people, especially founders, have been acting as the Product Managers. So, if you get past the final interview stage, they are really handing you their baby, and want to be reassured that you are competent enough and care enough about their baby. So ask the right questions related to their baby, like how it will grow, exit, or handle significant changes.
Also, keep in mind that this is your golden opportunity to understand if the company is right for you as well. Observe the office, the way senior leadership interacts with the employees and understand the overall mood. Do you see yourself working here? You should interview the company as much as they should interview you.
You should expect questions regarding your background and PM skillset. So be sure to check out this post to prepare for the fourth round questions.
Good luck with your final onsite product manager interviews!