How to Win the Product Manager Video Interview

The nature of hiring in product management interviews is changing to overcome the current logistic limitations due to coronavirus. It is now very common to have interviews that were supposed to be onsite through video chat. Here are some tips and tricks to help you prepare for some unpredictable challenges of virtual interviewing.
4 min read

Before we begin our discussion, make sure you check out our video on how coronavirus changed the product manager job hunt and subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay informed. We are paying particular attention to the recent developments and trying to answer any questions you might have throughout these unpredictable times.

With the recent developments, a lot of companies have started to move towards video calls for their product manager interviews, whether these are for an onsite or calls with different stakeholders. They are asking the candidates to do “onsites” and even for fourth (final) rounds with CEOs, founders, and vice presidents virtually. While a virtual call might seem very similar to an in-person interview, it is more challenging for you to communicate with the interviewer through the webcam. To make your next interview as seamless as possible, we have compiled for you a list of things to keep in mind when you are interviewing.

Establish A Structure

When you are on the call, keep in mind that you can speak one at a time. Therefore, you need to establish a structure in the call, both implicitly and explicitly.

What do we mean by “establishing a structure”? Due to the nature of the interview, it is very challenging for you to interject into the conversation. To keep the dialogue between you and the interviewer lively, aka not a back and forth like an interrogation, you should employ some techniques.

The best way to implicitly structure your interview is through the use of body language. Since body language in a video call is very limited compared to that of an in-person interview, you must employ some level of animation to show the interviewer that you are thinking and paying attention.

Imagine the situation from the perspective of the interviewer. Would you want to talk to someone for long who just stares at you all the time? How do you know if the candidate is listening to you? Think about body expressions and facial expressions that signal the interviewer that you want to talk.

Establishing a structure explicitly is more straightforward than trying it implicitly. When you begin the call, start the conversation by stating what you want to talk about. For instance, you can start with “We have 45 minutes on the call and I would like to learn more about the company and your work. And then I would be happy to talk about myself.”

Let the interviewer know what you want to talk about during that call and be very explicit about it. You can also ask them if they have a specific structure they want to follow to make the best use of their time.

One caveat we want to note is that connection issues might cause a significant disconnection between you and the interviewer. Remember that everybody is working from home right now, and therefore there is a tremendous usage of internet and video call technologies such as Zoom. You might or might not notice if you and your interviewer is experiencing a 5-6 second delay in your responses. These delays might get very awkward very quickly, so take control of the situation by telling the interviewer that you’ll be taking some notes during your conversation before the interview begins. This way, the interviewer will believe that the lag of time between questions and answers is due to your note-taking. Since your webcam can’t capture your whole desk, the interviewer won’t be able to tell when you’re taking notes or not.

Set a Line of Sight and Stick to It

When you join a call, your line of sight is essential because that’s the only way your interviewer can tell whether you’re engaged or not. So, before you join the call, establish where you’re looking to talk to the interviewer. For example, if your line of sight is on the top left, you should continue to look at that direction throughout the call.

If your eyes start to wonder, the interviewer will think that you are not paying attention. The only reason why you want to switch your line of sight is to show that you are thinking about what the interviewer is talking about. You might want to show how interested you are by looking up all of a sudden. Remember, you are trying to show that you are processing the discussion and reacting to it.

Also, if you are typing notes, try NOT to look into another area and switch your line of sight. Again, it is imperative to establish to the interviewer where you are looking at throughout the interview.

(Virtually) Show Character

Perhaps, the greatest challenge of a video interview for you is not having the tools you might typically have to show your personality to the interviewer. The quality and the quantity of body language that you can communicate to the interviewer through video chat are minimal. Therefore you have to make the best use of it.

You have to show some sort of animation in your body to convey to the interviewer that you are doing things beyond listening. Use your hands to communicate ideas and express your thinking. Do NOT look into the camera like a robot. You can also smile, blink, and show some sort of facial expression. Sometimes, it’s even better to exaggerate it since you have to convey to your interviewer your level of energy, which can be challenging during a video interview. The best way to show enthusiasm is to have some sort of body expression, which, of course, is limited to the viewpoint of the tool that they are using.

Final Notes

What you have to do is to communicate your personality level through confidence and energy. Think about ways of conveying this through the limited means of a video call before the “onsite”.

Another challenge that you should be prepared for is the fact that these onsite calls are back to back. So, you will not have much time to make for your needs (i.e., bathroom, water break). Think about how to equip yourself better to these needs when you are at home.

Although the way onsites are conducted has changed dramatically, the content of the discussion remains the same. If you are wondering about the kinds of questions you’ll be facing in an onsite interview, make sure you check our final round interview preparation guide.

Video chat can also be used for earlier product manager interview rounds. To stay informed about the structure of every round and to learn about the most commonly asked product manager interview questions, please read our guide here.


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