When interviewing for a product management job, it may seem like common sense to focus on trying to come up with as many of the ‘correct’ answers as possible to a recruiter’s questions. Yet, there are many cases where experienced, qualified Product Managers say all the right things and still struggle to convert interviews into offers. So what product management interview techniques set apart the candidates who stick the interview from those who land the job?
The unique nature of each product management job means that recruiters may be looking for different qualities in their candidates than you would expect. Your product management interview technique might be well suited ot one industry over another, or play to a certain type of company culture while excluding others. In contast, the best interview strategies are ones that can be adapted to suit the diverse pain points of every company you encounter. Here’s how to structure your interview so you come out looking like a high-value candidate every time.
What Does a Traditional Interview Structure Look Like?
No matter what your background or previous work experience, interviews tend to run in a fairly similar format across the board. When allowed to run their course on the recruiters’ terms, the majority of interviews will involve a series of generic questions with an opportunity for you to answer, followed by another question followed by another answer — in other words, a repetitive and dry back and forth.
In the majority of jobs, this is your opportunity to answer thoughtfully and with competency to demonstrate that you already know how to do your job. It’s also a chance to prove your ability to understand and execute instructions. The position you are applying for will involve you solving a problem that has been solved before, or at the very least following a clearly defined set of responsibilities.
However, product management is usually a little different. Any Product Manager job is going to be a position that involves solving specific problems that no-one has even anticipated yet. You’ll need to be flexible with responsibility and reactions on the job as you come to understand the needs of your particular team. There is no manual: you are in essence a subject matter expert, meant to be educating the people that you work with, rather than being told what to do.
Therefore, successfully coming up with the ‘right answer’ to an interview question loses its value: the answer will change quickly in the realities of the job. The ability to adapt and lead becomes critical instead. And where you otheriwse may have flexed your ability to execute instructions, in a Product Manager interview your likeability and confidence becomes paramount.
Tailoring Your Interview Techniques for Product Management
In this sense, an interview is the ideal place for you to try and get your foot in the door, if you are able, by asserting yourself as a strong leader. Because the recruiter will hopefully understand that even with previous Product Manager experience, you will be learning the unique ins-and-out on the job, your best bet is to go ahead and try to make a memorable impression.
You understand what the theoretical desired result of your Product Manager interview should be and what it should communicate to potential employers. But how do you actually start to structure the Product Manager interview in practice for maximum impact?
Product Management Interview Techniques: Disrupt the Rhythm
Although it may vary slightly, it is safe to assume that most companies will run interviews in a similar Q&A format. Your first step should be to try and disrupt that rhythm from the very start by leading with questions of your own. Asking the interviewer a question themselves off the bat will force them to engage with you in the moment outside their prepared script. This will naturally lead to a more conversational atmosphere.
Product Management Interview Techniques: Engaging Conversation
The goal is always to get them to step outside of viewing you as a resume in a pile, and start connecting with you emotionally as though you are already a member of the team. If you focus on being engaging, thoughtful, and taking the lead as much as possible, you’re sure to leave a lasting impression every-time.
It is in this mindset that lies the secret to out-competing other candidates for the same job. It is not necessarily about having better experience than the competition, or because you could do the job better, or even because your background looks better. Your success in your interview will be because you are able to focus on applying your product management sensibilities to the interview experience itself; the interview is your product and your expertise and good planning will help you to make it an effective experience for the end user every time.
If you’re still feeling unsure on how to tackle your product management interviews, get in touch with us for extra guidance and insight. Our Product Manager career coaches are offering free coaching sessions; schedule your one-on-one consultataion today.