During a Product Management job interview, it is important for applicants to be prepared. Equally important to ask questions to the interviewer/recruiter that they are conversing with. Many people would think the primary reason for having a job interview may be for the interviewer/recruiter to get a better sense of the applicant’s capabilities of doing the job that they are applying and interviewing for. However, the job interview also serves as a purpose for the applicant to ask questions. Applicants can ask questions about topics that they are uneasy or not sure about, as well as just gain knowledge about the subject matter.
Also, smart questions that are asked by the applicant can impress the interviewer. Answering interviewers’ questions smartly are not just the sole way to “win” interviews; sometimes applicants need to ask questions smartly in order to seal the deal in giving off the impression that they are competent, smart, and versatile in their thinking.
There are a few challenges in asking the right questions on a Product Manager interview. First, you do not ever want to come off as cocky, disrespectful, or confrontational. Also, you want to be asking the questions that are going to get you more insight into the role, a better understanding of how urgent they are to hire, and/or what struggles this company has in hiring for this role. Asking inappropriate questions, however, well-asked they may be is detrimental to your push to becoming the company’s newest Product Manager hire.
“Who and When”
You always want to think about the “who and when” method when thinking about what questions to ask an interviewer. Think about who are you speaking with and at what stage is this interview on. A first round interview over the phone with an HR recruiter should definitely be approached differently than a third or fourth round on-site interview with a Head of Product or several stakeholders influencing the Product Management team.
In the first round of the interview, you’re always going to be talking to the HR manager or the internal recruiter. The questions that you want to ask that will give you a general idea of your perception to them as a hiring candidate as well as how their company operates as the whole. Knowing the answers to these two points/questions will give you insight as to what you need to know to either improve yourself or to emphasize so you can gain more later-stages, on-site interviews and whether or not this company is the right fit for you, respectively.
Any of these questions can be asked at any stage of the interview process. It might be beneficial for you to re-ask certain questions with different interviewers at different stages. These questions are:
How many resumes did you sort before you found mine?
- From your professional background, is there anything listed in my resume that could be a red flag and restrict me from moving on further on in the interview process?
- I would really like to hear your opinion on what was it about my background that stuck out to you and led you to schedule a call with me?
- How long has the role that I applied for been open?
- How are you guys finding your candidates? Where have the other rejected candidates been falling short?
- Can you tell me why this position became open? Did somebody recently leave?
The last question is important in that the advantages and understanding whether or not somebody left gives what you need to know about people’s happiness level working at the company. If somebody recently left after just being hired (for example, the last person only stayed at the company for four months before moving on to another company), then you can fairly infer that this company may not be the best place for you to take a job.
Gain Further Insight
Another question that can give you insight as to your expected role in the company would be, “What did you like about the previous person that filled this role that I am applying for?” Variations of this question can be, “What was your working relationship with this person?” and “Was there anything that this person did particularly well.” Knowing the answers to these questions will provide you with knowledge of your expected role as mentioned before, while you can paint yourself into a better version of the person that left so they can view it as an upgrade and be more willing to hire you.
If this position that you applied for is relatively new, then asking further will provide its advantages too. These questions, when asked clearly and non-judgmental, provides you advantages as to how you can paint yourself better than you previously did. You’ll definitely represent yourself better than competing applicants that didn’t ask these questions and therefore, are not knowledgeable of this important information.
Here are the questions:
- Is there a particular reason why you guys decided to open up this new role now?
- What are some of the challenges you guys are fighting?
- What are the main challenges in trying to have this new person fit this new role?
- Are there any particular skills or expertise that you would like this candidate to have?
Here is what to know that when there is a new position open. Everybody is going to have a different understanding or different interpretation of what this new position is. The person that will fill this position will face uncertainty. Meaning, his or her roles, capabilities and required tasks are up for debate and are intentionally unclear. Each person will have a different interpretation of what your role will be as they work with you in a different capacity as somebody else will. Therefore, you want to go ahead and basically collect a wish list of what it is that each person wants this candidate to be or have and reiterate that you are this person.
Rich is the Founder of Product Gym™, the first professional career coaching service committed to helping aspiring and veteran Product Managers transition into the Product Manager job of their dreams. Previously, Rich worked as a Technical Recruiter for both CyberCoders and Workbridge Associates, where he partnered with countless companies to attract, develop, and retain their top talent. Currently, he specializes in coaching his students to generate more interviews than they can count, perfect their interview pitches, as well as negotiate the biggest offers for themselves with the most exciting companies. Rich graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s Degree in History.