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What Are the Most Common Types of Product Manager Case Study Questions You Should Be Expecting in 2021?

7 min read

It’s impossible to understand how to solve product manager case study questions without knowing what kinds of questions to expect. Given the plethora of companies and resources online, sometimes it might be tough to navigate your way to find the right types of questions to solve to get ready for your next interview.

After mentoring more than a thousand members and helping them land the product manager job of their dreams, we have noticed a few trending patterns in the case studies they were given.

In this article, we will share the kinds of case study questions that were trending in 2020 and how you should prepare for them.

While it’s a fact that every company has its style when it comes to interviewing, there are certain types of questions that we continuously see appear on the case study interviews. We categorize these questions by what they ask you to do and how you should be approaching them. We will also share some insights on when to expect these questions.

Here are the four common types of product manager case study questions that you should be expecting in your case interview, ordered from the most common to least common:

Product Design Questions

If there is one thing we know about product manager case study interviews, it’s the fact that you get a product design question, regardless of where you interview. This should be no surprise to you as product managers’ primary duty is to develop unique products that address the needs and desires of their target market.

Interviewers could ask these questions in many different ways. Here are the most common kinds of product design questions you should be expecting:

  • Design a product to help users find doctors on Facebook. (Facebook)
  • How would you improve Google Maps? (Google)
  • You’re a part of the Google Search webspam team. How would you detect duplicate websites? (Google)
  • Name any product you love and any product you despise and explain your reasoning for both cases. (Amazon)
  • We target generating 100K monthly recurring customers with our product XYZ; what product or customer offerings would you create to help the team reach their goal. (Walmart)
  • You work for a mobile photo-sharing app that sees many users posting photos at shops and restaurants. The leadership team would like to figure out a way to monetize this organic relationship. What would you build? (Venmo)
  • You’re the product manager of a team that focuses on financial products for our drivers. You’re tasked with designing a financial product (or suite of products) that addresses our drivers’ needs in Brazil. (Uber)
  • Go to our website and sign up as a hiring manager. Identify three places where the customer experience could be better. (Upwork)

The critical skill that you’ll have to demonstrate while addressing these questions is customer empathy. You have to understand what the customer wants and design your product or feature accordingly.

As you can see from the broad spectrum of questions, you can be asked to design a product from scratch or improve an existing product. Some questions will explicitly tell you to focus on a specific OKR, while others will leave everything ambiguous to challenge you to think more.

Either way, the first and most important step of addressing these prompts is by asking your interviewer the essential questions and making sure that both of you are on the same page regarding the assumptions you’ll be making.

Many candidates who receive take-home assignments think it’s impossible to ask your interviewer questions, but you can ask them all of the necessary questions. Use our email template here to email your interviewer next time you get a case study assignment!

The second step is to narrow down the case study’s scope and determine what the objective of this product should be. You can read our case study guide to learn what questions to address to understand your product’s purpose.

You can also watch our case study instructor Roman Kolosovskiy solving a popular Facebook product design question here:

You can expect these questions in any case study interview! Some companies will ask you to whiteboard your response within minutes; others will give you a week to turn your ideas into professional deliverables. Regardless, however, you’ll face these questions.

Product Strategy Questions

These questions started trending up more recently as many companies seek intuitive product managers who can take ownership beyond the scope of the product they were hired to work on.

Unlike product design questions, you are required to think about the bigger picture here. You’ll be either asked to find ways to make a product (and hence define success for the product) or complete the overall organization more successful.

Here are some of the questions you should be addressing with your response to these kinds of questions:

  • How does a particular product contribute to the company’s overall business?
  • What businesses, markets, or products should the company focus on to reach its targets?
  • What metrics should the company focus on to be successful?

And here are some of the most frequently asked product strategy questions:

  • If you were Google’s CEO, would you be concerned about Microsoft? (Google)
  • How would you set goals and measure success for Facebook notifications? (Facebook)
  • How would you monetize Facebook messenger? (Facebook)
  • How would you determine the right price and method to promote product XYZ, and why? (Amazon)
  • Imagine you’re a PM that works with big data. Now what? (Microsoft)

The essential skill you’re required to demonstrate here is analytical thinking, as you’ll need to identify the key OKRs to define success for your product and organization. These questions also test your prioritization skills.

To address these questions, you’ll need to be well informed about its business model, competitors, and the recent developments in that industry.

Note that these questions will most likely appear during the interview itself as it’s quite challenging to prepare deliverables for them. Like product design questions, they are very ambiguous, and the only way to solve them entirely is by narrowing them down.

Estimation and Analysis Questions

Many novice product managers believe that these kinds of questions became a legacy, although we have noticed many companies to ask estimation questions during the case study round. However, one thing that is different from the previously asked questions is that they have been made more relevant to the company.

If you are wondering how these questions assess your product management skills, you can consider them a method for the interviewers to understand how comfortable you are making decisions with limited data.

Long story short, they want to see how good you’re using data to derive the KPIs you need for your product.

Most of these questions will require you to calculate how many users would use a product that the company is currently providing or thinking of producing, how much revenue a company would bring to the company, what would be the market acquisition percentage, etc.

These questions are mostly asked during the interview. To solve them without Internet access is only possible by learning all the fundamental values you know about a company. This includes the revenue it makes or the approximate number of users it has.

You should also be able to calculate the critical KPIs. Here are a couple of resources we love and think would be helpful:

Here are a couple of example questions you might be facing:

  • How many queries per second does Gmail get? (Google)
  • As the product manager for Google Glass ‘Enterprise Edition’, which metrics would you track? How do you know if the product is successful? (Google)
  • How much revenue does YouTube make per day? (Google)
  • How would you go about estimating the number of gas stations in the USA? (Microsoft)
  • How would you track user engagement in an app, and what KPIs would you use to improve it? (Microsoft)
  • How would you measure the success of the Netflix recommendation engine? (Netflix)
  • Ride cancellations shot up 4.5% week-over-week (WoW). How would you investigate what’s going on? (Uber)

Scheduling/Operational Questions

These questions are scarce, but we have seen more companies lately relying on them to assess the candidates’ ability to turn ideas into deliverable tasks.

A significant aspect of product management is stakeholder management, and these questions challenge you to distribute work items to the related stakeholder or team member. You are also asked to come up with a realistic delivery schedule. Your knowledge of agile principles, especially for software products, is also essential.

If you need to review agile principles, make sure you watch this video on what product managers should know about being agile:

Note that most of these questions are asked as part of the product manager case study, so you might not notice them first. In most cases, the interview will require you to write a detailed delivery schedule and write user stories and tasks.

Here are a couple of examples case study questions to get you familiar with the task:

  • Write the Jira ticket(s) for engineering for the idea you want to execute. (Upwork)
  • Outline a brief (1-2 page) launch plan that would cover the activities and tasks needed to launch the feature successfully. Be sure to touch on both internal and external stakeholders, and include potential launch goals. (Stitch Data)

The number of different questions you can receive in a product manager case study interview is massive, and there is no way you can solve all of them before your interview! To learn the standard tools and frameworks that successful product manager candidates use to solve these questions, make sure you sign up for the Product Gym case study course today!

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