Table of Contents

8 Common Interview Mistakes Product Manager Candidates Make

We’ve helped thousands of aspiring Product Managers prepare for interviews. In the process, we’ve noticed that most people make the same common interview mistakes.

These mistakes are so typical that even if you are an excellent interviewer, chances are you’ve committed at least one or two of the top eight most common interview mistakes without even knowing it. To help you step up your interview game and keep you from making the same mistakes, we’re unpacking the eight of the most common interview mistakes that aspiring Product Managers should avoid. We hope this puts you ahead of the competition!

1. Not Being Prepared for the Role

The first of the common interview mistakes made by interviewees is showing up without actually having read the job description. It’s easy for the interviewer to tell if you’ve reviewed the company website and whether or not you’ve done your due diligence to understand what this role entails.

Even if the posted job description is vague, it is still your responsibility to surmise the role as best as you can with all the public information available to you. 

You can avoid appearing unprepared for the interview by updating your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. In other words: are your branding tools optimized to complement the Product Manager roles you’re applying for? Reading up on the company you’re interviewing with can also help you position your personal elevator pitch. Your pitch should be tweaked to respond to the needs of the company, and delivered slightly differently depending on who you’re talking to.

In fact, all resumes have to get past a Resume Bot before it even reaches the hands of the recruiter. Therefore, it is extremely important to know the exact keywords and skills to highlight in your resume, and how to phrase them, so that you get past the first round of eliminations and make it to the interview.

At Product Gym, we show you exactly how to do just that. With our expert-led skills courses and our interviews with Product Leads at top companies, we’ve distilled the exact skills recruiters look out for. Combined with our tried-and-tested methodology, our members not only get past the Resume Bot, but also end up scoring 3-5 job offers in as little as 45 days.

2. Talking Too Much

The second of the common interview mistakes to avoid is simply talking too much. You might be committing this error out of nervousness, because you’re not sure what to say, or because you haven’t nailed down a precise response in your interview prep. Plenty of candidates make this mistake whether they’re a first-time Product Manager or an experienced Product Manager.

While it’s easy to assume that an in-depth response can help showcase your immense knowledge, more often than not it can show that you’re not an effective communicator. Clear, concise, and effective communication is a fundamental part of being a successful Product Manager. You can make your responses more direct and well-delivered simply by practicing. You should aim to have a clear idea of what you will say in response to the most common behavioral, technical, product design, strategy, and metric-based interview questions.

After researching the most frequent questions you’ll come across, do yourself a favor and study three to five questions a day. Then, type up your responses. Record yourself delivering the answers, hear how you sound, and ask yourself whether or not you could convince yourself with that response.

3. Not Talking Enough

The third mistake is the exact opposite of over-talking: simply not talking enough. 

Being too reserved is an issue because you can easily give off the air of arrogance or disinterest. Whether you’re nervous or just naturally introverted, being too quiet throughout an interview can put off the interviewer.

If this leads them to have any form of reservations towards you, they may naturally interpret that it’s not going to be a fun time working with you on the actual job. Remember that the interview isn’t all about giving the “right” answers to your interviewer’s questions. Part of the interview process is demonstrating culture fit. You want to show the person you’re talking to what it’s like to actually work with you.

Like resolving the second common interview mistake, the remedy is to research frequently occurring questions ahead of time and learn where you can elaborate on your responses when necessary.

4. Being a Passive Interviewee

This next one is tangentially connected with the common interview mistake above. If you are a passive interviewee, you run the risk of shooting yourself in the foot (even if you give great interview answers.) There’s a good chance that you’re not the only one up for the Product Manager position. One of the consequences of being a passive interviewee is not necessarily having a bad interview, but having a forgettable one. 

To help you stand out from the crowd, you should ask stand-out questions. Asking well-timed questions will have two great benefits:

  1. It will make you more memorable
  2. It will break the vicious interrogation cycle

Interviewers will enjoy being shaken out of the “they question you answer, they question you answer” routine that they’ve become accustomed to throughout filling the position.

At the end of the day, culture fit is everything. The more comfortable the company is with you during the interview, the more they can visualize working with you on the actual job. So if you’re having a clear conversation with them as if you’re already working there and you’re building rapport, it’s going to be not only a better interview, but also a better use of time.

5. Going into the Interview with Low-Energy

An easy-to-fix mistake that many applicants make without even knowing it is not keeping their energy up.

We’re not suggesting you begin the day by drinking three five-hour energies and doing 50 jumping jacks to hype yourself up. The only thing you need to do is genuinely look excited for the position that you’re hoping to land. 

If you’re switching over to Product Management, it’s best to go in understanding that it’s a hard job. To be successful, you need to be passionate about the company’s mission and the problems its product is trying to solve.

When you go into an interview with low energy, you’re signaling to the interviewer that you just need a job and don’t care if it’s at this company or another. Keep in mind that nothing turns an interviewer off more than seeing somebody that just “needs a job.” 

Keep your energy high, have good eye contact, and simply be enthusiastic to fix this common mistake.

6. Not Engaging the Interviewer

Another common mistake that people interviewing for Product Manager roles commit is not engaging the interviewer on a human level.

Keeping the conversation focused on the practical, hard facts of the job is a mistake. Instead, the interview should be a dialogue between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Keep in mind that the interviewer isn’t just there to listen to you answer the question. They’re also there to help you and provide hints when you’re stuck. They’re likely exhausted and stressed by needing to fill this role, just like you’re exhausted by your job hunt. By disregarding the interviewer on a human level, you’re more likely to lose their attention.

Ultimately, the people you talk to throughout the interview process are the company’s stakeholders. They are going to be the ones that vote whether or not you are going to be the next Product Manager.

However, it can often be difficult to strike up a conversation on a topic that you are not entirely familiar with. Therefore, at Product Gym, we teach you all the product management terminology, jargon, fundamentals, and essentials that will prepare you for any conversation topic that comes your way.

How to Be a More Engaging Interviewee

When candidates spend most of their time talking about how they’re a good fit for the position but then don’t take time to convey how they can serve the people they’re interviewing with, it’s hard for stakeholders to see you on the team.

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get feedback for an interview that you got rejected on, or they just ghosted you?

The simple answer is that they forgot about you. While this is a horrible thing to hear, it means that you weren’t memorable. This mistake is insidiously deep. While the surface consequence is that you don’t get the Product Manager job, it also makes it incredibly hard to rectify or receive feedback because they don’t remember even having the interview.

To break out of this mold, you can start by asking the interviewer more engaging questions that cut to the core on a personal level:

  • What are some of the parts of this job you don’t like? 
  • What keeps you up the most on a Sunday night? 
  • What are some of your most significant barriers?

7. Accepting Defeat

One of the worst interview mistakes you can make is going down without a fight. What do we mean by that? Here’s a notable example of a Product Gym candidate who demonstrates how to fight for the position you want:

They were confronted with the question about Agile. This particular candidate had a background in finance, and they’re working at one of the leading investment banks in New York City. They didn’t have experience with Agile and didn’t have an answer for the question, but that didn’t stop them.

While they couldn’t answer the question on the spot — and acknowledged that they should have known the answer to that question — they found a solution.

They told the interviewer that they would follow up with them on the answer. After the interview, they went to Barnes and Noble, bought a book on Agile, wrote a full-page report, and emailed the Hiring Manager back. 

This tenacity showed the Hiring Manager that this person had enough grit and enough hustle to reverse what evidently would have been a rejection scenario. Ultimately, they were able to land a job with that company.

Even if the above scenario resulted in the person not getting the job, guess what? They’re prepared for the question when it comes up in the next interview.

In the end, you’re not expected to have all of the answers to every question. For example, when the pandemic hit, there wasn’t a playbook for Product Managers on how to handle the situation. But you can always show the Hiring Manager that you have the fortitude to figure it out.

How you respond to the unknown will show them how you deal with adversity and manage pressure.

8. Forgetting the Thank You Letter

The final of these common interview mistakes is not sending out a thank you letter.

At Product Gym, we believe in sending thank you letters after every meeting. At its core, it’s a sign of respect for the interviewer for giving up their most valuable commodity: their time. 

It may be hard to hear, but most Hiring Managers don’t want to interview you. And it’s not because they have anything against you personally. It’s because recruiting is very ineffective as a practice. It’s exhausting for everyone involved.

When it comes to the thank you letter, avoid the generic “thank you for your time.” After all, this may be your last opportunity to leave an impression. Leave it all on the table. Let the interviewer know what excited you the most about working for the company and what value you can bring to the position.

You can also take this opportunity to address some of the mistakes you may have made and potential ways to remedy them. Or, if they were too grievous, you thank them for their time regardless.

Outshine the Competition in Your PM Interview

Want more advice on how to stand out in the Product Manager job hunt? Our in-house team of career coaches are offering free sessions, so you can get guidance tailored to your situation. If you have questions about the interview process or want to find out if Product Gym can help you land your next PM role, schedule a free career consultation with our career coaches today.