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How to Prepare for a Product Management Interview

This blog series is for product managers who are in the recruiting and hiring cycle, working with recruitment agencies, working with product management recruiters and anyone looking to hone the interview skills needed for product management. Wondering to how to prepare for a product management interview? Read on.

How to Prepare for a Product Management Interview: Round One

The first round call with the internal product management recruiter will operate much like a checklist. They are going to ask you to talk about yourself, how you transitioned into product management or how you currently perform product responsibilities, why you are leaving, and what you are looking for in your next role.

To prepare for this first round product management call, you need to do basic research about the company. Find resources about the company you are interviewing for on Google News, LinkedIn, Crunchbase and other news outlets.

Remember to think like a product manager when you are going through these sources. As a PM focused on the business and sales side, you want to ask product questions that might impact the business models. You must have a general grasp of the direction that the business is in or wants to head. Otherwise, the product management information you need pitch yourself to the recruiter will be uninformed.

Use Research to Pitch Yourself

Specifically, you want to tailor your pitch to the first round recruiter to what they tell you. If they say that they’re looking for a Product Manager who is passionate about their mission, do your best to find a personal experience that speaks to it. Or if they are looking for a B2B product manager but you’ve only done B2C, focus your pitch on the interactions from when you interfaced with the business stakeholders.

If the recruiter asks you to talk about yourself first without giving you any context for the company, make sure to have your personal pitch and backstory ready.

At Product Gym, we teach our members how to pitch themselves according to the most essential traits and skills that recruiters are looking for in a Product Manager.

Our interviews with Product Leads have allowed us to distill the most important aspects to highlight in your job application process, so you are ready to “tell us about yourself” when asked.

Lastly, you want to sound energetic, engaged and enthused about the company. Ask lots of intelligent questions.  Some of the best questions to ask recruiters and Product Managers can be found below:

  1. How long has the company been around?
  2. Are the original Founders still there?
  3. What is the company culture like?
  4. How large is the company?
  5. How large is the Product Department?

How to Prepare for a Product Management Interview: Round Two

If you’ve completed your prep for round one of the Product Manager interview, by now you will have:

  1. Received the name of the Product Manager who is interviewing you
  2. Identified where you are in the recruitment and hiring process
  3. Communicated some competency in your personal backstory and pitch

So what are you going to do next with this information? Before the call, use this information to refine your backstory and pitch with examples, and to create rapport with the hiring manager.

One of the most defining characteristics of Product Gym is our community. Before your interview, or at any stage of your job hunting process, you can discuss and brainstorm ideas with our experts and our other members. This way, when you go into your interview, you’ll have a perfectly refined backstory and pitch — with key examples.

Focus on Examples

In this second round call, it is very likely that this next person you’ll be speaking with on the phone is the hiring manager (i.e. the person you will be reporting to if you get the job). Spewing out product management buzzwords may work on the first round call with a recruiter, but not with a practicing Product Manager.

Instead, you’ll need to focus on the specifics. What type of specific examples in your pitch will you have to refine? Mostly stakeholders. A larger part of a Product Manager’s job is to balance relations with other working professionals on the team.

Questions on more technical product management related concepts, such as writing user stories or epics, can be easily tested with a whiteboarding session, case study, or homework assignment, so the hiring manager may want to dig into more behavioral questions for the call.

Be prepared to give specific examples of how you’ve handled situations with many stakeholders for these types of questions:

  1. Times you’ve dealt with conflict.
  2. Times you’ve had to push back on management, or other stakeholders.
  3. Times you’ve dealt with deadlines.
  4. Times you had to prioritize and balance multiple, competing interests.
  5. Times you’ve had to work with a cross-functional team, usually consisting of a Designer, Engineer, Marketer, Sales, Business Strategy, etc.

When you give your answers, remember to tell a story. Set your story up so that you become the hero of your own scenario.

At Product Gym, we teach you how to prepare and practice your story (and you can practice it with our other members), so that you have a fully refined and detailed story that showcases your best skills and positions you as the best person for the job.

Prepare Smart Questions

Interviewees always appreciate good questions too. Thoughtful questions demonstrate your intellect, and interest and engagement in the role. Ask questions specifically about the product, the hiring manager who will be managing you, and ultimately the product you will be owning.

How do you come up with these questions? The best ones deal with change. How has the hiring manager changed or implemented product processes? Is s/he looking for you to do that? How has the product team grown? What is the structure of the team, etc?

Be Likable

Try to create rapport with the hiring manager by relating to their background. Do your due diligence to find commonalities. If you’ve done your first call right, you should have reviewed his/her LinkedIn profile. Did you go to the same University? Are you interested in similar volunteering opportunities? Have you pursued relatable industries right out of college?

Finding something that you can build rapport on has more to do with initiating small talk — your hiring manager really has to like you to hire you.

Hiring managers/product managers are not professional interviewers. Product Managers focus on customer empathy and end-user experience. In essence, you are their end-user and they will be trying to analyze and create empathy with you. The result of this is a clear BS meter. If you sound fake or disinterested in them, they will be able to call you out on it and, worse, they will take it as an insult.

Align to the Work Environment

Figure out the structure of the organization. If you’ve done your first call right, you should have asked about the Product organization, its size, how many people at each level of the hierarchy, etc. If not, go to LinkedIn to get an idea of the org structure. Find how many Product Managers of each title there are and you’ll get a better understanding of the size of the teams.

Have you ever worked in this large or small of a team? If so, find an example that really facilitated progress and make sure to bring it up on the call. If not, find an example where you worked on a specific task of a project in a small team. Do your best to relate to how you progressed in your career when you worked on a team of a size similar to their organization. This helps them visualize you succeeding in the role’s environment.

Align to the Purpose

Use details you learned from the first call with the recruiter to inform you. The recruiter likely gave you an overview of the company, the product, and the industry the company operates in. Use these details to craft a story about how you’ve worked with or in a similar capacity, whether that’s a B2B role, a sales position, servicing similar end users with an identical demographic, etc. Be ready to use this when they ask you, “So why our company?”

Master Preparing for a Product Management Interview

With so many things to remember, and only a few interview opportunities to present yourself as the best person for the job, how will you ensure that you stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression on your interviewers?

At Product Gym, we make sure that you are well-prepared to master your product management interview. We show you how to ace every single question in your Product Manager interview, from behavioral and technical questions to case studies and salary negotiation.

In fact, we’re currently offering free coaching sessions with our in-house Product Manager training experts.

If you want to make sure you’re fully utilizing your interviews to showcase your greatest skills, schedule your free career coaching session today.