Congratulations on getting a Product Manager interview and making it to the case study round. Getting this far along the process is a real accomplishment, although it’s nowhere near the finish line. You have got to dominate the case study round first! To ace your Product Manager case study questions, first, you have to know what to expect. Given the plethora of companies and resources online, it might be tough to navigate your way to the right types of questions to solve when prepping for your next case study 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. While every company has its style when it comes to interviewing, there are certain types of questions that we continuously see appear in the case study interviews.
In this article, we categorize these questions by what they ask you to do and how you should approach them. Here are the four common types of Product Manager case study questions that you should expect in your case study interview, ordered from the most common to least common:
- Product Design Questions
- Product Strategy Questions
- Estimation and Analysis Questions
- Scheduling/Operational Questions
If there is one thing we know about Product Manager case study interviews, it’s that you’ll get a product design question, regardless of where you interview. This should be no surprise to you as the Product Manager’s primary duty is to develop unique products that address the needs and desires of their target market.
Some companies will ask you to whiteboard your response within minutes while others will give you a week to turn your ideas into professional deliverables. Regardless, you’ll face product design questions.
Interviewers could ask these questions in many different ways. Here are eight 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 aim to generate 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)
Designing Everyday Products
Believe it or not, product management is not limited to complex software products. Every object you’ve encountered went through some sort of product management and design process!
So, in your case study interview, don’t be surprised if you encounter a couple of questions like these:
- How would you redesign your shower?
- How would you design an elevator for a 100-floor building?
- How would you design sunglasses for babies?
Thinking about the problems faced by users is the key to answering these questions.
How to Answer Product Design Case Study Questions
Designing a new product out of the blue with a limited time might sound intimidating, but it’s not impossible.
Start by questioning the product that you were just asked about. Ask your interviewer for more constraints and understand what kinds of assumptions you should make before jumping into prototyping. Many candidates who receive take-home assignments think it’s impossible to ask your interviewer questions, but this is actually the most important first step to take in approaching your case study. Before you begin forming your own answers, you need to get as many details from them as you can.
Once you clarified the assumptions, think about the kinds of users this product would be serving. What are their needs? What are they actively looking for? Are there any existing products that satisfy these needs? The critical skill to demonstrate while addressing product design case study questions is customer empathy. You have to understand what the customer wants and design your product or feature accordingly.
After you define your target persona, think about all the features and metrics to measure the success of these features. Keep in mind that whatever you come up with is open for improvement. You want to show your interviewer that you can think beyond the MVP.
As you can see from the broad spectrum of questions above, you might be asked to design a product from scratch or to 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. For some extra insight and examples, watch our case study instructor Roman Kolosovskiy solving a popular Facebook product design question:
Product strategy questions started trending 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, strategy questions require you to think about the bigger picture. You’ll either be asked to find ways to make a product (and hence define success for the product) or to complete the overall organization more successfully.
Here are five of the most frequently asked product strategy questions to prep for:
- If you were Google’s CEO, would you be concerned about Microsoft? (Google)
- How would you improve product/feature X (where X is something that the company is currently working on or selling)?
- How would you improve Google Maps? (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)
How to Solve Product Strategy Case Study Questions
Remember: no product is created in a single iteration. Even the most perfect product has room for improvement. To solve these questions, you need to be well informed about the company and its products/services. Here are some of the main points you should be addressing with your response to strategy 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?
Consider the company’s business model, competitors, and the recent developments in that industry. The essential skill you need to demonstrate here is analytical thinking. You should identify the key OKRs to define success for your product and organization. These questions also test your prioritization skills.
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. The only way to solve them entirely is by narrowing them down first with questions.
Many companies ask estimation questions during the case study round. 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 you use data to derive the KPIs you need for your product. Here are seven examples of estimation questions you might face:
- 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)
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 product would bring to the company, what the market acquisition percentage would be, etc.
These questions are mostly asked during the interview. To solve them without internet access is only possible by learning the fundamental values of the company beforehand. This includes the revenue it makes or the approximate number of users it has. You should also be able to calculate their critical KPIs.
Operational 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, check out this video:
Note that for most operational case study questions, the interviewer will require you to write a detailed delivery schedule and write user stories and tasks.
Here are two examples of 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)
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