Finding a new job is hard. Hiring is also hard. As a hiring manager you’re working two jobs; one as an interviewer / recruiter, the other still trying to fulfill your normal responsibilities. I recently had an opening on my team. After countless interviews, phone calls, and screeners, we’ve landed with a stellar Product Manager that made all that pain worth it.
Now that the marathon is over, I thought back on the experience and asked myself; what is the one thing I wished candidates asked in their interview that never seemed to come up? All interviewers should save time for questions, and coming prepared with the right ones to ask will book-end your interview with either a great finish or a terrible one.
Well I’m sick of waiting for someone to ask so here it is. Thanks to Bessy Tam for originally teaching me this as an interviewee.
The very best question to ask at the end of your Product Management interview is:
Do you have any concerns about me as a candidate for this role that I could potentially address?
One clarifier before we jump in; to make this a non awkward question, it 1000% needs to be asked in the realm of addressable things. You do not, I REPEAT, DO NOT want to ask “did I get it?” or “how did I do?”. These are completely different and can make things quite uncomfortable.
Maybe the interviewer is reading into one thing you said too much, maybe they are just looking for a bit more clarification, but this question can unlock a cornucopia of feedback that can literally change the trajectory of your professional career.
This magical question does three very important things:
1. Potentially saves or solidifies an interview
Interviews can be a roller coaster of emotion. In a very short amount of time (generally minutes and not hours) interviewers need to assess if you will be a good fit for the role, the team, and the company. They need to figure out if you know what you’re talking about, and if you come to life as well as your resume.
In a very short amount of time then, we need to understand your fit for the company and the role. You can’t convey your whole life story, and sometimes some things go unsaid. By the end of the interview, the interviewer’s goal is to have a list of positives and a list of concerns about you as a candidate that they can use to make a decision on whether or not to move forward with you.
Sometimes things you say can be taken the wrong way, or the examples you use may not exactly align with what the interviewer was thinking when they asked a specific question. We all can’t mindread but asking this question is the best possible way to get close.
This question can uncover misalignment between the interviewer and interviewee and can create the space for clarification.
2. Sets expectations about next steps
When you interview, you want to know immediately about your chances. Many people directly ask “how did I do?” or “did I get the job?”. This is a terrible approach and absolutely guarantees an extremely awkward end to your interview. Not exactly a great way to wrap things up.
The question of reviewing concerns that you could potentially address gives you immediate direct feedback about how you’ve done.
While they won’t outright say it, your interviewer will tell you fairly directly about your performance. There are really three options here of responses you can get:
- Something along the lines of “honestly nothing really comes to mind, you have a stellar background”. This is a great indicator things have gone well
- Some kind of addressable question like: “well, I see you’ve done xyz and I’m not sure how that will align with abc, could you say more?” This is where you kick some butt, calmly respond with a buttoned up question ideally tied off with a bow using a real world results oriented examples from your past
- A form of “well I’ve got a big concern with (enter non respondable concern about your background, experience, or soul here)”. This is generally where you get gracious and thank them for the feedback.
3. Asking this question fosters continuous improvement
Without this question unless you ask a recruiter for feedback you won’t get it. How will you ever improve as an interviewee?
Feedback loops are critical in interviews, in being a product manager, and one could say in life in general. Check out the book Mindset by Carol Dweck (not an affiliate link) for more around this. In general, if you want to improve as an interviewee, this is a great way to solicit that direct feedback that might just save your next interview.
As you approach your next interview for not just a Product Management role, but really any role, I hope the question of “Do you have any concerns about me as a candidate for this role that I could potentially address?” can bring you tons of success and more importantly feedback!