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Product Manager User Personas Interview Questions: How to Use and Develop User Personas

Creating a successful product is all about weighing customer needs and providing solutions to their problems. But a company can’t do this if they don’t understand who they’re building for. That’s why user personas are crucial for Product Managers, and why the user personas interview questions play an important role in the Product Design interview process. You’re sure to encounter the questions:

  • How do you use user personas?
  • How do you develop user personas?

By definition, a persona or user persona is a fictional representation of certain types of users based on observed patterns of behavior and needs among the product’s users. Identifying the different types of users and categorizing them into heuristic personas helps companies empathize with them. User personas also help keep the user’s needs in mind during the product creation process. 

A good PM helps a company correctly identify its customers to build a product that scales and increases revenue. 

Here’s how to answer the most common user personas interview questions to prove that you are the person for the job.  

How Do You Use User Personas?

Personas help teams understand who they are building for by presenting a clear representation of a product’s users. Thus, they should be tied into every Product Manager’s day-to-day decisions and processes to ensure the correct customers are kept in mind with any new products or campaigns. You should communicate this when the interviewer asks you how to develop user personas.

A good way to do this is by dividing your response into three parts: 

User Personas Interview Questions: Step One

Start by setting up your answer. This helps you present a systematic response that will be clear to your interviewer. It also buys you a few moments to think. 

A great setup template you can use for “How do you use user personas” is:

“That’s a really good question. I use user personas for everything I do as a Product Manager practically every single day. I always have the customer in mind throughout the product design process.” 

Being customer-oriented is integral to product management, and you want the interviewer to know that you understand this. 

User Personas Questions Part Two: Examples 

Now that your interviewer knows the importance you place on user personas, it’s time to explain your process with an example. 

“Having clear and defined user personas helps me understand our customers better. I get insight into how they look for, purchase, and use our products. If I didn’t have a clearly defined set of user personas I’d be operating in the dark as a PM in any organization.”

User Personas Interview Questions Part Three: The Follow-Up 

Now that you’ve answered with an example, distance yourself from the response with a follow-up question. Go ahead and take the opportunity to throw it back to your interviewer: 

“If I may ask, what user personas have the team here developed? Can you tell me a little bit more about how you came up with them?” 

Why Include a Follow-up Question? 

As the potential next PM at the company, you are going to be involved in defining their product’s user personas to create for them. The more information you have on their customers, the more value you can conjure to add to the organization in helping them meet their goals. 

Asking your interviewer questions throughout the interview also helps to create an engaging dialogue instead of an interrogation. The more engaged they are during the interview, the more memorable you will be as a candidate. 

Watch our co-founder Rich explain more on answering this question in the video below: 

Now that you have inquired about their process of coming up with user personas, you can expect them to come back to you with this next question, “How do you develop user personas?” 

Most companies have an idea of what their user personas are but they are not clearly defined. As their next Product Manager, that’s going to be a big part of your job, so answer with this in mind.

How Do You Develop User Personas? 

Every company can learn more about their users, that’s why this is one of the most common product design questions you’ll see in a PM interview. Our coaches emphasize including personal experiences in your interview responses, and this is a great place to include such examples. 

We’ll present our answer in the same structure as with, “How do you use user personas?”: Part one is the setup for your answer. Part two is the example that you will provide. And lastly, the follow-up that allows you to re-engage your interviewer and to get them to give you more information. 

Part One: The Set-Up 

“Funny enough that you ask me that question, it’s one of the questions that I’m most excited to answer today because I recently spearheaded a new initiative at my current company that accidentally helped us create three more user personas.” 

We suggest taking on a project like this at your current company if this isn’t something that you’ve done recently as you’ll need to be up to date with your response here. Companies and hiring teams do not care about ancient history. They want to know about your current job and recent work. 

Part Two: The Example 

“As a PM I try to be as intentional as possible in finding out how we can better serve our existing customers and how to find new ones. So, I’m always looking and examining the data, starting with our CRM. Currently, at my company, we use (XYZ) CRM and we just underwent a huge task of adding additional fields and making sure our salespeople were filling in every field that was required and we realized something original: Before the pandemic, we had five major user personas that we thought were largely it for us. But through the reports and dashboards that my counterparts and I made, we were able to find an additional three user personas we weren’t doing a good enough job marketing our products to or servicing.” 

Part Three: The Follow-Up 

Throw it back to the interviewer with a question on their company’s user persona development process: 

“Can you tell me a little bit about what CRM you guys use and how often you review the data it generates to better understand the user personas that you guys currently have?” 

Another follow up question you can ask is: 

“Have you noticed any changes to the target demographic your products are serving since the pandemic?” 

The latter is a great question because every business across the board has experienced this. At Product Gym, we’ve noticed many professionals from different backgrounds have been looking to make a transition into product management because remote working has given them more time to go through our program. Countless other founders and startups have noticed this as well. 

Watch Rich explain this in-depth in this video: 

Product Design Interview Questions: What Is the Interviewer Looking For?  

While we don’t advocate for depending only on one framework when it comes to product design interview questions and answers, the above templates can help you provide the groundwork for your response.

All said and done, your answers should communicate the following essential Product Manager skills

  • Empathy: Your interviewer will be looking for evidence of customer empathy in your product management process. They want to see if you can garner insights on problems to solve and identify the right audience to solve for. 
  • You are revenue-driven: Above all, companies care about the bottom line and are always looking for PMs who can help them make more money. Let your interviewer know that you are always trying to figure out how to better serve your customers because this translates to more sales and better revenue. 
  • You are data-driven: You love metrics, KPIs, reports, and dashboards. You constantly review data because that’s the language of product management. Show your interviewer that any decision or action you take has to be backed up by evidence.
  • You are intentional: A good PM is always looking for ways to find new customers and better serve the existing ones. Communicate this by including your research and data reviewing processes in your answers. 

Don’t Wing It 

User personas interview questions are a must in every Product Manager interview, and they carry a lot of weight too. Make sure you have your answers right and you will crush it. 

We’ve prepared a PDF of all the other product design interview questions that you’re most likely going to receive on a PM interview. Schedule a consultation with us to access it, complete with answer templates you can use!