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“What’s Your Definition of Design Thinking?”: Product Design Questions for the PM Interview

What’s your definition of design thinking? This is a common question that usually starts off the Product Design interview portion of PM interviews. 

While it may seem like a straightforward question that warrants a short and simple answer, it carries a lot of weight in demonstrating your understanding of working with designers. Product design is likely not your forté as an aspiring PM, but you can explain your interpretation of design thinking effectively enough that you leave a lasting impression on your interviewer. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to deliver the perfect response on how to define design thinking, including a simple template that you can use in your next Product Manager interview. 

Who Is Asking “What’s Your Definition of Design Thinking”? 

Product design is considered a technical part of product management. Technical questions come up in Round Three of the interview, where you are most likely going to face a panel that includes stakeholders from product, engineering, design, project, mobile, and data. 

The person you need to impress on this panel is the Head of Product, UX Designer, or Product Designer. 

What’s Your Definition of Design Thinking? : An Answer Template 

Here’s the answer: 

When I think of design thinking, the first thing that comes to my mind is a methodology, or better yet, a people-first approach to solving complex problems that satisfies the needs and wants of any given stakeholder. 

Option 2: 

The first thing that comes to my mind is, honestly, another way that I can even make it more simple just thinking about it right now is well, design thinking to me is more like a framework, that we can use to solve complex or very difficult problems in a way that’s going to make everybody happy. 

Pro-Tip

The phrase “the first thing that comes to mind is” is a Forgiveness Statement. By using this opening, you create a small safety net for you to fall back on. After all, you’re not solidifying your point of view. You’re expressing the first thing you thought of when formulating a response. If the interviewer does respond with a drastically different definition, you have the flexibility to adapt your answer to fit their viewpoint.

Why This Approach? 

First, a bit of background: As a former tech recruiter in California for two of the largest tech recruiting agencies in the entire country, our co-founder Rich came across this common response to this question: 

When I consider design thinking, I think of the processes of define, discover, ideate, and validate. 

But here’s something that you might not know, setting up your answer in this way is a sure way to turn off a designer. 

Why? 

If the person interviewing you comes from a design background, and especially if they are working with technology, they already know these terms and have likely come across them countless times — probably from right when they entered design school. 

Like with any other product management question, the interviewer is looking to see whether you understand the concept. Giving a textbook answer is not the way to go. Instead, talk about the concept in layman’s terms as if you were explaining it to a seven-year-old. 

Remember:  

Some additional tips you should keep in mind when answering this question: 

  • Pause to think about your answer: Always answer like you’re a respectable CEO. Placing a pause after the Forgiveness Statement gives you this time, allowing you to better articulate your response, break up any monotony in your speech pattern, and mitigate any potential rambling. 
  • Don’t sound too scripted or mechanical: Avoid giving your answers like a robot at all costs. Adding personality to your answer makes you more memorable and the interview becomes less like an interrogation. 
  • Self-deprecating humor is a must in interviews: It communicates flexibility and a willingness to be wrong. 
  • Don’t spend too much time on your answer: You want to navigate this question quickly because it is just a buffer question. Your interviewer is likely about to bombard with you 10 other product design interview questions that truly test your understanding. 

Watch Rich explain this question in-depth in the video below: 

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