Questions Leaders Ask when Hiring a Product Marketing Manager

We asked both Marketing and Product Management leaders the questions they ask when interviewing product marketing talent. This is what they told us:

How do you measure success?

Product marketing is a critical connection point between internal product teams and externally facing commercial teams. Too often, the answer is a long list of deliverables and that the project was completed on time. These are important and critical elements of product marketing, but it’s just one lens. What about sales readiness, promotion/engagement, pipeline add, revenue, adoption, and most importantly, customer impact? 

I don’t expect the product marketer to own all of this single-handedly, but when I meet with Product Marketing Managers that speak to outcomes (as well as deliverables), it sets them apart.

Jennifer Bentley, VP Global Marketing, Optibus

What approach do you take to formulate and validate a compelling and differentiated value proposition for the products you are promoting to the market?

You are looking for an answer that shows the individual is interested in deeply understanding the problem(s) the product is intended to solve and how the solution is both ideal and differentiated from the alternatives.

Joseph Ross, CPO, Workforce Software

What are the indicators and outcomes of an effective working relationship with product management at various stages of a product's lifecycle? Can you give me some examples based on your own experience?

The relationship between Product Management and Product Marketing is an often underemphasized relationship. How and when Product Marketers and Product Managers work together has an impact on the overall success of a product in the market and its ability to reach the right audience and satisfy their needs in a compelling, monetizable way. 

Rina Whittaker, CPO, Mydoh 

How do you measure the impact of your product marketing efforts?

I ask this question to see how they articulate impact or success in the role. Product Marketing, unlike other marketing roles, has one of the least measurable/quantifiable metrics of the entire marketing team. It is a true impact and influence role and they have to oversee and coordinate all the wheels of the car, such as Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, and Partners. 

So I would look for how they talk about their impact across those areas of the GTM engine of their previous employers and look for how they quantify the impact of their intervention (i.e., Product Revenue, Sales Close Rate, Lead to Close Ratio, Partner Ecosystem Health, Customer Advocacy Health). 

Vinay Nair, Fractional CMO & Executive Coach, Marketing Machines

What do you think of our products? and What is your impression of how it/they are being positioned in the market?

If I’m interviewing a VP of Product Marketing, I’m looking for very different things than if I am interviewing an individual contributor Product Marketing Manager; however, these are two questions I always ask.

These may seem quite basic and obvious, but I learn a lot from the candidate’s response. Most importantly, I can determine the level of interest, energy, and effort they have put in to prepare for the interview. That, to me, is a pretty solid proxy for how they would approach the role if hired. Also, with these questions, I am able to get a sense of their ability to research, synthesize information and infer strategy from imperfect information. 

I don’t expect the candidate to get it completely right, but I do learn how they think, and it is telling if they are either effusive with praise for the product and its market presence or supercritical, unencumbered by fact. In either case, I’ve learned that they’re often more interested in impressing me than providing a professional assessment.

These are generalities, of course, and my interview style tends to be relaxed so I can get the best sense of who the candidate is as a person and not just what they know (or are trying to convince me they know.)

Alan Gold, Managing Partner, Gold & Partners

Strategy: What product do you really like, but believe is marketed poorly? Execution: Could you please walk me through your last product launch? Empathy: Tell me about the target audience for your last product?

When we asked the CPO at Fundthrough, Victor Skrylev, he took the approach of qualifying the candidate from the point of (a) strategy, (b) execution, and c) empathy. 

Strategy: I am looking for strategic level thinking, problem diagnostics, suggesting improvements, and the ability to prioritize potential solutions.

Execution: Understanding of core components that make products successful, ability to turn an ambiguous task into a well-structured set of steps that can be executed, attention to detail, good judgment on how much to invest (money and effort) into various tactics, ability to define success measures and reflect on them

Empathy: The clarity of understanding customer segments and personas, what their problems are, what leads them to explore a product, how they make a purchasing decision, and what makes them successful using the product over time.

Victor Skrylev, CPO, Fundthrough

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