What Product Leaders Ask During Product Manager Interviews

Have an interview coming up? The questions asked during an interview are crucial to ensuring that a potential hire is well-suited for and interested in the role.

If you’re the interviewer, it is essential to get your questions figured out so you’ll walk away with a solid understanding of how aligned the candidate’s previous experience is to the requirements of the role. 

If you’re the candidate, preparing your answers to properly showcase how your experiences would translate into the role and how you’d be an asset to this potential new employer is critical.  

In either case, when it comes to interview preparation, we’ve got you covered.

Our Product Team recently asked five US-based product leaders what they ask during Product Manager interviews, and here is what they had to say:

Tell me about an organization or cause that you and/or your family have voluntarily supported through donations of time or other resources.

- Andy Boyd, Senior VP of Product Management & Growth at Appfire

Reasoning: I can't claim credit for this question - I learned this from a manager whom I greatly respect. This is a great question that speaks to the person's values beyond their skills and experience.

I've had the great fortune to work with organizations with strong values and principles. Someone who gives back, at any level, is a person that reflects the values of the organizations that I have had the great fortune to work for. I want a person who thinks beyond themselves (whether for the betterment of the team or for the greater community outside of work). 

When you were ten years old and sitting around the dinner table, your parents asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” - I’m fairly sure you didn’t say a Software Product Manager. So, how did this happen?

- John Pearce, VP of Product Management at Chargebee

Reasoning: I ask this question because the journey is often not a straight line from university, but rather a PM who has come from some other related or unrelated background, discovered PM, or was discovered and has made a career of this. The story of this journey is very insightful to this individual as a PM. 
I am looking for a good story (hopefully), but at least a good example of storytelling, passion for the role, curiosity, and grit. Also, it is a great foundation for further conversation in the interview, and it often puts the candidate at ease. What I am not looking for is a retelling of their resume.

Tell me about a time when you had to make a big decision but didn't have a lot of information or data to base it on.

- Melissa O’Dea, VP of Product Development at Wagz

Reasoning: Their answer tells me a lot about how they think, process information, and make decisions - as well as how comfortable they are working in an ambiguous space where there isn't a clear 'right' or 'wrong' answer. It also gives me an idea of what level they play at because of what they choose to share as a 'big' decision from their experience.

If I were sitting here with a previous manager or someone else who depended on you, what would they tell me about your biggest superpower? And what would they tell me is your biggest opportunity for growth and improvement?

- Morgan Beschle, CPO at Cureatr 

Reasoning: I’m looking for confidence in one's strengths and awareness/vulnerability in one's weaknesses. Can they identify where they can grow, or do they just reframe a strength into an opportunity? For a PM role, I’m looking for someone with a growth (not fixed) mindset. You don’t have to know all the answers or have all the skills, but you need to be interested in learning and growing on the job.

Tell me about a time a product launch (or solution) failed and what you learned from it.

- Morgan Beschle, CPO at Cureatr 

Reasoning: I’m looking for someone who can learn from their mistakes and someone who will take every opportunity to grow. Just like best practice product development requires iteration, so does the practice of product management itself. This also shows me how a PM might iterate on their approach at my organization, as Product is practiced differently everywhere, and the problems we are solving are always unique and require different approaches.

What part of the PM role gives you the most energy? What part do you find most draining?

- Morgan Beschle, CPO at Cureatr 

Reasoning: If I’ve found a good PM candidate, I always ask this at the end. It provides insights into what might make them hesitate to join at this point in the process.

As a Product Manager, you receive feedback from a key customer that they would like your product team to build a widget. What do you do?

- Steve Connolly, Senior Director of Products & Partnerships at Engageware

Reasoning: I'm looking for a combination of process, market research, and storytelling, along with some insight from the candidate on any follow-up questions.  

  • Process-oriented PMs might talk about making sure that the feedback immediately gets entered into Jira or Confluence and is reviewed against a backlog of other feature items.  
  • Candidates with good research experience may follow up with comments about understanding the TAM (Total Addressable Market) and identifying key competitive pressures related to the widget.  
  • Storytellers may have follow-up conversations with the key customer to identify the widget's value to them and then have conversations with the customer account team, support team, and development team to try and understand the feasibility of the request.  

Where the candidate starts their response is key to understanding when trying to align the candidate’s skills with your team's needs. 

We hope you found these questions and reasonings helpful for your next Product Manager interview. If you’re looking for more interview questions and preparation tips, visit our blog!