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Product managers set vision and strategy, lead teams, and deliver the right product to the right market under budget, and in a timely manner. That means they work with engineers, marketers, project managers, and other roles to define the product roadmap, articulate the business rationale behind it, and create a launch plan. This makes them an invaluable asset to a growing company. It also means hiring the wrong product manager can have an equally negative impact.
Because product managers are so dynamic and vital to the growth of any product company, interviewing for this role should be challenging and require a PM to showcase an impressive set of skills. In a product manager interview process, one of the primary skills that candidates need to showcase is cross-functional communication, as interviewers will want to see that the candidate can work effectively with different departments in the organization.
To effectively conduct a product manager interview, you will need to come up with thoughtful questions and answers to emphasize the candidate's experience, knowledge, past performance, and technical understanding of the role. During the interview, product manager technical questions should push the candidate's ability to solve problems, think on their feet, and apply technical knowledge in a practical way.
Entry-level PM questions should focus on the candidate's previous experience, skills, and approach to solving problems. Senior product manager interview questions should be more challenging, focusing on their past performance, as well as their ability to think strategically about products and design solutions for complex scenarios. Interview questions should also focus more on the candidate's ability to lead teams, manage resources, and make strategic decisions at more senior levels.
Interviewer preparation before a product manager interview is vital to a successful hiring process. Before the product manager interview, you should research each candidate's background, and review their portfolio of work, any social media profiles, their resume, and experience thoroughly so that you can plan your questions accordingly.
Using semi-structured questions is a great format to gain in-depth insights into the skills of a potential product manager. These questions should also include more open-ended, problem-solving exercises that will enable you to assess the candidate's ability to think strategically and apply creative solutions to complex problems. Semi-structured questions also allow you to remove subjectivity from the interview and provide a fairer hiring experience for all the candidates. You can input these questions into your interview intelligence software to create a better candidate experience.
Overall, interviewing a product manager is no small task. But with careful preparation and thoughtful interviewing techniques, you can create an effective product manager interview process that will ensure you find the perfect candidate for your team.
There are slight differences between product manager interview questions and answers and senior product manager interview questions and answers. We've briefly covered several of those differences in the last section, but let's dive a bit deeper.
If we start with the end result in mind, our goal is to make a great hire. A great hire is an product manager that ends up fitting well into company culture, works efficiently and effectively, communicates well, is uplifting to their team, and has the skills needed to succeed in this role.
So while we need to assess their technical skills, we should also consider far more than just hard skills alone. We should assess their leadership abilities, communication styles, learning agility, problem-solving abilities, creativity and more. If you're creating questions to assess product manager candidates, they should fall into 4- 5 different categories.
Here are some example questions to get you started:
As you can see, these are primarily semi-structures product manager technical interview questions created to assess a candidate's ability to think strategically and apply creative solutions to complex problems. Ultimately, the goal is to find the perfect product manager for your team that can help you reach your goals.
If you're Pillar customer, there are more than 1000 of these interview questions, silo'd by role and senority that you can easily setup as prompts during the interview. Our interview intelligence software was built to help you focus on the candidate's responses and not on asking questions. Once you've asked a question the next one comes up as a prompt with highlighting tools and other resources to help you gather candidate insights and make better hires.
Preparing for a product manager interview is similar to preparing for any other type of job interview. You should be familiar with the specific role, do your research on the candidate, and prepare specific questions that will help you understand the candidate's fit for the role. In addition to that, preparing ice breakers and looking for things that you share in common with the candidate are important to create a warm and welcoming experience.
While a simple process, product manager interview preparation will set the tone of the interview, and therefore it's vital to get the best from a candidate. You should review potential product manager interview questions, including those specific to your open role. Have the candidate's resume, LinkedIn profile, any other relevant social media profiles, and their portfolio open in front of you so can ask great questions.
Finally, the best way to prepare for a product manager interview is to have mock interviews with team leaders, senior product managers, and your CTO. Knowing what your company is looking for in a product manager will give you the sharpest edge in your preparations.
As I mentioned in the opening section, the product manager is a dynamic and pivotal role in any company. As such, the interview process should give you a great perspective on how this person will perform as a catalyst to the growth and success of your team.
In the previous section, we briefly mentioned mock interviews with members if your team, hiring managers, team leaders and depending on the size of your company and their availability, your CTO. These product manager interview exercises will not only give you a better understanding of the skills your candidate must posess, but will also help you refine and shape your questions, and the information you provide the candidate.
Presenting the right product manager interview questions is essential to identify whether the candidate fits your company culture and has the technical skills required for the role. It may sound like I'm "beating a dead horse" at this point, but cultural fit is more important than knowledge.
Hiring an agile learner with the ability to assymiliate into a great team, act as a multiplier, and create a great energy around their work and team will create better results than someone with technical skills alone. If you can focus your interview questions at understanding a persons internal drive, communication ability and hunger, learning the basic technical requires of the job is easy. That's not to say you can hire a total novice to the product management role, but it's just to say that you should prioritize cultural fit over technical skills.
To help you understand the types of questions to ask a potential product manager, here’s a sample list based on common themes we see in our customer base:
Hiring a great product manager will do wonders for the growth of your team, and with the current layoffs in big tech, there's never been a better opportunity to access top talent. If you're currently assessing you hiring process and would like our team to show you how we've helped our customers lower employee turnover by 50% over the last 12 months, schedule a demo to see how we do it. At Pillar, our mission is to help you make better hires.