How To Interview Product Managers

Jeana Alayaay, Director of Internal Products and Services at Pivotal (right) and Poornima Vijayashanker, founder of Femgineer (left)

Interview with Jeana Alayaay, Director of Internal Products and Services at Pivotal

Last week, we dug into the various product manager personas, and how to go about sourcing candidates. If you missed the episode, you can check it out here.

This week, we’re going to talk about another critical step when it comes to hiring product managers: interviewing.

Unlike interviewing engineers and designers, where you can test their ability to code and design and their responses provide tangible results, it’s harder to formulate questions related to one’s skill and abilities as a product manager that will produce concrete responses.

Let’s face it — product management is more nuanced because it often requires people to have experience analyzing data and making decisions related to the goals of the business, in addition to some technical skills. Exposing the spectrum and depth of these capabilities can make interviewing product managers a challenge. For example, it maybe easy to evaluate if someone can organize a backlog of user stories, but harder to evaluate whether they are really capable of creating and prioritizing a product roadmap that balances out various business goals and milestones to an acceptable level of quality and depth for your team.

Plus a product team usually has one product manager who interfaces with many engineers and designers, so hiring the first product manager who is going to gel with all those people puts them under a lot of scrutiny.

To handle all these challenges, many companies end up crafting their interview process to resemble a standardized test that candidates end up studying for, rather than demonstrating key skills that they will be using to support the team and product. It’s no wonder some of the best candidates fall through, and companies feel stuck with a product manager who underperforms.

This episode is a must watch if you’re a hiring manager who is concerned about losing a talented product manager, or you’re a product manager who is trying to assess a company’s interviewing process. In this episode, we’ll share some best practices around interviewing and coming up with objective criteria to use when screening candidates.

Jeana Alayaay, Director of Internal Products and Services at Pivotal, is back to help us out.

As you watch today’s episode, you’ll learn the following:

  • Why there is such a thing as being a bad interviewer
  • How to prepare the people who will be interviewing candidates
  • How to expose skill sets during the interview
  • How to regroup after the interview
  • Why candidates that don’t meet a checklist are sometimes still hired
  • How to set expectations with candidates when your company is going through a period of change
  • How expectations and the role are different when you are the first product manager on a team

Listen to the episode on iTunes!

You can listen to this episode of Build on iTunes.

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Build is produced as a partnership between Femgineer and Pivotal Tracker. San Francisco video production by StartMotionMEDIA.

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