Prashant Ram

@prashantramnyc

Product Manager interview questions — and how to answer them!

Product Manager interview questions — and how to answer them!

Tips on answering the top 5 product manager interview questions.

A product manager’s role is at the intersection of strategy, design, technology, implementation, delivery and stakeholder management.

While the questions in a product manager interview may take several forms, they can all be abstracted to the following five main underlying questions.

  • Q1: What is your favorite product and why?
  • Q2: How would you design a new product? What is good design?
  • Q3: How would you make a product better?
  • Q4: How do you prioritize new features within a product?
  • Q5: How do you measure the success of a new product feature?

The approach to answering these important questions is a good indicator of the product managers ability to effectively structure, articulate, organize, and quantify their thought process.

Q1: What is your favorite product and why?

Before answering this question make sure that you are intimately familiar with your favorite product. Your favorite product could be

  • An App eg. Uber, Instagram, Instacart etc.,
  • A website eg. Amazon, Target etc.,
  • A physical product eg. camera, iPhone etc., or
  • A service product eg. Venmo, Paypal, Netflix etc.

Step 1:
Start by articulating the objective of the product.

  • What need is the product intended to fulfill?
  • Who are the intended users of the product?

Step 2:
Define how the product seamlessly accomplishes its objectives, and provides the user with a frictionless and intuitive way to achieve the desired objectives.

Step 3:
Define 1–3 features of the product that absolutely delight the user and provide a great experience.

Step 4:
Compare the product with competitors and alternatives and describe what the products does better, and areas where the product can learn and improve.

Q2: What is good design? How would you design a great product for a particular cohort group?

This question can take several forms.

  • How would you critique a product design?
  • How would you design a bookshelf for kids?
  • What in your opinion is a bad design?

The central idea behind this question is whether you can articulate the criteria by which you evaluate good design.

Step 1:
Define the general set of criteria for what makes a good design.

  • Intuitive feel and ease of use.
  • Intuitive use of icons, gestures, animations etc.
  • Clean clutter free design, that allow users to focus on the task without unnecessary distractions, while at the same time providing necessary options.
  • Intelligent use of flow and navigation, a design flow that anticipates what the user will do next and allows the user to intuitively move laterally between the different features or functionality of your product.
  • Delighting factor, set of design features that provides the user with a great frictionless, seamless experience that will make the user want to return to your product.

Step 2:
Align the design of the product with the intended audience and use cases. Define the intended audience and intended use cases, as the product design must be optimized for these scenarios.

  • Environment: Use cases should also consider the environment when the app is used. Examples may include used while driving vs. used while at the supermarket vs. used while at work, vs. used while walking etc.
  • Type of Interaction: Frequency and type of interaction windows plays an important role in the design. sporadic use eg. weather, intermitted use eg. chat messaging, or deep use eg. e-reading.
  • Demographics: used by younger demographics that are quick to discover hidden gestures vs. a Gen X audience vs. late boomers.

Step 3:
Describe two competing products and evaluate their design models based on criteria set in Step 1 and Step 2.

  • Compare an iPhone with an Android device,
  • Compare a Windows PC with a Mac OS.
  • Compare Seamless versus Grubhub.

Q3: How would you make a product better?

This question is meant to test the product mangers creativity, quantitative objectiveness, critical thinking and strategy alignment process. This question can take several forms,

  • How would you improve Yelp?
  • How would you decide what new features to add to your product?
  • How would you increase growth and market share of Product X?

Step 1:
Define the channels and drivers that capture the areas of improvement. Typically the following three channels/drivers are good indicators of gather information to improve a product.

  • Customer Feedback
    Listening to what the customer has to say about the product.
    eg. What are the pain points for the customer, what are the features that the customer absolutely loves, what are some of the features that they wish that the app would have, what are the parts that delight the customer etc.
  • Product Usage Analytics
    Analytics that provide indicators of user interaction with the product
    eg. is the user using a particular product feature in the way the product feature was intended to be used ? Do the analytics point to areas of friction within the product, or areas of frequent use ? Can certain navigational paths that are used frequently by the user made more efficient?
  • Business Strategy Alignment
    Understanding the short term and long term strategic objectives of the business is a key driver to areas of improvement and addition of new features to a product.
    eg. is the strategic objective to compete with an existing product to attract users from a different platform? is it to increase customer retention or conversion by 10% over the next 6 months etc.

Step 2:
Once you have defined the primary drivers that direct the areas of improvement for the product, the next step involves exercising creativity and coming up with innovative use cases and solutions that align with the drivers.

Creatively come up with ideas that will address the primary drivers in the areas of improvement. This may include refining existing features, adding new offerings, exploring several a-typical use cases, evaluating and prioritizing feature sets, brainstorming etc.

This is the most creative part of the product managers role, but must be directed by the parameters defined in Step 1.

Step 3:
Prune the use cases and solutions, and develop a feature set for the shortlisted solutions.
This part involves critical thinking and also prioritization based on the primary drivers of the product.

Step 4:
Define metrics and product improvement goals over the defined time period, to quantitatively measure the performance and business alignment of the feature set.
This is to ensure that you can measure if the impact of a particular feature set is as intended and aligns with the overall product improvement drivers i.e. customer feedback, user interaction with product, business strategy alignment.

Q4: How do you prioritize new features within a product?

This question test is meant to test the product manager strategy alignment and critical thinking and can take the following forms,

  • How do you decided which new feature to add to your product?
  • What other features would you add to product?
  • Should a product X have so-and-so features?

Step 1:
Start by first getting a clear understanding of the business strategic vision, and the business OKRs i.e. Objectives and Key Results.
eg. The business OKR might be to increase the subscription revenue within a product by 3% over the next 6 months.

Step 2:
Once you have a clear understanding of the OKRs, brainstorm with the project stakeholders to define initiatives that align with the OKRs.
These initiative might be feature sets, or they might be mini products offerings themselves. eg. Facebook live feature within Facebook, or Facebook marketplace.

Step 3:
Prioritize the project initiatives that align with the OKRs using some defined scoring methodology based on ROI.
To define the ROI scoring methodology first identify and define metrics around the positive impacts of the initiative eg. increased user engagement percentage, compliance requirement, feature most often requested by user, frequency of use etc.
Then identify and define the effort required to implement eg. estimated person-day cost, leveraging existing platforms, reusing open source libraries, partnering with key strategic partners (eg. a payment gateway) etc.
Using this methodology of prioritization you will now have a clear quantitative basis of comparison between the various project initiatives, which will allow you to effectively prioritize the project initiatives i.e. feature set or mini product.

Q5: How do you measure the success of a new product feature?

This question tests to see if the product manager can quantitatively assess and articulate the metrics that define success of a product feature or a mini-product.

Step 1:
Identify and define the intended goals of the features.
Identify the key OKRs and the goals of the product. Deeply understand the product feature set and also assess the unintended impacts of the feature. Identify if the product consisted of different feature sets, that collectively and separately addressed a particular OKR.

Step 2:
Evaluate if the product met the intended goals.
Identify the product usage metrics eg. frequency of use, level of adoption, level of engagement etc. and then correlate them with the goals and objectives metrics of the product.
eg. did the 20% increase in the level of engagement correlate to the intended 2% conversion ratio? etc.

Concluding Remarks

While the questions listed above may be the typically presented during a product manager interview, there is great value in Product Managers asking themselves these questions periodically as they continue to develop the product roadmap in their current role.

The structured methodology of approaching the possible answers will serve as an invaluable guideline in aligning and re-centering focus around the product, customer and business strategy alignment.

Hopefully this post has provided you some insightful guidelines and ideas to approach your next Product Management role.

Happy Interviewing!

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