Mikaela Reyes
Mikaela Reyes

Product Interview Tips

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Hello PM lady,

I’m super excited to share these tips with you! I’ve given and received about 20+ product design/sense mock interviews and possibly about 10+ product execution ones in the past month alone (crazy, right!) Currently in the job hunt process and I know I’ve been getting better or at least more confident (but of course there’s always room for improvement).

In general, I saw a pattern of 4 types of questions:

  • Product sense/design: How would you improve product x? What is your fave/least fave product?
  • Product execution (metrics): X product went down in Y metric / X metric went down but Y metric went up – What do you do?
  • Product execution (goals): How would you prioritize goals for product x? How do you define metrics for product x?
  • Product strategy: Imagine you were CEO of company – what would you do? We are deciding to enter a market; what are your thoughts?

Of course, behavioral and/or technical can be added to the mix. The following tips mostly surround the 4 above.

Know the company.

  • Memorize that company or that product’s mission! You should always state at the start of the product sense question when identifying goals.
  • Buuut don’t confuse mission with business goals. Know how the company makes revenue & talk about that as well when stating goals if it relates to the product in question.
  • Understand if the company skews towards technical prowess or business savvy. Reflect your strengths in those realms in the interviews.

Always ask questions upfront.

  • This is the first thing you must do! Whether you actually have a question or not, you must ask a question! As a PM, you do not just go head on into an idea – you clarify the problem and the challenge and you make sure your stakeholders (in this case your interviewer) is at the same place. Do the same for this. Not clarifying may be a red flag.
  • Clarify that you have the same understanding of the product with your interviewer. Go through a very high level user journey or top 3 list of features just to make things clear.

When stuck, circle back to the goal.

  • Have a solid goal and write that down in bold letters. You always want to be thinking about the bigger picture, and not getting caught with the nitty gritty details.
  • Your prioritization frameworks/matrices should have some inkling of the goal. If it’s engagement, you want to add “impact” or “usefulness to user” as a criteria. If it’s monetization, $$$ is important.

Have a strong framework.

  • Lewis Lin has CIRCLES. What’s do you have? After a few mocks or sitting down and reviewing products, draw out a framework for product design (even some execution ones!) that works for you. Otherwise the interviewer will know that you’re following the standard stuff and that’s minus points for originality.
  • Communicate your framework upfront (write it down if you’re whiteboarding)! It makes the process and following your thinking so much clearer. You’ll know it when you give an interview yourself. Structure is so key and is sometimes 50% the way there.

Talk out loud.

  • It’s all about the process! Interviewers want to know how you’re solving a problem – the solution is less important. It also shows your analytical prowess. Flaunt it, girl.

Challenge your thinking.

  • Sooo important. You’re not going to come up with the perfect solution in those 45 minutes. You’re not going to have close to even 10% perfect information. You’re not going to have the best framework. Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself and say, “My ideas are shit…” — however back it up with a “… here’s why and here’s how I would improve it if given more time and resources.”
  • If you realize you’re going down the wrong path (maybe you chose the “wrong” pain point to focus on), don’t be afraid to backtrack. Take a step back and take time to evaluate that decision if needed. If you need to change your answer, explain to the interviewer why you’re doing it.
  • As a PM, you’re constantly evaluating tradeoffs; make sure you do this constantly or it should at least be a part of your framework.

Think biiiig.

  • As a rule of thumb, when proposing feature solutions, have 2 practical ideas and 1 WILD one. They want to see that you have a big vision and can get creative.

Go beyond.

  • Leave some time or put as part of your framework a part where you talk about more than just the question at hand. Maybe you’ll talk about launch. Maybe you’ll talk about testing. Show you can think ahead in this section.

That’s it (for now!) Hope that was helpful. I shall likely be updating this as I encounter more tips & go through more mocks. Dooo message me if you have something to add!

Best,

[originally written for members from the Women in PM group, but decided to write it out as a blog post to share to the broader community]