If you're interviewing for Product Manager roles, you should be ready to answer some product-management-specific interview questions in addition to the more generic ones we've all come to know and love.
These more specific questions will give you an opportunity to highlight your experience with user testing, data-driven decision making, and stakeholder management, as well as any other skills that allow you to excel as a product manager.
To help you prepare, we asked Product Managers at 9 of our partner companies to share their must-ask product manager interview questions, and what they look for in candidates' answers. Here are their responses:
1) How would you describe a healthy relationship between a PM, an engineer, and a designer?
Respect is the primary ingredient that lays the foundation for a healthy PM/Engineer/Designer relationship. Each role brings a unique perspective and set of skills, so respect and trust in one another creates a constructive tension that builds better products. - Irena Lam, Product Manager at Karat
2) Tell me about a time when you had to educate yourself on a new type of user/customer. What did you learn and how did you learn it?
I'm looking for thoughtfulness, strategy, and rigor in the answer. I want to see that understanding users was valued and that the candidate took complete ownership of that challenge. And, that they are willing to walk through walls to understand those customers' goals and needs. A red flag answer would be something like: "We have user personas so I just used those" or "We have a research department and they talk to the users." - Jeffrey Domke, Head of Growth at Blockstack
3) What motivates you for work day to day? What motivates you when you think about the next 5 to 10 years?
This is an open-ended question that can provide many insights into a candidate. Do they have something driving them? Are they ambitious? Are they pragmatic? Are they thoughtful? How do they think about balancing the near vs. long term? Is their motivation in line with our motivation as a company? Do they structure their answer well? This isn't the type of question you can study to answer well (like how many golf balls can you fit in a 747?).I look for:
- Genuine answers
- Structured, non-rambling answers
- Examples of how their past experience influences them today
- Ambition balanced with pragmatism
- A sense of purpose
- A lifelong learner mentality
- A sense of ownership
- Alignment with the role
4) Walk me through a complicated new feature or product that they've recently worked on, taking me through the process from initial idea through launch.
The answer to this question can go in all sorts of interesting directions but I look for a number of different things in the candidate's response. First, can the candidate explain a complicated subject in a structured way that's easy to understand. Effective communication is a key skill for a product manager. What part of the process do they focus on – the business objectives, getting feedback from customers, working with engineering, the launch, etc.?
This often reveals not only their experience but which of the many different product management responsibilities they really enjoy doing. Last, I look for how they talk about their role and accomplishments within the context of the team. Did they have unique contributions but also give credit to their teammates. - Andrea Beckman, Director, Product Management at Relativity
5) What are two to three pain points of traditional linear TV?
We like to give candidates a new problem space and ask them to identify problems and build solutions.
We look for candidates to set a framework that helps them structure their thinking and response. A good candidate should explain how they would research and understand the problem. The candidate should should identify clear objectives and the main stakeholders. Finally, the candidate should speak to how they would balance tradeoffs and prioritize. - Joshua Lee, CTO and Head of Product at EDO
6) Tell me about a specific time you were working with a colleague or customer and they weren't communicating the reasoning behind their request, just the end feature. What tactics did you employ to dig deeper to uncover the real meaning of their request? What was the eventual outcome?
This is an important question because being problem-focused (vs. solution-focused) is really really important for a Product Manager. I also like the phrasing of this question because it allows people to highlight transferrable skills: this is an experience a lot of people can have, and how they respond to it can say a lot about how they think through problems.
What we look for in an answer: We like to see that candidates are communicating with the requestor to dig into the root of the challenge and how they came to make the request. It's also great to hear that candidates are actively collaborating to come to a compromise or solution rather than rejecting a challenging original request as-is. A good answer might sound like:
"I sat down with them and talked through what the challenge was they were facing and why they wanted that specific request. We went through it and it turned out that what they really wanted wasn't X, but to help them do Y. They didn't think Z was possible so they asked for X because they figured we would say yes to that. After talking through it through, we settled on how something we were already working on could address this same need."
7) Tell me about a time that you had to make a trade off or prioritization decisions. How did you decide on your course of action? Who was the most negatively impacted by your decision? What might have happened if you did the next thing on the list instead?
This question helps me understand how they make prioritization decisions which is one of the most important aspects of PM, but also the empathy they have for who and what those decisions impact. The last part digs into how well they understood the problem they were solving. Generally if they can't talk about the next option, it wasn't that hard of a prioritization decision. - Sergi Isasi, Product Manager at Cloudflare
8) Tell me about a hobby of yours. Give me a product idea that would fit in that area and explain how it could disrupt or assist the current products in the landscape.
I like this question because it helps me learn a lot about the person as well as how they think. One of the most important things I look for is a person's ability to empathize with their user. If the candidate can truly put themselves in the shoes of the person they are serving, and prioritize those needs, I'm pretty impressed.
Also, I always pay attention to how the candidate speaks about other people in general—whether stakeholders or teammates. This helps me assess leadership skills. Oftentimes, candidates can focus so much on the abstract problem (competition, design, etc), that they forget to factor in the most challenging part—getting the rest of the team bought in. - Fontaine Foxworth, Product Manager at Google
9) Imagine I'm calling an engineer who you worked closely with at your last job. What three words or phrases would they use to describe what you're like as a product manager?
The redirection to asking colleagues makes them think more objectively about their strengths/weaknesses.The candidate almost always provides 3 positive qualities, or strengths, such as "curious" or "dedicated to understanding customer needs."
I will then ask them to dive deeper into one of the 3 answers they've provided, usually focusing on the most vague response. Such as, "tell me a way in which you demonstrated dedication to understanding customer needs."
Then I say to them, "Let's pretend I'm calling that same colleague above. What is one area they'd say you could be better at or need improvement on." I then ask them to explain that one a bit more with a real example.
10) Explain a time that you met opposition in your approach or prioritization to a project. How did you navigate through it?
Here I'm looking for a couple things. 1) what tools/approaches do you leverage to help make your argument and 2) how do you handle confrontation.
Do you use data to drive alignment with stakeholders or are you a storyteller who is a customer centric decision maker? Do you adapt your argument based on the stakeholder you're engaging with, knowing what will help lead them to align with your prioritization? This is one of the most common challenges a product manager faces and each situation may be different, but I'm confident you have faced some version of this and can speak to it from your own experience.
Have a story that didn't turn out so hot in the end? Great! Use it. Tell us what didn't go well about it and what you'd change if you could go back! Being vulnerable and sharing examples of failures you've learned from is almost a sure fire way to get a hiring manager bought in on you. It tells us that you're mature, self-reflective and can take constructive feedback well. All key characteristics we look for in product leaders.The gem in this question is really how you approach confrontation. As product leaders, we are constantly challenged by engineers, stakeholders and other product managers, as such, we have to be comfortable dealing with confrontation.Crucial Conversations is my secret weapon and I highly encourage every single person to read it multiple times in their lives. I usually have a copy on my desk as a constant reminder. The ability to be comfortable navigating through an uncomfortable discussion not only builds relationships, helps to resolve issues quickly and promotes self-esteem and confidence, but it is a great reflection of one's maturity. When an applicant can tackle a difficult conversation with differing opinions successfully, it instills confidence that they can self manage. - Amory Borromeo, Senior Technical Product Manager at Carvana
11) How do you empathize with your stakeholders?
In addition to being incessantly curious and comfortable dealing with uncomfortable situations, I want to make sure that my product leaders know how to empathize. Can you get to the root of a problem and really help craft a solution that will delight the end user? A favorite quote of mine is Henry Ford's, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Product managers are often presented with solutions and we have to take the time to peel back the onion layers to truly understand the issue. I'll almost always ask this question in an interview, although I'll often word it differently with the hope of getting a story or two out of it:
This is a great opportunity to pull in some experience examples, where you were able to really understand the need your end user or stakeholder was asking for and craft a thoughtful solution that met their needs more than their ask for faster horses. A great product manager will be able to speak for the stakeholder and/or end users when working with their engineering teams because they are so fully aware of the issue, workflows, process, product, etc.
Take the time to shadow the end user, sit with the stakeholder and ask deeper investigating questions until you are so fully entrenched in the ask, that you could answer questions the same way a stakeholder would. You'll be surprised how often you find that the users have come up with workarounds or have completely overlooked alternative solutions because of their own biases based on their day to day interactions. This amount of empathy can also directly impact your ability to align with stakeholders because it builds a stronger relationship and proves your genuine interest in creating a better world for your end users. - Amory Borromeo, Senior Technical Product Manager at Carvana
12) Which two adjectives would you use to best describe your ideal work environment?
How you answer will help us understand what your values are. What matters most to you and what drives you? Do you need a collaborative environment? Do you like the autonomy to figure things out on your own? Does being surrounded by curious or ambitious people help push you to be a better version of yourself? So much can be pulled from these two simple words, but there is also something to be said about how you answer.
Do you simply say the two words and leave it at that, or do you elaborate to explain? Do you ask if we'd like you to explain your reasoning and create an opportunity to have further discussion? One of my favorite responses was when someone said the two words. Paused to say she could explain more if I'd like, but would be curious what my answers would be. This indicated that she could follow direction, was comfortable with a bit of ambiguity, knew how to navigate through the awkwardness I had laid out for her and cared about connecting and building relationships! - Amory Borromeo, Senior Technical Product Manager at Carvana
Now get practicing and get ready to nail your next interview!
Here at Zapier, we are ecstatic to announce that our very own Maggie Roque, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity (DIBE), has been recognized by Untapped as a ‘Walk the Walk’ Award winner, alongside the top DEIB leaders of 2022! 🎉
The purpose of Untapped's Top DEIB Leaders of 2022 'Walk the Walk' is to recognize the people challenging the status quo and pushing #DEIB forward in their organizations and communities.
At #Zapier, we believe in DIBE as DNA. As a result of Maggie's leadership, Zapier now has year-by-year goals with supporting initiatives — including how we will measure success for each of our DIBE pillars: people, product, and the public good. Maggie has refined our DIBE strategy in alignment with Zapier’s mission, values, and business strategy. Her work helps ensure all Zapiens, especially our leaders, are equipped with the knowledge, tools, and resources to make it a consistent and standard way of operating. She has also provided mentorship to our employee resource groups, which include BIPOC of Zapier, Women of Zapier, and Prizm (LGBTQIA+).
No matter what, at Zapier we can count on Maggie to align and empower our team toward tremendous DIBE impact as we pursue our mission to make automation work for everyone. We are so proud of you, Maggie! Congratulations on this well-deserved award!
Learn more about Untapped and the 2022 award recipients here: https://lnkd.in/dQfa6Ygw
💎Nestlé’s manufacturing excellence team is growing. The team supports Nestlé USA factories that produce bakery sweets brands including Toll House, Libby's and Carnation, and Nestlé Professional Brands which supply food service operations. Watch the video to the end to apply and begin your career there!
📼The manufacturing excellence team seeks someone passionate about driving world-class manufacturing through continuous improvement methodologies. Jennifer Watson and Taylar Marshall, Senior Managers, give you all the information you need to join their team.
📼Join the manufacturing excellence team if you are a go-getter, someone who takes the initiative to establish cross-functional teams to eliminate losses. This also means you should be highly collaborative with a variety of people and have a curious mindset about how things are manufactured. If you fill these requirements, don’t hesitate to apply!
📼The manufacturing excellence team unlocks career path opportunities throughout different functions, locations, and brands across Nestlé USA. Jenny Watson shares her own experience: her career has included roles in three different functions: manufacturing excellence, manufacturing, and operations strategy. She was based out of three different locations: Springville, Utah, Solon, Ohio, and Medford, Wisconsin across four different categories. The opportunities at Nestlé are truly endless!
Inside The Manufacturing Excellence Team
This team is driving continuous improvement and project management routines in the Toll House factory to contribute to the overall expected business results in the bakery and sweets category. It is a boots-on-the-ground team that tries to solve complex problems with a focus on people development and operator capability building. No day is the same in their team!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Nestlé USA? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Jennifer Watson and Taylar Marshall
More About Nestlé USA
Nestlé USA has been nourishing a growing world for generations. No matter where you work within the Nestlé organization, you’ll discover new opportunities to grow while you help them inspire healthier lives, support local communities, do what’s right for the planet, and make an impact.
From September 12-15, 2022, PowerToFly hosted a four-day virtual event, featuring a three day summit and single day virtual job fair.
To kick off the event, attendees had the opportunity to partake in a one-hour guided networking session followed by three full days of fireside chats and panels where they were able to listen and ask questions to experts and thought leaders across multiple industries.
Featured Summit Topics Included:
- The Art & Science of How to Clarify Your Best Fit Career Path
- Going Back to the Drawing Board: How to Navigate Major Career Shifts
- Pulling Back the Curtain: Understanding What’s Happening Behind the Scenes In the Hiring Process
- 4 Ways to Get Your Foot in the Door to a New Career
- Nailing the Basics: How to Grow with Intention and Purpose
- How to Break Into a New Industry Without Starting Over
Companies We Hosted At The Job Fair:
- Bank of America | Hiring for: Senior Financial Analysts, Business Bankers, Senior Technology Managers, and more!
- ScienceLogic | Hiring for: Technical Support Engineers, Chief Marketing Officers, Product Managers, Executive Assistants, and more!
- PowerToFly | Hiring for: Global DEIB Strategist & Trainers, Account Executives, Support Specialists, Events Specialists, and more!
Thank you for joining 4 Ways to Get Your Foot in the Door to a New Career with Flatiron School Career Coach Betsy Kent! In case we weren’t able to get to your question in the Q&A, or if you thought of additional questions after we wrapped, here are two ways you can contact the Flatiron School Admissions team directly:
- Schedule a casual 10-minute chat with a Flatiron School Admissions rep
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Attending information sessions, panels, and workshops is the best way to get a sneak peek into what studying at Flatiron School is like — so don't miss what else is coming up! You can find a list of our events HERE.
Starting out as a viral trend on TikTok, the phrase “quiet quitting” has since taken over headlines everywhere from NPR to the Harvard Business Review. But what, exactly, is quiet quitting — and why are so many business leaders getting this so-called “crisis” wrong??
What is quiet quitting?
Per Psychology Today, “quiet quitting” isn’t actually quitting in the two-week notice sense of the word. It’s when employees keep doing their job, but only do the work that’s in their job description or covered by their explicit responsibilities. No going above and beyond. No late hours. No taking on extra projects that don’t come with extra remuneration.
Gallup similarly defines the trend as employees who are “not engaged” at work — people who “do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job.” Per their research, that’s a full 50% of the American workforce.
Why quiet quitting isn’t actually a crisis
As a burgeoning attitude toward work, quiet quitting makes perfect sense. With the challenges and stresses of the last few years impacting all workers — but especially working parents, people of color, women, and other marginalized groups — employees are looking for ways to set boundaries, disengage from work, and find working rhythms that work for them and their lives.
And that’s something companies should be supporting. Employers’ responsibility, after all, isn’t to slap a Band-Aid on the problems that are driving quiet quitting in order to get productivity metrics up. It’s to create the conditions for employees to succeed, with work that can be accomplished within reasonable working hours, and to incentivize and tangibly reward any engagement that goes beyond quiet-quitting levels.
It’s time we got this clear. Quiet quitting was never the crisis. Expecting employees to go above and beyond at work in order to maybe stand a shot at a pay raise and promotion next year was.
If you want to ensure your company culture is creating opportunities for folks to feel truly engaged, we’ve rounded up the steps to take below.
8 things your company needs to do to stop facilitating quiet quitting
Quiet quitting doesn’t mean that employees don’t want to work. It means that everyone — employees and employers alike — are recognizing, more than ever, that the workplace can and should be evolving to meet the needs of everyone involved in making work happen. Here are some ways that companies can ensure they are doing that, sourced from McKinsey research on burnout and engagement:
1. Hold your leadership accountable.
Culture is set by the people on the ground, and you need to know that your managers and leaders are creating a culture that’s supportive of mental health. This looks like incorporating mental health questions into regular employee satisfaction surveys, so you have data to track, and including the management of employee well-being as part of how leaders are evaluated and compensated. It also means getting rid of toxic leaders.
2. Destigmatize mental health and boundaries.
Most employers know that stigma exists at work, despite best intentions to fight it. But when employees are afraid to ask for help with mental health needs or to request accommodations so they can do their best work, everyone suffers. Companies can work to destigmatize the issue by highlighting senior leaders’ own experiences with mental health. Vulnerability can help promote psychological safety, as can rewarding employees for setting boundaries and using mental health and wellness benefits.
3. Evolve the kind of benefits you offer.
45% of people who have recently left their jobs said that their care responsibilities were a big part of their decision. Do the benefits your company offers reflect that reality? For instance — if employees must be on-site, can you offer on-site childcare? If not, do you offer a childcare stipend? Do you know what issues they are most struggling with, and are you responding?
4. Promote sustainable working hours.
Do your employees need to be at work — whether online or at the office — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Or can they set those hours to fit their own schedules? Do you have flexible work policies that are available to everyone, no matter their level of seniority? Hybrid work can facilitate unfair treatment when policies aren’t clear and universally applicable.
5. Provide opportunities for employees to build social ties.
Another reason employees are disengaged at the office? Lack of social support. It can be hard to make connections over video calls and chat, especially for new employees or those who haven’t worked remotely before. Investing in team building can help give employees access to social connections that make their work more meaningful over time.
6. Enable right-size workloads.
As employment has ebbed and flowed over the pandemic, and especially now during the Great Resignation, many companies are finding themselves short-staffed. But piling more work on the people who have stayed isn’t a sustainable solution — it just speeds up their own burnout. Creating
7. Facilitate upskilling and reskilling at work.
Per the McKinsey study linked above, employers who offer reskilling and upskilling opportunities end up with more engaged employees. It pays off for everyone involved: giving employees the chance to laterally move into a different job in order to learn a new set of skills can predict employee retention 250% more than compensation can, for instance.
8. Strengthen your commitment to DEIB.
Employees don’t want to work somewhere they don’t feel like they belong. McKinsey calls out five key action areas when it comes to making a DEIB commitment real: ensuring representation, holding leadership accountable, increasing transparency (like with analytics on promotions and pay), tackling issues with a zero-tolerance policy, and embracing intersectionality.