Product Manager Interview Questions to Know in 2022

Product management is an excellent profession with significant room for growth and upward mobility. From the tech industry to a range of businesses looking for a new and integrated approach to branding and development, companies are looking to hire knowledgeable and energetic product managers. Product managers often come from a variety of backgrounds in the workforce, mobilizing their strengths in a new and promising career. If you are wondering how to become a product manager, you need the skills, training, and confidence to succeed — and the ability to demonstrate those traits in project management job interviews.

Product Manager Interview Preparation

There are many questions that an interviewer or hiring manager may ask you during a job interview. The objective of these questions is to understand a) who you are as a product manager, b) what unique skills or background you may have, and c) how well you will fit into their organization and culture.

The first step in preparing for your interview is to research the company. Get to know the products and services they offer, especially those related to the team for which you are interviewing. Consider the company’s overall mission, points of differentiation, and market standing. What are this company’s market challenges, opportunities, and threats? Also consider the company’s values and culture. What is most important to them and how do you align with their values? Think of an example of that alignment that you can discuss in your interview. You should also be prepared to discuss why the company’s culture is one in which you would not only be comfortable, but thrive. Be prepared to discuss your cultural fit, and try to weave it into your answers to other questions you’re asked, as appropriate. Also, be sure to study the company’s revenue, performance projections, and history so you’ll have a deep understanding of your potential employer.

After completing your company research, it’s time to think about your skills, experience, accomplishments, and work history — specifically, how they will benefit this potential employer. Think about your accomplishments and education and be ready to cite them when asked. Also, conducting mock interviews, where a friend asks you anticipated interview questions, is a great way to help prepare and become practiced and comfortable with your answers. For those attending a product management boot camp, practicing with fellow learners is a great way to help one another. And, in top boot camps, career services are often available to help with interview preparation as well.

Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Here are some key product manager interview questions that hiring managers may ask, as well as sample answers to help you make the right impression.

What is your experience in product management?

Your potential employer will want to know about the skills you bring to the table, your job readiness, and your effectiveness on day one. They will also want to understand what types of proprietary training you will need, which everyone starting with a new organization will require. The interviewer may also want to know how comfortable you are in dealing with challenging problems unique to product management.

Of course, your educational path and your experience may vary. You may have worked in a product management position in the past, or you may have been an outstanding individual contributor in a particular field. You may have experience in branding, marketing, or management outside of the context of a formal product management position.

One great way to show off your experience, aside from previous employment examples, is to discuss your education and training. You may answer with, “In addition to my past positions, I gained practical experience during my time learning in a product management boot camp. I was able to gain a variety of industry skills through hands-on learning — specifically in fields like market analysis, data visualization, and roadmap development among many others. I feel that these modules gave me strong foundational knowledge of the industry at large, which was then reinforced through the team projects my cohort and I worked on.”

A product management boot camp gives you the skills employers demand, including value proposition creation, market analysis, SQL, data visualization, roadmap development, and rapid prototyping. These intensive programs also provide you with the chance to work on products that give you hands-on experience you can highlight at your interview to impress potential employers and show off your skills.

An image that highlights the skills product management employers demand.

How would you explain product management to someone unfamiliar with the field?

Since product management is an up-and-coming career, it may attract applicants who cannot clearly explain the job and their skills — making clear communication is one of the most important attributes you can possess as a product manager. Not to mention, it can instantly set you apart from candidates who may not have a strong grasp of the role.

Here, you may answer with a comprehensive, yet accessible overview of the field: “Product management is the process of shepherding a product through its life cycle; this includes creating a product vision, generating and organizing specific ideas based on this vision, communicating these plans to company executives and stakeholders, and overseeing the initial development and finetuning of the product. The process also includes roadmapping the product’s distribution and managing crucial metrics and feedback conducive to long-term success. To properly navigate this process, product managers must be expert communicators, organizers, and planners, exercising high-level foresight and solution-oriented thinking at all times.”

You can share your basic definition of product management, but you can also excel in this question by talking about your position philosophy. Gear your answer to the company’s values and strategic vision, explaining how your approach to product management makes the company’s vision more achievable.

What is a good user interface for a product?

While this question may be more common in the tech industry, you may be asked a variation of it in product management interviews. Here, the interviewer wants to know what you prioritize as a product manager and what you think matters to users. While your specific answer may vary from industry to industry, there are some key principles to keep in mind while answering this question.

Broadly, your answer may look something like: “A good user experience is generally made up of functionality, simplicity, and ease of use. Products should, first and foremost, address customer needs. They should also be easy to understand and navigate, and their look and feel should be consistent and identifiable with the company’s brand.”

What’s more, you can cite some examples of products that you think excel in providing an excellent interface and achieving business goals for the company behind them. While the iPhone is one famous example, there are many smaller examples that you can discuss. If you can share direct experience, this is even better. You can also show off your product development work from a boot camp and provide examples of key pitfalls you will strive to avoid in a product management position.

What are your technical skills as a product manager?

In general, product management interviews will not focus on the technical questions characteristic of software development or engineering interviews. Unless you are specifically interviewing as a technical product manager, AI product manager, or other highly skilled tech position, you are unlikely to be given overly technical questions, especially in early interview rounds.

However, your interviewer may still want to gauge your technical knowledge — specifically in terms of software and methodologies, and in your overall ability to communicate with engineers in product development. Companies like Google prefer product managers with strong coding skills, so prepare some information on the technologies and languages of which you have strong knowledge. If your interviewer is not from the tech team, be ready to speak about your technical skills in a more easily understandable way. For example, “Throughout my studies and past professional experience, I have gleaned a variety of valuable technical skills ranging from data analysis utilizing SQL, to fluency in several coding languages including (insert your coding languages here). I feel that these skills enhance my abilities as a product manager, complementing the job’s necessary skill set very well.”

If you are applying in a specialized area like AI or machine learning, you should be ready to explain the key concepts involved in this technology and your expertise in this area.

How do you measure success as a product manager?

While you may be tempted to launch into a recitation of KPIs, save that for a moment. It’s important to initially answer the question in a way that lets the interviewer understand what drives you as a product manager, and then tie KPIs back to that driving passion. For example, a product manager who focuses on digital products might say, “My sense of accomplishment as a product manager is driven by the value my customer places on my product. If my product is adopted quickly and successfully solves customer problems or makes their lives better, that’s a win. That win then translates into KPIs such as a high Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), with Monthly Active Users (MAU) increasing over time and relatively low churn. With that said, I’m always conscious of my company’s goals (as they’re my goals too), so making sure my product comes in on time and on budget is also a critical factor in how I measure success.” Then, you might follow up with an example of a previous product success that achieved those KPIs, or a project in your portfolio designed to align with those KPIs.

Tell me about an experience where you had to influence stakeholders and executives that did not report to you.

As a product manager, your product team will often include a number of senior employees and company leaders that don’t report to you, and that you may have little authority over. For this reason, the interviewer is asking this question to gauge your ability to influence without authority and gain interdepartmental buy-in within an environment of competing agendas and personality types.

You may answer this question with a quick anecdote like, “I once had to address my former teams’ stakeholders regarding an experimental new fitness app that, if fully realized, had the potential to revolutionize and streamline fitness metric tracking. In this meeting, I spoke to the app’s various benefits and implications while ensuring my presentation gave an inside look at both the consumer-facing perks and the internal logistics responsible for bringing them to fruition. I also addressed questions and concerns from stakeholders regarding the app’s future.”

In addition, be sure to highlight some examples of conflicting opinions or competing agendas during your product’s life cycle, and how you utilized your soft skills to resolve the situation in a way that benefited the product and product team as a whole.

If you don’t have product management-based examples, that’s okay. The skills being evaluated here are persuasion, tact, conflict resolution, leadership, and the ability to maintain team cohesion while discussing differing opinions. You can certainly talk about examples that illustrate these skills from previous positions you’ve held, projects you’ve worked on, or personal experiences such as sports teams, charity organizations you’ve worked with, or even PTA meetings!

Tell me about your favorite product and why you like it.

This is your chance to discuss a well-designed product in the context of your product management style and approach. You can talk about a product you worked on at your current or previous employer, or you can discuss a product scenario from your portfolio. Or, you may decide to use a well-recognized product that you admire but haven’t personally worked on — perhaps Apple’s iPhone. For example, “I admire Apple’s iPhone due to its ease of use, wide variety of features, and the company’s constant dedication to refinement and innovation. Such product features, and iterative product management dedication, keep a product’s user base happy and engaged with the brand.” Remember, you’re not speaking as a user here, but instead as an expert who understands users, so be sure to discuss how excellent product management impacts the big picture as well as that specific product launch.

At a product management boot camp, you will explore specific examples of successful product management. This educational experience will help you answer questions like this one, so be sure to retain your notes from your course to help prepare for interview questions both initially and longer term.

How would you improve [interviewer’s company’s product]?

This can be a tricky question, but this is where your research and familiarity with the interviewer’s company will come in handy. While the interviewer is trying to understand your PM thought process, they also want to determine a) your understanding of their company’s products, b) what you think of the company, and c) how adept are you at providing feedback to potential product stakeholders (e.g., conveying your thoughts professionally and effectively).. Praising the strong product elements, while offering some well-thought out suggestions for improvement with associated reasoning, shows the interviewer that you have done your research and are confident in sharing your expertise.

For example, if you were discussing an app, you might say “Many aspects of this product are exemplary, such as its intuitive design and ease of use. To further enhance it, I’d recommend making sharing functionality more agnostic so as to seamlessly work with a broader range of social media platforms given the potential issues with Meta in Europe and the likely ripple effect that VR will have on emerging social media. This refinement will complement the product’s countless strengths and position it well for the future.”

Remember, this is a chance to market yourself too. Be sure to answer this question in a way that highlights your knowledge and insights, while also reflecting back your alignment with this company’s core values.

Can you tell me about a time you failed as a product manager? How did you handle it?

This is one of the most common job interview questions for almost any position. It is always a challenge for job-seekers because you want to show humility and take responsibility without emphasizing your failures. After all, you want to encourage the company to hire you. It is best to choose an example that is a one-time mistake rather than something that may point to an ongoing challenge, such as carelessness or lack of commitment.

Here, the interviewer is asking for an example related to product management. One possible answer could be tied to your educational experience, as almost everyone makes mistakes while learning: “During my product management studies, I worked on a project which implemented what I thought was a bold, innovative value proposition, but I quickly realized that I had gotten ahead of myself and included messaging that was simply not sustainable based on the project’s constraints. This experience helped me learn a valuable lesson in planning and foresight, and I feel that my abilities in this regard have improved exponentially as a result.”

You may also use an example in which you thought user research could be completed quicker than it was — or a time when you were excited by great initial results but were later let down over the longer term. In all cases, you can point to how you fixed the problem and learned to move forward, avoiding these problems in any future projects. Keep your answer concise, which will allow the interview to proceed.

How do you communicate your product strategy?

This is another question about gaining buy-in. The interviewer wants to know how you discuss your strategy with engineers, developers, executives, marketers, and anyone else on your product team. Ideally, you want to demonstrate that you can adjust your lexicon and communication style for different team members based on things like organizational level, amount of technical expertise, and an understanding of how their role intersects with the product.

You’ll also want to demonstrate that you can line up the tools needed for a data-driven presentation. You may say something like, “First and foremost, I aim to implement strong, accessible data visualizations as well as a clear roadmap to long-term success. I also make a point to note nuances in our messaging to certain user demographics — and to specific industries that may engage differently with our product than others.”

Generally speaking, this communications question is a great opportunity to highlight your ability to engage teams in your product vision and illustrate the tools you employ to set the team up for success.

Project Manager Skills and Qualifications

There are many paths to becoming a product manager. Product managers often begin in an independent contributor role where they hone their skills and learn how teams interact and succeed (or fail). They may be communications experts, marketers, engineers, or coders. Interestingly, many PMs even branch out into different fields from their previous area of expertise.

For example, depending on the field, PMs may need to write technical specifications and communicate in detail with engineers, so a technical or coding background can be helpful. Or, experience working effectively with cross-functional teams which include financial and marketing professionals can help prepare future PMs to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with these professionals when it comes time to develop their own products.

There are key skills that can help put you on the road to success as a product manager.
Development methodologies, such as agile, help product managers function in iterative product development environments. An understanding of minimum viable product (MVP) definitions, market research, and customer insight analysis is also imperative for success in this field — product managers use these skills to develop their product vision, product strategy, and subsequent product requirements to meet user needs and provide desired solutions.

Web development skills, database management languages like SQL, and tools such as Tableau can also help PMs succeed in the data visualization aspects of their job. And, the ability to use a variety of product analytics tools to help track KPIs and validate product assumptions is important as well.

There are also key soft skills project managers need to succeed, such as excellent communication, active listening, and conflict resolution skills employed with a high degree of empathy.

These skills are part of what learners practice at top-tier product management boot camps, helping prospective product managers learn the in-demand hard and soft skills necessary to move into this exciting field.

A chart that lists both hard and soft skills for product managers.

How to Be a Good Product Manager

A great product manager has a strong background in the core competencies and hard skills required for the job. They are comfortable developing a product roadmap and a strategic plan — adjusting it when needed in response to user testing and feedback. They are flexible and ready to adapt to new features and developments on the engineering side, or respond to new obstacles creatively and proactively. They are open to new ideas, and rely on data rather than hunches to help make the right decisions. And, great product managers communicate well with others, build support for their vision, and motivate team members to achieve product success.

A top-tier product management boot camp curriculum will cover these types of skills and more, helping you prepare to become a successful product manager.

Begin Your Product Management Career Today

Product management is a great career with a tremendous upside. Product management skills are in demand with employers in various industries — from tech to traditional consumer products. If you want to get into product management, but don’t yet have the proper experience to ace a product manager interview, a product management boot camp can help.

The Product Management Boot Camp at Texas McCombs can teach you the in-demand hard and soft skills you’ll need as a product manager, while helping you reinforce those skills through real-world projects to populate your professional portfolio. Take the next step in developing your future — enroll today!

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