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How To Interview A Product Manager?

“A great product manager is both trusting and trustworthy.
She knows the difference between trust and blind faith, and invests in building a working environment where people have each others’ backs.
She sets an example with her own behavior and works from the assumption that people have good intentions. She listens and always strives to understand others’ context, point of view and perspective.”

— Lawrence Ripsher

An interview – like yoga on the water – is a tricky thing.

An interview is always a challenge.

It’s far from a perfect solution but in many cases, it’s the only option you have in order to decide if a person will be a good fit to your needs.

In some roles you will need more technical skills and in some it will be more about the leadership and strategic thinking.

The main aspects you wish to have in a product manager for a technology company:

  1. Intellectual ability
  2. Great Communication skills
  3. Leadership
  4. Culture Fit
  5. Deep understanding of what users want
  6. Strategic thinking
  7. Analytical capabilities
  8. Technical knowledge
  9. Entrepreneur at heart

Below are some ideas for questions that will help you identify if the person have some of these aspects. It’s still “work in progress” so if you find something ‘funny’ please let me know.

Product

The first question is about describing an app or service can lead to interesting places. It will revel to you how to person communicate, what they capacity to explain complex thing and how they think on optimization. It’s one of these open-ended question that can lead to a 30 minutes discussion on the topic.

Tech

The technical abilities could be evaluated with a question on system architecture or something like this:

I prefer the system architecture questions as they are more pragmatic when you wish to see that the level of technical capabilities is deep. You can quick dive from the macro view of the system to some technical aspect of it and see what they really know about it.

Leader

If you wish to revel how is the person think and what is their hands-on experience. The question about their past experience is a good one. You can ask about inconvenient situations (e.g. when and why you needed to fire someone. What did you do and why?)

What a good and not so good answers will look like:

Strategy

A more strategic question can be about the future and how technological trends we see can influence on it.

What will be the ‘killer app’ for the blockchain?

Or how can the future of ‘no-cash’ influence the economy?

What a good and not so good answers will look like:

Technical Background

A good question you might use will be: “You are the PM for a new product (e.g. ClubHouse, Twitter, Strava etc’), How will you measure success for this product?”

It’s a good one because there isn’t a ‘right’ answer but form the answer’s details you can learn a lot about the technical experience that the candidate bring to the role. Do they know about performance metrics? What is the ROI on specific features/logging/metrics?

Goals

Sets 1-3 reasonable, measurable and prioritized goals and top-line metrics that are closely related to <feature_X> and can be directly impacted by the team.

Measuring Impact

Communicate a comprehensive set of metrics that represent both sides of the ecosystem (if applicable) in a reasonably structured and focused manner.

Communication

“Articulates the problem that <feature X> is solving and why it is an important problem to solve with concise, structured communication for an audience of developers.”

Execution Trade-Offs

Identifies a clear framework or formula that allows them to evaluate a trade-off in an objective manner (based on a variety of data points).

More

Be strong and good luck!

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