How to Prepare for your Upcoming Product Manager Job Interview
After the application comes the interview (hopefully). Here are a few pointers to help you show up for your Product Manager job interview and leave with an offer.
Job interviews can be a very anxiety-inducing activity. You’ve taken the courses, you’ve submitted your applications, you’ve worked to tailor your experience to the job description and now it’s time to meet your prospective employers one-on-one and answer all these questions to prove that you are, in fact, the one for the job.
First of all, congrats on making it to the interview stage! This article will share tried and tested tips and tricks to get you ready for your Product Management job interview whether you’re breaking into tech from a non-traditional tech career or transitioning from another tech role.
1. Do your research into the company
Gathering information about a company is as important for the applicant as it is for the job interview itself. It familiarizes you with the company’s culture, products, history and its achievements and this helps determine whether the company is the right fit for you.
Researching a company is also a good way to show enthusiasm at the possibility of working there and lets the interviewer know that you’re willing to take initiative and go the extra mile in executing an assignment. Additionally, it allows you to highlight aspects of your resume - jobs, education or skills that best align with the company and provides you with relevant answers to likely questions. The last thing you want is to be asked a rather obvious question about the company you’re applying to, and have no answer because you failed to do basic research.
In preparation for job interviews, Muse Guo, now a Product Manager working at theScore, would carry out an in-depth analysis of the company she was interviewing with; she’d also comb through any news or new development from the company, analyze their financial statements and scrutinize their company or product strategy.
Then instead of a ‘normal’ cover letter, she would write about the product’s problem areas, how the company could improve or what direction she thought the company should go next. This is an example of the kind of forward-thinking that appeals to employers and sets the candidate apart from others.
There are literally no downsides to doing your research. It’s an opportunity to learn and it saves you time by either giving reasons why that company is not the right fit for you so you can move on or it quickens the settling in process if you eventually get the job because you already know what the company is about.
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2. Go over potential questions
“Practice makes perfect” is a cliche and the reason that cliches are so popular is that they’re true. Practicing questions that are commonly asked during Product Management interviews will make you more comfortable answering them during the interview.
The range of Product management interview questions is quite broad. They could be technical, analytical, behavioral and even personal. Fortunately, these questions are widely available online. Be prepared to answer questions relating to what Product Managers actually do in companies, changes you’ll suggest to the interviewing company’s product or to a specific existing product, and how you’ve dealt with a setback as a Product Manager.
It is also super helpful to practise these questions in the form of Mock interviews as opposed to just reading and memorizing answers. Rehearsed answers might come off unnatural during the interview process thus, simulating actual interview conditions and perhaps enlisting someone to ask you these questions so you can practise your answers might help you flow better during the job interview.
It might also be helpful to watch some videos about the knowledge you need to master your product management skills here.
3. Speak on your relevant experiences
A recent survey showed that employers gravitate toward candidates who have demonstrated experience doing the kind of job for which they are interviewing. The most obvious way to infer such experience is if the person has a degree in the related field. More recently, however, employers do not just look out for relevant degrees. Product Management bootcamps such as Co.Lab, courses and certifications are all excellent ways to gain relevant experience.
In a field as competitive as Product Management, any experience working as a Product Manager even on a small scale or working in a position where one has acquired Product Management skills might be the single factor that makes an applicant more appealing to the company.
Alex Quyen Le, a Product Strategist at Google applied for the role two different times before she was eventually hired. A major difference between her previous applications and the application that qualified her for an interview and eventually got her the job was gaining experience as a Product Manager as she worked with her team at Co.Lab to ship an actual product and gain exposure to cross-functional collaboration.
“[Google] was looking for a more matured Product Manager. It was actually one of the requirements of the role that the candidate had experience managing stakeholders.” Her degree is in Management Information Systems and her previous job was as a risk assessment consultant so she had no Product Management experience and no experience managing stakeholders.
She had to be strategic and gain exposure to Product Management while crafting a convincing narrative about herself. “Through Co.Lab, I had the chance to interact with stakeholders, learn the technical language, set expectations and build a team dynamic where teammates function well together.” That experience was vital to making it through the interviews and eventually helping her ease into the role.
This is not to say that you should put off applying for jobs until you have acquired years and years of experience. But at least having a good idea of the requirements of Product Management allows you to speak about the role from a place of knowledge during job interviews. You're using terms that show that you’re familiar with the work, you’re bringing up real-life scenarios where you were able to apply certain things and now the employers have evidence that you can indeed do as you claimed.
4. Make sure you’ve read relevant Product Management Materials
As one cannot guarantee the exact questions that will be asked at an interview or the tasks that will be required, the most foolproof method to ensure that you stay prepared for whatever might come your way is to read books, articles and all kinds of materials related to Product Management in order to stay abreast of happenings within the industry. More specifically, read things relating to the company you’re applying to. Read about their product, features, competitors, everything!
There are countless resources available now for whatever aspect of Product Management one might need more information. Books such as Decode and Conquer and Cracking the PM Interview come highly recommended by top tech company recruiters as excellent resources for hopeful Product Managers. They are comprehensive books which include sample questions, frameworks and insider tips on landing a Product Management role in startups or bigger tech companies.
How To Product is a book which recounts the stories of 25 Product Managers and the various ways they secured their Product Management roles. One thing you will definitely learn from reading this is that there can be many routes to Product Management. So don’t get discouraged if one person’s methods of becoming a Product Manager do not work for you. People differ and so does the hiring process of companies but the right company will feel like a good fit for you personally and vice-versa.
5. Ask your mentors and your network for help and advice
There is almost nothing better than asking the people who are actually in the game for advice on the game. 40% of recent tech jobs come from referrals from people in your network. Not only can such ones help you get an interview, but they can also let you know the exact needs of the company, look through your resume, review your LinkedIn profile and let you know what to look out for. If you’d like a mentor, MentorCruise is a great place to find one and members of the Co.Lab program get 20% off!
These experts who have mastered the art of Product Management and have been involved in the day-to-day activities of the role, perhaps for years are no doubt instrumental in preparing you for your job interview. Ask them questions about their experiences, what red flags or green flags you should look out for in a company, what interviewers like to hear, everything.
Project Management expert Colin Ellis once said “Mentoring isn’t something that can be read about in books. It’s anecdotal and can only be found in hearts and minds. It’s someone else’s experience, enjoyment, frustration, success, and failure. It’s the sum of the personalities that they have dealt with in the situations they have overcome.” and it can speed up your journey by a considerable amount of time.
Finally, remember that out of hundreds, possibly thousands of applicants, the Company chose you. They are already significantly impressed by what you submitted and they’re curious about you. This interview process is the icing on the cake - draw attention to your most relevant skills or experiences, prepare an insightful question or two to ask the interviewer and remember that you belong in tech. Good luck!