12 Product Manager Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Now the idea of sitting in front of a prospective new employer ready to ask you a massive list of product manager interview questions could send your heart racing and your mind blank, or you might just want to ensure you stand out in front of the competition – for the right reasons.
Where do you see yourself in five years? And don’t say, on a beach sipping a margarita. It’s probably the cheesiest, most-quoted interview question there is, but it’s actually a pretty good one because it can instantly sort the ambitious from those who’re happy to tread water.
But you’re not treading water, right?
In fact, if you’re here, it’s safe to assume you’ve got an interview coming up for a role as a product manager. If so, congrats! Actually, let’s not celebrate just yet. Instead, let’s get you up to speed with the roles and responsibilities, and the kind of product manager interview questions you’ll likely be asked at the all-important interview.
Here’s our guide to everything they’ll throw at you, and how to wow them with your riposts.
What does a product manager do?
Product managers spend their days asking two key questions:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- How can we best solve it?
In practice, that means bridging the gap between various teams in order to get a product designed, developed, shipped, and then improved. That makes them multidisciplinary masters that straddle the gaps between UX, tech, and business.
They’ll be in charge of the product roadmap, the teams responsible for hitting your goals, the business-level buy-in, and the overarching product vision. Crucially, that means being great with people. As a product manager, you’ll need to work across teams and ensure that everyone’s moving in the same direction, and marching to the beat of the same drum: ideally, yours.
A product manager will be heading up a meeting with investors one minute, discussing the minutiae of UI and UX design the next, and reading through user feedback straight after. It’s a busy job, then – but a super rewarding one.
If that’s something you want to get into but you’re new to the world of product, fret not: we’ve actually got a whole guide on how to crack into the industry without a drop of prior experience:
What are the most desired skills a product manager needs?
Product managers work across teams and disciplines, which means they need to be pretty great at a whole range of jobs and they need to be imbued with a bunch of sought-after skills.
Product managers need to be…
You need to have an excellent long-term view of where your product needs to go, and have a rock-solid product strategy for how to get there. Balancing the macro and the micro can be a tall order – it requires being able to master the Now, Next, and Later of product development.
Product managers often need to unplug from the day-to-day of product development and put their business hats on to deal with investors and the other key stakeholders that help keep the product ticking over. That means having a keen understanding of the financial side of product-led growth, as well as being able to balance the fun stuff with the need to drive revenue.
You’ll be dealing with lots of people across lots of teams who, naturally, all have different ways of working, communicating, and feeling motivated. So you’ll need to be able to figure out what kind of candor each team member responds to best and adapt your way of working to match. Your communication skills need to be able to seamlessly switch from the technical questions needed to understand your developer’s needs but also asking the type of behavioral questions that get to the crux of your customer’s needs.
While you’ll be spending a fair amount of your time on the big picture stuff, it’s also key that you know how to dive into the nuts and bolts of UI, UX, and user behavior. Great product managers are as obsessed with the finer details as they are with the product’s overall direction of travel.
You might not need a software engineering degree to be a great product manager, but you do need at least a basic understanding of the tech going on behind the scenes, as well as the tech you can use internally to enable a more robust and curated roadmap. In short? Your team of software developers will want to know that you actually understand and can empathize with their workload.
Every product is a living, breathing organism with a raft of different needs – some are urgent, and some are long-term. It’s up to the product manager to be able to figure out which is which and prioritize accordingly. That means effectively managing a roadmap with a keen understanding of what should be tackled Now-Next-Later.
The 12 important product manager interview questions
Now there isn’t a hard and fast script for the sorts of product manager interview questions you might be asked, but I’d put money on you being asked some combination of the below.
1. What does a product manager do?
Lucky for you, we covered this pretty comprehensively at the top of this post! They’ll want to be sure you understand the full ins and outs of the role, but also where your responsibilities stop. So give an overview of the many hats you’ll have to wear, but be sure to clarify that you’re not a micro-manager – you need to be great at conducting, coordinating, and delegating confidently to a talented set of colleagues.
2. What’s your process for developing a product roadmap?
Or, in other words: how well do you prioritize? You should start by saying that you understand products have different needs at different stages of their lifecycles. Next, we’d recommend that you don’t get bogged down in timeframes. Instead, you’ll want to work with each team, collate user feedback, and collaboratively shape the roadmap into priorities that need to happen right now, next, and later. The right roadmapping software is your best friend, here.
3. How would you go about keeping different teams aligned?
Whilst you’re part of the product team, for you to be successful in your role you’ll be moving between a bunch of teams – from marketing to development and everyone in between perhaps cross-functional teams too – who all have different goals, KPIs, and priorities. It’s your job to steer the ship in a common direction, so the answer here lies in how you can get the best out of people, working with them, building on their strengths, and ensuring that when you disagree with them, they never leave a meeting feeling resentful about it.
But this is also about how you handle conflict between product and business goals; you’ll want to demonstrate that you understand the needs of investors as much as users.
4. How do you prioritize competing features?
You’ll always have a backlog of features and updates to sift through. The question is: how? You’ll want to gather insight from a range of places – product analytics suites, user feedback, focus groups, reviews, internally-known issues, and revenue drivers. You’ll use your judgment and team input to weigh up the importance of these, and then divide them into two lists: quick wins, and time sinks.
Using a priority chart is a good way to visualize the two, and from there you can start to organize your roadmap. Just know that roadmaps are designed to change and evolve – nothing’s ever set in stone.
5. How do you figure out what users want most?
You ask them! You can either run focus groups or conduct regular surveys to solicit feedback, as well as keep an eye on social media posts and third-party review sites. Competitor research can help too – if you’ve got a close rival that’s doing well off the back of a core feature, it’s worth thinking about how you can stay true to the value statement of your product while also servicing that need. Lastly, you can use product analytics suites, heat-mapping tools, and A/B testing to find user behaviors that scream “I need this feature.”
6. How do you approach product lifecycle management?
The interviewers want to know that you understand the four product lifecycle phases: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. They each need different approaches because they each have different priorities. In the introduction phase, for example, all hands are on deck to build something that closely adheres to your goals – and you’ll be responsible for shipping something awesome. In the maturity phase, you’ll need to find ways to innovate without becoming a feature factory just for the sake of it.
7. How do you measure the success of a product?
Demonstrate that you’re familiar with setting and meeting OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). You need to be able to outline what you’re shooting for and explain how to get there. Success varies depending on the kind of product and where it is in its lifecycle, but what’s key is having targets. If and when you miss those targets, show that you’re keen to learn from the experience. We’ve got a guide to setting and tracking OKRs here.
8. Can you give an example of how you overcame a failure?
Ah, the old ‘give us an example’ question. Thankfully, everyone’s failed at something, and everyone’s made it through. Don’t worry too much about the specifics here, or even how closely it relates to product management. The role is as much about people as it is about the product, so give an example of when you were able to turn a team-related failure into a success – and what you learned along the way. That’ll show growth, maturity, and the ability to take things on the chin.
9. How would you improve our product?
Tread carefully here. You want to show that you’re deeply familiar with the product you’re applying to work on, without upsetting the people directly responsible for it. If they have a publicly available roadmap, you could lean on that by picking an upcoming feature and elaborating on the need for it.
If you come up with something fresh, try tying it to a business objective like expansion toward a new demographic, or an insight into user behavior. Just don’t make out like the product is seriously lacking in its current shape.
10. What’s the best book on product management you’ve read?
The interviewers want to know that you’re not just applying for this job on a whim; they’re looking for a love of the industry, and of innovation. In truth, it doesn’t need to be a book on product management specifically; it could just be something that gave you some great insight and changed your way of thinking.
Pick one book, and remember one segment that you can point to as being a game-changer. You may also be asked about news sites and industry publications; so get entrenched in a few and be ready to reference a recent article.
11. What would your first six months here look like?
This a classic question for any industry. An impressive answer doesn’t need to be granular to the point of boring people. Instead, paint a picture of your processes. You’ll want to audit everything that’s currently happening, meet the team and get to know their strengths, and then start to overlay the techniques and skills that make you uniquely qualified to kick the product up a gear.
Maybe you want to change the company’s tech stack, for example. Maybe you want to lean into data-driven insights? Again, a lot will depend on the product’s maturity, but you needn’t go in and rip up the rule book. Just hit a few key notes that suggest you’re not flying by the seat of your pants. Explain that going to give yourself – and the product – some clear OKRs, and then you’re going to work towards them methodically.
12. What tools would be in your tech stack?
They want to see that you know your way around the tools of the trade – the software that you’ll be living in day-to-day as a product manager. We’ve already mentioned things like product analytics suites, but you’ll also want to talk about product roadmapping tools that can help you align teams, track OKRs, and prioritize your feature updates in a way that drives innovation.
Might we suggest ProdPad?
And 20 more common product manager interview questions to think about…
- What are the most important qualities a successful product manager needs?
- What motivated you to become a product manager?
- How do you evaluate market opportunities?
- How do you keep your teams motivated?
- How do you ensure that your product is competitive in the market?
- How do you manage product roadmaps?
- What is your process for creating a go-to-market strategy?
- How do you handle product launch failures?
- What is your experience with agile development methodologies?
- How do you collaborate with engineering teams?
- What is your experience with user experience design?
- What is your experience with data analysis and market research?
- What is your experience with product pricing and monetization strategies?
- What is your experience with product analytics tools?
- How do you incorporate customer feedback into product development?
- What is your experience with A/B testing and experimentation?
- How do you manage risks and uncertainties?
- What is your approach to innovation and product differentiation?
- What is your experience with international product launches?
- How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices?
The truth is, there is no wrong answer to product manager interview questions…
Don’t panic; you’re gonna ace it. The fact that you’re here reading this means you’re doing great research to ace the interview process – that’s half the battle.
Just do the prep, have some solid answers locked in place, and remember that your interviewers are human beings. Our advice? Answer each one of your product manager interview questions with a clear point and then wait for the interviewers to ask another; don’t ramble on.
A crucial thing some people forget in interviews is that it’s always a two-way street. Answering questions succinctly and comprehensively is a great skill, but it pays to come armed with a bunch of questions for them, too.
Poke and prod, ask everything from ‘what do and don’t you like about working here?’ to ‘what do you think are the product’s biggest challenges?’ – asking questions shows that you have an inquiring mind and that you’re choosy about where you work.
And, if all else fails, just do this.