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Owning Your Product Manager Interview

A typical product manager interview has 3 common steps:

Step #1: Initial phone screen

This initial screening may be led by someone from the company’s hiring team or a member of the product team. 

The main purpose of this initial call is for them to get a better understanding of your experience, what you are looking for in your next role, and also give you an opportunity to ask any questions that you have. 

You may also be asked about your expectations (for example the salary you expect).

This call is meant to generally see if your experience lines up with what the company is looking for and if they would like to bring you in for an in-person interview.

Step #2: In-person interview

The in-person interview can differ from company to company.

In some companies this in-person interview will be conducted by members of the product team, including a hiring manager of the product team. At times it may also involve meeting the members of other teams.

In this interview a head of the product team will go deeper into your experience. They will inquire about details related to what you have accomplished, how you worked with past teams, how you dealt with various scenarios, and ask additional behavior based questions.

Other members of the product team will also receive chances to ask questions during this interview. You will also receive a chance to ask any questions that you have about the role, team, company, industry, and more. 

Along with verifying that you are qualified for the role based on your past experience the hiring manager also assesses your presentation skills as well and to see if you are a fit for the team and the company.

Assuming that this is the case then you move onto the next step ... the infamous case study.

Step #3: Case study interview

Case studies are a staple of product management interviews. If you apply for a product role expect that there will be a case study to perform along the way.

Case studies are problems which candidates are given to assess their problem solving and communication skills. 

A case study will contain some preliminary information to set the scenario and then follow up with a problem that you are required to solve. In many cases these case studies will centre around the industry of the company.

There is no one “right answer” to a case study interview. Hiring managers do not expect one specific response that determines whether you performed well or poorly.

Rather, the key thing when solving a case study is that you utilize a calculated approach to arrive at a solution that can be validated as you present your case study.

Strategic thinking skills, problems solving skills, and communication skills are also assessed during a case study presentation.

How is the content of your slides? Are you making eye contact with the participants in the room as you speak? Are you speaking at a measurable pace and tone? Do you display confidence? Do you answer questions confidently?

It goes without saying that case studies need to be taken seriously and you need to practice.

Ensure that you utilize a framework to arrive at your proposed solution (defined thought process), perform real research on the industry (even if it is a hypothetical problem), anticipate the questions that you will be asked, and practice.

Post-case study

After the case study you may receive an offer whereby the salary negotiations will take place thereafter.

For some companies however there may be a final stage after the case study. This final stage is to meet with the managers of other departments, for example the CEO, VP of Technology, and VP of Customer Success.

Since product managers work so closely with these teams these managers may also want to meet candidates and share their feedback on whether they are the right fit for the role.