Looking to hire a product manager?
How do you make sure you’re hiring the right product manager for the job?
Most of it comes down to the interview.
Specifically, the interview questions.
Asking the right questions and analyzing the job candidates’ answers can reveal more about the person you’re attempting to hire than their resume and references ever will.
These questions need to be prepared beforehand.
You’ll certainly think of good questions in the moment as the interview progresses, but you’ll want a set of questions you can reference during the interview that exposes the confidence, competence, and capability of your interviewee.
In this post, we give you 20 of the top product manager interview questions you should ask to understand exactly who you’re hiring and if they’re the right fit for the job.
You don’t need to ask them all…
But there are at least half a dozen or more that any manager would benefit from asking.
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
12 Product Manager Interview Questions
1. What does a product manager do?
This question almost seems too basic and obvious, but it’s especially important to ask of interviewees who have never worked as a product manager before.
As Albert Einstein is known for saying:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Every organization is different, so you’re looking for an answer that both explains the roles and responsibilities of product managers generally, and specifically for your company. This also reveals their expectations for the role and will tell you whether or not they’re ready to jump into this position.
2. Why is product management important?
You need to know that the person you’re hiring understands how product management works together with all the other aspects of your company, and explain in detail the unique qualities product management brings to the table and how they assist in accomplishing organizational objectives.
This may also reveal how passionate they are about product management. There isn’t necessarily a “right” answer, but the answer given should align with your own view of product management’s importance.
3. What are the specific differences between a project manager and a product manager?
This is a super important product manager interview questions. Whoever you hire to fill this role needs to have a clear understanding of the difference between project management and product management.
A project manager drives key day-to-day activities and ensures various teams in different departments are executing effectively and hitting deadlines.
And while a product manager is partially responsible for the same things, they’re mainly focused on the design, functionality, and performance of the product being created, and ensuring the end product aligns with customer needs and desires.
4. Why do you want to be a product manager and how does this fit into your career goals?
You don’t want to hire someone who isn’t going to stick with your company for the long-haul. Lifelong employees are going extinct these days, but this question will still indicate whether you’re hiring someone who’s going to use you as a quick stepping-stone to something else, or if they’re interested in calling your company home for many years to come.
5. Can you describe a scenario when you had to prioritize tasks?
Product managers will have many spinning plates in the air and have to be able to manage all of them simultaneously to get the job done.
Since you can’t really test them out for fear of watching all those plates come crashing down, your best bet is to hear a story from them about how they managed many different responsibilities successfully.
Keep in mind, the story doesn’t have to relate 1:1 to product management. Effectively juggling tasks in other contexts will do. Prioritization is a transferable skill.
6. Can you provide an example of when you as a product manager failed and what you learned from it?
Success is forged in failure, and a competent product manager will have their fair share of battles lost.
You’re looking to see how honest they are about themselves and past shortcomings, along with the lessons learned from their failures and how they have improved, or seek to improve as a result.
7. What is one of your favorite products, and how would you improve it?
Product managers need to be passionate about products.
But more important than passion for products themselves is a passionate pursuit of endless improvement, even for products they love.
What you’re looking for is a candidate who has equal parts passion and critical thinking, who recognizes all the best parts of the product yet can still find flaws and room for growth.
8. How do you communicate your product strategy to your team?
Product managers aren’t developers, they’re leaders and communicators. You need to know they can stand and deliver compelling arguments and persuasive reasons why the development of a product should go in one direction or another.
They need to know how to get buy-in from the teams they manage, how to work through disagreements, and how to move a project forward when there are competing ideas about next steps.
The last person you want to hire is someone who stumbles and bumbles and shrinks at the first sign of conflict. And you don’t want an authoritarian who will simply strong-arm your other employees into doing his bidding, either.
The right candidate should be confident, empathetic, and possess keen listening skills in addition to powerful interpersonal skills.
9. What would you do first if we hired you?
This product manager interview question is one of the most essential on this list.
It will reveal firstly, if the candidate has researched your company and product at all and if they’ve prepared ideas for improvement ready for execution on day one.
You’ll also see how ambitious or reserved they are. How much hand-holding they may need. And how realistic their expectations are for the future. You’ll even get a sense of what they prioritize: function, design, or something else.
10. What do you think is right with our product, and what is wrong with it?
This interview questions dovetails with the previous one and can supplement question #7 on this list.
But unlike question #7, they’re not being asked to discuss someone else’s product with impunity, they have to discuss your product, which may make them a bit uneasy. You’ll see how honest they’re willing to be when they know they may offend their listeners, how well they currently understand your users and their needs, and whether or not they’re able to pinpoint elements of your product that truly can be improved.
11. What motivates you as a product manager?
This product manager interview question will generate some of the most interesting answers.
Motivation comes in all forms, and this question gives you insight into what your new hire will require from you to feel good about the job they’re doing, and if they’re going to be a good fit for your organization.
Are they looking for a large paycheck? Or to change the world?
Part of their motivation will always be money, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But make sure they sincerely want to improve customers’ lives with the products they manage.
12. Is there anything we haven’t asked you that we should have?
This is another question that keeps interviewees on their toes and exposes how much forethought they’ve put into your company and the interview.
Part of a product manager’s job is to put themselves in a user’s shoes. This question gives them the opportunity to put themselves in your shoes and look at the situation through your eyes.
Look for candidates who won’t falter right away, who take the time to consider the question and arrive at genuinely interesting interview questions of their own. Bonus points if they ask questions you hadn’t thought of.
Get the Visual Communication Tool Loved by Product Managers
Once you hire the perfect product manager for your company, you’re going to onboard them with all the necessary tools, processes, and information they will need to hit the ground running.
Interview question #8 on our list dealt with communication, and apart from being a good communicator, you’ll want to enable product managers to share and spread information as effectively as possible.
According to the 280 Group, 30% of product managers said that internal politics is their biggest challenge.
Conflicts will inevitably arise and new product managers especially need the tools to help them quickly find resolutions and prevent future conflicts from cropping up.
Instead of tearing away team members from their desks and gathering them into a cramped office for a meeting, product managers can host a faster virtual meeting through a webcam.
Rather than writing out a list of complicated instructions, they can easily create an easy-to-follow GIF that shows what to do.
And you can help product managers replace rambling notes with annotated screenshots that are much easier to implement.
Zight (formerly CloudApp) makes this possible through an easy-to-use, enterprise-grade app that’s been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools.