Each role that you fill is unique, meaning the questions you ask should be unique to that role. You’re looking for an individual who adds value to your team. Someone who fits company culture but also gets the job done well.
Using generic questions pulled from a quick internet search or questions that have been passed down throughout the company legends may not be the most effective way to interview folks in 2022. As times change and roles evolve, interview questions should do the same.
This week we will focus on the top 6 questions to ask product managers. These questions should not be the only questions. Use them to get you started and build out an interview scorecard. To determine exactly what you’re looking for in terms of responses, answer these questions yourself, ask the manager of the department and their team. These individuals can best identify what is missing and what added value looks like.
1. Tell me about your process.
When interviewing product managers, it is important to dive into their process and gain insight of how they handle new product or feature launches from start to finish. Everyone has their own process, whether that comes from a personal preference or the experiences the candidate has gained over the years.
Product managers can follow different methodologies. Some may prefer agile methodology, where the product launch is broken up into small, incremental steps. Multiple parts of the product launch are worked on at once, involving heavy communication and collaboration among teams. This tends to work well with projects that are flexible and constantly changing because each step is continuously evaluated.
Approaching a product launch with an agile methodology is vastly different from a waterfall methodology. Waterfall methodology breaks a project into very neatly planned steps. Once one step is completed, the next step begins. Product launches that follow the waterfall methodology require heavy planning upfront and there is little flexibility. For those of us in the technology space, we know that companies follow their own version of these development methodologies.
People handle launches differently and it is important to understand how they operate. Take that knowledge and apply it to how your team prefers to operate. Are they going to be a good fit? Do they follow the same methodology as your current team or have experience working the way your team does? What value will they add to the team?
In learning about their processes you’ll also determine what types of teams they’ve worked with in the past. If the product manager has previously relied on a large UX team, they may not work well in a smaller company where individuals wear many hats.
Remember that there is no right or wrong answer to a product manager’s process. The goal is to learn more about the candidate and how they operate. This will ensure you’re hiring the right person to fit the team you’ve already built or are trying to build.
2. How do you determine the priority of feature updates?
Product management requires a fair amount of organizational skills. Decisions must be made, even when there are conflicting priorities. You are looking to understand how they organize their tasks and how they prioritize needs.
A good response to this question should mention data. Decisions should be made from hard data, as opposed to a gut feeling. When faced with conflicting priorities, a good product manager should easily organize, test and use data to drive these decisions.
Product managers are responsible for understanding and anticipating what features matter to the consumer. It is not always feasible to do every desired feature, all at once. The product manager should be able to use consumer insights to drive their decisions.
3. How do you determine what customers want and need?
The goal of any company or business is to make the consumer happy. Product managers should WANT to know their customers. What drives them? What excites them? What do they need?
A good candidate will demonstrate their passion for consumer behavior. They are inquisitive and have an innate curiosity to know more about the customers and understand them on a deeper level. Product managers should ask good questions and build relationships quickly.
Someone who cares about the customers will also be able to make more informed decisions on their behalf. They can prioritize which feature should come first because the consumer behavior suggests that “A” is hotter than “B” in the market right now.
4. How do you evaluate if a product is well-designed?
Similar to a product manager’s process, success is sometimes viewed differently from person to person. One product manager may have a different vision than another. This question addresses two key areas for concern.
A great product manager knows if their product is working (or not working). If the candidate is responding with a lot of filler words and altogether does not make sense, they are most likely not the right person for the role. The product manager you are looking to hire will know when a product is not designed well. They live and breathe the product. Their experience can tell them early on if there is an issue with the product’s quality. This is then backed up by data.
You also want to make sure their priorities of what makes a product good fits with what your organization values. The candidate, the team and the company as a whole should share the same vision for the product. Everyone should know what success looks like and how to define “well-designed.” If the product manager has worked for previous companies where there was a focus on quantity, not quality, then they may not be a good fit for a company that focuses on quality over quantity, and vice versa.
5. How do you go about developing a product roadmap and timeline?
Depending on the seniority of the product manager, their experience with developing roadmaps and timelines may differ. Well-seasoned managers will take charge of the product roadmaps and timelines. They will designate the how, when, and why of that product.
More junior product managers may only have experience following a roadmap and timeline given to them from senior product managers. Depending on how junior they are, they may be ready to take the next step and build out their own roadmaps and timelines.
The key for both mid-junior and senior product managers is how they develop these timelines. Are they more of a take-charge individual, where what they say goes? Or do they collaborate with their team and get buyin? Does the candidate manage a small portion of the product or the entire product?
Again, there are no right or wrong answers when interviewing product managers. Their experiences often dictate their responses. What matters is how the responses line up to the role you’re hiring. Do you need someone more senior who will own the product roadmaps and budget or are you looking for someone to simply execute a timeline for one small part of the product?
6. How do you build consensus across teams and/or leadership?
Leadership is a frequently sought after quality. A good product manager will also be an inspiring leader. Product managers do not solely manage the product, they also manage the teams they work with.
Oftentimes product managers are like salespeople. They need to build relationships among teams and get buyin where needed. They need to know when to level with someone and when to show the facts. Mainly, they need to build trust. Will people trust and follow this candidate to get the product or feature launched.
In a boiled down way, will their leadership be taken well by the team. Look at the culture your company has. Does the candidate align with it? Will people look to this person to solve problems and keep development on track?
These questions are a great starting point to interviewing a product manager. They will reveal a lot about the candidate and help you better understand whether the product manager is a fit. Aside from technical experience, it is important to find a product manager that will fit your company culture. They need to be able to make hard decisions while leading a team of brilliant individuals.
Do you need help filling a product manager role? Do you feel stuck in your candidate search? Schedule a consultation with us. We would love to get you connected with quality product managers.