In this interview you are going to learn simple structures for answering product management interview questions. This is useful for anyone wanting to start a career in product management or making a move to another company as well as for product leaders who interview candidates.
My guest, Charles Du (Do), is a UX Designer, SCRUM practitioner, and award-winning product manager and coach. He led the design of NASA’s first iPhone app, which received NASA’s software of the year award.
Charles teaches product management in many venues and I tracked him down after I saw a course he recently launched on Udemy titled “Master the Product Manager Interview.”
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- what your first response should be to any scenario question,
- how to respond to any general question,
- three steps for the perfect answer to estimation questions, and
- five steps for the perfect answer to product vision questions.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- You have taught product management classes in the past and have now created training for doing well in interviews for a product management job. How did this new training come about? In addition to teaching online, I also teach in-person product management workshops. I found that students often asked about getting product management jobs. Questions like how they can ace an interview and what are common questions? I realized that there are many different types of questions that interviewers ask and that I could teach how to answer the questions in a really easy to consume course.
- Who is the training for? It is valuable for anyone pursuing product management positions. The examples I use are from the software industry, but the structured responses I teach apply to product management, not to specific industries.
- We don’t have time to go through all types of questions that may be asked in an interview – which one should product managers who are interviewing master first? That is the MIQ – the Most Important Question. It is actually a question the candidate will ask during the interview. At the beginning of every interview, you’ll be asked some type of question like, tell me about your background, or walk me through your experience. This is where you fit in the MIQ. Reply with, “I’d be happy to share my background, but before I start, can I ask, what are the top 3 qualities you look for in ideal candidates?” The MIQ is basically a question that the candidate asks, to flush out all the things that the interviewer cares about. The reason that this is really important is because the earlier you ask this question, the more contextual you can make all your answers during the rest of the interview.
- What are the 3 qualities that employers typically look for? I have not found a lot of variety in how the interviewer responds to the MIQ question. They usually are looking for someone with product vision, execution ability, and leadership skills – these are the 3 big buckets. Knowing this, you can prepare examples from your past experiences that fit into each one of these buckets.
- What is an estimation question and how do you structure a response to one? An example is, “how many golf balls can you fit into a bathroom?” The interviewer wants to see your thought process – they are not looking for a right answer to the question but are examining your analysis skills. The perfect response is structured in 3 steps:
- Clarify the question. Ask details, such as what is in the bathroom, is it in a one-bedroom apartment or luxury house, etc.
- Provide a rough estimate that is structured with variables and an equation. The variables would be the volume of the bathroom, the volume of everything in the bathroom, and volume of a golf ball. The equation is simple at this point.
- Optimize the rough answer. Refine your rough estimate for other circumstances and edge cases. For example, the difference it would make if the toilet space is part of the bathroom or accessed by its own door, if one or two vanities exist, etc.
- Product vision questions are also frequently asked, such as how would you design a calculator for a child? How should you answer these questions? These questions need a 5 step structure for the perfect answer.
- Explore the problem. Discuss with the interviewer the characteristics of the customers and the problem they wish to solve. Don’t dive into a solution without clearly understanding the problem from the customer’s perspective.
- Design solutions. Discuss solutions that are appropriate for the customer, for example a calculator with big buttons that a child easily can use.
- Consider improvements. Discuss how a minimal viable product (MVP) may be designed as well as future versions, recognizing the product needs to get to the market quickly and future versions are likely.
- Analyze trade-offs. Discuss pros and cons of specific features and the benefits they create for the customer. Astute product managers recognize that not all features create the same value and sometimes value is increased by removing features.
- Get creative. After a thoughtful analysis, now is the time to show your creativity by exploring wild ideas.
- What Is the best advice you have received as a product manager? Focus on the user and everything else will follow.
- Charles’ “Master the Product Management Interview” – 31% discount for listeners of this podcast until April 24, 2016. Only $23 before April 24th, $35 after.
- Charles’ website, productcharles.com
“Eighty percent of success is showing up” – Woody Allen
Listen Now to the Interview
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.