Product sense interview questions are designed to showcase your creativity, empathy, and problem-solving skills.
You'll need to effectively brainstorm, understand user needs, and solve relevant problems to their experiences.
These questions have no correct answer. However, using a structured framework can help you deliver your answer clearly and effectively highlight your product sense intuition.
Exponent users say these are the most commonly asked product sense questions. They include a mix of product design, improvement, and strategy questions.
These are notable companies with distinct product sense interview rounds.
To deliver an effective answer to product sense questions, follow this 7-step process. This same framework can be applied broadly to product design and strategy questions.
First, clarify the problem you’ve been given.
Gather context that will help you understand the problem space and define any strategic considerations that might influence your design.
Questions like these are fair game:
But be prepared for an interviewer to give you a vague answer!
Next, divide the total userbase into subsets of users. Then, select an interesting group for a more detailed analysis.
A few starting points could be:
Choose a segmentation method that is relevant to the question at hand.
After choosing a segmentation method and identifying basic user subsets, select a subset that interests you and explain why it's valuable to discuss.
Consider the following factors:
Next, consider any goals your users might have. Do they have any obvious obstacles or pain points?
If nothing’s blocking users from achieving their goals but some point of friction clearly exists, you’ve uncovered an opportunity area.
Take a moment to summarize the goals you think your user subset has, then brainstorm pain points and opportunity areas preventing them from achieving those goals.
Use the "broad then deep" mini-framework to quickly hone in on key pain points.
Consider the circumstances users are in.
Now, brainstorm ideas that could solve the pain point you’ve identified.
One helpful tip for coming up with solutions is to think of products you like — especially anything solving a similar problem in another context.
For example, Duolingo might be a good analogue for improving a gym. Both products remove barriers for people who want to improve themselves (by learning a language) but who have trouble with motivation, routine, or planning. The app is fun, easy to use, and the emphasis is on consistency rather than intensity.
These are all characteristics you might incorporate into your recommendations.
Aim to generate at least three solid ideas before moving on to the next step. It’s fine to brainstorm a bigger list and eliminate weak ideas.
Check each idea against the pain point you identified and don't be afraid to get creative. Interviewers want to see excitement and passion for products.
Pick the strongest solution from the previous section and take a moment or two to envision what that product will look like in five or ten years.
Come up with a brief tagline that really emphasizes the point you're making. You want to leave the interviewer with a soundbite they’ll remember when they’re scoring your interview.
Write it on the whiteboard (if you’re using one) and refer back to it as you continue.
Once you’ve crafted a compelling product vision, it’s time to prioritize features.
Take the interviewer through a quick user journey where a user interacts with your product. This will help you concretely identify how your product fits into the existing user flow which will help you prioritize features.
It’ll also help you stay user-centric instead of over-defining an idea that appeals to you personally.
Then, brainstorm a short list of features based on your use case(s) and prioritize according to which features best support your product vision. Be sure to tie the discussion back to user pain points.
Here are a few helpful dimensions to consider:
You don’t need to describe every part of the feature in detail, but interviewers do expect you to describe what the user sees and interacts with and how that delivers on the product goals and vision you defined.
As you wrap up, summarize your insights for your interviewer, then spend a few minutes evaluating your design and discussing next steps. Consider:
Common follow-up questions from interviewers include:
Discussing risks and challenges preemptively signals to interviewers that your ideas are grounded in reality.
Bringing strategic concerns into the mix can help you reach a broader and deeper understanding of the problem at hand. Here are some prompts to consider:
Moonshots are bold ideas that go beyond incremental changes.
They’re frequently associated with Google interviews, but you can “moonshot” any design question by digging deep until you’ve uncovered the root of an important problem in a way that feels transformative.
You’re on the right track if you’ve found a way to solve the problem completely and simply for the user. If you’re able to eliminate the conditions that cause the problem in the first place, even better.
First, try to think of the product as a black box. The input is the user’s current state, and the output is the user as they want to be.
By eliminating all assumptions about how to get users from where they are to where they want to be and exploring what could happen in that space, really transformative solutions can sometimes become clear.
Another strategy is to use something like the 5 Whys technique to dig deeper and deeper until you uncover the root of the problem.
You could also consider what the user’s actual goals are. For instance, if you’re asked to build an alarm clock for deaf users, consider that the user’s goal is to wake up at a certain time. Rather than limiting yourself to modifying how existing alarm clocks work, this framing allows for new options that rethink what an alarm clock is.
Sometimes, you’ll be asked to improve an existing product.
Questions like “Improve Instagram’s homepage” are similar to “design X” questions.
Consider established users, goals, and market dynamics. Keep these in mind, and consider addressing under-served users, supporting new use cases, or adapting a product to open new strategic opportunities.
Shreyas Doshi is a product lead at Stripe. We discuss improving the elusive "product sense," a relevant skill for all product managers. Previously, Shreyas served as a director of product management at Twitter and a group product manager at Google and Yahoo!.
The first step to enhance your product sense is to understand what it means. I define it as the skill to make the right decisions, even when things are unclear.
This applies to all levels: from deciding on what products we should create, to the details of user interactions and interfaces, and everything in between. This is what product sense is all about.
There are three main parts to product sense.
Improving your product sense involves developing more empathy, growing your domain knowledge, and boosting your creativity.
To enhance your empathy, interact with diverse users and partners. Instead of simply acquiring information, understand the reasons behind their responses. This understanding lets you predict user reactions even when they're not present.
Another strategy is to deepen your understanding of psychology. Engaging with cognitive biases, behavioural economics, and general psychology literature can help you build user archetypes and empathize with them.
Domain knowledge requires identifying relevant resources and reviewing them regularly. Books, online resources, and podcasts can be useful for this purpose.
If you're building smartphone apps, use as many apps as possible. Scrutinize the details and ask questions about design choices. When faced with a challenge, draw on your extensive experience, enabling creativity through pattern recognition.
Landing a product job requires more than just applying!
Spend time understanding the companies you want to work for, practice top questions alone and with peers, and build a story bank for your big day.