Ace the Product Manager Interview + Questions (2023 Guide)
Anthony Pellegrino • Last updated
Hiring managers want PMs who are adaptable, quick on their feet, highly motivated, and capable of working with cross-functional teams.
The PM interview process is intended to better understand your overall working style.
About this guide: We wrote this PM interview question guide with the help of 20 FAANG+ and startup product managers. Check out our complete product manager interview course with additional practice questions, mock interviews, and rubrics to grade your answers.
Top product manager interview questions
Expect these questions, or variations of them, in your PM interview at startups and big tech companies.
Have an arguable thesis about your favorite product—why is your opinion about this product different or special? This helps you avoid generic answers about popular products we all use.
Finally, inject your personality. This is your time to show what excites you about product management and well-made products. You can bring this passion and excitement to your new job.
My favorite product is the Chrome web browser.
Google Chrome is one of the most popular web browsers for computers and phones. There are many types of users, from older people who don't know much about technology to tech-savvy millennials. I'm a power user because I know everything there is to know about the product and use it to its fullest potential! This includes using add-ons, having more than one profile, and more.
Users who browse on the Internet are mainly looking for a web browser that's quick and efficient to use. Finding relevant content and a smooth experience are critical to any web browser's success.
Before Chrome, users were stuck with Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. These browsers had basic features but weren't customizable or advanced enough to satisfy users' needs. They also lacked innovation and didn't deliver the efficient experiences users wanted.
Google Chrome came into the market and focused on personalization above all else. This, in turn, paid dividends since it also created more efficient and relevant web browser use.
Chrome added three things that created a better experience: Profiles, Quick searching, and a Power home page.
Chrome users could log in to their Gmail accounts to quickly collect relevant data on their usage behavior. This allows Chrome to create a more personalized experience by recommending sites based on past behaviors.
Another great feature they added was quick searching from the URL bar. Google leveraged its core product, the Google Search engine, to allow Chrome users to search the web directly from the URL box. This lowered the friction to search - one of the core functions of Internet users. Lastly, they added a personalized home page with your most visited sites already on their home page. This saves users time by increasing navigational efficiency.
I think Chrome is fantastic, but if I could improve it, I'd add vertical tab displays. Similar to how Slack has channels listed vertically, adding this feature would improve the multi-tab experience.
Specifically, it would allow for clearer distinguishing between tabs at high volumes rather than squishing the width of each tab where they're no longer distinguishable.
My favorite product is Google Chrome - Google's web browser. Before Chrome, web browsers only fulfilled one function: searching the web, but Chrome was able to create a more personalized experience that enhances the web viewing experience. If I could improve it, I'd add vertical tab displays.
Don't be afraid of popular products. Popular products, like Google Chrome, are popular for a reason. If something popular is genuinely your favorite, don't shy away! Come up with a compelling reason why it's your favorite product.
Talk about improvements. How would you make this product better if you were the PM? This shows empathy for the user experience and not settling for the way things are.
Mention differentiation. This product is your favorite, but what about its competitors? How does it stack up to other similar products in the space?
Question 2: How would you improve Instagram Stories?
These types of questions are about product design.
First, identify user segments and their pain points. Then brainstorm ideas and create a product vision that prioritizes features for those users.
Describe a user interacting with the product to illustrate your vision.
Highlight tradeoffs to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the product.
Talk about KPIs and what success looks like.
Instagram already has a large user base, so the team should focus on enabling new features to keep users excited and coming back more often rather than acquiring more people.
Facebook (Meta) strives to connect users and provide a fantastic experience through interactions with friends, so this feature should be designed with that vision in mind.
We should focus on Content Creators as our customer segment. They are highly active, looking for new ways to impress their friends and provide the potential for virality.
We can brainstorm solutions and prioritize one, such as an AR feature where users can "wish" they were somewhere and post a story with their own image superimposed on a public image of that location.
This could be tied in with the existing avatar feature for added fun. Celebrities/influencers can be leveraged to promote the feature.
Success metrics should include:
- Acquisition: the number of users creating and watching these stories. - Engagement: the number of times users create and watch these new AR-powered IG stories. - Retention: the frequency of users returning to create and watch stories daily or weekly.
Question 3: Tell me about a time you made short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.
This is a behavioral question.
"Tell me about a time..." behavioral questions give insight into how you handle difficult situations and prioritize tasks.
Are you able to think strategically under pressure? What methodology do you use to make decisions affecting other team members?
Recently, I had to make a decision. I could automate part of a process that would reduce nine hours of manual work to one hour for a client.
The second option was to fully automate the end-to-end process, which would take four weeks to develop, but it could be used for everyone moving forward.
The process was to change a bank customer's contact preferences to paper mailings if their emails bounced more than three times. Currently, the process is manual.
It includes extracting bounced emails from a reporting tool, tracking the customers, changing their paperless preferences, and creating a notice with a given message.
This process takes up an entire day, so the operations team asked me to prioritize automating it.
I discussed the requirements with the lead developers and operations manager. After some effort versus impact analysis, or ROI, I found two options.
Option 1 was a short-term solution. It involved less effort but would take a week to develop. Option 2 was a long-term solution with higher impact and scalability, but it took more effort and four weeks of development.
Option 1 would continue existing practices at the organization. It would save development time and let us continue rolling out mobile app improvements. However, our email marketing wanted to start sending more emails to customers this year. Naturally, that would increase the bounce rate of emails and put more customers at risk of not receiving notices from us.
Option 2 had a higher return on investment, so it was the winner. I ensured it met the operations team's objectives and got the go-ahead from them.
Option 2 delayed updates to our mobile application. This slowed other product marketing and marketing teams from getting the data they needed for future campaigns.
However, the upside of fixing this process allowed us to run campaigns more smoothly.
Detail the process. Set the stage for your interviewer. What position did you hold, what problem were you facing, and what options did you have to fix it.
Use KPIs. Mention how clear KPIs helped you decide which option to choose. Knowing how to act on data, even in times of uncertainty, is invaluable.
Deliver multiple solutions. Show your interviewer that you deliberated on multiple outcomes and that options were weighted methodically.
Product design interview questions
The most fundamental product manager questions, first and foremost, concern product design.
They're the backbone of PM interviews. Not only that, but they are usually the most fun to answer!
They focus on user experience, interface design, customer journey mapping, and A/B testing.
In these interviews, your interviewer is looking for:
Usually, these questions are very open-ended or abstract.
Typically, they will be based on product design questions. The interviewer will ask you to dive deeper into the technical aspect of the design.
Sample technical questions
How would you handle negative user feedback about YouTube, and how might you address it with the engineering team?
What are the top 3 technology trends that will change the landscapes in the next decade?
How would you explain cloud computing to your grandmother?
How does Google Maps compute ETA?
What happens when you navigate to a website?
How would you diagnose a connection issue with Instagram?
Why is Gmail search slower than Google search?
Every great answer in the PM interview will follow the same general format, regardless of the question.
Always actively listen when the interviewer asks questions or lays out the parameters and constraints.
Make a note of the critical points as they go.
Slowing down and demonstrating that you can listen to directions and process information effectively is also beneficial.
Also, spend some time getting to know your interviewer.
Ask clarifying questions
Don't make the mistake of diving headfirst into the question.
Before proceeding, make sure to ask questions. Even if the question appears simple or straightforward, you should always ask your interviewer clarifying questions.
This way, you can determine the most important things to focus on.
Some clarifying questions you can ask your interviewer are:
Is this product targeting a specific set of users or customers?
Which platforms are our target users using?
Is this product being released on a global or domestic scale?
If you can't think of anything, you can always ask, "So, you're asking me to ?" Is that correct?"
Stop and think
Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before answering.
You would be surprised what an extra 10-20 seconds of reflection can do for the quality of your interview answer.
They'd prefer you take your time to organize your thoughts so that your answer is coherent and easy to follow.
As a product manager, you'll need to act quickly. But not so quickly that you wouldn't have a few seconds to collect your thoughts!
Structure your answers
Provide a structure to your answer. Present this structure to your interviewer or hiring manager before diving in.
This is especially true if there is no right or wrong answer to a question!
This is also an excellent chance to sketch this structure on the whiteboard if one is available.
Many PM questions can fit into a simple three-point structure.
For instance, you can begin your answer by saying something like:
“Alright, I’m going to explore three possible products that fit your question and cover the tradeoffs of each. These three products are X, Y, and Z."
Other questions may require a more complex structure. Either way, giving your interviewer a structure beforehand allows them to get a good read on your answer so they can redirect you if necessary.
Explain your answer
Use the whiteboard as much as possible, so long as you have one at your disposal—Every good product manager has a whiteboard, right?
Lastly, sit up straight and display confidence while answering. Don't forget to make eye contact too!
Given the complexity of PM interview questions, it is not uncommon for interviewees to veer off-track.
That's why it is always a good idea to check in with the interviewer and pivot wherever necessary.
One mistake some new interviewees make is trying to prepare answers ahead of time.
Generally speaking, there are three common scenarios when it comes to necessary pivots. These are:
The interviewer presents concerned body language. If an interviewer changed posture or makes gestures, it can indicate that you're off track. Check-in with the interviewer by asking if it's okay to move on to the next part of the answer: "I’ll now move on to the next portion of my answer. Is that okay?”
You realize your answer is wrong. Instead of getting nervous, the solution is to smoothly pivot by finding a way to redirect the answer. One way to do this is to say something like, "Let me rephrase that" or "Let me clarify my answer."
You forget your point. It's okay to ask for some more time by saying something like, "Can I have a moment to think through the rest of my answer?" This shows that you're taking the interview seriously and want to give your best answer.
Review and summarize
Provide a brief summary of your answer.
This doesn't need to be in-depth. Give a 30-second overview of your answer.
Structure this brief summary the same way you did your original answer.
Pretend that your interviewer is a complete stranger. Break down complex topics into easily digestible pieces.
Obviously, don't explain what a smartphone is or why people use apps! But don't be afraid to explain your product philosophy and how you can make a product team great.
While you're answering questions, talk about things like:
What are successful products you've launched as a product manager, and the knowledge you gained?
How do you talk to users and conduct user research?
How would you implement and plan for new features in a product's roadmap?
How do you define a successful product launch?
What metrics do you use to determine if a product is working well?
How do you work with other product managers on your teams?
Pitfalls and traps
Your product manager interview is emotional. Your head is probably buzzing with excitement and nervousness.
Avoid these common pitfalls.
Not finding KPIs
The interviewers want to see that you’re ahead of the curve.
Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that revolve around the business.
If you don’t know how the company measures success, how will you know what is best for the product?
While a subscription business will focus on user retention, an e-commerce business might look for repeat purchases.
Not Using the Product
Use the company’s product before the interview. Ask your interviewer for a free trial or beta access if it's behind a paywall.
You may be asked how the user interface or experience can be improved.
If you haven't checked out the product, you'll not only be stumped in the interview but also leave a negative impression on your interviewers!
How do I prepare for a product manager interview?
Step 1: Research the company you're applying to. Learn the product manager interview loop for that company.
Step 2: Choose one type of interview question for that role (product sense, behavioral, analytical, strategy, execution, technical, etc).
Step 3: Review the most common interview questions. Create stories from your resume to prepare for your interview. Practice using the STAR method to answer each question.
Step 4: Compare your answers to the most popular answers to interview questions from people who landed the job.
Step 5: Move between interview question categories and repeat.
What makes a good PM interview?
Ultimately, your product manager interview will come down to three things.
Product Vision and Sense: How well can you envision future products to solve user pain points and needs?
Communication: Can you communicate your product ideas and vision to a product team and engineering team to execute?
Culture Fit: Do you align with the company's vision and the ethos of its workers?
Is product management a technical role?
Depending on the company, your product management role may be technical. Companies like Google encourage a solid technical and coding background to succeed in product management positions.
However, many companies don't require a technical background to lead technical teams.