Offering Managers (OM) at IBM drive the technologies that power today's enterprises: cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and business operations. The IBM offering management team bridges the technical and business worlds, as they guide ideas from ideation to release.
Traditionally known as product managers (PM), IBM offering managers manage service offerings across markets, clients, and industries. This name change reflects IBM's revamp of the product management role. The company wants to bring technical acumen and business skills together. So, IBM extended the scope of traditional PMs. The OM role has 4 main responsibilities: market analysis, solution owner, go-to-market, and business operations.
Market Analysis - understanding market trends and what competitors are doing to deliver a unique value proposition Solution Owner - working with engineering to build products Go-To-Market - positioning the product and building material to help sales in the selling process Business Operations - managing the day to day needs of the business
Offering managers can be found establishing cross-discipline priorities and timelines, gathering feedback from the field, or speaking at conferences to educate clients. In this guide, we explore the interview process to become an offering manager at IBM.
IBM hires both entry-level as well as experienced offering managers. Entry-level offering managers are either college grads or those with a few years of work experience. Experienced offering managers are typically those with several years of product-related work experience, but there have also been offering managers without prior product management experience who get hired and thrive at IBM.
Applications can be submitted directly on IBM's careers webpage for both AOM entry-level roles as well as experienced OM job openings.
If the recruiter believes you may be a good fit, you may receive a digital exercise. This is a timed exercise where you will log onto an online portal to complete some behavioral and product sense questions (similar to take-home assignments for other product management prrograms). Review your resume and be able to expound on your experience and personal projects.
Some of the questions will be provided ahead of time, and some will not. For some of the prompts, you'll be expected to record yourself speaking your answers aloud.
On average, you can expect to hear back within 1-2 weeks.
Next, you will have one to three phone interviews with a current IBM offering manager.
Expect either a product design or strategy question. Remember that interviewing is a two-way street. Use this opportunity to also see if you think you would be a good fit at IBM. You can expect to hear back within roughly 1-2 weeks.
After the video interview is the on-site interview. This stage is a bit different for those applying for an entry-level role and those applying for an experienced position.
Entry-level applicants applying for the associate offering management (AOM) role will have 2 interviews with current offering managers and a group exercise. IBM interviews AOMs in batches, flying in many candidates on the same day. The 2 interviews with current OMs will be similar to your video interview, where you can expect either a product design or strategy question. In the group exercise, the group of candidates will be broken up into smaller groups and presented with a problem in the real world. The goal here is to work collaboratively to find a solution and show that you'll be a great offering manager. You will be given 2 hours to come up with a solution, after which your team will present your findings to the rest of the group.
Experienced applicants applying for an offering management role will have 3-4 interviews with current offering managers. These interviews will be similar to your video interview as well, where you can expect either a product design or strategy question. On average, you can expect to hear back within 1-2 weeks.
With behavioral questions, it is important to show that you will work well with everyone: product managers, engineers, designers, sales, and legal. Focus on communicating well: enunciate, speak slowly, and speak with meaning.
Prepare a good talk through of your resume. Have a “60 seconds to wow” pitch and be prepared to provide clear and in-depth explanations of each of your experiences that you’d want to highlight. These experiences can include previous work experience, side projects, classes, or even hobbies. Think about not only what you’ve achieved, but also what you learned, the challenges you faced, and the strategies you used to succeed.
Prepare real anecdotes so you can use specific examples. Your interviewer already has your resume so those anecdotes will add a more human touch to your application, making you more memorable. Think about anecdotes that show off how you were customer-obsessed, dealt with ambiguity, and had a growth mindset in approaching the task at hand.
Why do you want to work here? Why this role and team? Think carefully about why you are applying for this role, and why this team specifically. It helps to know as much about the role and team that you’re applying for. Try to watch tech talks or conference keynote speeches from the team online. It will also leave a good impression if you have previously used a feature of the team and can speak to it. At that point, the interviewer will likely probe you for feedback on the product. Use this opportunity to show how you would converse and work with your interviewer as if you are already a member of the team.
To put your best foot forward, record yourself speaking. Many people have weird quirks about the way they present themselves. Some may jiggle or shake their leg. Others may use excessive filler words (like uh or um). It is nearly impossible to catch these quirks on your own. So, recording and re-watching yourself is a good way to be more cognizant of how you are presenting yourself. It is important to show that you will work well with everyone: product managers, engineers, designers, sales, and legal. Focus on communicating well: enunciate, speak slowly, and speak with meaning.
Product design questions test your ability to design a new product or improve an existing one. Be user-focused. The key is to ensure you're organized with your thoughts and have a clear goal in mind that will solve the user's problem(s).
One of the best frameworks is to go "broad then deep". First, "go broad" by listing all the ideas and solutions that come to mind. Then, pick one to "go deep" on and explain why that is the solution you chose.
Another approach we see candidates have success with is The Triangle Method. This framework will help you articulate your thoughts and help nail your points into the interviewer's mind. To accomplish this, first list three points. Then, dive into each point. Finally, summarize your three points at the end. This will help you articulate your points and subpoints.
Be sure to demonstrate competency in defining metrics as well as understanding what to do when metrics change. Be methodical and show that you make data-driven decisions.
Strategy questions assess your ability to reason about competitive landscapes and high-level product direction decisions. The key to success in these interviews is starting at a high-level with the goals of the product, and then drilling deeper into actions and metrics.
With regards to metrics, we recommend employing the GAME framework, as demonstrated in this PM lesson.
Be methodical and show that you make data-driven decisions.
Offering management candidates are evaluated against a number of dimensions. The interviewer will assign star ratings (out of 5) to each of the dimensions.
While the dimensions are not public knowledge, you will be generally evaluated around the following abilities:
After each interview, feedback is digitally submitted to the hiring manager. Feedback includes signals for the aforementioned dimensions as well as a yes or no hire recommendation. The recruiter will then work with the hiring manager to select the best candidates to move forward in the hiring process.
It may be helpful to check out some of IBM's keynote speeches from their annual Think conference in San Francisco. Replays can be found on YouTube. Find something that interests you about IBM's direction and vision. To demonstrate passion, you can potentially bring that up in your interviews.
Your communication skills will be heavily evaluated in your interviews. While the process is less technical and more on the behavioral side, remember that offering managers are expected to drive alignment and the offering vision across different teams and stakeholders. Enunciate, speak slowly, and speak with meaning.
To get the latest on IBM's direction, read the most recent reports on the company's investor relations page. The main areas of focus for IBM right now are cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and data analytics. It may be worthwhile to explore the marketing pages for some of IBM's offerings in those areas in preparation for your interview. This may spark some curiosity as to what IBM is doing in the enterprise tech space or it may give you ideas in your interviews.
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