100% FREE to post until December 2023!

What questions recruiters should ask Product Managers in the first interview

Published August 26, 2023
One of the most nuanced positions to hire is the Product Manager (PM). A PM's role is multifaceted, bridging the gaps between technology, business goals, and user experience. It's a unique blend that demands a specific set of competencies. They ensure a candidate has the requisite skills and provide a roadmap to determine how a potential hire might influence a product's trajectory and a company's overall success. Let's discuss three core competencies that you should be able to identify from the first interview with Product Management candidates:

What to look for when hiring product managers

  • End-to-end Product Development: This speaks to a PM's capability to oversee a product's entire lifecycle, from conception to launch, encompassing market research, team collaboration, and effective execution.
  • Agility and User-Centricity: With software development methodologies emphasising adaptability, a PM must quickly respond to market changes while consistently accounting for the end-user's needs and feedback.
  • Prioritisation and Decision Making: In a resource-constrained environment, making the right calls on which features to develop or which stakeholder requests to prioritise can make the difference between a product's success or stagnation.

Questions to ask a product manager during the first interview

When recruiting for a key position, such as the product manager, you must identify these competencies early on. Here are some example questions you can ask that, depending on the candidate's response, can demonstrate whether they possess the right competencies to move to the next stage:

Interview question to identify the end-to-end product development expertise of PMs:

Question: Can you walk me through a product you managed from concept to launch?
Candidate's response:
"I was responsible for developing and launching Product X during my tenure at Company Y. The idea was conceived based on customer feedback seeking a solution for a particular problem. Starting with market research, I collaborated with the design team for initial prototypes, tested them with users, and iterated based on feedback. Working closely with the engineering team ensured the final product was aligned with our vision. Within three months of launch, we achieved a 20% adoption rate among our target users."
The response showcases a comprehensive and structured approach to product development. The candidate's decision to initiate the product journey based on customer feedback signals a customer-centric mindset. Their collaboration with various teams highlights the importance of cross-functional teamwork in product development. The conclusion, showcasing a measurable outcome, is tangible proof of the candidate's capability to deliver results and remain focused on generating value.

Interview question to identify a PM's agility and user-centricity

Question: Describe a time when you had to pivot or significantly change a product direction based on feedback. How did you handle it?
Candidate's response: *"During the development of Product A at Company B, feedback from beta testers showed that while enterprises loved it, individual users felt overwhelmed. Recognising this disparity, I collaborated with our teams to create two distinct interfaces: one simplified for individual users and another feature-rich for enterprises. This pivot led to improved satisfaction scores from both user segments."
Evaluation: Demonstrating agility and a user-centric approach, this candidate's response underlines the importance of feedback during product development. Based on user feedback, their decision to pivot showcases adaptability — a trait vital for ensuring products resonate with their target audiences. Moreover, the candidate's collaboration with design and engineering teams shows their capability to lead and work seamlessly through significant changes. An adaptable PM with a user-first approach is invaluable, ensuring products are agile and aligned with market needs.

Interview question to assess a Product Manager's prioritisation approach and decision-making:

Question: How do you prioritise features or requests from different stakeholders?
Candidate's response:
"At Company C, I employed a 'Weighted Scoring Model' for prioritisation. Each request was scored based on its impact on KPIs, feasibility, and urgency. After assigning values, I discussed the prioritised list with all teams, ensuring a data-driven and aligned product strategy."
Evaluation: This response shows a structured and analytical approach to prioritisation and decision-making. The 'Weighted Scoring Model' showcases the candidate's systematic thinking and a focus on measuring value generation. Their multi-criteria evaluation — from impact on KPIs to feasibility — reveals a holistic perspective, ensuring chosen features align with business outcomes and technical possibilities. Additionally, their emphasis on collaboration stresses the importance of team alignment in product decisions.
For those in the talent acquisition field aiming to deepen their understanding of product management to make more informed hiring decisions, here are some valuable resources to research further:
  1. Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan - While this book offers insights into the world of PMs, it can also provide recruiters with an understanding of the skills and mindset required for the role.
  2. Mind the Product - This community can serve as a recruitment goldmine with its treasure trove of articles, videos, and training sessions.
  3. Lean Product and Lean Analytics by Ben Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll - Understanding the principles of lean methodologies can aid recruiters in pinpointing candidates who can adapt and thrive in agile environments.
  4. ProductCoalition - Going through real-world insights and case studies here can help recruiters gauge the challenges PMs face and the competencies needed to address them.
  5. Measure What Matters by John Doerr - Grasping the concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can offer recruiters insights into a candidate's ability to set and prioritise product goals. Investing time in these resources can significantly refine the recruiting lens, ensuring you're hiring not just a candidate but a future product leader.