During a Product Management Interview, many interviewer will ask: “What’s your favorite product?” or “Design X for X.”
They ask these product design questions to get a feel of your product vision skills.
These questions appear deceptively simple.
From the mock interview practice sessions at Product Manager Nation, I often see these 3 common mistakes in an answer. They are:
- Not describing the problem first
- Speaking for large groups of people without data
- Not preparing multiple answers before the interview
Not describing the problem first
When asked: “What’s your favorite product?”
Bad candidates start by describing what their favorite product is and which features they like.
For example, they might say: “My favorite product is Apple AirPods because they are super portable and lets me listen to podcasts when I’m walking.”
Don’t make this mistake.
“My favorite product is Apple AirPods. Here’s why: I hate carrying around bulky headphones. I need another bag to carry them and they’re uncomfortable to walk with. I’ve also tried small, tethered headphones but wrapping the unwrapping cords annoy me. I like Apple AirPods because they are super portable and lets me listen to podcasts when I’m walking”
Interviewers want to hear you describe the problem before hearing why it’s your favorite product
Bad product managers fall in love with the solution.
Good product managers fall in love with the problem.
Describe the problem first.
Speaking for large groups of people without data
When asked: “How would you make the product better?”
Bad candidates will support their ideas by speaking for large groups of people.
For example, they might say: “It’d be great if AirPods can light up at night. People love to wear jewelry and show off their style. AirPods can be worn as jewelry.”
There are two problems with how this answer is delivered:
- The assumption in the answer is hard to defend (since it’s subjective)
- You are making bold statements without expertise nor data
“It’d be great if AirPods lit up at night. I love to wear jewelry and showing off my style. I would wear them like jewelry.”
The shift from 3rd person to 1st person makes a huge difference.
No interviewer will can argue against this answer because it is based on your personal preference.
The answer contains a higher quality of truth.
It solves the 2 problems presented above.
Talk in first person (instead of third person) so your answers are easier to defend.
Not preparing multiple answers before the interview
Bad candidates walk into an interview and improvise.
Good candidates have several product answers prepared and are ready share.
Since product management interviews are similar and stakes are high (6-figure job offer at a dream company), why wouldn’t you spend more time preparing?
Prepare a feature idea for the following 3 products:
Having a feature idea for each type will help prepare you for different types of questions.
When a question matches a prepared answer, you’ll appear structured, thoughtful, and wicked smart.
Preparing for a product management interview takes time and effort.
It’s one of the many skills we practice at our product management community: Product Manager Nation.
Knowing these 3 mistakes and practicing with mock interviews will help you ace your next product design question.