Bart Krawczyk Learning how to build beautiful products without burning myself out (again). Writing about what I discovered along the way.

Common product manager interview questions and answers

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Common Product Manager Interview Questions And Answers

Editor’s note: This post was updated on 14 April, 2023 to consolidate similar questions and add four new questions commonly asked during product manager interviews.

Product manager interview questions are hard, and for good reason.

Spots for product manager jobs are limited. After all, companies generally need fewer product managers than engineers or designers. That demand-supply difference makes the job market very competitive for both entry-level and experienced product people.

If you want to get into the industry or advance your product management career, you must do better than just OK in your next product manager job interview. You need to differentiate yourself from hundreds of other candidates. The key is preparation.

How to answer common product manager interview questions

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to answer some of the most commonly asked product manager interview questions, including:

  1. Tell me about yourself and why you chose product management?
  2. What are the responsibilities of a product manager? Can you provide an example of how you’ve applied them to develop a product vision?
  3. What’s the most impactful product you’ve worked on?
  4. What’s an example of your greatest achievement and biggest failure?
  5. Pick a product and walk me through your product strategy for it
  6. What’s your favorite product, and how would you improve it?
  7. How do you get your team to commit to a deadline?
  8. Describe a situation in which you disagreed with a developer on your team
  9. What would you change about our product?
  10. How do you prioritize tasks and manage your time?
  11. How do you manage conflict, such as competing stakeholder interests or conflicting priorities within the team?
  12. How do you handle feedback, both positive and negative?

As a bonus, we’ll also offer tips to help you prepare for behavioral questions that you might encounter during a product manager interview.

1. Tell me about yourself and why you chose product management?

As straightforward as it is, this is one of the most critical questions to prepare for. You’ll hear it in literally every product manager job interview you take — and “tell me about yourself” comes up in probably in every job interview in general.

Companies are looking for passionate employees. The PM role comes with a lot of stress and responsibility, and people who get into product management just for money or prestige will quickly burn out. This interview question gives you a chance to explain your background and seeks to validate whether you have what it takes to thrive in the role.

This question is an excellent opportunity to offer the recruiter snippets of stories you’d like to share during the interview. Treat it as your opportunity to make a first impression and spark the recruiter’s interest, not as just an icebreaker.

What recruiters want to know

  • A quick refresher of you as a professional (don’t expect them to have memorized your CV)
  • Important highlights to remember and follow up on later
  • Your overall communication skills
  • Do you understand the scope of the role?
  • Are you motivated enough to push through the hardships of the role?
  • Are you a good storyteller?

How to answer

  • Tell a coherent, interesting, and personal story. No need to go all the way back, but mention how you started your career, how you got into product management, and what milestones shaped you the most
  • Be sure to mention things you want the recruiter to follow up on; if you have a remarkable pivot story you want to share, mention it briefly when walking the recruiter through your story
  • Explain how the profession aligns with your strengths and personality traits and your values and beliefs
  • Use this question to present yourself as a perfect fit for the product manager role

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Reciting the CV — that’s plain boring
  • Focusing too much on the personal side; it’s OK to share a fun fact or two, but focus on the professional side
  • Lack of passion or excitement in your answer
  • Wasting the opportunity by answering in a few sentences or, on the contrary, telling an exhaustive story of your life. Try to keep the duration of your answer under about three minutes
  • Listing product management activities without explaining the why behind them. For example, “I want to be a product manager to impact the product.” Why do you want that?

2. What are the responsibilities of a product manager? Can you provide an example of how you’ve applied them to develop a product vision?

Product management is a vaguely defined term that differs a lot from company to company. In some companies, product managers focus more on execution; in others, they’re more involved with discovery or strategy. And establishing and communicating a product vision is one of the essential jobs of a product manager, regardless of the company.

People want to make sure you have experience crafting and maintaining a product vision as a primary part of the PM role. If you don’t, you at least should be able to describe a vision of the products you worked on.

It’s critical to establish a shared understanding; both the interviewer and interviewee should view product management in the same way to avoid disappointment.

What recruiters want to know

  • Is your understanding of the role aligned with the company’s expectations of the position?
  • Do you have experience setting and maintaining a product vision through your duties as a PM?
  • Do you understand the vision of products you’ve worked on? Were you interested in them?

How to answer

  • Before the interview, do your research to understand what product managers do at that company. Read the product manager job description carefully
  • Make sure your answer aligns with how the company describes the role, but don’t try to fit perfectly into the job description — especially given that sometimes those who write them are not fully aware of the position
  • Ideally, you should mention an example of a product vision you co-created from scratch
  • Explain how the vision was created, why it was relevant, and how it was used to guide product direction
  • Make sure you sound excited; dispassionate product managers are neither efficient nor inspiring

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Giving vague answers and lacking solid examples — e.g., “product managers manage the product.” There should always be a North Star of some sort. If products you worked on truly didn’t have a vision, improvise: perhaps there was a set of goals that served as a guiding direction
  • Misunderstanding the role — e.g., saying the product manager should focus on execution when the company is looking for a discovery-focused product manager
  • Failing to clearly articulate why the product vision was relevant. Product managers must understand the vision from the ground up. Memorizing a sentence written on the wall is not enough
  • Failing to explain how the vision impacted product decisions. There is a reason we set the vision, and it’s not to sound fancy

3. What’s the most impactful/important product you’ve worked on?

This is one of my favorite product manager interview questions. There’s a difference between delivering an app for 50 million users vs. building an internal product for five internal users. Understanding the most impactful product you delivered can quickly reveal the scale you operated on.

What recruiters want to know

  • Have you actually launched something significant?
  • What’s your definition of impact/importance?

How to answer

  • Have one specific product already in mind
  • Clearly outline why it was impactful: How many users did you have? How much revenue did it generate?
  • Give clear context of how you contributed to its success

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Choosing an impactful product where you had a little impact yourself. It’s better to choose a less impactful product that you owned than a widely popular product on which you just helped out a bit
  • Lacking clear criteria on what impact means to you. Ideally, it should align with the values and mission of the company you are applying for
  • Focusing only on numbers. If five people use your product but it literally changes their lives, that’s more impactful than, say, a wallpaper generator for thousands

4. What’s an example of your greatest achievement and biggest failure?

Past performance is some kind of indicator of future performance. Recruiters believe that your biggest successes more or less reflect what type of impact they can expect you to deliver for the new company, and that you can and have learned from your mistakes.

Further, taking ownership and accountability for your failures is an important part of being a successful product manager.  The scale of your failures indicates the scale of your impact.

What recruiters want to know

  • Have you made a truly impactful contribution in your previous role? Will you be able to replicate it in our company?
  • Can you openly admit and own your failures?
  • What scale of problems have you tackled in your career?
  • What have you learned from failure?

How to answer

  • Pick an achievement that’s truly yours. Teamwork is important, but you don’t want to give an example when you played only a tiny part
  • Ideally, your example should align with the role description and company mission. If a company is looking for a strategy-focused PM, give an example related to strategy
  • Go big: don’t be afraid to talk about your biggest failures. Most recruiters would rather hire someone who has already broken their teeth in product management than someone who has yet to face any challenges
  • Clearly outline how the failure made you a better PM

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Using “we” or “our team” too much. Recruiters are interested in hearing about your achievements. If the achievement was a team win, clearly online how you contributed to that success
  • Picking impactful but irrelevant achievements. If you managed to climb mount Everest, that’s a fantastic story, but it doesn’t clearly outline how good a product manager you are
  • Choosing a small, insignificant failure. This will position you as an inexperienced PM who hasn’t had a chance to fail yet or as someone afraid to admit defeat. Both work against you
  • Not owning the failure and playing a blame game — e.g., “My biggest failure was missing a milestone because developers didn’t meet their deadlines”

5. Pick a product and walk through your product strategy

Without a clear strategy, products often become a combination of not related features. Great product managers are comfortable working with product strategy.

What recruiters want to know

  • Have you worked on a product at the strategic level in the past?
  • Do you understand the products you worked on deeply?
  • Does strategy drive your daily decisions, or are they based on a hunch?

How to answer

  • Be clear and concise; a product manager should be able to explain their product strategy to a five-year-old
  • Explain the why behind the strategy: What problems were you solving? What impacts was the strategy driving?
  • Show excitement
  • Be ready to give some examples of how the strategy impacted decisions and priorities

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Outlining a broad, vague strategy. For example, “Being the best consumer app in the world” is a poor strategy
  • Lacking a strategy
  • Rambling about the strategy or going into unnecessary details. Your answer should be easy to follow

6. What’s your favorite product and how would you improve it?

This is another classic product manager interview question. I treat it as an easier version of the “How would you improve X?” question. Here, the recruiter throws you a bone and allows you to choose the product yourself, so you had better be prepared!

What recruiters want to know

  • What criteria do you use to evaluate products?
  • Do you have a product sense? Can you clearly articulate the reasons why this particular product resonates with you?

How to answer

  • It’s not a must-have, but I recommend choosing a unique product because there’s a higher chance you’ll stick in the recruiter’s memory. Don’t be the hundredth person to bring up Google Maps
  • Briefly explain what the product is, the problems it solves, and how it’s better than its competitors
  • For the improvement parts, identify the user of the product. What are their unaddressed pain points? How can you change the product to address those pain points?

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Simply citing the name of a product and expecting the recruiter to pull your teeth for a detailed explanation of why it’s your favorite how you would improve it
  • Suggesting improvements without a clear focus on users and their pain points
  • Lack of strong criteria justifying why the product is your favorite

7. How do you get your team to commit to a deadline?

Most people don’t like deadlines, but we need them. Without deadlines, planning, estimating, and aligning teams would be impossible. Product managers must feel comfortable working with deadlines, and getting the whole team to commit to one is the hardest part.

What recruiters want to know

  • What type of leader are you?
  • How do you approach deadlines, and what’s the probability that you’ll actually meet the deadlines you commit to?

How to answer

  • Tell a story in which you involved the team in deadline creation
  • Ideally, there would have been some assertiveness on your end — say, stakeholders wanted something sooner, but you stood your ground and rejected their request. Talk about situations like that
  • Describe a situation in which you collaborated with the team and stakeholders to renegotiate the scope to meet a deadline

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Setting a deadline without the team’s contribution. That’s a huge red flag and no-go for many companies looking to hire a product manager
  • Talking about the carrot-on-a-stick approach, pushing the team to work harder or forcing them to work overtime
  • Not understanding the why behind the deadline. The first step is always to understand why the deadline is relevant. It will help you motivate the team and renegotiate the scope if necessary

8. Describe a situation in which you disagreed with a developer on your team

Building products is a team sport, and even the best teams have conflicts. In theory, the more conflicts you’ve resolved in the past, the better leadership material you are.

What recruiters want to know

  • What’s the scale of conflicts you’ve resolved?
  • Are you genuinely interested in other people’s opinions?
  • Can you reach a positive outcome without harming the relationship?

How to answer

  • The more challenging the problem you choose, the better; no one is interested in the time you disagreed about who should do the dishes
  • Walk the recruiter through your approach to solving the problem step by step; how you reached an outcome is even more important than the outcome itself
  • Ideally, choose an example where the solution was unique/creative

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Choosing a weak problem — e.g., a disagreement on what time to hold a meeting
  • Choosing a problem that was solved by someone else
  • Solving the problem by railroading the other person or using your position of authority

9. What would you change about our product?

This is a great question to gauge whether or not you did your research. Do you really understand the product and who it’s trying to serve? Did you look into its specific features and differentiators?

What recruiters want to know

  • Did you take the time to research our product?
  • Are you genuinely excited about the product we offer?
  • Are you attentive to details and do you understand what our target market needs?

How to answer

  • Give constructive feedback. Don’t rip the product a new one by being overly critical
  • Be empathetic in your answers. Show that you want to make the product better and that’s why you’re interested in joining the team. Be constructive and polite to demonstrate a positive communication style; this will also reflect on how you collaborate with others
  • Use data in your answers. If you did your research, prove that! Talk about industry trends, competitor products, or available consumer data to support your recommendations

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Critiquing the product without offering viable solutions. This is unhelpful and may make you look like a finger-pointer
  • Going without mentioning the positives of the product too. If you’re only criticizing and not highlighting good things about the product, you’ll sound like you don’t actually like the product at all
  • Being overly negative. I can’t emphasize this enough: the way you communicate here is going to show hiring managers and recruiters how you deal with tough conversations. If you’re too hostile, odds are they won’t think you’re a good fit

10. How do you prioritize tasks and manage your time?

Time management is one of a product manager’s greatest balancing acts. Sometimes it feels like I have pre-meeting meetings, meetings about those meetings, and so on and so forth.

Having sound time management and prioritization skills is a huge factor for thriving in a PM role, so it’s important to demonstrate that you can handle it.

What recruiters want to know

  • Can we rely on you to get all of your responsibilities done?
  • Do you know how to order tasks in terms of importance and execute them accordingly?
  • Can you manage competing demands?

How to answer

  • Discuss specific tools and methods that you use to prioritize items and create good time management practices. Everyone has some method, whether or not there’s a specific name for it, so explain it to the best of your ability. If you use software or apps, share that too and how it helps keep you grounded
  • Talk about how these examples have successfully helped you. For example, if you use time blocking, explain how the way you structure your day into groups helped save you time or avoid distractions
  • Flex your flexibility. Workloads change, new stakeholders will want your time, and more meetings will be booked on your calendar
  • Make sure you emphasize context. Prioritizing tasks is impossible without understanding the deadlines, stakeholders, and requirements around each task, so highlight your ability to evaluate the context around these items effectively

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Being too stringent. Things will change, and you may have to adapt your style based on the circumstances. Don’t make it sound like your success depends on using one particular tool or framework
  • Giving basic examples. Saying “I like to create a physical check-list” but not providing any specifics into how this has worked for you in the past sounds like a lack-luster answer
  • Focusing on your own time only. You work with a team, so don’t focus your answers around only you — aligning priorities across the entire team is an important component of product management

What’s your communication style?

The way you communicate with your team, as well as with other teams within your organization, says a lot about you. Nobody wants to work with a demanding, rude person. This question gives insight into how you can lead a team and work with others.

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What recruiters want to know

  • How does your language come across?
  • Are you inclusive of other teams and functions within the organization?
  • Can we rely on you to effectively communicate important information?

How to answer

  • Be honest. It’s easy to say what you think they want to hear, but the jig will be up if you get hired and your communication style is way different from what you answered in the interview
  • Explain how your style works for you and how it’s received by others. Ideally, you can provide specific examples that showcase your communication skills in a positive way
  • Emphasize context, again. Communicating to your own team vs. to executive leadership is very different, so it’s important to emphasize that you have the awareness to adjust and adapt accordingly

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Being too vague. If you say you’re a very direct communicator, provide an example of that. Don’t leave them guessing as to what you meant

11. How do you manage conflict, such as competing stakeholder interests or conflicting priorities within the team?

Conflict management is nobody’s favorite thing to do. But it’s important to be able to articulate how you manage conflict when it inevitably arises, whether that’s within the team or with external parties.

What recruiters want to know

  • Can you manage challenges and conflicts professionally?
  • How is your relationship and stakeholder management?
  • How strong is your ability to find common ground and meaningful solutions?

How to answer

  • Emphasize professionalism and good listening skills. At the end of the day, you are all working toward the same goals. It’s important to hear everyone out equally and avoid creating unnecessary tension
  • Give an example of a time when you faced a particularly challenging conflict. How did you overcome it? If this hasn’t happened to you, talk about how you would handle a situation that you’ve seen before, even if you didn’t actively participate
  • Be empathetic. Conflict is uncomfortable, awkward, and frankly, no fun. Share your ability to hear everyone out and respect differing opinions
  • Explain your approach to conflict management. What specific methods and activities do you engage in to mend the conflict?

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Playing favorites. It’s easy to become biased, especially if you have a personal relationship with some of the individuals involved in the conflict. Make it a point that you will listen to everyone, regardless of who they are
  • Avoiding responsibility. Pointing fingers won’t get you anywhere, so be accountable where it applies

12. How do you handle feedback, both positive and negative?

Being receptive to feedback is necessary for all PMs. You can’t make the product better if you don’t take feedback well, and most of the time, it’s not personal.

Being able to listen to feedback, adjust your process moving forward, and guide the team based on that feedback helps shape great products and even better product culture.

From a personal standpoint, feedback is necessary for growth as a leader, manager, employee, mentor, etc. Whether it’s formal feedback in a 1:1 with higher-ups or informal feedback from your team, you as an employee need to demonstrate your willingness to hear what’s working and what’s not.

What recruiters want to know

  • Can the feedback you receive about the product help improve the product overall?
  • Are people going to be willing to give you feedback in the first place?
  • Can you put your own ideas or narrative aside and effectively listen to others?
  • Can you adjust if things aren’t working?

How to answer

  • Emphasize the importance of feedback. Whether positive or negative, whether it’s about the product you’re working on or about you as an employee, the feedback you receive is an opportunity for growth
  • Explain how you internalize the feedback and make sustainable, conscious efforts or changes based on it
  • Highlight an eagerness for feedback. By welcoming either criticisms or positive commentary, you’re showing a sense of low ego and that you’re a team player above all

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Being negative or defensive about poor feedback. Nobody likes to hear what they’re doing wrong, but sometimes it’s necessary. Don’t give a sense that you only accept positive feedback
  • Saying that you don’t usually get negative feedback. Though that may be true, it’s important to answer this question with your ego aside. Everyone can improve on something

Preparing for behavioral questions

It’s impossible to prepare for every behavioral product manager interview question — there are endless possible variations, and every company looks for something different.

That’s why you should prepare stories, not answers. Think about the most defining moments in your product management career — challenges, failures and achievements — and choose a few of the most interesting. Then, refresh the details and practice talking about them passionately.

When you encounter a behavioral question during a job interview, all you’ll need to do is rack your brain for your prepared stories and pick the one that best answers the question at hand.

If you truly don’t have a story for a particular product manager interview question, then pivot the question itself. For example, if you are asked to describe a situation where you said no to a client and you can’t think of any, dodge the question by saying something like, “I don’t recall that particular case right now, but let me tell you a similar story when I said no to my co-worker.”

Sometimes, the key to acing a product manager job interview is thinking on your feet.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Bart Krawczyk Learning how to build beautiful products without burning myself out (again). Writing about what I discovered along the way.

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