Looking to Hire Product Managers? Here are Key Questions to Ask
by Anthony Coggine

When hiring a product manager the interview questions have to be pointed in order to highlight their skills in the field. Firstly, it is important to understand their experiences and gauge their knowledge.

Ask questions about their time working in the industry and the methods they employed when running the show. This will give you a much greater insight into their managing philosophy which will help you gauge the fit. After all, the fit of the employee is essential. Here are 4 effective interview questions to ask product managers:

1. How much experience do you have in our company’s industry?

Gauging experience is always important for every single type of interview. No matter the flavor, the candidate’s experience is one of the key talking points for the first, second, and final interview.

However, you may miss out on some specifics. Be sure to ask about relevant experience in your company’s industry. Even if they have experience as a product manager, do they have the necessary experience with your target market, with your clients, and your company culture?

Try asking a few questions to delve deeper into their experience:

  • What product management methodologies have you used in the past?
  • What product management methodology was most effective for you, in your opinion?
  • Who are some of your previous clients?
  • How large were your development teams?
  • How involved were you with upper-level management’s decisions?

2. What is a mistake you made as a product manager? How did you fix it?

While it can be quite uncomfortable to bring up blunders, mishaps, and miscalculations, it is entirely necessary. When you ask this question of a product manager the only bad response is: “I’ve never made a mistake.”

Unfortunately, with all the moving parts of product development, it is impossible not to make at least a small error. You’re not required to be perfect to be a perfect product manager. You simply have to acknowledge your mistakes, own up to them, adapt, and come up with a solution.

So, when you ask this question of a product manager, you’re not looking into what kind of error they made or how big the error was. Rather, you’re looking for how they react under pressure, how they self-assess, and how capable they in relation to finding solutions.

3. How do you deal with miscommunication?

Product management is all about communication. Whether product managers are talking to clients, developers, or executives, they must remain clear, consistent, and concise. In addition, they must be able to adapt to different communication styles in order to effectively convey concerns, relay progress, and give directives.

Miscommunication is an inevitability. With so much going into product development, and with so many hands in the pot, it’s practically impossible to avoid miscommunication. However, a skilled product manager understands how to quickly allay fears, put resentments to bed, and remedy broken communication channels.

4. How do you create a solid plan for product development?

The product plan is the most important aspect of the product managers job. Through extensive research, involving collecting marketing data, researching technical aspects of the product, and creating an initial budget, time, and cost estimate.

Every product manager you interview should elucidate how and why they collect a piece of data, how they synthesize business intelligence, and how they create actionable steps for the development team to follow.

Conclusion

Product managers are vital parts of the development team. They use their expertise formed from a wide pool of sources to assist in every part of the development process. They can use their technical knowledge to expunge flaws from the product and offer insight on possible routes the development team could take to make things smoother.

They can also offer their wide knowledge of market research to aid in the search for the product’s identity. Product managers are proficient in the delicate art of research and will use the findings to create an identity for the product.

In many ways, the product manager is an important part of the development team and the marketing team. Most of all, however, they excel at finding a balance between the executive suite and the development team.

Product managers have the knowledge to make technical suggestions to the development team while managing the demands of the executive suite and assuage their fears. This ability to be the intermediary is where product managers really show their value. Sometimes, in order for a rocky transition to a new phase go smoothly, all it takes is cool heads and patience. That is what product managers are the masters of, staying cool.