Any list of product manager interview questions that come up time and time again is bound to feel incomplete, or even slightly inaccurate.
Don’t worry—that’s because the way the PM interview is structured at each particular company can change.
The internet is awash with articles and courses on specific techniques to ace interviews at FAANG (or now MAANG) companies, particularly for their US offices. However, this article is not intended to copy or improve on the wealth of information already out there.
Instead, if you’re looking to become a product manager, the goal is to help you start thinking about the interesting challenges awaiting you during an average PM interview, at your average SaaS company.
If you’d like to skip ahead to a particular section or group of questions, simply use the clickable menu:
- Before your product manager interview
- Product theory and practice product manager interview questions
- General product manager interview questions
- Final thoughts
Before your product manager interview
Just before you start practicing your product manager interview questions, it’s important to think about the context of them first.
It’s entirely possible to find yourself in a position where the hiring manager has never actually hired a PM before. You may be invited for an interview at a startup or scale-up, where the product function doesn’t exist yet. Think about would you approach those situations.
Equally important for you, as a candidate, is realizing that the type of questions an interviewer has selected is indicative of the start of product maturity of a company (this is not directly related to a company’s size), as well as a company’s culture.
Thinking about the wider product context within which these questions are being asked will not just help you perform optimally, but also to get a good insight into the role at the company.
Product theory and practice product manager interview questions
Let’s start with some questions which involve detail-oriented answers.
Yes, these seem quite un-intimidating at first, but rest assured that the interviewer is looking for you to show off your experience and product know-how.
1. What is your favorite prioritization framework, and why?
Well, where does this product manager interview question come from?
This is essentially a version of a recurring topic in any product manager interview process: How do you make decisions?
Don’t worry so much about saying “I’m a huge WSJF fan” or “I ♥ JTBD”. Being able to explain your thought process is infinitely more important than including the latest product buzzwords.
The hiring manager is looking for assurance that there is a sound logic embedded in your work process, that you will not simply jump into action without thinking about the consequences of wasting away development time.
Pro tip: Familiarize yourself with, say, the top 10-15 frameworks (or see them in action by trying out a tool like Craft.io) and reflect upon which of them might be more suitable for the stage that both the company and its product are in.
2. What has been your biggest success as a product manager so far?
This is an interesting product manager interview question to be asked if you have never worked as a PM before. Have no fear—anything can be tackled with a bit of preparation!
If you haven’t checked it yet, look at our previous article on how to piece together a product manager resume, even if you have never held an official PM position before. This is a continuation of that exact same narrative.
Pro tip: Draft a narrative to approach this question before the interview takes place. If you have specific on the job experience, use it and remember to mention how you knew that it was a success.
No experience? Think back to those times when you were the primary decision-maker, operating in a context in which you did not possess nearly as much information as you would have liked.
3. What has been your biggest failure so far as a product manager?
Yes, there’s most definitely a way of turning a failure into a success. The key point here is to demonstrate (in hindsight) an understanding about why things didn’t go as planned or failed to produce the expected results.
Your level of maturity as a PM then is not the same as it is now. If the company does decide to make you an offer, they know that you bring in the experience of having learned through your own mistakes.
Pro tip: Delivered all the features but the hockey stick growth curve still failed to materialize? Use that example to illustrate how you have since become a more data-driven product manager. Not to mention a PM that knows the difference between output and outcome.
4. How do you know if your product has been successful?
Or, conversely, how do you know if your product has not been a success so far?
This is one of those product manager interview questions that can cause you to stumble.
Do you actually know what you are doing? Do you know in what way you have either been contributing to the company’s bottom line or delivering results in a different way?
To put it simply: So do you know how to do things with a purpose, or are you just trying to look busy?
Pro tip: the keyword “metrics” should definitely be a part of your answer.
5. How would you spend your first 90 days as a product manager?
Also known as “if we are just an upstart with very little to offer in the way of onboarding, guidance, support, expertise, mentoring, would you panic?”
This product manager interview question makes perfect sense in an interview when the company wants to hire someone with considerable seniority.
Essentially, they are looking for either a PM with a number of years as an individual contributor, or someone hired to be a future Head of Product. The decision-makers are looking to see if you know how to work independently.
But be careful: it could also be the case that the company is looking for a rainmaker to save them from bankruptcy.
Pro tip: Getting to know a company’s ins and outs is probably the most important task a product manager needs to accomplish during the first 90 days. After you have mentioned this in your reply, ask the interviewer what their expectations are for your first 90, 180, and 360 days. That will give you a fair idea of the situation you may be walking into.
6. How would you decide whether to build this shiny new feature or not?
Just between the two of us—shiny new features and breakthrough genius ideas are a dime a dozen.
But that’s probably not the answer you might want to go with during a product manager interview. Everyone can have extremely relevant flashlights of inspiration, but hiring managers tend to favor those who show qualities of restraint and afterthought.
Pro tip: Talk at length on how you would evaluate the match between this proposed shiny feature and the product roadmap (including ongoing work), the product and the company’s strategy. Here’s a bit of MBA jargon for you: what would be the opportunity cost of both pursuing and of dropping this feature?
General product manager interview questions
While the last set were quite specific, you’ll definitely get asked some questions about product management that are purposefully vague.
These tend to worry interviewees more due to their open nature, but if you understand what the interviewer is looking for, you’ll be able to face them with no fear.
Let’s briefly go through a few of them and how to answer:
7. How do you eliminate risk?
The hiring manager might have at least three different things in mind when asking this product manager interview question:
- How do you ensure alignment between business goals and development?
- How do you validate assumptions?
- How do you vouch for the sanity of a product?
The low-hanging fruit answers to these might be: a roadmap process that locks-in company-wide alignment; prototyping and interviewing customers before prioritizing; and reducing technical debt, as well as implementing cyber security best practices.
This last point is particularly important if the company intends to go for an IPO in the near future, or has recently gone public.
Pro tip: Before steering your answer in a specific direction, ask your interviewer if they have technical or commercial risks in mind. Or, if you are feeling lucky, make that assumption based on their background and previous work experience.
8. If you had no constraints at all, how would you decide what to build?
This gives an opposite spin on the all-important question: explain your thought process.
PMs are typically resource-poor, be it in terms of time, people, money, or all of them. But if all constraints were suddenly lifted and you could rely on an infinite pool of developers, designers, marketers and everything else your heart might desire, how would you leverage these resources to build your product and bring in revenue for your company?
Pro tip: Most products fail due to product-market fit. Finding a niche and a suitable approach is not something that can necessarily be fixed by pouring endless resources into it. So focus on the essentials: research, testing, iteration, refinement.
9. What would you do if the CEO walked to your desk to demand that a specific feature be built?
While the temptation here might be to default to a curt “just say no”, this thorny product manager interview question intends to get to the root of the soft power skills you may have.
How do you react when placed in a situation of power dynamics? How well (or poorly) do you perform in a hierarchical setting? How do you deal with formal and informal authority? Do you have an accurate sense of your own professional integrity?
This CEO question encapsulates a great many things, quite a few of many will likely come up in any future product management career roles.
Pro tip: Knowing just enough about a company’s culture can really help you navigate this. A place which prides itself on flat hierarchical structures might expect PMs not to bend to pressure from the HiPPO.
10. How would you explain to your great-grandmother/ a toddler what the internet is?
It might seem like something completely unrelated to product management, but in reality, your ability to make yourself understood to different audiences is what will be evaluated here.
It’s also a very needed and useful skill to have, as a PM. You’ll be constantly asked to liaise between technical and non-technical stakeholders, to explain the same concepts using very different vocabulary and analogies. This product manager interview question is your chance to prove that you can do it.
Pro tip: This one is worth rehearsing and possibly testing with some real relatives or neighbors. Use analogies as much as possible, add examples from real life.
11. Which Game of Thrones character best impersonates your approach to product management?
This one comes directly from my own life. There’s most likely no wrong answer.
I am not, nor have ever been versed in GoT, so when asked this question at the end of an interview, I simply replied using a Lord of the Rings analogy.
In the end, if the goal was to assess a cultural fit, we were probably not the best match. But Middle Earth is vast and the Fellowship is always in need of more PMs.
Pro tip: Either navigate the mythology you are provided with, or pick one you are comfortable with.
Super pro tip: “On my best days at work, I do a mean Marty Cagan impersonation”.
Product manager interview questions will always come with an element of the unpredictable, no matter how well prepared you are. Assessing your reaction to stress might even tell more about your work personality than any well rehearsed speeches.
So regardless of the outcome, here is one final pro tip: answer in a way that you are comfortable with. Do not be a yes person just for the sake of it.
Eager to learn more? Here are some links to continue building up your product management knowledge: