We’re often asked about the best questions to use when interviewing product managers, but to answer this there are some questions you should first ask yourself. This guide will help you use the right questions to hire the right product managers for you.

What type of Product Manager do I need to hire?

Before interviewing product managers, you must first be clear about the impact you need them to make.  What do you need them to do?

The full product lifecycle is broad, and the stakes can be scarily high, sometimes involving huge investment decisions that can pivot your entire business in a new direction.

From product innovation and ideation, product market fit, competitor analysis, market sizing, business case development, product development, product launch, managing a product in-life, product optimisation and prioritising the roadmap, there can be a lot involved.

You may be starting with a blank sheet or paper, have an MVP or a huge complex product that has been live for years. 

You may be a super agile, fast moving environment or a complex global matrix environment with legacy technology and slow decision making (or something in between). 

You may require specific domain knowledge like consumer Fintech, eCommerce checkout, B2B data products, AI & machine learning, mobile apps or health market experience. 

Do you have a very technical product, or do you need someone more commercially focussed, or both?

Do you need someone who has been through a scale-up journey or who’s launched a high value product in a large complex environment?

And then you get to many of the softer skills like stakeholder management, influencing style, ability to articulate a business case, building a team, people management and coaching, etc.

You must answer these questions and be clear about the experience, attributes and the impact needed from your target hire before you can start searching for your Product Manager or Product Director.

What competencies should a Product Manager have?

If you have thought about the section above, you should have a list of skills, experience and attributes that you need from the person you’re trying to hire.  In addition to this, your organisation may have specific values or leadership principles that are relevant to the role and need to be assessed. 

Creating a skills/competency list (or matrix) to score product managers is essential as it will help you to make unbiased judgements and use data to support your decisions (and ultimately find the best person).  You should also consider using a behavioural-based interview questioning technique such as STAR (situation, task, action, result).

The role of employer brand

It’s crucial to have a clear idea of the type of person you’re looking for, but remember that candidates will also be sizing you up. Keep in mind that you’ll often be competing for the best candidates, who will likely have other options on the table and will be weighing them carefully.

It’s therefore critical that your hiring strategy and ‘employer brand’ are well defined.  You also need a process of not just evaluating candidates, but of uncovering and understanding where they are in their careers and what is important to them in a career move.

How we engage candidates in an opportunity is something we always work to understand with every single search we take on.

This is a huge subject that we won’t cover now, but we can give advice when required. Find out more about our Product Management Recruitment here

What interview questions should I ask a product manager?

We now come to the questions to use when interviewing product managers or product leaders.  This isn’t a comprehensive list but should offer some guidance and inspiration when interviewing.

They’re split into obvious sections and many are real life questions used by our clients in their interviews.

General questions

  • How would you explain what product management is?
  • What aspects of product management do you enjoy the most and least?
  • What are your top 3 strengths?
  • Tell me about a product that you’re proud of.  What made you proud?
  • Tell me about a product you use often and how you might improve it.
  • How do you know if a product is well designed?
  • Give an example of a failing product or feature that you improved.
  • Tell me about the most successful product you’ve managed. What made it so successful?
  • What makes a product successful?

Stakeholder Manager / Relationships / Leadership questions

  • Tell me about a disagreement that you had with a stakeholder or engineering partner.
  • Give an example of a situation in which things didn’t go smoothly?
  • Tell me about the biggest business case you had to get approval for – how did you get people on board?
  • Explain a time where you have used your influencing skills? 
  • Tell me about a time that required you to influence someone who didn’t report to you.
  • What kind of people do you struggle to work with?
  • Give an example where you had to resolve a difficult situation with a customer.
  • What do you believe makes a great leader and a great manager?
  • How you motivate other people?
  • Has there been a time where you haven’t managed to influence a stakeholder to your way of thinking?

Awareness questions

  • Tell me about a product feature that didn’t pan out. What would you do differently now?
  • Tell me about a mistake you made and how you handled it.
  • Talk me through a time where you were criticised or felt attacked by a stakeholder.  How did you handle it?
  • What is your biggest regret, where you wished you’d done something differently?

Roadmap, Prioritisation & Decision Making questions

  • How do you decide what to build?
  • What steps do you take in developing a business case?
  • How do you develop your product roadmap?
  • Give an example of how you have prioritised a roadmap.
  • What type of customer research do you conduct and how often?
  • What data do you use in decision making?
  • What’s the biggest product decision you’ve had to make and why?
  • Give an example of how you’ve measured a products performance.
  • Have you ever ‘gone against’ or not followed the data?  Tell me what happened.

How do I find a great a Product Manager or Product Leader?

Having specialised in product management recruitment since 2003, Intelligent People has been at the forefront of product hiring as the discipline has grown and evolved.  Today, we help a broad range of companies, from global blue chips to the most exciting scale-ups, hire product experts and build high performing product teams.

If you need to hire a product expert, a product leader or build a product team, get in touch here. You can see our live product searches here

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