All related (20)
Lizzy Masotta
Senior Product Lead, Shopify | Formerly Salesforce, Google, Nest, Cisco SystemsJuly 27

What are your greatest hits?

You really can’t avoid the “tell me about yourself” question in any interview you do and every candidate should be prepared for this question. I like to put a twist on this question and ask “What are the greatest hits of your resume?” Translation: Instead of giving me a chronological detail of your career experiences, tell me about the most impactful things you’ve done.

It’s a great way to test how candidates synthesize information on the fly. Surely they prepared for the full “tell me about yourself” story - now, the challenge is condensing that and picking out the most important parts.

It’s also a great way to test if candidates actually listen to and think critically about the questions you’re asking. There’s a number of times when I’ve asked this question and the candidate still gives me their rehearsed “tell me about yourself” full answer.

What type of PM are you?

Any PM should know that the job varies greatly by company, product type, customer type, use case, company maturity, etc.

It’s important that every candidate knows the types of PM roles they’re good at and have experience in.

Here are the different dimensions and categories I use to think about this

:

‘Type’ of Product Manager

  1. Core / App PM
  2. Platform PM
  3. Growth PM

Stage of Product Development

  1. 0 → 1 PM
  2. 1 → 100 PM

Operating Environment

  1. Big company PM
  2. Start up PM

Customer Type

  1. B2B PM
  2. B2C PM

Specialty

  1. Business PM
  2. Technical PM

What’s something about you I can’t glean from your resume?

Many candidates tend to be nervous and therefore robotic during interviews. It’s important to find ways to quickly disarm them and make them comfortable. I like to ask this question towards the beginning of an interview for that reason. It lets them open up and tell their story outside from the “on paper” qualifications. I’m always surprised and impressed by what I learn through this question.

Tell me about the product and team you work on currently.

This question is open-ended by design. I’m trying to understand how they talk about their current team dynamics. Do they include engineering when they talk about their team? Do they just focus on the hierarchy of the team? Do they talk about the mission of their team?

As an individual contributor, the best way to answer this question is to:

  1. Succinctly state the mission of your product team
  2. State what part of that mission you’re focused on achieving and what phase you're currently in
  3. Talk about the people you work with on this mission (eng, UX, data, etc)

As a people leader, the same answers apply, but include how your PMs are focused and why you believe it makes sense to split focus areas in that particular way for them.

Tell me about something you shipped.

Product Management is all about building things. If a candidate doesn’t have a rolodex of stories about shipping products, it’s a huge red flag.

Asking this question in an open-ended manner can be very overwhelming for the candidate. But, again, it’s a great test to see how they synthesize information and boil it down to the key parts. The areas they choose to focus on in the shipping process will show you what they value. The parts they omit may be a sign of a weakness or lack of focus there that you can dig into later in the interview.

Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 8

I like to ask two types of questions: (1) behavioral-style questions, which prompt the candidate to use specific examples from their past experience, rather than hypotheticals, to describe how they handled a particular situation; and (2) exploratory case-style questions, to see how a candidate thinks through an abstract problem. 

It's worth noting that for the case questions, I don't love the classic Google approach of wild, out-there questions that are irrelevant to the real world. I much prefer questions that are quite open-ended but somewhat related to the problem space at hand. For instance, an open-ended question about a challenging multi-sided marketplace problem for a candidate interviewing for a PM role at a marketplace business. I like asking case-style questions about parts of a business the PM may not be thinking about (eg. an open-ended question about a supplier problem when the candidate is interviewing for a role on the customer funnel side).

How to answer these questions?

  • Behavioral questions are best answered with relevant, specific examples where the candidate can clearly and simply articulate the situation and how it relates to the question asked. Whenever possible, the candidate should speak clearly to the impact they had (as opposed to that of their team/stakeholders/etc.), and how it had a material impact on the business.
  • Case-style questions are intentionally open ended to see how the candidate thinks. But I believe candidates perform well if they can talk through their understanding of the given problem space, state their assumptions, and walk me through their approach for addressing the question in a way that I can clearly understand and is compelling and interesting.