What are the most common mistakes you see candidates make during an interview for a product management position?
There are 2 main types of interviews for Product Management roles:
With either interview type, the surest path to failure is when a candidate shows up and waits to be asked questions. A one-way dialogue doesn’t expose enough about a candidate to make a strong impression. Engaging in an interactive, two-way dialogue helps the interviewer get to know what it would be like to work with you – it exposes how you think and communicate in a real world context.
The most impressive interviews I’ve conducted are ones when a candidate can interweave their experiences throughout the conversation and have a two-way conversation with me.
The purpose of an interview for the candidate is to tell their story, share their product learnings, and expose who they are in order for the interviewer to assess their candidacy.
The purpose of an interview for the interviewer is to assess if the candidate is qualified for the job and if they would be successful in the role. You make the interviewer's job much easier the more you open up and engage. And, the more you engage, the more memorable this interview will be for the interviewer when they have to write up their recommendation and discuss it in a meeting with the other interviewers weeks later.
To avoid this common pitfall, you can do two things:
- Put yourself in the shoes of your interviewer
- Come up with a list of 2-3 things you want to make sure the interviewer knows about you
For #1 - Who is your interviewer? What role do they have? What do they care about? If you had to guess - what are they trying to get out of this interview? Use these insights to better connect with them live.
For #2 - How does your current work connect to the work of the role you’re interviewing for? What success have you had that you want to make sure is known?
I have a few simple ones:
- Not being able to clearly denote what they (the candidate) did to achieve something of impact, as opposed to the team/partners/etc. they worked with.
- In a case-style interview, not having conviction behind your ideas. I'm always disappointed when really bright folks dance around a few ideas on shaping or tackling a problem but don't commit to them, and therefore misses a key insight or opportunity for an interesting solution. (Also - it suggests a lack of conviction which is often critical in PM roles in being able to influence others.)
- Not having an example where they truly failed or learned from a truly bad outcome. This is less of a mistake, but something I consider a bit of a flag -- nobody is perfect, and at a certain point in one's career, you are likely to have truly failed at least once, and how you handle it speaks a lot to your character. If you can't speak to an example of this or unwilling to, that's telling.
Some typical mistakes to avoid on the PM & PMM interviews:
- Not having your story tailored to the job requirements.
- Not having your homework done: the less you know about the company, the less you are motivated to be part of our team.
- Not having practical use cases prepared: "give me an example of how you did [xyz]" is such a typical question to showcase how candidates do the actual job.
- Being too fuzzy: smart terms, not clear answers, repeating the same story over and over.