All related (18)
Natalia Baryshnikova
Head of Product, Enterprise Agility, AtlassianFebruary 16

"Assume I don't know anything. Teach me something in the next two minutes about a topic you are passionate about - can be anything". This questions helps me understand how a person thinks on their feet, does storytelling, and uncover more about their passions as a human, that may have some interesting overlap with product work.

I have learned how to swing a gold club, calm down crying toddlers, and pick soil for any plant from asking this question.

Tom Alterman
Director of Product Management, AsanaMay 17

The question I love asking every candidate is "tell me the story of the most impactful thing you’ve ever worked on." I like this question for several reasons:

  • It works for every level of experience. For experienced PMs, I’m expecting to hear about a very important product they worked on. For someone with little to no experience, they can tell me a story about something they worked on that was incredibly hard, impactful and meaningful to them without it needing to be related to product work.
  • It allows me to get a sense of their storytelling ability. Are they able to structure a story effectively? Are they able to take me on a journey with a clear start, middle and end point? Are they able to do so succinctly?
  • Lastly, it’s a really helpful way of assessing what they consider impactful and whether they've done something impressive that suggests they'll be a fit for the role.

I've heard so many great stories, but one that stands out was for an internship role at my last company: The candidate had not done any product work before, so he told me the story of how he volunteered to help out at a student tech conference. He felt he was bad at public speaking and wanted to watch people do it well. Within a couple of years he was in charge of the largest student conference in Canada and speaking on stage to thousands of people. He told an engaging story that showed me he'd achieved something truly impressive that we wouldn't have talked about if I would have just asked product questions.

Era Johal
Principal Product Manager, Search, UdemyAugust 24

Design a product for drivers driving in rush hour.

I am betting every human stuck in traffic has once thought... “Dang this traffic sucks, I wish I could [insert idea].” The best answer I’ve heard is a tablet-sized visual, that is connected to the internet with key apps such as email, song playlist, podcasts, call functionality; along with the capability for partial self-driving in traffic. Once in rush-hour it kicks in, frees your attention to do other things, improves health of the driver by reducing both physical and psychological strain of commuting in rush hours and is highly scalable to autonomous-capable vehicles. I liked the answer because I’d buy this product 🤪 but also because the answer was (1) optimized for reducing real pain points (2) accounted for the future of driving (3) was a little wild, but not too out there. When I heard this answer I could tell the PM was both imaginative but grounded in solving real problems.

Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 22

For very role-specific hiring: "Knowing about the role, how does your experience and skillset fit the needs?" The best answer:

  • Reflects the candidate really understands our company, has done research to know what might be top of mind and has taken the time with the recruiter to clarify the role, paid attention to what I explain about the role.
  • Communicate clearly about their skills and have an elevator pitch for past experiences to create a cohesive story.
  • Reflects a true passion for joining the team. Do you already see yourself in this role?

For general PM hiring: Some mix of: "What is a problem you deeply care about, why do you think it is interesting/important? How will you go about solving it?" It allows me to press on whatever skillset I am looking for. I can't give a specific best response but I look for strategic thinking in articulating a problem (vs. talking about a UX/UI pain-point), metrics-driven thinking, and end-to-end thinking in the solution (discovery, implementation, roll-out, all GTM considerations).

Anton Kravchenko
Director of Product Management, Carta | Formerly Salesforce, MuleSoft, AppleFebruary 3

My favorite interview question was asked by a hiring manager ~8 years ago when I interviewed for an Associate PM position at MuleSoft.

I was asked the following: "Imagine humans decided to take the moon and put it through a giant chopper/grinder. The mass that comes out of the chopper is being dumped on the surface of the earth. The question was - do you need an oxygen mask to climb on the top of this mass"

This is a quantitative question that is typically asked in the PM interviews, but more fun to think about :) The right answer is to show your logical thinking e.g. your approach, unknowns, corner cases, etc.