Brandon Green

Brandon GreenShare

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

I've sort of answered this in other questions asked, but to restate: Red Flags usually manifest in candidates who are

  • Unable to speak to specific impact they (as opposed to their team/org) have had on the business, or point to any specific metric they impacted, and why that metric was important
  • Unable to speak to experiences of learning/growth in the face of failure, or blaming others on said failures
  • Unable to speak to a basic understanding of how the business they're interviewing for works, how it makes money, how their particular role may add value to the organization
Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 7

I personally bias toward PMs (or aspiring PMs) with a creative mind, whether that's shown through actual background experience in a creative field, or a highly creative or unconventional response to a question asked in the interview process. I find creative types (often with liberal arts degrees) to be highly effective PMs and leaders due to a common ability to connect dots and find problems and solutions others may not see or understand.

This is not a requirement for a product role, but I do think it's somewhat unique compared to what typical PM hiring managers screen for.

Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 7

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.
Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 7

Talk even less and give the candidate even more time/space than you think to thoroughly respond to your question. You'll learn a ton about a candidate simply by giving them the floor.

Also - it's a lot harder than it seems.

(There's a 300 character minimum to these responses, so I have to keep typing to hit the minimum, even though I already answered the question. Hopefully this gets me over the minimum!!!!!!!!!!!)

Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 7

I'll speak to commonalities in IC PMs since I have less experience hiring other product leaders. It's really just 4 things in my view:

  • A clear ability to break down complex, multi-faceted problems into digestible, actionable chunks, as usually shown via some kind of case interview.
  • Excellent ability to ask good, tough questions
  • A clear track record of having an impact and/or continuous learning/improvement. This may not necessarily be demonstrated through previous work as a PM, but the candidate is able to speak clearly to the impact they distinctly had or the specificity of the learnings they captured.
  • Genuine interest and energy around the problems discussed in the interview cycle. This may show up in a case interview (ie. clear enthusiasm about the challenge presented) or when asking questions about the role/company. I always like to see how a candidate reacts when I answer questions about the business/product, challenges we face, etc.
Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 7

I think going "above and beyond" is a totally subjective thing; it is up to each individual what is above their baseline of preparation for an interview. But - here are a list of things I think are table stakes, that every PM candidate should do at a minimum to prepare:

  • Know the company you're interviewing with: their main products/features, how they make money, how they differentiate from competition. If you're interviewing in a division of a very large company (eg. Amazon Logistics or AWS, both parts of Amazon), understand the same thing but for that division.
  • Brush up on your past experience and how you speak to the impact you've had. I like to have at least 3-4 examples I can easily pull from, at the top of my memory, so I can quickly and confidently tailor a real story to a question that it makes sense to apply my example to.
  • Get clear on what you're looking for in the role you're interviewing for - how you think you might be impactful, what the first 3-6-12 months may look like, etc.
  • Get clear on what you're looking for in the interviewers - any red flags to watch out for in how they ask questions or react, what questions you'd want to ask them about the role/company/etc.

I basically recommend these 4 things in every situation, at least.

Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 6

I have a few simple ones:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsNovember 6

I've found that the ability to speak clearly to your past experiences and how you've either (a) uniquely added value or (b) learned and grew from a given experience largely is the most important thing when talking to both hiring managers and cross-functional partners. This may manifest in many different questions or types of questions -- but ultimately, as a PM interviewing for a PM role, it's critical that you speak to how you've done one or both of those things, using real, specific experiences, is the most effective way to convey your value and POV to an interview.

I've always liked behavioral interview questions to probe for these things as an interviewer - this seems to be a good primer on behavioral interviews and the types of questions you may be asked, in this case at Google: https://igotanoffer.com/blogs/tech/google-behavioral-interview

Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsAugust 16

A PM's job is to take in a lot of inputs (including the 3 listed in this question) and articulate a compelling strategy and roadmap around achieving the best outcomes for your business. Within those are assumptions, risks, opportunities, etc. that are worth digging into and questioning, and from there you can usually start to get a sense of where to focus. To a certain extent, you'll need to at least focus a little on all of these inputs, just to get a sense of whether they're worth digging deeper on. I think the answer around "where to focus" will differ highly based on the context you find yourself in, but I think you can start by asking yourself what the biggest immediate problem or opportunity is, based on what you know. 

Oftentimes the inputs themselves will help provide that direction. For instance: in my current role, I have a wide scope with a lot of users to consider, stakeholders to partner with, and problems to be solved. Some of the problems that appear impactful on the surface I realized were not very actionable as is for a number of reasons, so I chose to shift focus to an area that was immediately actionable, had resourcing focused on it, and I had prior experience to help guide me on potential solutions. I was able to then demonstrate some short-term impact and hire a PM to drive value in that space, allowing me to shift over to another problem area. I also realized that one of the business goals related to that space had some assumptions built into it that we began to question as a result of the work we did, allowing us to shift the priority of that business goal a bit.

Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Director of Product, Fulfillment, ezCater | Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, SonicbidsAugust 16

I consider product marketing managers (PMM) part of the core partner group working with Product in roadmap creation (also including engineers, design, analytics, research, and other key functions based on the role). We aim to loop in product marketing as soon as roadmapping begins, and make sure they're aligned with product on objectives for the given quarter/half - this usually involves PMM sharing insights to help pressure-test the objectives, ensure we have a good understanding of customer sentiment, etc. PMM also takes part in the feature prioritization process, both to help validate the potential impact of those features and for awareness as they build marketing plans.

We also typically include PMMs in kickoffs for individual initiatives and especially the product design process - often, the thing that is marketed becomes clear during this process (eg. what it looks like, how it specifically will solve the given user's problem, how we want to communicate this), and gives PMM a good sense of what their work will look like. In my current role, we're often having discussions at this stage about "whether the thing needs to be marketed at all" - we may be working on a behind-the-scenes change, or a very minimal feature requiring experimentation before we're confident in our approach, and that may have significant implications on the product marketing plan as a result.

Credentials & Highlights
Director of Product, Fulfillment at ezCater
Formerly Wayfair, Abstract, CustomMade, Sonicbids
Top 10 Product Management Contributor
Studied at BS Music Technology, Northeastern University
Lives In Central MA
Hobbies include music, writing, coffee, automation, my daughter, my doggo