Questions for product manager interviews usually belong to one of the following categories:

  • Product Sense
  • Product Strategy
  • Data Analysis
  • Estimation
  • Behavioural

For each category, you must keep certain frameworks in mind while answering the questions. And in this post, I will break them down for you.

But do remember: there is no right answer to any product management question. The approach you undertake to arrive at your answer is all that matters. This is why providing structure to your answers is essential while navigating product manager questions and answers effectively.


TL;DR — List of Product Management Interview Questions:

  1. Product Improvement
    How would you improve content creation on TikTok?
    How would you improve usage on Cred?
    How would you improve engagement on LinkedIn?
  2. Product Design
    Build a product to connect B-school applicants with alums
    How would you design a mobile search engine for children?
    How would you design a baby’s crib that helps parents sleep at night?
  3. Product Strategy / Decisions
    How would you plan the next product category for Swiggy’s Instamart?
    Devise strategies to increase revenue for Google Pay
    You are a PM of Microsoft Edge. How will you identify the potential areas which can help to increase the market share of Edge?
  4. Data Analysis / Product Diagnostics
    There’s a 15% drop in open rate of Instagram. What could the potential reasons be?
    Drivers are dropping off Ola’s platform. How would you figure out what’s going on?
    How would you identify why churn rate of users has increased on Big Basket?
  5. Estimation
    Estimate the lifetime value of an Uber user
    Estimate the market share of Postman API services
    How many trains come in and out of Mumbai in a day?
  6. Behavioural
    Describe the project that you had the most trouble with.
    What would you have done differently?
    Tell me about a time when you solved a conflict at work
    How do you scale yourself as a PM?
    Tell me about an unpopular decision of yours
    Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it

(Answers and explanations below)



Product Management Skills Interviewers Look For

Interviewers try to observe how you’re able to break down any given problem statement, and strategically plan your way forward. You can get better at this by reading about the frameworks under each category of questions and practising your answers accordingly.

To stand out, you must highlight some of the following skill-sets in your introduction to the interviewer:

  • Business Intelligence — Your ability to have a clear focus on the vision and key business objective
  • Research skills Talk about your work in market research or customer data analysis to derive insights and translate them into product decisions.
  • Technical skills Explain your knowledge about web-app/mobile-app ecosystems, APIs, UI/UX design etc.
  • Interpersonal skills Mention your strengths or challenges you’ve overcome while managing all key stakeholders for your product
  • Creativity Highlight any creative solutions you proposed that helped optimally achieve substantial business impact.
  • Marketing skills Showcase your ability to describe your product’s core value most simply.

Now that you have clarity on the skill sets that matter in product management, let’s take a look at how to demonstrate each of them while answering product manager question categories!


Questions About Product Sense

Product sense is about understanding and evaluating different possibilities, not finding the one correct answer. Under this category, interviewers mostly ask product improvement or product design questions such as:

  • How would you improve Google Maps
  • Design a gardening app for beginners.
  • Design a social feature for any video service such as Facebook or Youtube
  • How would you improve Instagram Live?
  • Design a camera for the elderly.
  • Tell me about a product you love. What do you like and how would you improve it?

What is the interviewer looking for?

For product improvement or design questions, the interviewer is looking for 6 primary aspects:

  • Goal Orientation — Understand and define the objective before you start answering
  • User empathy — Think deeply about target user personas and their pain-points
  • Prioritisation — Use sound judgement to prioritise competing use-cases and communicate them
  • Creativity — Unique ideas for solutions are given brownie-points
  • Analytical Mindset — Identify metrics to track the success or failure of proposed solutions
  • Critique your solutions by identifying potential reasons for failures or gaps
  • Leadership — Lay down an implementation plan and explain your reasoning behind it

Things to include in your answer

  • Clarifying questions to understand the problem statement clearly
  • A clear definition of the primary objective for product improvement
  • Description of the distinct user groups along with their pain-points
  • Prioritisation of the right set of problems to solve
  • List of solutions that solve the identified problem
  • An approach to select the solution to apply first
  • List of key metrics to track the success of the solution
  • Potential risks of applying the solution

How to Prepare for Product Sense Questions?

Here’s a step-wise framework you should follow to answer such questions effectively.

  1. Describe your understanding of the product and use clarifying questions to define the scope of the question.

    Some commonly asked clarifying questions that you can consider:

    1. Do I need to focus on any demographic or user groups?
    2. What is the goal/objective of the task? Common goals include usage, revenue, engagement, user experience etc.
    3. Should I look at any specific platforms e.g. mobile, desktop etc?
  2. State the Goal If your interviewer hasn’t mentioned the goal yet, use your logical reasoning to select a goal for the product, explain why you are choosing it
  3. Define your Target User Groups — Segment your user groups well and describe what you mean by stating their distinctive behaviour
  4. Select the most relevant user group — Give proper reasoning for selecting one user group over the other
  5. Highlight users’ pain points — Describe the user journey and communicate the user’s pain points clearly so that the interviewer understands the problems you are planning to solve
  6. Prioritise the pain point that you would like to address first — State the impact of the pain point you’ve selected
  7. List at least 4-5 solutions to solve it — Get creative! Try to have a mixed bag of feasible and out-of-the-box solution ideas
  8. Plan your roadmap — Demonstrate your ability to plan your feature release
  9. Define success metrics to track your solution — List down 1 primary and 2 secondary metrics that you would track
  10. Summarise

Sample Answer

Let’s assume, you were asked to design a camera for the elderly. You can do the following:

  • Describe your understanding of a camera
    E.g. Camera is something, either an object or product feature, that gives you the ability to capture a moment or sequence of moments.
  • Define the parameters of elderly people.
    Men and women above the age of 60 years
  • Ask clarifying questions
    Targeting the Indian market? Physical or digital? New device or enhancement in an existing device? What’s the goal? (E.g. product launch and adoption) How are the competitors performing?
  • Reiterate your understanding of the context and goal
  • Define target user groups
    Tech-savvy elders — Use smartphones. Are open to learning and experimenting.
    Non-tech savvy elders — Still struggle with smartphones. Unable to follow instructions to perform actions.
  • Since your goal is product launch and adoption, you’d want to target tech-savvy elders so that you can test out your product in the market.
  • Think about pain points for tech-savvy elders such as inability to read, confusion if exposed to too many options etc.
  • List your solutions and mention success metric to track adoption
  • Summarise your response right from context to solutions with metrics

Bonus Tip

To stand out from other candidates, critique your solution. Disregarding some of your solutions indicate your ability to critically analyse situations without any notion of bias.


Interview Questions about Product Strategy

As a product manager, you will be responsible for the entire roadmap delivery. This means you need to be comfortable with strategic thinking across key aspects of a valuable product strategy.

Product strategy questions are generally open-ended and centred around the market share, product launch, competitor evaluation and so on. Some examples include:

  • How would you determine which neighbourhood to launch your hyperlocal delivery service in?
  • Should Instagram get into events? If so, then how would you launch it?
  • How would you acquire more users for Uber?
  • What should Oyo’s strategy be during the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • What is the biggest threat to Youtube?
  • How would you grow Airbnb Experiences?

What is the interviewer looking for?

The interviewer wants to evaluate your thought process i.e. how you approach these types of problems and what points you consider as you move ahead to conclude your decision. They also want to evaluate your ability to break down an open-ended problem into smaller solvable chunks.

Things to include in your answer

The following frameworks can be used to break down the given problem statement into smaller chunks using a structured and holistic approach:

5C+T Analysis Framework

For each section, you need to ask and answer these questions:

Context

  1. Why are we considering this move?
  2. What’s the ultimate goal we’re seeking as a company?
  3. Are there any socio-economic factors to consider? E.g. trends in the market or changes in consumer behaviour.

Customer

  1. Who are the customers of this company?
  2. Are our customers and users the same?
  3. How big is the Total Addressable Market?
  4. Segment customers based on demographics or psychographics.
  5. Establish their needs.

Company

  1. What is the company’s overall vision or mission?
  2. How does the company plan to solve the user problems?
  3. Is the company changing over time to adapt to user needs?
  4. Is the change in line with the company’s strategy?

Competitors

  1. What alternatives do the customers have to your product?
  2. How high or low is the switching cost for the customer?

Collaborators

  1. Can the company’s supply chain be leveraged more efficiently? Think about suppliers or third-party service providers, and how you can align their motivations to fulfil your goals.
  2. Is there scope for any vertical or horizontal integration to deliver the desired solution?

Technology

  1. Can we leverage newer technologies to strengthen the value proposition?

Marketing’s 4P framework

The 4Ps of the marketing mix are essential factors involved in driving product adoption in the market. Oftentimes, analysing each of these factors can help narrow down on the potential area of improvement for the company.

Product

  1. Do we plan to build a new product or enhance an existing one?

Promotion

  1. Are we leveraging online & offline promotions?
  2. Which channels are underperforming? Split by product categories if needed.
  3. Are there any gaps in the customer onboarding flow? Where are the biggest drop-offs in the journey?

Price

  1. Should you select a skimming or penetration pricing strategy? Would changing it help?
  2. Consider what price-point is most attractive to your target customers.

Place

  1. How are the different distribution channels performing?

How to Prepare for Product Strategy Questions?

Although there is no specific framework to answer these types of questions, some activities that are helpful for you to consider as you prepare for these questions are as follows.

  • Stay updated on the latest technological trends In case you haven’t been following any news, it’s helpful to read some trend reports published by CBInsights or McKinsey to get some broad ideas.
  • Do your research about the Target CompanyGo through the company website, and check out any latest news about it e.g. mergers and acquisition news, any advancements in the industry the company operates in, or some product feature the company must have launched recently.

Bonus Tip

Pick your favourite product and run it across 5C & 4P frameworks for good practice.


Interview Questions about Data Analysis

This category is primarily concerned with metric tracking or investigating changes in a particular metric for a product. Sample questions include:

  • What is your favourite app? Define the success metrics for it.
  • How would you track the success of Facebook Events?
  • There is a 20% drop in Flipkart revenue this month. Diagnose the problem.
  • Engagement on Instagram stories is down. How would you investigate it?
  • The occupancy rate of Oyo rooms is low. What could the reasons be?
  • Restaurant sign-ups on Zomato have lowered. Evaluate why?

What is the interviewer looking for?

Through these questions, the interviewer is not only assessing your ability to track and interpret key metrics but also how well you’re able to derive useful insights and make data-driven decisions.

Things to include in your answer

  • Describe the product’s key features
  • Define the feature’s goal
  • Keep in mind that there might be multiple goals for a feature e.g. engagement + revenue
  • Map out the user journey
  • List the metrics for each phase of the user journey
  • Goal to metric mapping is key. You should define 1 to 3 metrics for each phase.
  • Evaluate your metrics based on relevance to the goal

How to Prepare for Data Analysis Questions?

Consider the following phases of a user journey and pick out the relevant ones.

  • Awareness Evaluate how different channels might be performing in terms of the number of impressions
  • Acquisition Estimate the level of user interest in the feature by observing metrics such as the number of sign-ups/downloads, bounce rate, lead-conversion ratio etc.
  • Adoption — Monitor how user onboarding flow is performing. E.g. percentage of users with first transaction/total number of users who signed up
  • Engagement - Assess metrics such as avg time spent by users, and deep-dive further by segmenting it based on media (image, video, text) or category (food, politics, tech)
  • Retention - Define it based on the context of the feature. Some examples include the percentage of users who repurchase or the number of users who read posts in the last 30 days compared to the previous month.
  • Monetization - Track metrics such as ARPU (average revenue per user), percentage of paid users, frequency of purchase, revenue generated via ads vs organic channels etc.
  • Referral - Track metrics such as % of users referring, % of referrals converted.

Bonus Tip

Flesh out the user journey and identify key metrics for products such as Uber, Instagram, and Youtube.


Interview Questions About Estimation

Estimation questions test your ability to work with numbers and make decisions by making useful relevant assumptions. Sample questions include:

  • Estimate the number of flights that take-off from Delhi airport in a day
  • Estimate the market size for vegan, cruelty-free products
  • Estimate the amount of space required for Google Earth
  • Estimate amount collected by toll booths in a year
  • Estimate the number of mobile phones sold in India per month
  • Estimate the number of photos uploaded on Instagram each day

What is the interviewer looking for?

Estimation questions are meant to assess your problem-solving skills. The interviewers don’t focus on the actual numbers but on the process of how you derived them. Therefore, it’s important to communicate your reasoning behind the numbers well.

Things to include in your answer

  • Ask clarifying questions to narrow down the scope of the question.
  • Describe your understanding to make sure both you and the interviewer are on the same page
  • Take some time, and create your primary equation that includes all the factors needed to arrive at the final result
  • Break it down to simpler values
  • Make assumptions while explaining your reasoning behind them
  • Use the values to calculate and solve your primary equation.
  • Perform a quick sanity check to make sure you don’t want to make any adjustments, or fix calculation errors
  • Summarise

How to Prepare for Estimation Questions?

  • Take up sample questions and build the primary equation
  • Use round figures to improve the speed of estimation

Bonus Tip

Practice, practice, practice! There’s no shortcut to this group of questions.


Behavioural Interview Questions

These questions cover a variety of experiential situations. Let’s take a look at some example questions and how to best answer them.

What is the interviewer looking for?

These include situational questions that aim to understand your personal and professional qualities based on your previous work experience. Questions generally come under the following categories:

  • Ownership and Accountability
  • Leadership
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Big Picture Thinking
  • Decision making abiliy in ambiguous situations, and so on.

Things to include in your answer

STAR format is a useful and structured way to answer all behavioural questions because it provides a clear context of the situation for the interviewer. Here’s what it entails:

  • S - SituationDetail the background. Provide the context. Where? When? Why?
  • T - TaskDescribe what needed to be done. Highlight challenges, deadlines, constraints etc.
  • A - ActionElaborate on your actions. What did you do? Which tools did you use? Highlight your initiatives, teamwork, leadership etc.
  • R - ResultDescribe the outcome - improvements, savings, gains, recognition etc. Quantify these values as best as possible

How to Prepare for Behavioural Questions?

Let’s go through a set of questions and find out how to prepare for each of them. This should give you a basic idea of the approach to consider while answering behavioural questions.

Question 1: Describe the project that you had the most trouble with. What would you have done differently?​

  • Think about your past projects and pick one which had a substantial business impact.
  • Analyse the gaps in the approach you had undertaken, and describe them clearly.
  • Highlight what you could have done better and how you would do it today.
  • Mention the additional impact you could have achieved, had you done it differently.

Question 2: Tell me about a time when you solved a conflict at work

  • Pick a situation where you were able to demonstrate empathy
  • Showcase how your listening skills helped you understand the underlying reason for the difference of opinion
  • Indicate how your actions helped in arriving at the same page
  • Mention the next steps that you undertook post-resolution

Question 3: How do you scale yourself as a PM?

  • Describe an example showcasing curiosity and self-learning abilities.
  • Scaling up requires delegation and empowering your team. Focus on these qualities in your answer.

Question 4: Tell me about an unpopular decision of yours

  • Pick a situation where you had to defend your stance against your manager
  • Explain what gave you confidence in your conviction
  • Describe the actions you took after making your decision
  • Mention the results of your decision quantitatively
  • Were you proved right or wrong? What was your learning from this experience?

Question 5: Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it

  • Think about a situation where you took a calculated risk to move things forward. Bias for action is a critical need in businesses these days.
  • Discuss the benefits and pitfalls that you considered before deciding to move forward.
  • Mention the constraints which were causing delay until you stepped in
  • Talk about the results obtained as a result of your action

Bonus Tip

Highlight your learnings in cases where things didn’t work out the way you expected them to. It demonstrates your potential to grow.


This post was written by Akanksha Barma, who is a Product Manager in the FinTech space and an ISB alum. She runs Greater Odds to help B-school aspirants interact with alumni for application reviews, mock interviews or general Q&A.