Congratulations! You’ve just scheduled your product manager interview. Whether you’re just starting your product career or interviewing for a senior position, interviewers tend to end the conversation with some version of the same question: “So, do you have any questions for me?”
You already know the worst possible answer to this question is “Nope.” Obviously not a great finale to what we’ll assume was an otherwise successful product manager interview. So, how should you answer this question, and why ask questions at all?
Interviewing for product management is really about demonstrating two things. First, you’re showing your interviewer that you know what product management is, how to do it, how to think about it in terms of responsibilities, process, problem-solving, etc. Second, you’re demonstrating that you know something about their company and its product.
There will be opportunities to answer a number of questions during an interview that help you exhibit your knowledge of these two points. However, the portion of the interview where you get to ask questions is your opportunity to explicitly direct the conversation, to further demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and construct meaningful questions—two skills you’ll most certainly need in any product role. More importantly, you’re showing the interviewer how you think about and approach product management.
From a more practical perspective, the question portion is also an opportunity for you to determine if this is a place where you want to work. You can ask questions to determine if it’s a healthy work environment, identify any potential red flags the interviewer is unlikely to volunteer on their own, and identify any quick wins you might be able to attack out of the gate if you’re hired.
Here are a few of our recommendations for the best types of product manager interview questions interviewees should ask.
1. Ask questions about the product team’s relationship with other departments.
- What’s the relationship currently like between Product and UX, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, etc?
- How has it been historically? What types of challenges have come up?
- How does information generally flow between these teams? Are there regular meetings between team leaders?
Questions like these demonstrate that you understand the product team is an information hub for every other team in the organization. In order to effectively do your job, you need the information to flow seamlessly in and out of your team. If there’s a historical dynamic of siloing teams or unnecessarily guarding information, you’ll want to know about that ahead of time.
Asking questions about the product team’s relationship to other teams also gives you an opportunity to brainstorm and pitch some ideas and possible solutions on the spot. If there isn’t regular communication between say, Product and Sales, that could be a great suggestion. This also gives you an opportunity to describe how you might handle internal feature requests from sales reps, solicit meaningful feedback from other teams, and more.
Bonus tip: You might request another meeting with counterparts from other departments, i.e. setting up a coffee chat with the engineering lead or the UX manager. These conversations can offer additional insights and a chance to get to know potential colleagues.
2. Ask questions about the product team itself.
During a product manager interview, it’s likely that the interviewer will give you a quick overview of the product organization, highlighting how the open position fits into the team. The end of the interview is a great opportunity to gather even more context with questions like:
- Can you describe how the product organization has changed over time? Where is it headed in terms of scale, hiring goals, etc.?
- What are some of the challenges or weaknesses that the product team has experienced?
- What has the product team done particularly well?
- What’s the range of experience of the team’s members?
Questions like these help you get a sense of how you’ll fit into existing dynamics. You might be thrilled to find out there are plans to double the product team over the next year to launch several new products. Or, that kind of growth might make you reconsider. Asking about successes and failures should give you a better sense of how the product team is viewed by the organization more broadly.
“During your product management interview, ask about the existing dynamics on the product team.”
3. Ask questions about product strategy and KPIs.
If you feel you’ve arrived at the last stage of the interview with a good sense of the product team and its relationship to other departments, then it’s a good idea to dive deeper into questions about product strategy and success criteria.
- How much ownership does the product manager have to determine product strategy?
- What KPIs are used to measure the success of the product and the product team?
- Who determines KPIs? Are they updated regularly? How much attention does the company actually pay to them?
- What guides product strategy? Why do customers love the product? Why do customers buy? When do customer requests make it into the product?
- What are the product principles?
These questions will help you better understand your potential relationship with strategic decision making in the company. It’s very different to work for a company where strategy and product KPIs are governed exclusively by the CEO than it is to work for one with a relatively autonomous product team.
You can also determine a lot based on the organization’s success criteria. You’ll want to know the company’s business goals as they relate to the product, i.e. is the upcoming year’s primary goal to generate more revenue from new customers, or grow revenue from existing customers by expanding licenses or reducing churn? The more you understand the dynamics between product strategy, business goals, and success criteria, the more concrete this role and its responsibilities will become during the interview.
4. Ask questions about the product development process.
These might be the most important questions you ask during your product interview. Managing the product development process really forms the core of your responsibilities as a product manager and getting a walkthrough of the existing process at the interview stage is extremely helpful.
- Can you walk me through the existing product development process?
- How involved are other teams in that process?
- When does product involve UX? Engineering?
- What’s working well? Where could things be improved?
- What types of metrics are tracked and during which phases?
These product manager interview questions offer an opportunity to get a sense of how well the existing process is working, how the process is broken down into stages, who is involved in each stage, and what deliverables are produced when. Since product management is really process management, you’ll be responsible for optimizing the organization’s product development process. Does the product team write huge requirements documents when wireframes would be sufficient? Are there consistent issues during acceptance review? If you can gain some insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the existing process, you’ll be better equipped on day one and will likely walk in with a handful of ideas.
5. Ask questions about organizational culture.
“Get a sense of the current product development process when interviewing for a new product management role.”
Interviewers are often pretty aspirational when they talk about company culture. Asking your interviewer to tell you about the company’s culture might result in a lot of great descriptions of work-life balance, flexible hours, and the office espresso machine, but not offer much concrete information about day-to-day life at that company. Dig a bit deeper by asking more specific questions that can help you piece together their actual culture.
- How does the company acknowledge individual and team accomplishments?
- How does it recognize and measure success?
- How does the company celebrate big wins?
- How has the company handled past failures?
- How transparent is the executive team?
Questions like these give you a sense of how much a company’s “Values” page matches up with reality. These questions can help you determine how an organization handles recognition, what types of growth or educational opportunities are available, whether employees feel supported by executive leadership, and how invested other employees are in the company’s product and mission.
The best product managers are able to enter a new situation and quickly assess potential strengths and weaknesses, develop hypotheses, and then start testing them. The interview is really just another opportunity to exercise these same skills. Asking some of these product manager interview questions will demonstrate your product knowledge, determine if this role is a good fit and, if it is, help you hit the ground running.
Have more product manager interview questions? Share them in the comments below.