Interview Prep: 10 Things To Do Before Your Product Manager Case Study Interview
If you’ve recently landed a product manager interview, congrats! With tons of top product talent out there, it’s an achievement just to have gotten through the initial screening process. But you’re not over the finish line just yet, as you’ll need to impress your interviewers more than the next (and preceding) candidates in order to land the job. Here’s a checklist of ten things to help you prep for your interview.
Do external research
Companies are looking for candidates who are passionate about the space they’re in, so make sure you have a good sense of the company’s broader market landscape. In addition, conduct some searches for recent company news—from new funding to PR scandals, being able to speak to recent developments shows you’re interested in that specific company, not just in getting a job offer.
Internalize company values
Many companies make their internal values obvious on their website or in recruiting materials and conversations, so do your best to find out what they are—and take them to heart before your interview. To be certain, you don’t need to adopt values you don’t agree with, but understanding the company values can help to prepare for what might be asked, as well as hint at the criteria on which you’ll be evaluated.
Research your interviewers
Product managers ultimately answer to internal stakeholders, meaning you’ll need strong relationships with the people above you, your peers, and anyone you manage—and your interview is a chance to charm them. Technical skills aside, if the team likes you, they’ll be that much more likely to extend an offer. Given this, it’s important to do some background research on who will be interviewing you. If you haven’t been given the names of your interviewers, don’t be shy—it’s totally fair to ask the person coordinating your interview for more details.
Find out who you’ll be working with
Give the cross-functional nature of product manager roles, you’ll be working with many more people than who actually interview you—and it’s worth getting an idea of who they are before going in. In addition to helping you understand the types of backgrounds the company looks for, understanding the different types of people and roles can give you a better sense of company culture before experiencing it firsthand.
Familiarize yourself with the company’s product(s)
This almost goes without saying, but don’t forget to gain a good understanding of the company’s products—and particularly the product(s) you might be working on. If it’s a consumer product, go through as much of the experience as possible without making a purchase. If the product isn’t available to the public (SaaS products, for example), think about asking for a demo or screenshots, or even do some online research to find screenshots, reviews, and other insights about the product.
Prepare personal case studies
It’s virtually impossible to prepare an answer for every interview question, so the next best strategy is to prepare case studies of work you’ve done in the past which can be applied as answers to a variety of “tell me about a time when you…” questions. In general, have a few of these examples related to product instincts, leadership and teamwork, and stakeholder collaboration.
Focus on technical skills
Many companies prefer computer science or analytical backgrounds in their product managers, so keep this in mind as you prepare. When compiling your personal case studies, be sure to think about examples that demonstrate your technical, in addition to people, skills.
Compile past mistakes
Interviewers of all types love asking about past mistakes, as it’s a way to test how well you learn from blunders. This question can be a tripping point if you’re not well-prepared, and candidates often end up digging themselves into holes trying to come up with a good answer, so think through some mistakes, how you handled them, and what you learned.
Get familiar with the corporate structure
Each company is structured slightly differently, and this is particularly pertinent for product managers, who often interface with every business unit. Not only will understanding the company’s structure and key stakeholders help you if you do end up with the company—it may also give you the upper hand for questions related to interacting with various stakeholders and your understanding of their priorities.
Think about (or use) your favorite products
In addition to getting you in the product mood, using your favorite products before an interview can help you think more specifically about what makes products great—or not so great. These views can be applied to a number of questions, whether your interviewer asks for more general product thoughts or you’re sharing your opinion on what the company already does from a product perspective.