Interview Prep: 10 Things To Do Before Your Product Manager Case Study Interview

As you prepare for the case study phase of your product manager interview - follow these 10 steps

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 the 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
  • Internalize company values
  • Research the interviewers
  • Understand the team
  • Familiarize yourself with the company product(s), service(s), or platform
  • Prepare personal case studies
  • Focus on technical skills
  • Compile past mistakes (and what you learned)
  • Research the corporate structure
  • Reflect on (or use) your favorite products 

1. Do external research

Companies want candidates who are passionate about the space they’re in, so have a good sense of the company’s broader market landscape. In addition, conduct some searches for recent company news. It might be new funding to PR scandals, but awareness of recent developments shows you’re interested in the company, not just a job offer.

2. 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.

You don’t need to adopt values you don’t agree with, but understanding the company values prepares you for what might be asked. It also hints at the potential evaluation criteria.

3. 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. Your interview is a chance to connect with them.

Technical skills aside, if the team likes you, they’re 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. Search their social media profiles, like LinkedIn, and outlets like Github.

4. Understand the team

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 understanding the backgrounds the company looks for, understanding the different types of people and roles gives you a better sense of company culture before joining.

5. Familiarize yourself with the company’s product(s), service(s), or platform

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.

6. 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. Apply them 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.

Related: Behavioral Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

7. 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.

8. Compile past mistakes (and what you learned)

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 it's easy to ramble trying to come up with a good answer. So think through some mistakes, how you handled them, and what you learned.

9. Research the corporate structure

Each company is structured slightly differently, of course. Understanding the interviewing company is especially important for product managers though, who often work cross-functionally.

Understanding the company’s structure and key stakeholders helps you if you do accept an offer. It may also give you an advantage for questions about interacting with various stakeholders and understanding their priorities.

10. Reflect on (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.

Apply these views to a number of questions, whether your interviewer asks for more general product thoughts or your opinion on what the company already does from a product perspective.

Get ready to ace your product manager interview

Now that you've taken the time to do the research, practice your answers to common interview questions, including the classic "tell me about yourself." It helps get the ball rolling and sets the tone for the follow up questions.

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Revised Nov. 20, 2021

About the Author

Napala Pratini

Napala is a consultant to early-stage technology companies. Prior to going independent, Napala led marketing initiatives across both consumer and B2B fintech for employers including NerdWallet and Earnest. In past lives she was a ballet dancer and a cancer researcher.