“Do you validate parking?” I had asked a job candidate at a previous company if they had any questions for me. And this was the sole question from the product manager I was interviewing. Flabbergasting. Product managers are supposed to be curious and inquisitive. This person’s lack of meaningful questions told me they did not want the job enough.
An interview is your best opportunity to figure out if the job and the company are the right fit for you. Do not waste it by asking routine questions.
This is not to say that you should never ask a mundane question that is really important to you. You want to know how big the team is and what the hiring manager is hoping for from the role. But you need to go beyond that as well. To get to the next round, you must ask questions that only a savvy and experienced product manager would know.
Everybody on our Customer Success team at Aha! is an experienced former product manager. So, between all of us, we have been on both sides of many of these interviews. I asked the team for some of the best questions they have asked or that candidates asked of them.
Here are 33 smart questions to ask during a product manager job interview:
Before joining a company, you want to know that there is a clear vision for where they want to go. If the interviewer cannot answer this in a sentence or two, it should be a red flag. If things are in the process of changing, consider whether the company seems self-aware about its shift in focus. Your line of questioning will also demonstrate your understanding that, without a clear and articulate vision, everything else downstream will be more complex and challenging.
Find out more about the company’s strategy by asking:
- What is the vision for this product?
- How does the product vision relate to the vision and goals of the company?
- How do you develop your product strategy and what are the inputs?
- How has the product or go-to-market strategy changed over the last year?
- What kind of data do you use to drive product decisions?
- What other use cases might you expand to target in the future?
- Are there broader company goals that this role can help solve?
Organization and teams
To get a full understanding of the job, you must learn what kind of relationship the product manager will have with the rest of the organization. You want to get an idea of how cross-functional collaboration works within the company and how much autonomy you will have. And because the role of product manager itself can be very different at different companies, you want to drill down and distill how the teams are structured and work together.
Learn how the company and the product management function are organized by asking:
- How does the product management team work with executive leadership and the CEO?
- Who is the most senior “product person” at the company and are they on the executive team?
- How does the product management team work with engineering, sales, and support teams? Is the organization led by sales, product, or engineering?
- What are the characteristics of successful product managers in your organization?
- What is the hardest thing about being a product manager here?
- How do you onboard new product managers?
You want to know if this company truly understands customer needs and expectations. Do they take customer input into account to improve the experience — without trying to satisfy every individual customer demand? A good sign of a transparent organization is that they are not only in tune with their strengths but with their weaknesses as well. Inquiring about all aspects of the customer experience will give you valuable insight into the stage of their product and their culture.
Ask the following to learn about the company’s relationship with customers:
- Can you describe the makeup of your customer base?
- What type of customer research do you conduct and how often?
- What new types of customers are you trying to reach?
- Where have you seen the most growth in adoption?
- What kind of interaction is there with customers in this role?
- What do your customers say they love most (and least) about the product?
- When was the last time you said “no” to a customer and why?
- What is the most common reason that your customers cancel or leave?
- How do you measure customer satisfaction?
Ideas and enhancements
By understanding where most product ideas come from, you will have a better understanding of who the most common stakeholders will be. You also want to get at the heart of whether the company uses more qualitative or quantitative feedback to prioritize ideas and new features. The responses will reveal the objective metrics and influential forces that influence their product roadmap.
Ask about their approach to ideas:
- How do you connect new ideas to your business strategy?
- Where do most ideas come from?
- How are new ideas prioritized in the backlog?
- Do different ideas get treated differently depending on the source? (For example, does an idea from a customer carry more weight than one from an employee?)
- What is your feedback loop with customers who share ideas?
- How many customer ideas do you ship in a year?
Releases and launches
You asked about the company’s “why,” but now you want to find out the “how” — the people, processes, and tools that are used to launch new features and products. The release plan and frequency will help you decide if the company is a good fit. If you are used to shipping weekly, then a quarterly release cadence might be too slow for you. If they are unable to give you specifics, that could be an indicator of a chaotic go-to-market process.
Learn more about releases and launches with these questions:
- How are releases managed?
- In the last year, what percentage of your development were bug fixes, maintenance, and new development?
- Talk me through one idea that you turned into a feature and shipped that ended up being a mistake. What did you learn from that experience and what would you have changed if you could go back in time?
- What was the last feature or product you decided to eliminate?
- How often are new features released?
- Can you share a lesson from the last product launch?
- How do you measure the success of a new launch?
Your thoughtful questions will not only make a good impression — they will also help you figure out if this is a job you really want and a company you really want to work for.
Ask as many as you can. If you run out of time with one interviewer, save your remaining questions for the next one. And do not be afraid to pose the same question to multiple interviewers. The differences in their responses could tell you more about the company than the answers themselves.
What questions do you ask during product manager job interviews?