Product managers

A good product manager or product owner carriers the idea of the company forward in the perspective of IT. They have the best job in the world, because they get to do all the cool ideas which developers implement. They are the ultimate Steve Jobs of your company. Their days are spent drafting away screens and views, thinking about how to tie customers needs into a roadmap, endlessly testing, researching new ideas. Measuring results. Cool stuff! But they also have the hardest job, sitting between demanding (and frequently unreasonable) business units and the synthetic work of a development team.

Because of this, there are some questions I always like to make when I interview a potential candidate.

I start by dividing my part of an interview into 2 parts:

  • to assess the fit with the companies values; this is the elementary part of an interview, and I've written about it before [1]. If the person doesn't tick with your values, this is not a good sign;
  • to check if there's a match to the responsibilities of a product owner

On this last part, my questions are about the 3 responsibilities of a Product Manager:

  1. Improve your business through a better product
    • what do you know about our company? What are we doing here, what's our potential?
    • what's the impact of our business model in designing a Product? What are the critical challenges? Do you have the skills and experience when dealing with similar problems? 
    • Where is the industry going? 
    • what's impact to you? List the 5 most important ways in which a product improves. How would you define success in your job? Tell me about your biggest impact in a product management role you've had. How did you measure that?
    • do you have experience in working with a team like ours? What do you think about X as a technology?
  2. Adequately balance scope, time, cost and quality (Project Management)
    • what is an effective project management? What are the variables to optimize?
    • how do you organize yourself? How do you communicate with people?
    • talk to me about Agile, Kanban, Scrum, X. Which do you like the most?
    • in 60 seconds, make an accurate picture of X? Do you know what MECE is?
    • what do you hate about our product/ another product? Why? How would you make it better?
    • what features would you kill in our product/ product X? Prioritize them for killing until there is no product left. Where would you draw the line of what gets killed and not? Why's that?
  3.  The "one more thing"
    • do you think our product is beautiful? What's magic about it?
    • tell me about the most incredible experience you've created
    • how do you systematically create those?

And that's all! Now, people aren't required to nail all of the questions? I wouldn't nail all of them, for sure. Between Values and these Technical questions, a good interview will take you perhaps some 2 hours. Some fare better in some questions, some in others. Cross check the most obvious answers with their past managers. Some questions don't have a right answer. What matters is that you get a good feeling about who you're about to hire!


[1] Deconstructing hiring through values