Product manager interview questions and how to answer them


Web Development

Bart Krawczyk
Five years of experience managing projects and products, including three in the technology sector. Worked with both startups and established corporations.

9 min read

Product manager interview questions are hard, and for good reason.

Spots for product manager jobs are limited. After all, companies generally need fewer product managers than engineers or designers. That demand-supply difference makes the job market very competitive for both entry-level and experienced product people.

If you want to get into the industry or advance your product management career, you must do better than just OK in your next product manager job interview. You need to differentiate yourself from hundreds of other candidates. The key is preparation.

How to answer common product manager interview questions

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to answer some of the most commonly asked product manager interview questions, including:

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. Why product management?
  3. What’s the job of a product manager?
  4. What’s the most impactful product you’ve worked on?
  5. What’s your greatest achievement?
  6. What’s your biggest failure?
  7. Describe the vision for a product you worked on
  8. Pick a product. Walk me through your product strategy for it
  9. What’s your favorite product, and how would you improve it?
  10. How do you get your team to commit to a deadline?
  11. Describe a situation in which you disagreed with a developer on your team

As a bonus, we’ll also offer tips to help you prepare for behavioral questions that you might encounter during a product manager interview.

1. Tell me about yourself

As straightforward as it is, this is one of the most critical questions to prepare for. You’ll hear it in literally every product manager job interview you take — probably in every job interview in general.

This question is an excellent opportunity to offer the recruiter snippets of stories you’d like to share during the interview. Treat it as your opportunity to make a first impression and spark the recruiter’s interest, not as just an icebreaker.

What recruiters want to know

  • A quick refresher of you as a professional (don’t expect them to have memorized your CV)
  • Important highlights to remember and follow up on later
  • Your overall communication skills
  • Why are you even here?

How to answer

  • Tell a coherent, interesting story. No need to go back to kindergarten, but mention how you started your career and what milestones shaped it the most
  • The story should give snippets of your main achievements/challenges, why you chose product management, and why you are here
  • Be sure to mention things you want the recruiter to follow up on; if you have a remarkable pivot story you want to share, mention it briefly when walking the recruiter through your story

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Reciting the CV — that’s plain boring
  • Focusing too much on the personal side; it’s OK to share a fun fact or two, but focus on the professional side
  • Wasting the opportunity by answering in a few sentences or, on the contrary, telling an exhaustive story of your life. Try to keep the duration of your answer under about three minutes

2. Why product management?

Companies are looking for passionate product managers. After all, the role often comes with a lot of stress and responsibility, and people who get into product management just for money or prestige will quickly burn out. This product manager interview question seeks to check whether you have what it takes to strive in the role.

What recruiters want to know

  • Do you understand the scope of the role?
  • Are you motivated enough to push through the hardships of the role?
  • Are you a good storyteller?

How to answer

  • Tell a compelling, personal story. How did you discover product management? Why did you fall in love with it? How does being a product manager align with your values and beliefs?
  • Explain how the profession aligns with your strengths and personality traits. Use this question to present yourself as a perfect fit for the product manager role

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Listing product management activities without explaining the why behind them — for example, “I want to be a product manager to impact the product.” Why do you want that?
  • Lack of passion or excitement in your answer

3. What’s the job of a product manager?

Product management is a vaguely defined term that differs a lot from company to company. In some companies, product managers focus more on execution; in others, they’re more involved with discovery or strategy.

It’s critical to establish a shared understanding; both the interviewer and interviewee should view product management in the same way to avoid disappointment.

What recruiters want to know

  • Is your understanding of the role aligned with the company’s expectations of the position?

How to answer

  • Before the interview, do your research to understand what product managers do at that company. Read the product manager job description carefully
  • Make sure your answer aligns with how the company describes the role, but don’t try to fit perfectly into the job description — especially given that sometimes those who write them are not fully aware of the position

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Giving vague answers — e.g., “product managers manage the product”
  • Misunderstanding the role — e.g., saying the product manager should focus on execution when the company is looking for a discovery-focused product manager

4. What’s the most impactful/important product you’ve worked on?

This is one of my favorite product manager interview questions. There’s a difference between delivering an app for 50 million users vs building an internal product for 5 internal users. Understanding the most impactful product you delivered can quickly reveal the scale you operated on.

What recruiters want to know

  • Have you actually launched something significant?
  • What’s your definition of impact/importance?

How to answer

  • Have one specific product already in mind
  • Clearly outline why it was impactful: How many users did you have? How much revenue did it generate?
  • Give clear context of how you contributed to its success

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Choosing an impactful product where you had a little impact yourself. It’s better to choose a less impactful product that you owned than a widely popular product on which you just helped out a bit
  • Lacking clear criteria on what impact means to you. Ideally, it should align with the values and mission of the company you are applying for
  • Focusing only on numbers. If five people use your product but it literally changes their lives, that’s more impactful than, say, a wallpaper generator for thousands

5. What’s your greatest achievement?

Past performance is some kind of indicator of future performance. Recruiters believe that your biggest successes more or less reflect what type of impact they can expect you to deliver for the new company.

What recruiters want to know

  • Have you made a truly impactful contribution in your previous role? Will you be able to replicate it in our company?

How to answer

  • Pick an achievement that’s truly yours. Teamwork is important, but you don’t want to give an example when you played only a tiny part
  • Ideally, your example should align with the role description and company mission. If a company is looking for a strategy-focused PM, give an example related to strategy

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Using “we” or “our team” too much. Recruiters are interested in hearing about your achievements. If the achievement was a team win, clearly online how you contributed to that success
  • Picking impactful but irrelevant achievements. If you managed to climb mount Everest, that’s a fantastic story, but it doesn’t clearly outline how good a product manager you are

6. What’s your biggest failure?

Everyone fails. I like to joke that, since we learn best from our failures, we should get a raise every time we have a major snafu. The scale of your failures indicates the scale of your impact.

What recruiters want to know

  • Can you openly admit and own your failures?
  • What scale of problems have you tackled in your career?
  • What have you learned from failure?

How to answer

  • Go big: don’t be afraid to talk about your biggest failures. Most recruiters would rather hire someone who has already broken their teeth in product management than someone who has yet to face any challenges
  • Clearly outline how the failure made you a better PM

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Choosing a small, insignificant failure. This will position you as an inexperienced PM who hasn’t had a chance to fail yet or as someone afraid to admit defeat. Both work against you
  • Not owning the failure and playing a blame game — e.g., “My biggest failure was missing a milestone because developers didn’t meet their deadlines”

7. Describe the vision for a product you worked on

Establishing and communicating your product vision is one of the essential jobs of a product manager. People want to make sure you have experience crafting and maintaining a product vision. If you don’t, you at least should be able to describe a vision of the products you worked on.

What recruiters want to know

  • Do you have experience setting and maintaining a product vision?
  • Do you understand the vision of products you’ve worked on? Were you interested in it?
  • Are you genuinely passionate about the products you worked on?

How to answer

  • Ideally, you should mention an example of a product vision you co-created from scratch
  • Make sure you sound excited; impassionate product managers are neither efficient nor inspiring
  • Explain how the vision was created, why it was relevant, and how it was used to guide product direction

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Lacking solid examples. There should always be a North Star of some sort. If products you worked on truly didn’t have a vision, improvise: perhaps there was a set of goals that served as a guiding direction
  • Failing to clearly articulate why the vision was relevant. Product managers must understand the vision from the ground up. Memorizing a sentence written on the wall is not enough
  • Failing to explain how the vision impacted product decisions. There is a reason we set the vision, and it’s not to sound fancy

8. Pick a product and walk through your product strategy

Without a clear strategy, products often become a combination of not related features. Great product managers are comfortable working with product strategy.

What recruiters want to know

  • Have you worked on a product at the strategic level in the past?
  • Do you understand the products you worked on deeply?
  • Does strategy drive your daily decisions, or are they based on a hunch?

How to answer

  • Be clear and concise; a product manager should be able to explain their product strategy to a five-year-old
  • Explain the why behind the strategy: What problems were you solving? What impacts was the strategy driving?
  • Show excitement
  • Be ready to give some examples of how the strategy impacted decisions and priorities

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Outlining a broad, vague strategy. For example, “Being the best consumer app in the world” is a poor strategy
  • Lacking a strategy
  • Rambling about the strategy or going into unnecessary details. Your answer should be easy to follow

9. What’s your favorite product and how would you improve it?

This is another classic product manager interview question. I treat it as an easier version of the “How would you improve X?” question. Here, the recruiter throws you a bone and allows you to choose the product yourself, so you had better be prepared!

What recruiters want to know

  • What criteria do you use to evaluate products?
  • Do you have a product sense? Can you clearly articulate the reasons why this particular product resonates with you?

How to answer

  • It’s not a must-have, but I recommend choosing a unique product because there’s a higher chance you’ll stick in the recruiter’s memory. Don’t be the hundredth person to bring up Google Maps
  • Briefly explain what the product is, the problems it solves, and how it’s better than its competitors
  • For the improvement parts, identify the user of the product. What are their unaddressed pain points? How can you change the product to address those pain points?

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Simply citing the name of a product and expecting the recruiter to pull your teeth for a detailed explanation of why it’s your favorite how you would improve it
  • Suggesting improvements without a clear focus on users and their pain points
  • Lack of strong criteria justifying why the product is your favorite

10. How do you get your team to commit to a deadline?

Most people don’t like deadlines, but we need them. Without deadlines, planning, estimating, and aligning teams would be impossible. Product managers must feel comfortable working with deadlines, and getting the whole team to commit to one is the hardest part.

What recruiters want to know

  • What type of leader are you?
  • How do you approach deadlines, and what’s the probability that you’ll actually meet the deadlines you commit to?

How to answer

  • Tell a story in which you involved the team in deadline creation
  • Ideally, there would have been some assertiveness on your end — say, stakeholders wanted something sooner, but you stood your ground and rejected their request. Talk about situations like that
  • Describe a situation in which you collaborated with the team and stakeholders to renegotiate the scope to meet a deadline

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Setting a deadline without the team’s contribution. That’s a huge red flag and no-go for many companies looking to hire a product manager
  • Talking about the carrot-on-a-stick approach, pushing the team to work harder or forcing them to work overtime
  • Not understanding the why behind the deadline. The first step is always to understand why the deadline is relevant. It will help you motivate the team and renegotiate the scope if necessary

11. Describe a situation in which you disagreed with a developer on your team

Building products is a team sport, and even the best teams have conflicts. In theory, the more conflicts you’ve resolved in the past, the better leadership material you are.

What recruiters want to know

  • What’s the scale of conflicts you’ve resolved?
  • Are you genuinely interested in other people’s opinions?
  • Can you reach a positive outcome without harming the relationship?

How to answer

  • The more challenging the problem you choose, the better; no one is interested in the time you disagreed about who should do the dishes
  • Walk the recruiter through your approach to solving the problem step by step; how you reached an outcome is even more important than the outcome itself
  • Ideally, choose an example where the solution was unique/creative

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Choosing a weak problem — e.g., a disagreement on what time to hold a meeting
  • Choosing a problem that was solved by someone else
  • Solving the problem by railroading the other person or using your position of authority

Preparing for behavioral questions

It’s impossible to prepare for every behavioral product manager interview question — there are endless possible variations, and every company looks for something different.

That’s why you should prepare stories, not answers. Think about the most defining moments in your product management career — challenges, failures and achievements — and choose a few of the most interesting. Then, refresh the details and practice talking about them passionately.

When you encounter a behavioral question during a job interview, all you’ll need to do is rack your brain for your prepared stories and pick the one that best answers the question at hand.

If you truly don’t have a story for a particular product manager interview question, then pivot the question itself. For example, if you are asked to describe a situation where you said no to a client and you can’t think of any, dodge the question by saying something like, “I don’t recall that particular case right now, but let me tell you a similar story when I said no to my co-worker.”

Sometimes, the key to acing a product manager job interview is thinking on your feet.

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