How to sound like an experienced Product candidate ?

Several people come to us when they fail a couple of interviews. Some proceed to the final round of interviews and they fail to get an offer. Or some just fail the first telephone interview. Others fail in the middle rounds. Remember, it takes only one question to be be answered incorrectly in order to fail an interview. So what is it that makes you sound an experienced Product guy ? Let us break it down.

Practice answers to common questions: Preparation is the key to all interviews. While this may sound trivial, many candidates often underestimate this aspect in their interviews. It goes a long way to get the role you want. But what exactly is preparation, you may ask ? It involves writing down answers for common questions like: how do you collect requirements, how do you prioritize them, who do you interact with as stakeholders etc. It also involves creating stories based on SOAR/STAR/CAR frameworks for questions of the type “Tell me a time when..”. If you are appearing in person, practice and be ready for panel interviews, as these are becoming more common. These are just a few examples. But I think you got the gist.

Never answer in black and white : Newer candidates often give away their naivety by giving simple yes/no or A/B type of answers. Experienced Product Managers don’t get stuck up in a single answer. They always give multiple answers and can come up with justifications for their chosen answers. To give an example, do you always address requirements from your high-value customers ? An inexperienced Product Manager will say, yes, I do that always (as if that is a no brainer). An experienced Product Manager, on the other hand says, it depends on whether this customer’s requirements align with the Product vision.  Sometimes, it is ok to say no to high-value customers, if the requirements do not align with the Product or Company’s vision. Got it ? A brief example but I am sure you got the point.

Use proper Product terminology:  “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein. If you cannot speak the rules of the game, in this case the Product terminology, then are far from getting picked up. It is essential that you learn and are very comfortable with all the keywords for the type of Product role you are applying for. Examples of Product terminology related to Product interviews are – addressable market, Product support, Pricing lists, functional requirements, stakeholders. You have to sound smooth while using these and you have to know when to use what keywords. The keywords vary from role to role and you should check the job description of the job you are applying to.

Give examples: Often times, it is hard for an interviewer to fully understand the context of your answers. While you are speaking, the interviewer is trying to make sense of what you are saying. So it is recommended that during the interview, you insert examples from your own experience while answering the asked question. Experienced candidates do this spontaneously. For ex. you can say that “in this product, that I have worked during my time in company X, we performed A/B testing in this way, and we found out that…”

Ask Questions: This can make or break your interview. Product interviews often contain open ended questions like “how would introduce Product X in a new market in Latin America” ? Instead of getting started with your answer, a better approach is to step back and try to ask questions. Examples of this are – Are we talking about only Go-to-Market strategy or also determining the market need ? Do we have a product ready at this time or are you also referring to product readiness as a part of introducing it in Latin America ? Answers to such questions help determine the scope of your response and they will also let the interviewer know that you have the ability to think critically.

Once you determine your challenging area(s) from the list above, it is important to get help and address the area(s). Also, it is important to highlight aspects of the Product role that have you experienced in your previous role, even when you were formally not in a Product role. All of this needs efforts and more importantly guidance. Remember, if you need help, we offer a Product Bootcamp !

Good luck with your interviews !