Are you preparing for a director of product interview at a reputed organization? Then, you are in the right place.
Facing the interview and succeeding requires a different skill set. Therefore, we have put together this ultimate guide to boost your confidence to succeed in the director of product interview.
A hiring manager already knows a thing or two about your qualifications and experience from your resume. So in the interview, they are eager to learn more about you. For instance, from how you present yourself in the interview, they verify whether you have the skills you claim to have in your resume. With it, they test these skills as well:
- Your character, personality, and background.
- Your overall experience in leading a product management team.
- What value can you bring to the organization’s table?
So based on the above areas, we have put together some critical interview questions and their answers in order for you to prepare well. Also, be mindful that these questions and answers serve as a guide only, and the questions you get vary from organization to organization. They’re in no particular order as well.
In addition, there is a possibility for the recruiting manager to ask all, some, or none of these questions in your interview. However, to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the interview skills you need, we have put together this guide.
So if you go through them well and follow the interview skills we have set here, you’re on your way to becoming a leading product management director.
First of all, let’s take a look at what these interview-facing skills are:
- Speak with confidence: In an interview, it’s natural to feel anxious and nervous regardless of if it’s your first or hundredth interview. Thus, you need to think as if you’re talking to your best friend. In the meantime, present yourself well for the interview by dressing smartly and maintaining eye contact.
- Prepare thoroughly before the interview: Do sufficient research on the organization before the interview. When you give a good answer to a question on what you know about their organization, they feel your keenness to work with them.
- Prepare to answer failures: Hiring managers often ask questions about the situations where you were unsuccessful. Be ready to plan to answer such questions so that they don’t realize that your answer is random, which came at that moment. Instead, describe the rectifications you have undertaken to improve the unsuccessful circumstances.
Now, let’s get a sneak peek into the critical topics in product manager interview questions:
- General questions about yourself
- Product related questions
- Product management questions
- Leadership and management questions
- Behavioral questions
- Technical questions
- Remote work management questions
- Career path questions
Without further ado, let’s dig deeper into the above areas.
General Questions About Yourself
General questions are easier to answer in an interview as they don’t involve deep technical knowledge. However, they’re trickier to answer if you do not prepare for them with ample research. For instance, in a nerve-wracking environment like an interview, there is a big chance to give a wrong answer to a question like ‘why are you leaving your current job?’
So below are a few standard basic questions for you to practice that recruiting managers often ask you:
1. Describe yourself
When answering this question, it’s easier for you to lose focus and boost your personal history. Instead, the recruiting managers want to know the significant highlights in your career. Therefore, after describing 2-3 sentences about your details, discuss the critical points of your product management career.
Due to time constraints, do not dig deeper into details. Nevertheless, make sure that each sentence you describe in your answer adds curiosity to the recruiting manager to find out more about you. Bonus if you conclude with how you landed in this job interview.
The key takeaway is not to repeat everything you have mentioned in your resume. Instead, you briefly expand on key points discussed there.
2. How did you find out about this position?
Although this is a straightforward answer like a website or a job portal, don’t limit yourself to just that. This is where you need to add some creativity to show your potential employers why you like the company. Examples of motivating factors to work in that organization include:
- Their ethical values.
- Proper work-life balance.
- Challenging work to test your product management skills
- More incentives and benefits.
3. Why do you wish to work in [insert company name]?
When you get this question, some new job seekers feel the heat. It’s because they think that if they give a wrong answer they lose the opportunity to have the job. Thus, preparation is necessary when answering the question before the interview.
As an example, be bold and confident and express the following:
- I have the skills and knowledge to contribute to a fast-paced/forward-thinking/innovative company like yours.
- My core values align with your company values, and this is the kind of culture I’m looking forward to working with.
- Since I have x number of years of experience serving customers, I’m looking forward to applying that expertise with a global company loyal to its solid customer base.
- I’m happy with your company’s commitment to the career growth of its employees through training programs and seminars.
4. Why do you think we should hire you?
The recruitment team usually tests what skills in your armory are of value to the organization. So, at any cost, it certainly does a world of good when avoiding vague answers like I’m hardworking, committed, with an outgoing personality, etc. Instead, as successful product managers, focus on the valuable skills that you possess, both technical and soft skills, and how you plan to contribute with such skills to your new role.
While answering this question, it certainly helps to highlight your achievements throughout your career. For example, in my last role as the product manager, I delivered a product in the most challenging circumstances with my technical knowledge and leadership style. Since you work with highly challenging projects, I plan to bring the same mentality to this company.
5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
This is, again, a common question. Do not give unsuitable answers such as ‘I find the stress impossible to bear.’ Then it gives the recruiter to believe you’re incapable of handling stress.
So altogether, make sure your statement is bold and intelligent in your answer. So you should state something along the lines that you love challenging roles, and your current position doesn’t require much challenging work.
Another intelligent answer is that you wish to change the environment to develop new skill sets that aren’t mandatory in your current role. Or even more intelligent when you say I believe I can take more responsibility.
Product Related Questions
Below are the essential questions that relate to the product. Whether you get all or some of the questions below, we highly recommend focusing on fewer questions with the highest quality rather than quantity. Let’s dive in:
1. Assume that you are talking to a stranger. What’s the ideal way to explain product management to this person?
Here they test your ability to explain product management in layman’s vocabulary rather than overly complicated technical terms. In other words, they’re checking if product management is your bread and butter.
In addition, include a philosophical view on the values that the product management brings to the company’s table by leading teams to launch a product from its ideation phase.
2. What is your favorite product, and what do you like most about it?
There are several reasons behind asking this question. First, the recruiting manager lets you show your experience and knowledge through your answer based on your preferences. So when you answer the question, highlight your choices regarding the product design, its effectiveness to the end-user, and strategy.
Also, this question is a bit uncommon, unlike most other questions in this article. So most candidates least expect it. However, when you answer this question in the manner mentioned above, recruiting managers most likely see you as a candidate who thinks quickly and responds under pressure.
3. What’s your approach to building a product strategy?
For this question, they’re trying to determine your approach to a product strategy in general. While a product strategy differs from product to product, some general guidelines exist. So assuming that you’re in charge of building the product roadmap, it’s ideal to state the following guidelines:
- Identify the target audience after extensive customer research
- Understand why you need the product
- Develop the product vision
- Define the goals that the product aims to achieve
- Use these goals to guide the product roadmap
- Synchronize with other teams
- Consistently review the vision and strategy of the product
4. How do you establish a workflow relationship between user experience and engineering teams?
There is no specific answer to this question as there are plenty of various responses. On the other hand, the recruitment team is also not after any particular workflow. Instead, they’re keen on any workflow that unites both the user experience (UX) and engineering team, as the core strength of a product lies in collective input from both teams.
It is a bonus to say that both teams should prevent any egos from delivering a product that aligns with stakeholder requirements.
5. Suppose a product manager of team A says his component is more critical than team B’s. Then, team B’s product manager says precisely the opposite. How do you deal with it, as only A or B is possible?
It is a tricky question to answer. Recruiting managers are interested to know how crucially you handle such circumstances by giving way to prioritization which is an absolute necessity in product development. So in this scenario, you should be good at prioritizing tasks and your communication skills to convince both the managers.
Therefore you should say that you”ll select the component that closely aligns with stakeholder requirements and priorities. Furthermore, you should state that getting a data analyst to analyze which feature suits the best according to given data.
Finally, you should convince the managers of both components why you made your decision so that the entire team is on the same page.
6. What is one thing that you dislike about our product?
When answering this question, you need to state the negativity of the product ethically, highlighting one of its significant features and the drawback.
For instance, you can say that you like how product x satisfies their basic needs. But it lacks a user interface, is not attractive to draw leads, and you are missing a chance to attract leads at a greater magnitude.
Product Management Questions
Product management interview questions form an integral part of the director of the product interview as you have to manage a group of the leadership team. You need to demonstrate that you have what it takes to be an exceptional product leader with problem-solving skills.
Let’s dig deep into these types of questions.
1. Describe a situation where you had to motivate a team member.
Use the below as a sample answer:
‘As a product manager, my work depends on how quickly others deliver their work, which is more evident in tight deadlines. Except for one member who worked on fewer critical elements, all the others had the work on time. However, this member’s work was of exceptional quality.
So once I decided to meet this member personally in the lunch room to discuss if he needed any assistance to deliver work on time. He said that since he feard deadlines due to a past incident, a little encouragement helps.
Then I explained how to break a primary task into smaller components and work on each element, each having its deadline. I monitored and mentored him for some time, and he delivered on time after a while.’
2. How do you think product managers should interact with engineers?
First, you should say that it’s the responsibility of the product manager to lead the product and that of the engineers to build it. So that’s the line where you have to define the boundaries. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds, and your chances of succeeding in the interview enhance if you elaborate on this answer further as below.
It is the responsibility of both parties to make a better product. However, if a product manager interferes with the engineering team and vice-versa, achieving a final product as per the client’s expectations is challenging. So there should be transparency on each side’s roles.
A product manager focuses on a product’s why (product strategy) and what (product features). On the other hand, the engineering team should focus on how to build the product based on the technical solution.
3. What areas in product management do you find interesting to work with?
You should mention that the fascinating aspect of product management is that you build a product with the assistance of a cross-functional team for the people to use. Then, when you see or hear people using the product, it gives you ultimate satisfaction.
It’s also vital to mention that you enjoy problem solving and leading teams of various personalities.
4. What aspects of product management do you find the least interesting?
Again you need to be smart at answering this question. You have to speak the truth but at the same time not sound too negative. Some examples are:
- Lack of control: often, the success of a product depends on a myriad of factors outside of your control, including government regulations and policies in place, budget constraints, changes in frequent new features, etc.
- Jack of all trades but a master in few: when a resource gap arises, there are circumstances where you have to step in. Then it takes away from your actual work.
- Level of uncertainty: There is a probability that managers ask you to make decisions with non-existent facts, ultimately costing millions to billions of dollars.
5. How would you redesign our product?
- First, the need of the hour is to identify what the product lacks in terms of customer experience. To define it, I should communicate with customers and technical teams.
- Then the next step is to build product features and retain existing features that make the product user-friendly. The main objective here is to minimize variety so that product maintains its core features.
- Finally, I ensure that it’s cost-effective so that the sales increments. This is possible with effective communication with marketing teams regarding product features.
6. How would you prevent product failure?
The key to a successful product is to have true product innovation.
Thus my business approach is to ensure that the product initially performs with its core features. To achieve it, I ensure that the product launch is only for a sample audience. Then gathering feedback to determine if the product meets its business goals and serves its market size is my next step.
Another measure is to ensure that the marketing oriented teams do not over-hype the product, which often leads to product failure. Therefore it’s ideal to leave out the marketing of the product till the product management department releases the product.
In addition, ensuring that the product has an acceptable level of user experience, lacks poor design, and passes through quality checks are also key to a successful product.
Finally, I should ensure that pricing is reasonable; otherwise, customers tend to look for cheaper alternatives.
Leadership and Management Questions
Product managers are always leaders, even at the base of their careers. So an interview for the director of product management is incomplete without leadership questions. So here are a few that are worth practicing.
1. What’s the difference between leadership and management, in your opinion?
For this question, the hiring manager expects you to list the four management principles or something along the lines. They are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Alternatively, management is about running systems, people, processes, and functions.
It certainly helps if you mention other management traits, such as executing all the tasks efficiently and thoughtfully in an organized manner.
However, you have to say that without leadership skills, a manager finds achieving the functionalities mentioned above challenging.
Then briefly mention leadership qualities such as communicating employees’ positive and negative aspects, encouraging employees, and providing motivation and guidance.
2. What’s your ideal work style with clients and stakeholders?
When answering this question, highlight the importance of understanding who the clients are and how you build long-term relationships with them. For instance, most products fail due to not understanding their requirements thoroughly and not building relationships with them.
On the other hand, it’s essential to identify the stakeholders in a single project with the power and authority to define the project and set goals. Hence build a top-level relationship with them.
Other points you need to highlight are being honest with them all the time and showing your competence. Furthermore, it’s a top priority to establish one-to-one communication with them.
3. Describe your unique leadership style.
Most recruiting managers often expect you to state which leadership you belong to. Here are some examples:
- Autocratic: This is where you make your decisions based on your thoughts without considering others’ thoughts. This leadership is ideal in situations where team members are inexperienced.
- Decromatic: Never does anything without consulting other members. They also foster trust among members.
- Laissez-faire: This is entirely the opposite of autocratic leadership, where everyone involves in decision-making sans any supervision. Mostly ideal in situations when you have highly experienced colleagues.
- Coaching style: These leaders invest their time mostly in coaching their coworkers to improve their talents. Mostly complete tasks by delegation
- Authoritative: These leaders instruct the other team members on what they need to do to accomplish a task. Unlike autocratic leaders, they listen to different opinions.
These are only five major leadership styles that we think are important. Please find more leadership styles here. After you describe the leadership style, please provide examples of why you believe you belong to the category you stated with examples from previous work.
In superior management roles, such as the product management director, the company likes to gauge how you behave day to day according to the need of the situation. They test if you handle the most outrageous circumstances without getting emotional and influence without authority.
A word of caution; if they ask you a question you never faced in your career, use your imagination to figure out how you handle it in the future and then answer accordingly. Then you’re ahead of your peers who say, ‘I haven’t faced such a situation.’
1. How do you say no to people you work with?
A hiring manager expects that you say ‘no’ nicely with a professional attitude. They also check whether you’re good at asserting yourself and setting boundaries instead of saying ‘yes’ to all, including tasks you don’t want to do.
It helps to ensure that when you say ‘no,’ it’s not ‘later’ or ‘I don’t think so.’ It implies no for now and forever. Then you need to explain briefly why you’re saying no. It’s not an excellent notion to go deeper into details or fabricate why you’re saying so. Instead, you have to be short.
Finally, you can wind off with an alternate plan. For instance, I’m busy with an urgent client task and perhaps request a reschedule.
2. Describe a situation where you had to influence someone
A hiring manager often asks this question to evaluate your communication and persuasion skills. Here is a typical example of what you can say.
Let’s say that your sales team had to close a challenging sale that needed one specific component with a new prospect. However, you’re sure you have collected the requirement in the customer research and competitive analysis phases and wonder if the sales team is targeting a different persona.
So you had to tell the sales department to request the prospect to make a written request about the new feature. After you receive it, you are confident that the prospect is less likely to sign the deal. However, the sales team was still uncertain.
So you took time to communicate with the sales department about why this feature wastes time and resources based on your research with several meetings using appropriate tools. Finally, they agreed with you and convinced the prospect.
3. Describe a mistake that you committed and how you rectified it.
Two critical points to note when answering this question are:
- Please do not dwell on the mistake but briefly describe it.
- Also, do not mention any errors crucial for the new position’s success.
For instance, in your answer, you should say that you tried to do all the operations by yourself when you were a junior-level product manager.
They include providing leadership to the department and solving massive technical challenges. But ever since that grave mistake, you learned how to delegate work and collect feedback from all department members.
Now it’s part of your daily work routine, and you have often succeeded by delegating the work.
4. It’s a challenge to work with some clients. Tell us a situation where a client was wrong, and you rectified it.
With this question, you shouldn’t abruptly tell the client they’re wrong. Instead, you first listen to the client and determine if they’re wrong. Then, if they are wrong, tell them their option is great but suggest an alternative pleasantly.
For example, you should say something like,” your idea is excellent but do you mind if I share some alternative ideas?”
It isn’t likely to expect technical questions in a director of the product interview. However, if the company is a startup or medium scale, they require you to fill in some technical roles when there are lack of resources.
On the other hand, it’s easier to manage and guide people working on technical aspects when you have specialized knowledge.
1. Have you worked on a technical product? If so, please provide the details.
Here the employers assess your technical knowledge at two levels. Firstly, they check if you are passionate about working on the product’s technical side. Secondly, they examine whether you have any technical experience, including a bachelor’s degree, certification, or other recognized qualification.
Even if you provide a negative response, it doesn’t matter to the interview’s outcome as long as recruiting managers are confident that you are sound with your product management and leadership skills.
However, it certainly helps to provide an answer such as since you’re a tech-savvy person, in addition to managing the product, you also discussed with the development team how the product worked.
Remote Work Management Questions
In this day/age, most companies have a new norm of working in a remote setting. So it’s well worth preparing for remote work management questions as there is a possibility that the recruiting manager has some questions in it.
So let’s find out how to answer questions regards to working remotely.
1. Share your experience in managing product teams remotely.
Product management offers challenges within and out of your control, even in an office setup, including changes in requirements, policies, government regulations, and procedures. Thus in a remote environment, there are additional challenges since the entire team works remotely.
So when answering this question, do not dwell on the negative aspects. Instead, respond with positive intent and a confident tone. Even if you don’t have remote working experience, you need to demonstrate to your potential employer that you’re excited about the opportunity. As a result, you stand out from those who don’t show any enthusiasm.
Whereas if you have remote work management experience, provide examples of how you led a team with self-motivation to deliver the product within the deadline and budget.
2. What major challenges did you confront when managing teams across different time zones?
First, you have to accept that getting people working in different time zones with language barriers and cultural differences on the same page is difficult. However, mention that you look forward to the challenge of using the techniques discussed here:
- Use asynchronous communication: this implies using emails, messages, online chat, or videos to communicate. With this technique, the two parties are not necessarily communicating simultaneously.
- Treat the team as a cohesive unit: Although you’re not in the same building and time zone, when you have a cohesive mindset, completing the tasks within the deadline is easier. At the same time, you ensure that all the team members work in a quiet, private space.
- Schedule meetings at times where everyone attends: This is a challenge when you have people working across various time zones, and this is not an issue for people working in close time zones. But if team members reside in parts of the globe that are opposite each other, I ensure that I set important meetings only when necessary.
- Lose the motivation to stay connected as a team: The primary cause of this issue is a lack of physical presence. However, to overcome this issue, tracking the employee’s progress at regular intervals helps or asking them constantly to keep their online status active.
Career Path Questions
With these questions, the recruiting managers often find whether you have the desire and motivation to go further up your career ladder. You get these questions from organizations that have a clear career progression.
Let’s dive into how to handle these questions.
1. Where do you see yourself in another five years?
When answering this question, plan your career goals from medium to long term. Take a few minutes of your preparation time to brainstorm specific ideas. Then look for connections between your career goals and your job description in the company interviewing you.
Then determine if you have the right skills to succeed in the job. If not, what are the areas that you need improvement in? Once you have outlined that, it enables you to align your career goals to the job post you have applied for and speak about them.
In the end, ask if the company is in a position to support your career goals.
After reading this article, we hope you now have a comprehensive overview of what the director of the product interview looks like. Director of product is a lucrative career, and when you prepare well-using guides such as this, you’re sure to land the job you have been dreaming of.
So keep learning, and I wish you all the success in your career goals.