Are you a product manager looking to ace your upcoming case interviews? While those can be daunting, equipped with the right framework you can face the challenge with confidence. In this guide, we’ll discuss potential questions and the essential tips for PMs to prepare for product sense interview and product metrics interview questions and nail them.
Table of Contents
- Types of Product Manager Case Studies
- How To Prepare For Product Manager Interviews
- Product Sense Interviews
- Product Metrics Interviews
Types of Product Manager Case Studies
A product manager interview typically consists of a combination of behavioural and technical questions as well as situational case studies. Questions can range from product strategy to data analysis and launching products. The most important part is to assess how the candidate approaches ambiguous problems in a structured way to arrive at solutions that show customers empathy and business acumen.
Interviewers may also probe candidates about their approach to working with other teams, such as engineering, design, data, marketing, or customer operations. The goal here is to understand whether the person is able to align, motivate and lead their team and stakeholders.
In big tech companies, there are typically 2 main types of case studies – Product Sense and Product Metrics interviews.
Product sense or product sense interviews focus on the applicant’s ability to design a product and evaluate user experience. They usually involve the applicant discussing their process for designing a product, presenting mockups, conducting user research, and launching the product.
Product metrics or execution interviews focus on the applicant’s ability to measure and analyse the performance of a product. They usually involve the applicant explaining how they would measure success, analyzing data, and discussing strategies to improve product performance.
How To Prepare For Product Manager Interviews
The most effective way to prepare for a product manager interview is to do research on the position and the company. This includes researching the company’s strategy, products, market, competition and target audience.
Here are some guiding questions:
- In which markets do they operate? Have they recently expanded?
- How are they doing financially? (See if there is a financial report available)
- What kind of products or features have they recently launched? Try to understand their reasoning behind it
- Have there been any other announcements lately?
Additionally, review the job description carefully to understand the problem space you’ll be hired to drive, day-to-day responsibilities and the stakeholders you’ll be working together with.
Importantly, be prepared to answer any questions about your previous experience and talk about challenges you have faced and solved. Prepare a set of situations which you can walk the interviewer through.
Companies typically touch upon the following behavioural question topics: Achieving a great result, being faced with a challenge, coping with failure, being confronted with a difficult situation with a team member, taking risks, using data to make a decision, or influencing others.
Finally, it is vital to stay up to date on industry trends and macroeconomic developments that might have an impact on the company.
Product Sense Interviews
Product design or product sense interviews are those that test your ability to think strategically about a company’s business model, its product, its market, and its potential customer base. These questions could include asking you to describe your understanding of the company’s goals, its product, the market, its customers and their needs and how you would go about launching a product.
Our recommendation on how to tackle these interviews is to follow a structured approach, being inquisitive, confident, creative and clear in your communication. Make sure that the interviewer can follow your thought process so check in with them occasionally.
Also, state your hypotheses and use relevant insights or data that you might have.
Example Product Sense Interview Questions
For product sense interviews, some example questions could be:
- Describe your process for designing a product X
- How do you decide which features to build for a product X?
- How would you improve product X?
Product Sense Interview Framework
As you can see, those are very open-ended and ambiguous questions. The main trap here is that you go straight into brainstorming feature ideas.
Having a clear structure is key so you consider all important aspects of an answer.
Below you’ll find a set of guiding questions you can use to approach those questions. Do not ask your interviewer all of them, most should be figured out by yourself. Make assumptions if you don’t know.
Typically, spend around 30 mins on such questions. The key here is to be concise and to the point and keep the time in mind to not get lost in the weeds.
- Why are we doing this? What problem is it solving?
- Where is it to be used? On what platform, device or location? For a specific audience?
- What could be considered an innovation in this domain?
- What are the trends in this space?
- What might make this area ripe for disruption?
- What are other players in the industry already doing?
- What’s the purpose of the company at hand?
- What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the business goals? E.g. expansion, revenue, or engagement
- What are constraints? E.g. timelines, limited resources, or competing projects
Once you have more context about the situation lay out your approach to identifying product features. Here is an example:
I’m going to identify users and prioritise one segment. Then I’ll talk about use cases and identify pain points. Then I’ll brainstorm some solution ideas and prioritise them. Does that sound good?
Ideating Users And The Problem Space
You need to have an understanding of who you are designing your product for. Here are some questions that might help you identify them:
- Who could be the most or least frequent users?
- Define 1-3 main user segments. E.g. buyer, seller and advertiser on a marketplace product
- What are they using the product for?
- Decide on criteria to prioritise them. E.g. by market size or frequency of use
- Decide on 1 user group to go with
Brainstorming The User Journey & Pain Points
The job of a PM is to build products that solve problems for users and generate value for the business. Therefore, you should have an understanding of the problems your users have, and how critical they are.
Based on the user segment that you’ve decided on, identify their goals, pain points and needs that they might have.
We recommend doing this by mapping out their typical user journey.
Try to think about both functional and emotional needs. Bonus points include sprinkling in personal examples from yourself or your network. Adding a personal touch makes your users human and relatable.
Defining What To Build – MVP Feature Scope And Priorities
Now that you have an idea about the company and their goals, its users and their needs, it’s time to come up with feature ideas to solve those. Subsequently, prioritise them similar to the user needs in the previous step. We recommend mapping each feature idea to the user’s pain point. Talk about how you think it would solve it.
In order to prioritise your ideas, lay out your framework. We recommend using 2-3 dimensions such as impact, difficulty to build or level of innovation. Which dimensions you decide on should tie into the company’s situation and goals.
Define 1-3 features and walk your interviewer through them. How are they supposed to solve the problem at hand and how would you go about designing it?
Additionally, mention potential risks. This shows that you think analytically about the potential impact and downstream effects.
How do you know whether you actually succeeded in solving your users’ problems? You need to define goals beforehand that help you measure your impact.
It’s therefore important to name corresponding metrics that you’ll track to inform its performance. Try to think about useful and pragmatic metrics for the initial launch and growth but also for business as usual (BAU).
We recommend briefly recapping on what you’ve come up with and how you arrived there.
WHY – The interview question prompt and situation
WHO – The user group you’ve identified and their pains
WHAT – The feature you’ve proposed to build and your reasoning behind it
HOW – The go-to-market approach to launching and informing success
Product Metrics Interviews
Product metric or execution interviews are focusing on your ability to be analytical and data-driven. They typically involve questions about how you would measure the success of a product or feature, analyse a change in a metric, and make trade-offs.
Example Product Metrics Interview Questions
Some example questions for product metrics or product execution interviews could be:
- How do you measure product success?
- What metrics do you use to evaluate your product’s performance?
- How do you determine which metrics to prioritize?
Product Metrics Interview Framework
To tackle such open questions, we recommend using a structured approach that touches on the following points:
- Clarifying the company, its product and its users
- Hypothesising their North Star metric
- Defining and prioritising~5 proxy metrics
- Settling on 1-2 including a rationale
- Mentioning next steps
Spend around 20-30 minutes on such questions and cater for some time clarifying aspects of the question with your interviewer.
It’s essential to understand the problem space you’re operating in. Therefore, we’re providing some talking points and guiding questions that help you create more context about the company at hand, the industry, the users, and the goals.
To start off, quickly reiterate the mission, the company’s business model and the current stage of their product.
- How does the company in this scenario make money?
- What’s the main business goal here?
- Who are the competitors? What sets this company apart from others?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of this company?
- What are the latest trends in this industry?
- What does a healthy ecosystem look like? Think demand and supply
- Who are the users?
- What is their typical journey?
Define 1-2 user groups to focus on and provide your rationale to the interviewer.
Identifying The North Star
To come up with key metrics for a product, you should have an understanding of the main objective the company strives for, their North Star.
Typically, it can be related to acquisition, engagement, retention or monetisation. To identify the North Star, use the following question to guide your thinking:
- When do users get value out of the product? E.g. a seller when an item is sold
- What’s a meaningful user action?
- What’s the business-related goal of the company?
It’s okay to make assumptions here but worth checking in with your interviewer whether you’re on the right track.
Defining The Top Metrics
Next, break down the North Star and identify a set of proxy metrics. Those are metrics that are more low-level (e.g. based on user actions). Think about all the user groups that you’ve identified beforehand.
Focus on metrics that actually translate to success for the user and ideally for the company too.
Walk your interviewer through the metrics and explain why you’ve chosen them. It can make sense to use a prioritization framework here like in the product sense example.
Besides to top metrics, we suggest also thinking about potential downstream metrics. What would happen if you’d over-index on a single user group or metric? Could this have any negative side effects?
One example of this is – If you focus on more time spent on a specific product feature, this could mean less time spent somewhere else in the product that might monetise better
Thinking about guardrail metrics or counter metrics helps you ensure that a product doesn’t have detrimental effects on other health metrics.
Think customer service contacts, user reports, or downtime.
👉 Tip: Check out our guide on essential product growth metrics
When you’re challenged with a question about what metrics you would track for a product, it’s important to understand the context, and problem space and keep their different user groups top of mind.
Think through what sort of actions they perform within the product and how they get value out of it. From there you can come up with metrics that relate to those actions. Prioritise if necessary and think about potential pitfalls and impacts when focusing on those.
Always communicate openly with your interviewer and walk them through your thought process so they can follow your reasoning.