A successful product manager is equipped with a set of both “hard” and “soft” skills. In the following piece we give you our most useful product management interview tips.
From the skills you should highlight in a resume and cover letter to what kind of questions you should be expected to answer, this article will provide you with a quick and comprehensive summary of all you need to know about PM interviews.
What Skills Should I Highlight in my Resume?
Since a PM is a job that blends business, technical knowledge and communication skills a PM’s resume should successfully highlight all these skills.
Here are the main ones you should focus on:
1. Technical Skills
Since developing a product roughly follows the same steps, any good PM resume and cover letter should show the skills that match those steps. They are:
1.1 Strategy Skills
A good PM will identify opportunities and gaps in the market and come up with a plan that takes advantage of them. What this means is your resume should underscore any strategic work you have done.
Some ideas are market research, problem-solving or writing up a business plan for your own company
1.2 Design Skills
Despite the fact that PMs don’t take charge of UX and UI design, they do need to have a contribution that is constructive as well as guide their team in the right direction.
So again you should place emphasis on any existing design experience - even if it’s something like taking a drawing class.
Also if you’ve put together UX wireframes or UI mock-ups make sure to mention this in your resume!
1.3 Engineering Skills
Any PM worth their salt will understand what engineering does as well as represent the engineering team when talking to other teams and departments - such as marketing and design
Also, since PMs will have to push back deadlines because of technical reasons they should be able to understand the latter very well.
Consequently, make sure your resume emphasizes any computer science experience, even if it’s not a degree - you might have attended a coding bootcamp, or are learning coding on the side, so you should give those skills their proper weight.
1.4 Digital Marketing Skills
It is crucial for a PM to know which audiences to target so your resume should bring up any marketing experience, including running blogs and social media channels as well as designing paid ads.
1.5 Data Analytics Skills
Product managers have to be able to interpret data and analyze data for various reasons. Therefore, you should highlight any data-related experience you might have had, such as being familiar with tools like Excel, SQL and Python.
Soft skills are no less important in a good PM resume - here’s what you should draw attention to:
2.1 Leadership Skills
PM’s need to have strong leadership skills since their work isn’t based on a very strong hierarchy and they often need to coordinate members of different teams. A PM should be able to listen to opinions and evaluate them but also lead members of their teams to their goals. Therefore you will have to highlight any leadership experience you may have – including sport teams or societies you were in charge of at university.
2.2 Communication Skills
Product managers are constantly communicating with several teams and stakeholders so they need to have great communication skills and be adaptable.
A PM resume needs to display those qualities in and of itself because recruiters will pay extra attention to how you present yourself and your experience - so the layout and content of your resume is in itself a test of communication.
2.3 Organizational Skills
As a PM you’ll need to organize your work in an efficient manner and independently and proficiently prioritize tasks. Therefore you should emphasize your complex projects in your resume, especially those in agile environments.
Formatting Tips for Resumes and Cover Letters
A good resume and cover letter doesn’t only mean including all the afore mentioned information – it's also important to present it the right way. Here are some ideas:
- Keep it one page – Sure, you might have a lot of experience but one of the most important things a PM needs to do is prioritize - therefore include the most relevant experiences, both in the resume and in the cover letter
- Make sure your cover letter complements your resume – The letter shouldn’t just repeat the information but expand on the most relevant points for the job you’re applying to
- Build a resume with five sections – These should be: Personal information, Education, Work experience, Extracurricular achievements, and Additional skills. The section on extracurriculars should be used to show relevant skills that you haven’t acquired at your job
- Make sure your resume is tailored – Include only skills relevant for the PM position in the company you’re applying for and don’t use any sections of a generic resume
- Use short sentence structure and action verbs – have short and easy to read sentences in the cover letter, using action verbs that emphasize achievements and skills necessary for a PM position.
Preparing for the Interview
Preparing for a PM interview is a tough challenge, even for veteran PMs. Below we look briefly at the process so you know what you can expect
Structure of the Process
Here is what you will undertake over 4-8 weeks:
- Submitting the application
- A Phone interview with HR
- Phone interview(s) with PMs
- The final round of onsite interviews
The Interview Process
After you get through the initial screening, you need to pass the HR phone interview. This is a fit interview with the goal of ascertaining whether you’re a good fit for the company.
You should expect to go through your resume and answer several behavioural questions aimed at determining how you deal with specific situations.
Once you pass this you will have a phone/video interview with a PM from the company you’ve applied to, where you will need to tackle issues that PMs face.
In the last round you will go onsite for a day for 3 to 7 interviews and some potential discussions with members of the company. After this step you will hopefully receive your offer.
Types of questions you will be asked and how to answer them
You can expect the following main types of questions:
- Product strategy questions (product strategy, estimation)
- Design questions (product design, product improvement, favorite product)
- Technical questions
- Analysis questions
- Behavioral questions
Here is a useful structure you can use to answer PM interview questions:
- Clarify and define the objective - show that you know precisely what the interviewer is asking you and come up with an objective together with them
- Structure and propose solutions - come up with a list of solutions to the problem you’ve been given
- Analyze and discuss the proposed solutions - go through the pros and cons of each solution you find with the interviewer and then decide what the priorities should be
- Give a final recommendation for the initial problem
To sum up, in order to be successful in PM interviews you need to prepare your resume and cover letter in a way that showcases the right skills necessary for the PM job.
You also need to be ready to answer PM-specific interviews and most of all you will need to do so in a way that shows you are well-organized and geared towards problem solving.