06 May, 2011

Product Management Interview Questions

Ken Norton, Senior Product Manager at Google, formerly at Yahoo!, Jotspot, Inktomi (see LinkedIn profile), wrote a fantastic article, How to hire a product manager. It was originally published in June, 2005.

The article is a great read. Unfortunately, the author has chosen to prohibit any derivative works (see license), so I unable to precise the article and highlight my favorite parts.

Instead, I point my favorite parts out. Do read the introductory section in which Ken compares Product Management in a large company vs PM in a small company.

Ken's article divides his hiring requirements in six major attributes:
  1. Hire all the smart people
  2. Strong technical background
  3. "Spidey-sense" product instincts and creativity"
  4. Leadership that's earned
  5. Ability to channel multiple points-of-view
  6. Give me someone who's shipped something
My only modification to this list is modify (5)   Ability to channel multiple points-of-view.

I would like to rename it: "Have a good nose to appreciate and understand how other business functions operate".

Ken highlights the point that a Product Manager plays a devil advocate role and representing all (or as many as possible) interests in any discussion. Ken lists pre-sales engineering, support, developer relations, business development, legal, or customers. Of course there are many more.

A product manager has to have a good nose to understand the impact of their decisions on other functions, as product decisions impact many other business functions and processes. For example, choosing to sun set a product (a product management decision ultimately) might have a radical impact on one sales person's commission (sales and sales operations). Before you announce that PM is jettisoning a product, has the impact to that sales person / manager / director / VP been thought through?

Key Questions:
  • Are you familiar with the Pragmatic Marketing Framework? How was it / have you applied it in your previous career history? 
  • What business functions did you do that were missing from the Framework and why?
  • Can you describe an example of unintended consequences of one of your decisions? What could you learn from it? 
  • Can you give me an example of how you achieved an objective at the second attempt?

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