Thanks to Lenny’s podcast, where the questions came from
Here are tried and tested product manager interview questions that some well known product leaders like to ask. If you’re prepping for interviews, make sure you have answers to these, and if you are hiring PMs then see if they work for you.
Preparing for left-field product manager interview questions
The product manager interview questions below all have something in common. They’re all designed to catch interviewees by surprise, bypass prepared answers and get to the meat of how they think.
Interviewees can be well prepared, articulate, and fail in the job, since once in the workplace it’s revealed that they don’t have the skills to operate or think independently. The world’s top digital products require innovative thinkers, and therefore the product manager interview questions below are aimed at getting behind the mask of the interviewee and finding out how they think on their feet.
If you’re preparing for an interview, it’s well worth taking the time to think through some of these questions. They’re designed to challenge you and stretching yourself by constructing logical, sequential and thoughtful answers will help to prepare you for the inevitable left field question you will face in your product manager interview.
If you’re a manager looking to use these questions for inspiration, think through what good looks like to you as an answer. Be rigorous about those standards. Asking really great questions can help people decide for your role or company during the interview process, as well as weed out folks who aren’t a good fit for your role. If you’re looking for more hiring inspiration, check out our guide to creating a solid hiring plan.
Product manager interview questions from top product leaders (Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Notion, Meta and more)
What did you ship most recently?
Laura Schaffer, VP Product Growth, Amplitude
The benefit of asking about the most recent thing someone shipped is that you avoid getting a success story that they candidate has cheery-picked and prepared in detail. Whatever they’ve shipped most recently will give a much better insight into how they think and act.
Take me through your biggest product flop. What happened and what did you do about it?
Annie Pearl, CPO, Calendly
Candidates will generally try and tell you about all the great things they’ve done and how much success they’ve had. When you dig into what hasn’t gone well, you tend to get more authentic, insightful answers.
Tell me about a time you delivered something impactful
Lauryn Isford, Head of Product Growth, Notion
Asking candidates to define impact is a great way to understand how they think, and how they prioritize and link commercial outcomes and user experience. The best answers reveal they think about both, as well as have a deep connection to the company’s mission, and therefore intrinsic motivation to succeed.
How would you describe a database to a 3 year old?
Marily Nika, AI Product Lead, Meta
This is great to ask more technical candidates, because it’s challenging and fun! To be able to answer this question well, you’ve got to really understand the concepts that you are talking about, as well as have empathy for the (theoretical!) audience. When people can explain technical topics to non technical people in a simple manner that’s very powerful.
Walk me through the story of you from college until now
Vijay Iyengar, Director of Product, Mixpanel
This is a classic interview question, and for good reason. The value is in seeing how people describe their journey, where they spend most time talking, and how they explain the decisions they’ve made along the way. The only caveat here is that you need to pay attention to the time – it’s easy to take up half the interview with just one question otherwise!
Tell me about a product you love
Ravi Mehta, Outpace, ex Meta, Tinder, Tripadvisor
This interview question really opens up a whole topic. Once the candidate has given you an initial answer, you can follow up by asking them why they love it, how they think other people perceive the product, what features they’d like to build for it, why that would be a good feature and how they measure success. It’s a way of examining their product sense on a topic they are familiar with, but unlikely to have prepared to the same degree as their current product.
I ask behavioural questions, and then I ask the interviewee to imagine they are a coworker, and to describe the situation from their perspective.
John Cutler, ‘The Beautiful Mess’, Product Enablement, Toast
This is a clever approach to testing someone’s empathy, and how flexibly they can think about situations. When they answer the first question they will usually position themselves as the story’s hero. When asked to think through the same situation from other people’s perspective, you see whether they are locked into that narrative, or can really view it through others’ eyes.
What is something work-related that you’re trying to get better at?
Jules Walter, Product Leader, Youtube
This allows you to test how much self-awareness people have, how honest they are, and whether they have a growth mindset. If you ask people where they have weaknesses, then they’ll tend to answer with small things, but when you ask them where they can improve it encourages them to value the upside potential of things they haven’t mastered yet.
At this stage in your career, what have you learned about yourself? How are you different from other people?
Ian McAllister, ex Uber, Airbnb, Amazon
This is another question that lets you assess how much self-awareness a candidate has. It’s a safe way to open up a conversation about where they have spikes and unique skills with real value, and where they might need support and to lean on the team around you. That’s really important when most candidates have the technical skills you’re looking for, and it’s all about fit.
No specific question, but focusing on grit, endurance and drive
Sachin Monga, VP Product, Substack
Grit, endurance and drive are questions that experienced leaders love, because they are great predictors of how people will perform in fast-paced, unpredictable environments. People who have a track record of making things happen against the odds and in unfavourable circumstances are likely to succeed whatever is thrown at them.
Fast forward three years, what is different about you then?
Ben Williams, ex Snyk
This question has a number of angles to it, because it tends to give you a read on how humble and self-aware the candidate is, as well as gives you information about what they are thinking about in terms of professional growth, and where their career aspirations lie. That’s great information to figure out to understand if they are going to be a good fit for the role you’ve got.
Teach me something you don’t think I know
Adriel Frederick, Reddit, ex Meta, Lyft
This question is another fun one, with answers that can really surprise you. Overall, it’s designed to test empathy and communication skills. To answer well, candidates have to be able to read you well and have a good sense of what you are unlikely to know, as well as quickly synthesize some aspect of their knowledge to share it effectively with you.
What problems are you looking to solve and why did you come to this table?
Janna Bastow, Co-founder, MindTheProduct, CEO and Founder ProdPad
This is a nice starter question for candidates, and you can start to have a real conversation about their motivation and expectations but it doesn’t feel like you are challenging them directly. Strong candidates have very specific reasons for wanting to join your company, and will have done enough research to have a good idea of the main problems that you’re likely to be solving. Whilst it feels like a softball question, it’ll become very clear if the candidate isn’t taking things seriously.
What is a risk you regret not taking and why?
Jason Shah, Alchemy, Advisor, ex Amazon
This question allows you to dig into how the candidate handles decision making, as well as how they think about personal growth. Product managers have to act with varying degrees of uncertainty all the time, so getting them to explain how they think about placing bets gives you a good overview of how they’ll act in role. When you ask about things that didn’t work out, you also learn whether they take ownership and learn from failure.
Teach me something new in one minute.
Ryan J. Salva, VP Product, Github
Framed this way with the time limit, this is as much an icebreaker as a test of empathy and communication skills. You’re forcing people to act quickly, which gets the blood pumping and sets the pace for the rest of the discussion.
A group of scientists have invented a teleportation device. They’ve hired you to bring this to market. What do you do?
Shishir Mehrotra, Co-founder + CEO, Coda
Candidates will always ask a bunch of questions when faced with this, and the real question here is in the follow up question you interrupt with at some point: “Turns out the scientists hate talking to people and so they’ve decided that they will answer only two of your questions. And after that, they expect a plan. What two questions do you ask?”
There’s no right answer to this question, but makes the candidate think deeply about what are the most fundamental pieces of information or principles they need to know – i.e. can they identify eigenquestions for this topic.
What are your top 10 accomplishments?
Barbra Gago, ex Miro, CEO Pando
This question allows you to assess two main themes. Firstly, and most obviously, it allows you to get to know someone and understand what they value. They might say anything from “I sold my business” to “I ran 100 miles” or “I have a great family”. Secondly, by forcing people to prioritise their top 10 accomplishments, you get some insight into how they evaluate quantitative and qualitative achievements which aren’t directly comparable.
To what do you attribute success? And you can’t say luck.
Eeke de Milliano, ex Stripe, ex-Retool, Constellate
This question allows you to assess someone’s self-awareness and curiosity, as well as their degree of self reflection. How people relate their narrative of success is a very insightful way of seeing how they view the world, and what they value.
What have you done on your product since you applied to Y Combinator? What are specific things that you’ve accomplished since you applied?
Gustaf Alströmer, Partner, Y Combinator
This question is specific to Y Combinator, but reveals information that would be valuable to understand from any product manager. Good product managers are builders who love creating value for users. They are always looking for new problems to solve, and effective solutions to deploy. You want to avoid people that are obviously more concerned with preparing for the interviews itself or talking a good game without creating impact.
Share a time you shipped a product that failed. Why did it fail and what did you learn? Can you give me one other example?
Lenny Rachitsky, ex Airbnb
Good signals here are the candidate taking ownership of the failure, being able to talk about the reasons it was a failure, and learning something from the experience. It’s a bad signal if they blame others or don’t take the failure seriously.
Further reading on product manager interview questions