Product management strategy questions can be very unsettling because they are very broad since all PMs are directly responsible for the strategic roadmap of their product !
In this article, we will break down this most difficult type of interview questions into several steps and teach you how to approach them. For the most comprehensive preparation for PM interviews, including step-by-step mentoring programs, visit MyProductMentor.
What are the Steps to Answering Product Management Strategy Questions?
This is the approach we recommend:
- Define and clarify the business objective: check that you know exactly what the interviewer is asking and devise a business objective, together with them
- Propose and structure solutions: build a list of solutions to the problem you are given
- Discuss and analyze solutions: talk through the pros and cons for each situation with the interviewer and decide your priorities
- Conclude: draft a recommendation addressing the initial question
1. Define and Clarify the Business Objective
The most common mistake made by candidates is attempting to come up with an answer to the question immediately! This will make you appear disorganized, causing you to lose face in front of your interviewer. Your first priorities should be:
- Proving to the interviewer that you understand the question or problem
- Clarifying the business objective
Your interviewer will happily clarify issues – for one, strategy questions can often be ambiguous on purpose.
You should remember to stay organized even in your questioning and make sure what you’re asking is relevant to the task at hand.
After you’re sure you understand the question, set a business objective to be clarified with the interviewer. These clarifications need to spark a discussion about the main business objective.
If your interviewer doesn’t provide assistance in choosing a primary business objective, then choose one yourself with the aid of the knowledge you possess of the company.
Definitely involve metrics in the discussion if possible so you can remove ambiguity about any potential achievements.
2. Propose and Structure Solutions
The same organized approach should be carried over into this stage of the interview. What you need to do next is:
- Create a structure to achieve the objective
- Find solutions
Remember that your structure is not the solution but a PM roadmap equivalent. The roadmap will highlight the main areas to be discussed with your interviewer.
As soon as the interviewer has agreed to your structure you’re at the halfway mark of the case and you only need to further explore the main areas you’ve identified.
Your structure will keep you on the right track, preventing any distractions so you should aim to stick to it when exploring solutions. This, however, doesn’t mean that the structure should act as a constraint and if the discussion veers off in a different direction you should explore it and adapt your structure accordingly.
3. Analyze and Discuss Solutions
At this point, your interviewer will focus on your solutions. You should think about:
- Any trade-offs of your solutions
- Prioritizing solutions
You should prove to the interviewer that you grasp the trade-offs of each solution and also whether you think they are acceptable or overall damaging to the business proposition.
At this particular point (but also for the whole duration of the interview) it is very important to showcase your prioritization skills. The prioritization should be done based on a risk/reward analysis.
The solution you chose is not particularly important as some degree of personal judgment is expected – what your interviewer wants proof of is your capacity to back up solutions with logical arguments
At this point you must:
- Sum up the suggestions made
- Make your recommendation and consider the next steps
Despite it being difficult to move from the details of your analysis to a general, bird’s eye view, this is precisely what you need to do. As a product manager, you will be briefing execs and most likely the CEO as well, who will not care about the details of your routine or analysis.
What the CEO will care about is the product’s direction and the company, so by summarizing you’re ensuring the effective communication of your strategy. Like before, your interviewer will care more about how you argue for the final recommendation than about what it actually is.
In short, the best tip to follow when answering product management strategy questions is that you should always have a plan and be organized at every stage of the process, as well as always pay the closest attention to how you back your arguments!