Framework for PM Interviews- Part 2

In my last post we have discussed about ways to prepare Product Questions in Product Management Interviews. We also read about the CCIRCLES N SQUARE framework that can help to approach such type of questions.

In this post, we’ll read about another type of questions that is asked in PM interviews i.e. Behavioral Questions.

Before we start, a shout out to Cracking the PM Interview that inspired and helped in writing this post.

We’ll address these three points here -

  1. What interviewer is looking for when asking this question?
  2. What are the type of questions?
  3. How to approach and answer such questions?

1. What interviewer is looking for when asking this question?

Though these questions sometimes seems a little deviated from the core product knowledge but it really helps interviewer in understanding interviewee's experience in depth.

Every PM have their stories and experiences where they showcased their skills and handled a situation. These questions tries to throw light on them.

Interviewer is looking for two factors: Content and Communication

Content

For this part interviewer is trying to examine the following areas:

a. How did you used your skills you have mentioned at your workplace?

Interviewer is trying to see if you have any situation/ story/ example to share where you have actually used your skill and it’s not just in talks. This gains confidence on interviewee and justifies your skills.

b. How do you you react to different situations? (that might come in your next work)

Interviewer wants to see your reaction and thoughts to different situations at work. Such scenarios can be from your past or hypothetical that will need your action/ thoughts. This showcases your skills related to team, leadership etc. and is helpful when working as a PM with a team.

Communication

Like mentioned in the previous post, PM interview is a lot about articulation of your thoughts. This hold true for behavioral round as well, where interviewer likes to see how do your communicate your story.

Story telling is an art and many of the candidates have great skills and stories that they have experienced but sometimes fail to communicate. This skill is important as a PM because you are always communicating with different stakeholders like tech, design, sales etc. and PMs have to be really good with presenting their thoughts with empathy.

2. What are the type of questions?

Behavioral questions are usually open ended questions that expects a story that highlights one or multiple skills in it.

Behavioral questions can be presented in different forms though overall they can be clubbed under these types:

  1. Leadership/ Influence
    - Understanding and creating transparency within team and being approachable.
    - Becoming a role model or an example.
    - Leading the team and deploying results.
    - Developing credibility and gaining trust of the team.
  2. Teamwork
    - Situation where you took a decision/ worked in the interest of the team.
    - Increasing individual accountability in team.
    - Motivating team and boosting moral.
    - Being empathetic to the team members.
    - Setting common goals, examples and metrics for the team.
    - Knowledge sharing and encouraging working in team than in silos.
  3. Successes
    - Situation where you led your team to success.
    - Situation where you proactively handled a potential failure.
    - Example where you were able to reach your goals or target metrics.
    - Example where you went out of your comfort zone and delivered.
    - What you learned from any achievement and it’s impact.
  4. Challenges
    - Handling conflicts at work.
    - Meeting hard deadlines or unplanned changes.
    - Cultural conflicts.
    - Ethical dilemmas.
    - Working with insufficient resources like team, time, monetary, tools etc.
  5. Mistakes/ Failures
    - Facing and handling critical feedback.
    - Situation where you made a mistake and how you tackled it.
    - Scenario where you mismanaged multiple tasks.
    - Time when you disappointed yourself.

3. How to approach and answer such questions?

As mentioned earlier, in these questions interviewer is mainly focusing on Content and Communication.

Stories will help to deal with Content while having a framework in mind will help in dealing with Communication.

The way they can be approached is :

  1. Prepare atleast five key stories that you have experienced that can fit into the categories.
    - As mentioned above, these questions can be split into different major categories i.e. Leadership/ Influence, Teamwork, Successes, Challenges, Mistakes/ Failures.
    - Think and identify from your past experience in work/ college(if fresher) that can fit into these categories.
    - Prepare and recollect one or two scenarios for each category that you think made an impact, is substantial, relevant to the job and highlights your skills. It’s good to quantify the impact.
    - Make sure your story has the ‘meaty’ situation, action and result.
  2. Follow the framework - “CS STARC” while answering the questions.
    With frameworks you’ll not get answers but the approach and articulate better. A framework helps interviewee to improve present their thoughts and not miss any major fact while it helps the interviewer to follow the answer and not get lost. This is inspired from the well-known STAR framework.
    CS STARC framework
CS STARC framework

C- Clarify the question
Understand and ask if you have understood the question correctly. It’s okay to repeat the question as well. It helps to clear thoughts and goals expected from the question and avoid any confusion before you start.

S- Summary of your answer
Give a quick snap about your answer. A nugget. It’s a summary that what your story is about. Getting lost in stories is very easy. Hence this helps the interviewer to understand what your story is about and create slots in mind where they easily can feed the information that you’ll share as you proceed.
For example-
Q- “Tell me an experience where you received a critical feedback and how you handled it?”
A- “Sure! Let me share about the time when I once received such feedback from my manager while working in a new feature project in my previous organization.”

S- Situation
Describe the background information and create a base setup. The main aim of this is to provide sufficient details to the interviewer about the background of the story and highlight the relevant details. Do not over share the information that is not required as it will only extend the required time for the complete story.

T- Task
Share what was your role in that situation and the part that you were responsible for. This is important because interviewer wants to know about you, hence sharing your role exclusively is helpful.

A- Action
Describe the actions that you took in that scenario. Highlight the actions that you have performed and not your teams, as interviewer is interested in hiring you.

R- Result
Explain how your actions in that situation made an impact. How it helped the company, the people, the client and how people reacted to it. It’s always good to show the impact with numbers. Though also be cautious to share percentage changes and avoid sharing any critical data.

C- Connect with job/ company values/ mission (bonus)
Companies love to see how fit are you for the hiring role and company. To get brownie points you can highlight your skills in the story and try connecting them with any required skill of the job or any values that the company believes in. This shows that you are well-prepared, well-read and also have experiences that the hiring team is looking for the fitment.

All the best!

Missed the last post?

Read here about ‘Framework for PM Interviews- Part 1’.

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Exploring and experimenting products

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