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How To Crack The Product Management Interview by Valentine Aseyo

It’s often said that looking for a job can be a full-time job! Interviewing can be particularly tough, especially when you’re transitioning into product from a different industry. Our guest writer, a superstar PM, has seen it all though and he’s here to help – read on for his 10 pro tips to set you up for success!


 

Valentine Cem Aseyo is the SVP of Product @ Bandsintown, the #1 concert discovery platform that connects 40 million fans with 450 thousand musicians. Before Bandsintown, he spent 8 years working at Facebook in Ireland, India, and US spanning many roles from User Experience to Product, as well as Advertising, Marketing, and Sales. Prior to that, he worked at IBM and Colgate & Palmolive. This unique background covering multiple geographies and departments made him an expert in all cycles of Product Management.

Valentine is also an Olympic recruiter; he interviewed over 2,000 candidates throughout his career and loves sharing his tips & tricks on how to score your dream job in Product Management.

 

Interviewing for a job is never a piece of cake. It takes courage, spectacular communication skills, and extensive prep. When I had my first interview 15 years ago, I wish someone gave me these golden rules that took me a decade to learn. If you follow them religiously, you can get any job you apply for. 

#1: Prep, prep, and more prep

This is the most important rule. If you have the perfect prep, not only will you be able to answer all the questions but it will also boost your confidence before and during the interview. Make sure to digest the company website and all internet sources perfectly to align with their mission, vision, values, and culture. Google is your best friend: read all the recent articles, market research on the topic and industry news.

#2: Get very familiar with their products/services and competitors

I can’t emphasize how important it is to spend a ton of time using their product/services and exploring all the features available. In addition, you should definitely check out their competitors to get a better understanding of the ecosystem. This will help you identify areas of improvement and position them in the market.

#3: Brevity is a virtue 

PMs need to have killer communications skills. Being succinct is the #1 quality an interviewer expects. Elevator pitches are always the winner rather than a convoluted proposal with lots of details. If you can’t elaborate your idea in 2 minutes, then you know it’s not a good idea. If you find yourself talking and talking for over 5 minutes, you’re probably rambling and not being articulate. When I ask a question, I prefer a candidate who takes 30 seconds to compose their thoughts and then give it to me in one shot succinctly, rather then someone who jumps the gun to answer right away and then clutters the communication with unnecessary information.

#4: Focus on impact

As you talk about your work experience, it’s key to quantify the impact of past accomplishments: what were the success metrics and KPIs? How many people used your product/services? How was the product acknowledged by authorities? How much revenue did you bring? How did it change people’s lives? Basically, after you clearly (and briefly) explain the project, make sure to follow up with the quantitative impact. 

#5: Demonstrate applicable experiences and skills

Interviewers like to hear how your past experiences are relevant to the job position you’re applying for. Giving many examples (and of course, their impact) is always very helpful to show how relevant your background and skills are. Explain your past roles, the skills you acquired and how you could use them in this new endeavor. 

#6: Bring new ideas

No matter what job you apply for, you’ll be hired to make a change in the company. You’re expected to look at the existing business with fresh and critical eyes in order to generate dozens of ideas and take the team to the next level. When I interview people, I need them to be brutally critical of our products and come up with creative ideas to boost business. If they can’t surface several things to improve or give me a few million dollar ideas to innovate, then I don’t see the value of hiring this person. 

#7: Solve problem-solving problems

Interviewers are interested in knowing how you tackle daily problems and you you’d approach to improving their product. They try to probe into the creativity, scalability, measurability and feasibility of your answers by asking problem-solving (aka critical thinking) questions. So make sure you review their product critically. Think about the most important thing to fix/improve on their platform, have a couple million dollar ideas to build on their platform ready to share with them, think about strategies they can use to expand their user base or other primary metrics they care about such as engagement, revenue, or cost.

#8: Stay true to the role

Remember what you’re interviewing for and what the team does. If you’re interviewing for a product role but you give examples of marketing initiatives to improve their business, then you’re not on the right track. Don’t answer the questions from the domain of your past expertise but answer them from the domain of your future role. 

#9: Curiosity feeds the cat

You think you did a good job and now ready to end the interview? Not quite yet! The questions you ask at the end of the interview may make it or break it. Make sure to brainstorm a variety of question in advance to show your interest and curiosity. Refrain from asking questions that can be googled to get answers. The questions you ask will reflect your intelligence, critical thinking, and investment in the process.

#10: Passion is golden

I get it, you may not check all the boxes. No one ever does! This is where your passion comes into play. Show them why you care about the mission of the company. Give them examples of things you learned on the job so that they know you’re coachable and have ability to learn quickly. Tell them how you’d go about improving yourself in the areas that you lack experience if you were to get this job. Make sure you have a plan. 

And remember, you are a rockstar! You got this! Have confidence. You have absolutely nothing to lose. If you don’t get the job, you’ll go to Red Lobster, have some biscuits and feel good. There’s no such thing as missing the right opportunity. The right opportunity is the one you get, so use it wisely.


If you want to become a pro like Valentine, then you’re in luck – he will be teaching the Product Management course at our New York campus starting October 13th. To find out more, visit our course page and schedule a call with our admissions team!

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