Product managers are required to demonstrate a broad and heterogeneous set of skills. The best product managers are those who master all trades, but how many would really fit the “Jack of all trades” definition?

If this is the starting point for your interviews, you should start by analyzing the skill set that candidates REALLY need in order to succeed.

What would the product manager be required to do 70% of his/her time? Is it mostly writing detailed specifications for R&D, is it following up on R&D work mainly as a project manager, or is it mostly visiting customer sites, pre-selling and gathering new requirements?

The following interview questions for product manager have helped me understand if the person that I’m talking to has the skill-set and temperament needed to be an effective product manager:

1. Tell me about your last position. List 3 things that you loved doing and 3 things that you didn’t like doing.
This question will help you understand the tasks that the interviewee was mostly engaged in but more importantly his/her comfort zone. For example, an interviewee who says something like:

“I love visiting customer sites. It’s a pleasure seeing them use the product and come up with new ideas….. but I really think that drilling down to the bits and bites of a feature in the user stories document is an abuse of Agile methodology.”

should alert you that this interviewee is not that much of written-details person.

2. How do you define “really great product management”?
What would you look for if you were hiring a new product manager?

Having a similar vision is important since it sets the ground rules or the boundaries for the entire ‘game’. Day-to-day disagreements are important in order to make sure that you are designing the best possible product but an argument about the overall direction (for example, R&D or market oriented PLM) will translate to a challenging day-to-day working environment.

3. Run me through a typical week at your last position.
When did you arrive each day? What did you do? With whom did you meet? What meetings did you participate in? What documents did you write? etc.

This is the best question, in my opinion, to really understand the day-to-day tasks of the interviewee. This can also help you ‘feel’ the interviewee’s integrity level, as discrepancies may pop-up between this question and the first question.

4. Share 2 examples in which you had to lead others or advocate the cases of key stakeholders.
What were those cases? What did you do? What obstacles did you overcome? and how?

Regardless of the product manager’s orientation, every product manager should demonstrate good leadership skills. As an interviewer, you would be looking for the ability to advocate customers and key stakeholders requirements, the ability to influence and motivate and of course, confidence and assertiveness.

Author's Bio: 

Kendrick Moss has written frequently on pregnancy and parenting issues, and is a mom of three (including one set of twins). She is an open-minded free spirit, always ready for new adventures. Faith, family and finances are the core of her value system.