If you, like myself, are looking for a product management role, you are going to face a few hurdles along the way. I have chosen to make a career switch with a huge amount of risk by leaving the comfort of my previous job and pursuing a career in product management (PM). In this blog, I will go over the top 3 mistakes I have been making in my interviews and how you can avoid them to perform better in your interviews.
1. I had no stories. Only pitches.
One of the first questions that we are asked in an interview is “tell me about yourself.” Many candidates go about answering this question in a structured and chronological manner:
At time X, I worked at company Y and I did Z.
This structure is all fine and well organized in giving the interviewer a full scope of where we have been and what we have done, but it makes us another conformist; just like every other candidate. The real goal of answering that question is to carry a message that tells the interviewer who you really are. And who you really are is a combination of your characteristics broken into two categories: your strengths and your weaknesses.
Your story has to start with your strengths. In your role at company Y, what did you do to show characteristics like:
I led a team of 5 developers and QAs in creating 40 new features.
My efforts increased the profitability of projects from 20% to 40% year over year.
- Overcoming Challenges
I fixed the broken processes in the development organization by leading a task force in charge of reducing deployment inefficiencies.
- Resolving Conflicts
I turned the frown of a disgruntled customer upside down by resolving their problem with minimal impact on project profits.
It is inevitable that we make a mistake in our role and perhaps repeat it. An employer needs to notice that you are a self-aware Product Manager. Self-awareness is a key aspect of a PM role because you are communicating with multiple stakeholders who all require expectation management. Knowing your own weaknesses allows you to communicate your flaws with those whom you interact with to set their expectations around tasks.
I personally require some time to fully context switch from a technical subject to a business-related matter.
If the marketing lead is setting up a customer interview, they now know that I need a 30-minute window after a 2-hour long technical meeting to calibrate myself for a customer-oriented task.
2. I kept saying “we”.
A common mistake that candidates make in their interviews is referring to themselves as “we”. I am very guilty in this department. The problem is that it sets the tone for the interview that you did not necessarily accomplish all by yourself but rather relied on a team. This reduces your credibility in showing your strengths.
If you accomplished something as a team, use “we”.
If you accomplished something by yourself, use “I”. Focus more on accomplishments achieved in this manner.
3. I thought I’ve done enough research.
Enough research is not enough.
I spent an entire 2 months researching, improving and learning about Product Management but in one interview, I could not answer a vital question. The point is that the amount of time we spend on self-education does not necessarily constitute that we are ready to take over a company’s product strategy.
Just when you think you have enough information, think again! The PM community is a new one and it is making fresh findings daily. Take your time in finding content online and enjoy the process of absorbing new information. You may never know, but what you may learn from a blog might be the very reason you are hired.
Finally, remember that job hunting is a process and it takes time to become an expert. If product management is where you are headed next, I don’t wish you luck but I wish that you find all the resources you need to land the job you want. Most importantly, I wish that you realize that you are a product manager before you are hired as one.