Many times during an interview you would get asked this question “Which is your favorite product and why?”While the question might seem innocuous, this is one of those questions which will either help you make a good impression with the interviewer by giving a thoughtful and structured response or dim your chances at the job.
The interviewer’s intent behind asking this question is to see whether you:
- Are keeping a track of other products that your customers are using. No matter how successful your product is, it’s always good to learn about other products that are competing for time in the lives of your customers. Understanding your customers’ motivations, fears and worries as well as figuring out how their environment is getting shaped by other products (not necessarily competing products) is essential to building solutions that truly meet their needs.
- Can articulate what is the problem that the product solves for the target user: because the primary job of the product manager is to define what gets built to solve a specific problem for a specific user set.
- Can explain how the product solves the problem, can you identify the strengths and weaknesses of the product at this stage.
- Can you see how it compares to the competition and substitutes.
- Can you improve upon it by evaluating the and suggesting improvements.
A structured and well thought about response will impress the interviewer with your product and analytical skills. Your ability to logically explain your decisions, if the interviewer decides to push back on your analysis during the interview, gives her/him a peek into the way you will handle conflicting and competing requirements as a product manager.
With that background information let’s take a look at how to answer this question in a structured manner:
Describe the product and what does it do?
It is always better to stick to products which you have encountered in the current year or past year because saying Uber is your favorite product won’t earn you any points with the interviewer. Neither does mentioning the product of the company with whom you are interviewing help (unless specifically asked as to how you will improve it). A better choice would be one of those products which you truly loved using and have spent time thinking about its features.
“People with great product instincts tend to notice great products before everyone else. If I’m interviewing a top-notch candidate, I usually walk away having discovered something new and innovative.”
ProductHunt is a great resource for anyone who wants to discover new products and also interact with the makers of the product. I have always found the comments section of ProductHunt a treasure trove of information. For enterprise products you can try Siftery.
Describe what makes the product better and who are its competitors and substitutes?
Mention the 3 or 4 product features which appeal to the target audience of the product. Choose these features in a way that will help you describe how these differentiate the product from competitors and substitutes. Normally at this point, the interviewer might ask you something like “Why can’t this be done with x (a cheap substitute or a competitor)?” And the better prepared you are to answer that question without being rattled the better it will portray your capability to think through multiple views regarding the product features.
And the reply from one of the makers:
Expect pushback during the interview and be prepared to back up your answer to show how the product exactly serves the user needs and can survive amongst the competition and the substitutes .Look for more of these type of exchanges on ProductHunt and see how you would answer such questions.
Describe how you came to discover the product and what makes you continually use it?
One of the KPA of a product manager’s job is to understand how to acquire new users and keep the existing users hooked to the product at the same time. Describe why you keep going back to the product again and again and what are the hooks built into the product to keep your attention engaged.
Describe how would you improve the product
At this stage of the answer, you can talk about how despite being an amazing product you still think there is scope for improvement. For improving the product, propose a few features which will help improve the product in the short term (30-90 days) and a few in the long term (6 months). Back up your answer with your point of view as to why you think those set of features make sense(from the user perspective) and how they fit into the overall strategy of the product.
Do let me know what you think about this question and how you would answer it in the comments section below.
Also published on Medium.