I tend to follow the same pattern for each candidate: scenario based discussions/questions that reflect key milestones in the typical product life cycle. I aim to get a firm understanding for the candidates skill set in seven key areas:
- Routine product and project management skills
- Communication skills
- Leading without authority
- Conflict resolution
- Learning skills
- Knowledge of web technologies
- Business/commercial acumen
Adapted from Michael’s article “Seven Traits of Successful Product Managers”.
I flow from the topic of ‘leading without authority’: setting up and managing virtual teams comprising of commercial and technical people from across the company of whom you have no direct line management authority for- to conflict within this team during a meeting where a deadline is not met (that happens to be a dependency) due to changing business priorities in another area. The ramifications being that the launch of the project will be delayed and revenue threatened if action is not taken. The question to the candidate is: “What action would you take?” I have received many good answers but candidates seem to be reluctant to mention escalating the issue as a means of seeking a resolution.
I like to explore how resilient the candidate is and directly ask them “How they handle stress?” By its very nature the role of the Product Manager can become quite stressful at times – and trying to solve ALL issues by yourself without the input of senior management and those who are responsible for resource allocation is defiantly a recipe for increasing your stress level. Why are Product Managers reluctant to escalate issues at the appropriate time? Or are we just shy about mentioning escalating at interviews?
Ken Norton has written an interesting article, on his blog, on the subject of hiring product managers. Good reading for any one attending a job interview.