Another common question that is frequently asked during product manager interviews is “How would you improve X product?”
While the product design question asks you to design from scratch, this variation is meant for the interviewer to see how well you can understand the current situation of an existing product, propose potential solutions to any problems the product may currently have, and understand your ability to execute on those solutions.
As usual, you’ll want to structure your answer so that it’s easier for you to process in your mind as well as clear for your interviewer to understand.
Depending on the situation, you may either have the option of choosing an existing product to improve or your interviewer may propose his/her own company’s product. Either way:
1) Discuss the product’s objective.
Spend the first few minutes laying out your thoughts on the product’s current objectives. Remember to keep this high level; don’t focus yet on the product’s specific features. For example, Dropbox has stated that their objective is not just to allow people to store and share files easily but rather, to simplify life for people around the world.
2) Figure out what the product needs to reach its objectives.
What have you noticed about the product on its way to reaching its objectives? What has it been successful / not successful at doing?
A good way to think about this might be in terms of the acquisition funnel (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral). Have you noticed that this product seems to have a hard time acquiring or activating users? Does the product have features that encourage users to stick around for long periods of time? Does the product have drivers that could incentivize users to convert into paying customers? Is there a strong reason for a user to refer or recommend your product to other users?
Think very carefully about what the product has been focusing on thus far and what part of the funnel the product could improve on in order to better reach its objectives. As you’re thinking through all of this, make sure you’re explaining your thought process to your interviewer or writing down your ideas on a whiteboard / piece of paper.
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3) Walk through how you would document requirements
So now you’ve gathered your user needs and prioritized features you’ll want to build for the MVP. The next step is discussing how you would document these requirements and/or provide wireframes. If you’re used to writing specs, take this time to briefly walk through how you generally structure your specs. Talk about any wireframing tools you’ve used in the past and use a whiteboard / pen and paper to sketch.
4) Explain how you work with other teams to build the product
This part of the answer is one of the most critical parts for an interviewer to understand how you work with other teams. You may want to start by explaining product development processes you have used before and their pros/cons. Be prepared to discuss methodologies like agile vs. waterfall and which you would use in the context of the product you are pitching.
Then start walking through the execution process in terms of how you might work with other teams including engineering and design. Walk through how you might engage with your design team (i.e. Do you like to provide more or less guidance? How often do you check in with designers?) Explain how you would work with engineering to cost and assess the technical designs that are proposed as well as how you would test the product to ensure product quality.
5) Discuss your launch plan and how you would track success
Once you’ve finished discussing the process of building the product, you’ll want to lay out a high level structure for your launch plan. It may be easier to use the whiteboard to write out a checklist of items to consider for your product’s launch. Your interviewer may also be curious who you plan to rollout your product to (i.e. will you be conducting a beta test with a limited number of users?). Finally, you’ll want to explain which metrics you’ll be tracking to measure success.
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