How to crack the "Favorite product" question in PM interviews

You’ll probably face a question like “What’s your favorite product and why?” in product manager interviews at companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

This might seem like a simple question, but a well structured answer that clearly explains your thinking can help separate you from other candidates.

The good news is that we’re here to help you. Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

 

1. Why interviewers ask the favorite product question

“What’s your favorite product and why?” is a common question asked during PM interviews at top tech companies. Interviewers ask this question to assess:

  • You understanding of product design
  • Your ability to deliver constructive criticism
  • Your knowledge of a specific product

First, one of your tasks as a PM is to help design new product features and improve existing ones. So, you’ll need to be able to explain what differentiates an excellent product from its competitors.

Second, PMs work closely with designers, so you’ll be expected to deliver criticism on designs with a high degree of emotional intelligence. Interviewers will therefore want to see that you can provide clear and constructive feedback when answering the question.

Third, PM’s often have to make important design decisions with little time and lacking data. So a good PM knows the product they own inside and out, which helps to make better choices in these difficult scenarios. This is why certain companies will expect you to have a solid understanding of their products from your first day as an employee.

2. How to answer the favorite product question

We recommend using a three-step approach to answer the favorite product question in product manager interviews. This approach is also known as the BUS framework:

  1. Business objective
  2. User problems
  3. Solutions

If you're preparing for a product manager interview we strongly encourage you to learn that framework as it can also be used for product design questions (e.g. “How would you design a phone for a blind person?”) as well as product improvement questions (e.g. "How would you improve YouTube?").

Let's go through each of the three steps one by one.

Step one: Business objective

Many candidates skip this step and start listing aspects of their favorite product in an unstructured way. This is a big missed opportunity to help your interviewer understand your thinking more clearly and to show that you’ve got great communication skills.

Here are the things you need to do at the beginning of your answer:

  1. Outline your answer
  2. Explain the product
  3. Define the business objective

First, an easy way to set yourself apart from other candidates is to tell your interviewer how you will answer their question upfront. Knowing what your answer will cover makes your interviewer's job easier. It's a little bit like a table of contents at the beginning of a book - it's helpful to have an overview before diving into details.

We therefore encourage you to preface your answer by saying something like, "First, I’ll explain what the product does at high level and its business objective. Second, I’ll outline the target users and their problems. And finally, I’ll explain how the product solves those problems better than competitors and why that makes it my favorite product."

Once you've outlined how you're going to answer the question, you need to make sure you explain the product. Your interviewer will only be able to easily follow your answer if they first understand the product. It's therefore really worth investing one minute upfront to make sure they understand how it works.

For instance, let's imagine you’re explaining why Instagram is your favorite product. You could summarize what Instagram does by saying, "Before I explain why it’s my favorite app, let’s quickly review how Instagram works. Instagram has two main types of users. End users, who choose accounts to follow (e.g. friends and family, celebrities, sports stars, etc.), which in turn creates a personalized feed of photos and videos that provides information, entertainment, and inspiration. These users can also upload photos and videos to share with their own followers. And advertisers, who sell products and build their brand on the platform."

Finally, you should clarify the business objective you’re going to discuss in the rest of your answer. Providing this context up front will help your interviewer understand your explanation of why it’s your favorite product later on. This is particularly important if your interviewer is not familiar with the product.

For instance, you could say, “The more time users are on the app and the deeper their engagement, the more rewarding the platform is to advertisers, which creates a virtuous cycle. Therefore, in terms of its business objectives, Instagram is most likely interested in user engagement and revenue.”

Step two: User problems

Now that you’ve clearly explained the product and its business objectives it's time to explain the users and their problems in more detail. Here are the things you need to do in this step:

  1. Select a user type
  2. List user problems

First, you should select a user type to focus on. Given that you’re explaining why this product is your favorite, it’s a good idea to explain how you identify with this user type. Note that you can also explain favorite products from the business perspective (i.e. you don’t have to be a user of the product, you might just love the design of it) but it’s often easier to step through an answer when it’s a product you are very familiar with.

Let's go back to our Instagram example. You might say something like, “I tend to use Instagram mostly as an end user, not an advertiser, so let me explain more about the product from that perspective.”

Second, you should explain what problems the product solves for this user type. For instance, you could say, “Instagram provides solutions to common problems for users like me. One, people often experience boredom in their free time. Two, it can be difficult to find personalized but varied content all in one place. And three, people often want to fill a couple minutes of free time in scenarios where they’re only carrying their phone, like waiting in line for coffee or in between stops on the subway.”

Step three: Solutions

Now that you’ve clearly explained the product and its business objectives it's time to explain the users and their problems in more detail. Here are the things you need to do in this step:

  1. Explain how the product solves the user problem better than competitors
  2. Discuss trade-offs and suggest improvements, as necessary
  3. Summarize

First, for each of the user problems you have identified you should explain the product’s solutions and why they’re better than competitor’s solutions.

When explaining why Instagram is your favorite, you could say: “Instagram solves these problems better than competitors in a few ways.

“First, by giving users the option of exactly what accounts to follow, there’s a really high chance a user’s feed is full of content they’re going to enjoy as soon as the app launches on their phone. This is a better solution than some alternatives which first require you to choose the type of content you want to engage with before really providing value. Therefore I look to Instagram whenever I’m bored because of this intentional design, as it cures my boredom without me having to expend any effort.

“Second, the user is given an endless stream of content from various sources, as compared to alternative solutions that might have a finite amount of content that’s separated into categories. This type of feed therefore makes me more likely to use and engage with the app because it’s an easier experience than disjointed alternatives.

“Third, the primary design of the app as a mobile experience built around visuals might be Instagram’s biggest advantage over its competitors. For instance, reading a tweet while walking is harder than glancing at a picture. The core design of the app therefore makes the barrier to engage with Instagram content really low compared to other alternatives. This is a great solution when I have limited free time in scenarios best suited for a mobile experience, like walking down the street with a cup of coffee in one hand and my phone in the other.”

Sometimes by this point in your answer the interviewer will ask a follow up question like, “How would you make it better?” If they do, you should suggest improvements that support the business objective you defined earlier. And even if they don’t ask this type of follow up question, it's a good idea to talk about tradeoffs.

For instance, one trade-off here is that if my primary experience in the app is the feed, I may not search for new accounts to follow, which in the long run might reduce my engagement. Therefore, you could point this out and mention that it would be a good idea to include some “you might also like these other accounts” features in the feed, to help keep the user experience with the platform fresh over time. This will disrupt the experience a little bit but will also help maintain or even deepen the engagement in the long run.

Finally, after going through that exercise, it's a great idea to state the initial question again and summarize why this is your favorite product. This summary is a simple way of telling your interviewer that you are done answering the question and another way of showing you've got great communication skills.

For example you might say, “So that’s why Instagram is my favorite product. The endless feed of visuals optimized for mobile provides a simple solution for users looking to be entertained. Given how easy it is to use and engage with the app, it builds a virtuous cycle that creates more revenue opportunity for advertisers.”

3. List of favorite product question variations

There are a few ways you might be asked the favorite product question in PM interviews. You should use the BUS method for any variation.

To help you identify the different ways you might get asked this question, and to help you practice, we've compiled the below list of examples that were asked in PM interviews at companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon according to data from Glassdoor.com. 

Also, if you'd like to learn about the other types of questions you may face, you can also visit our ultimate guide to product manager interview questions.

  • Pick your favorite app. How would you improve it?
  • Tell me about your favorite product that’s not an app or website
  • Pick your favorite Google product. What would you change about it?
  • Tell me about a free service you like and how would you monetize it
  • What’s your favorite Microsoft Office Product? What are the first three things you would change about it?
  • Tell me about a product you love. How would you make it better?
  • What’s your favorite Facebook feature?
  • Tell me about a product you use often

Now that you have a list of sample questions to work with, it’s important to consider how you will practice with these questions.

4. How to practice the favorite product question 

It’s best to take a systematic approach to make the most of your practice time, and we recommend the following three steps:

4.1 Learn a consistent method for answering the favorite product question

In this article, we’ve outlined a step-by-step method you can use to solve the favorite product question. We’d encourage you to first memorize the basic steps, and then try solving a couple of the sample questions on paper.

This will help you to understand the structure of a good answer. Also feel free to write-out your answers in the comments below, and we’d be happy to give you feedback. This is a good first step, BUT just knowing the method is not enough, you also need to be able to apply the steps in interview conditions. 

4.2 Practice by yourself or with peers

A great way to practice the method for solving the favorite product question, is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it’s an excellent way to improve the way you communicate your answers during an interview. Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview.

If you have friends or peers who can do mock interviews with you, that's a great option too. This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with PM interviews, or is at least familiar with the process. You can also find peers to practice with on websites like Pramp.

In addition to practicing by yourself, and with peers, it can be a huge advantage to do mock interviews with experienced PM interviewers. 

4.3 Practice with experienced PM interviewers

If you know a Product Manager who can help you, that's fantastic! But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from Google, Amazon, and other leading tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

PM Interview Coaching

Any questions about PM interviews?

If you have any questions about product manager interviews, do not hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!

Keep reading: product manager interview articles