Interviews for VPs and Directors of Product, Group Product Managers, and other product leaders are intense. Interviewers will be asking tougher questions and expecting higher caliber responses than in the PM interviews you’ve had in the past.
So we’ve consulted product leaders from Amazon, Uber, and Facebook, as well as interview reports from many other tech companies, in order to put together this step-by-step guide to product leader interviews.
Our first tip: learn everything that you can about the company and team you’re applying to before starting your interviews.
Let’s jump right in.
- What to expect in product leader interviews
- Practice example questions
- Study the company you’re applying to
- Do mock interviews
Before we get into the most common interview questions for Directors, VPs, Group PMs, and other product leaders, let’s take a look at what you can expect during the interview process.
The structure of product leader interviews will be similar to that of standard PM interviews, usually including the following steps:
- Phone interview with HR or recruiter
- 1-2 phone screens with PMs or a hiring manager
- 3-7 round onsite or virtual loop
The final interview rounds may take the form of standard question-and-answer sessions, presentations that you will prepare in advance, or project retrospectives (deep dives on your product past).
You can expect four categories of questions throughout the process: leadership, people management, product sense and strategy, and execution. We’ll dive deeper into these exact questions and how to answer them in section 2.
1.1 The difference between PM and product leader interviews
The difference between PM and product leader interviews comes down to the scope of the questions and the completeness of your answers.
There are two main differences between PM interview questions and product leader interview questions: the addition of people management, and an emphasis on product strategy. This is because product leaders must shift from primarily managing products to primarily leading strategy and teams.
Your answers to these questions must be of a higher quality than those of PM candidates. Interviewers will expect product leader candidates to answer comprehensively: choosing between different markets, identifying and eliminating relevant courses of action, and considering long-term implications.
Finally, they will expect candidates to be flexible and reactive. After you’ve given your initial answer, interviewers will ask follow-up questions that dive deep into certain areas. You must be able to adapt your approach and provide extra detail where the interviewer asks for it.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the interview process for Vice Presidents and Directors of Product, Group PMs, and other product leaders, let’s get into the exact questions you may be asked, as well as how you should answer them.
As we mentioned above, there are four general question categories across product leadership interviews at companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google:
- Leadership interview questions, which test your ability to lead teams and influence without authority
- People management interview questions, which test your ability to keep teams and individuals aligned with product and organizational objectives
- Product sense and strategy interview questions, which test how well you can articulate and advocate for your product vision
- Execution interview questions, which test how well you make trade-offs and target long-term objectives while meeting short-term goals
The four subsections below include 29 example questions to help you prepare for your product leader interviews.
Note: if you're preparing for a product owner interview, at this point you should check out our specific question guide: product owner interview questions.
Product leaders must be able to look into the future, take calculated risks, and influence those around them, with or without hierarchical authority. Interviewers ask leadership questions to test these qualities.
A key way to demonstrate leadership skills is to align yourself with the culture and leadership principles of the company you’re interviewing with. As one of their future product leaders, you will have to exemplify the company’s guiding principles in your daily work. Interviewers will already be looking for this at the interview stage.
The exact characteristics you should demonstrate will depend on the company. For example, if you’re interviewing at Amazon, you may want to show examples of when you’ve respectfully challenged decisions. At Facebook, interviewers will be more likely to test you on your self-awareness and empathy as a leader.
Study the company’s mission and culture, and use the questions below to practice crafting answers that line up with it.
Product leader interview questions: Leadership
- Tell me about a time when you received difficult feedback, and how you handled it
- Tell me about a time you failed
- Tell me about a time you succeeded
- What is your leadership style? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a stakeholder
- Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to serve customer needs
- Who is the person whom you’ve had the most difficulty working with? Why was it difficult, and how did you work through it? What would they say about you today?
Product leaders are responsible for embodying the company’s vision and culture, and ensuring that everybody on their teams understands where they fit into that vision. Show that you can do this with your answers to people management questions.
During the interview, focus on how you drive alignment. Lay out the steps you take to guide multiple teams to target and make progress toward the right goals. Your answers should be tied to the vision and strategy of the company you’re interviewing with, and how you lead your reports to fit into this vision.
Again, the exact management traits that the interviewer looks for will depend on the company. Facebook, for example, may look for candidates who drive consensus, while Amazon looks for decisive managers who can push a team forward. Meanwhile, Google may prefer managers with high domain expertise.
Practice your answers using the questions below.
Product leader interview questions: People management
- What is your management style?
- Have you ever had to manage a poor performer? How did you handle it? Did you have to fire them?
- Tell me about a time when you coached or mentored someone in your team. What was the effect on their career?
- How have you dealt with negative or static mindsets within your teams?
- Tell me about a time when you managed a conflict
- Imagine that you’re putting together a product roadmap with 10 suggested features, but only capacity for 5. The stakeholders are in conflict about the eliminated features. How will you manage them?
- How do you source and hire top talent?
- If you were leading your own company, what would be the ideal size and composition of the team?
Directors and Vice Presidents of product, Group PMs, and other product leaders must have the capacity to assemble coherent analyses, arguments, and actions that address high-stakes and ambiguous challenges.
The best way to demonstrate this is to articulate your product vision and advocate for it. You should be able to define a clear roadmap of prioritized features and products that points toward a compelling vision aligned with overall company strategy.
Once you’ve articulated this vision, you’ll have to own and defend it against the interviewer’s questions. They may challenge you, introduce new data, or suggest alternatives. Show that you know when to stick to your guns, versus when new information should be taken into account. This demonstrates that you’ll be able to make key decisions and see them through.
Practice answering this type of question using the examples below.
Product leader interview questions: Product sense and strategy
- Should Company X enter the music industry?
- Should we launch our own media streaming service?
- Imagine you’re a VP at Facebook, and TikTok is exploding in popularity. How will you react?
- How would you improve our product?
- Imagine you’re a VP at Amazon, considering raising the price of Amazon Prime. How will you make that decision?
- Should Google acquire iRobot?
- Should Headspace partner with Netflix or Apple TV?
- What criteria do you consider when making build vs. buy vs. partner decisions?
This final category of questions will test your ability to execute on your product vision by prioritizing complex projects, and ultimately meeting long-term goals while keeping the lights on in the short term.
There are two impactful ways to demonstrate your execution skills in an interview: working within a structure and addressing stakeholder management.
First, using a framework to approach questions around trade-offs and prioritization will show the interviewer how you structure your thinking and rely on data, rather than intuition alone. Be sure that your framework remains flexible enough to adapt to new information from the interviewer.
Second, lay out your communication methods with stakeholders. A key part of executing a vision is rallying key stakeholders around the idea, so explain how you keep them updated with important parts of the process and align them with your vision.
Product leader interview questions: Execution
- How do you balance feature velocity and tech debt? What are some strategies you’ve used in the past?
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision between achieving short-term objectives and long-term goals.
- You’re considering shuttering a low-performing product. What are the trade-offs of this decision?
- How do you compare unlike products on your roadmap and prioritize them?
- How do you measure intuition-driven insights against data-driven insights?
- Tell me about a time when you aligned teams outside of your direct reports in order to achieve organizational and program objectives.
You may have noticed how important it is to study the mission, strategy, and interview process specific to the company you’re applying to. Product leaders represent the company to their teams and stakeholders, so interviewers will look for you to be passionate and informed about the organization early on.
Read the mission statement and leadership principles of the company, as well as their latest news and releases. Get an idea of the principal challenges and needs of the team and role you’ll be filling, and seek out what past employees have said about the company on sites like Blind, Glassdoor, and Medium.
To get you started, take a look at our free company guides below. These are designed for PM positions more generally, so you’ll likely find a different categorization of questions and tips for junior level roles. However, they also include key information about the company’s interview process, as well as links to company-specific strategy teardowns, organizational analyses, etc.
Find your company below.
- Google product manager interview guide
- Facebook product manager interview guide
- Amazon product manager interview guide
- Microsoft product manager interview guide
- LinkedIn product manager interview guide
- Uber product manager interview guide
- Stripe product manager interview guide
- Lyft product manager interview guide
- Apple product manager interview guide
- TikTok product manager interview guide
- Coinbase product manager interview guide
- Airbnb product manager interview guide
- DoorDash product manager interview guide
Finally, an essential step in preparing yourself for VP, Director, Group Product Manager, or other product leader interviews is to start with mock interviews.
4.1 Practice by yourself and with peers
First, practice your answers on your own. Take a look at the questions above and write down your answers, focusing on one category at a time. Strike out unnecessary details and add insights until you’ve crafted answers that are comprehensive and clear, without rambling.
You can find free practice questions to work with on articles like this one or on YouTube.
Next, rehearse your questions and answers out loud, playing the role of both the interviewer and the candidate. It may feel strange at first, but it’s an excellent way to practice your method for addressing each type of question.
For leadership questions in particular, dive deep in the leadership principles or values of the company you’re applying to. Find examples from your past experience that exemplify each value or principal, and practice telling those stories within a repeatable framework.
Once you’ve nailed down your answers to the questions above, as well as your leadership examples, it’s time to practice with somebody else interviewing you.
This is especially helpful if you have peers in your network who have experience with product leader or PM interviews, as they can give you more targeted feedback.
4.2 Practice with ex-interviewers
Ideally, you should practice with experienced product leader interviewers, as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers. They will also ask you the types of follow-up questions that will come up in your interviews, which are key to making a good impression and difficult to practice on your own.
If you know a VP, Director, Group PM, or another product leader 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 leading tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.