Advice > Product management

Product owner interview questions (Google, Booking.com, etc)

By Tom Parry on November 30, 2023 How we wrote this article
a product owner points to a product roadmap on whiteboard

Product owner interviews at top tech companies are challenging.

Interviewers will be asking tough questions across categories including prioritization, backlog, strategy, leadership, and behavioral. And they'll be expecting a higher caliber of response than in PM interviews.

To help you prepare, we've listed examples of each type of common product owner interview question, along with tips and useful links to more detailed question guides.

Plus, we've provided you with an answer outline for 5 very typical questions.

Here's an overview:

Let's get into it!

Click here to practice with product owner ex-interviewers

1. Top 5 product owner interview questions

1.1 "How do you prioritize features on a tight timeline?"

Product owners constantly face choices about what features or tasks to prioritize within a product roadmap.

A good place to begin your answer would be highlighting the importance of aligning features with the product's core objectives and immediate user needs. Show that you have experience analyzing user feedback and market trends to identify pivotal features that resonate with the product vision.

You could then talk about categorizing features into 'must-have', 'should-have', and 'nice-to-have' segments. Focus your explanation on the 'must-have' functionalities that are indispensable for the product's success within the given timeline.

Consider mentioning the application of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) strategy to speed up the delivery of essential functionalities. Emphasize the significance of clear and consistent communication with cross-functional teams to ensure everyone understands the prioritization rationale and remains aligned despite time constraints.

Another quality worth demonstrating here is adaptability. You can discuss the iterative nature of product development and the importance of adapting to emerging insights or challenges.

Lastly, aim to strike a balance between speed and value. Showcase your ability to make strategic choices that deliver the most significant impact within the limited timeframe while paving the way for future enhancements

1.2 "What do you expect from this job as product owner?"

Product owner is not as well-defined a role as others, and depending on the setup of the company you are joining, there can be quite a lot of differences in how the role is seen. Which makes this question an important one.

If possible, try to find out how your target company perceives the product owner role.

For example, at Google a PO is seen as "the voice of the end user and they bring this into the API team with detailed requirements that are prioritized for the team to build solutions."

Other companies may see the product owner as primarily a coordinator, with their primary responsibility being to provide effective product backlog management.

Ultimately, there are various product owner stances that you will need to take at various times during your role, perhaps all in one day!

Try and find out which of these stances is most important for the company you are applying for, as well as considering which is most important to you.

1.3 "How do you articulate a clear product vision?"

As Product Owner, you'll be responsible for creating, managing, and owning the Product vision. First, it's worth considering what exactly the product vision is.

"The Product Owner creates, manages, and owns the Product vision. The Product vision describes the purpose of a Product, the intention with which the Product is being created, and what it aims to achieve for customers and users." (Scrum.org)

Talk about how you take ownership of the product vision and how you share it frequently and passionately with the rest of the team, iterating and improving it through a collaborative process, adapting the way you communicate the vision to the benefit of the relevant stakeholders.

You may want to mention a framework or template that you use to help you express the vision. You could also discuss how you keep the vision focused on customers rather than technology (which is simply a means to the vision).

Dive deeper on this question:

1.4 "How do you measure KPIs?"

This question assesses your ability to track and evaluate the success and progress of a product based on predefined goals and objectives. It reveals your grasp of metrics, data-driven decision-making, and your strategy for ensuring a product's alignment with business objectives.

Explain how you define clear objectives by aligning KPIs with specific, measurable goals for the product, and ensuring they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

You'll also want to show that you have a keen instinct for which metrics to choose. Give specific examples from your past experience of times you made choices about which metrics to track and explain why.

You could then go on to give examples of how you have monitored KPIs and how through analysis you have not only identified trends and insights but used them to take specific actions.

1.5 "How do you gather and incorporate user feedback to drive product improvements and innovation?"

As mentioned above, Google sees product owners as the voice of the end user and so this question is almost guaranteed if you're interviewing there.

Draw from your experience in using various user feedback methods like surveys, interviews, or usability tests. Highlight your iterative development process, showcasing how user feedback is incorporated into product iterations.

You might want to talk about a feedback loop, detailing how collected insights are consistently utilized to refine features based on user expectations.

Make sure that you have at least one example of where user feedback directly influenced an innovation or enhancement in a product you were working on. Talk about how you test out hypotheses and either iterate or kill quickly based on customer reactions.

he Agile team member primarily responsible for maximizing the value delivered by the team by ensuring that the team backlog is aligned with customer and stakeholder needs.

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he Agile team member primarily responsible for maximizing the value delivered by the team by ensuring that the team backlog is aligned with customer and stakeholder needs.

© Scaled Agile, Inc.
Include this copyright notice with the copied content.

Read the FAQs on how to use SAFe content and trademarks here:
https://www.scaledagile.com/about/about-us/permissions-faq/
Explore Training at:
https://www.scaledagile.com/training/calendar/

2. Product owner interview questions by category

As mentioned in the introduction, product owners tend to face questions across six main categories:

  • Prioritization questions
  • Backlog questions
  • Product strategy/sense questions
  • Product leadership questions
  • Generic behavioral questions
  • Calculation questions (sometimes)

We've included a separate behavioral category, but bear in mind that almost any question might be framed as a behavioral question (i.e one that asks you to talk about past experiences).

For example, instead of being asked "How would you prioritize between requirements?" you could be asked "Tell me about a time you prioritized between requirements".

Our recommendation is that, when possible, you answer questions by talking about specific actions you have taken in the past, rather than answering in the hypothetical. This way, you demonstrate to the interviewer that you have real experience dealing with these kinds of problems.

Right, let's dive into each question category. You'll see that we've specified which questions were reported by Google product owner candidates on Glassdoor.

The rest of the questions come from a wide mix of tech companies, based on our analysis of interview reports on Glassdoor, Reddit, and Quora.

2.1 Prioritization questions

Prioritization questions are extremely common in product owner interviews. They assess your ability to make strategic decisions, manage resources effectively, consider stakeholder needs, and align with business objectives.

Interviewers want to see your structured thought process, how you weigh options, and your ability to explain the rationale behind your choices. When answering, clarify your criteria for prioritization (e.g., customer impact, ROI, urgency) and communicate a clear rationale behind your decisions.

You may want to talk about a common prioritization framework that you find useful (RICE, Kano, MOSCOW, etc) or perhaps you have your own method. The important thing is showing that you can make strategic prioritization decisions efficiently and effectively.

Example prioritization questions asked in product owner interviews

  • Tell me about your approach to prioritizing features on a tight timeline (Google)
  • How would you handle requests that are of the same priority (Google)
  • How do you balance technical debt against business needs?
  • How do you prioritize between stories?
  • How would you address conflicting priorities coming from different business functions such as operations, finance, IT, support etc?

For help answering prioritization questions, see our guide: How to crack prioritization questions in PM interviews.

2.2 Backlog questions

Similar to prioritization questions, backlog questions test a candidate's understanding of backlog management, prioritization, and their ability to drive the product development process effectively.

Be sure to demonstrate that you can align backlog items with the product vision, goals, and long-term strategy.

You may also be tested on whether you can adapt to changing priorities, new information, or unforeseen circumstances within the backlog and adjust and reprioritize effectively.

Backlog questions in product owner interviews

  • What would you do if the delivery team did not deliver what the business had asked for?
  • How do you prioritize backlog items?
  • What if a scrum QA says that they cannot test a feature being developed, how you being a PO can unblock this situation?
  • How to handle situations where QA at last moment finds a blocker and they cannot proceed ahead ? How to ensure that the promised date to the customer is not missed?
  • If a feature to be developed in a sprint is blocked due to a dependency, how do you handle it as a PO ?

2.3 Product strategy/sense questions

Questions around product strategy and product sense aim to assess the way you approach typical product problems and whether you can think critically and in a data-driven way.

How do you understand and identify product problems? Are you aware of the different factors and considerations at play? Can you display enough creativity to show that you favor innovation?

Product strategy/sense questions asked in product owner interviews

  • How would you go about designing a book search product for a country in Africa (Google)
  • How do you gather and incorporate user feedback to drive product improvements and innovation? (Google)
  • What's the downside of running A/B tests too long?
  • If booking reservations decrease, but CTR increases due to your experiment, what would you do?
  • Which are three improvements you would like to make to the company's website??
  • How do you measure KPI's?

To prepare more around these topics, read our guides on How to crack product strategy questions and How to demonstrate product sense.

2.4 Product leadership questions

People management may or may not be a key part of your role as a product owner, depending on the structure of the team you're joining.

If you'll be leading team sprints, be prepared for questions on how you do this effectively and how you make work easier and smoother for others.

Be ready to demonstrate strong communication skills to collaborate cross-functionally, experience in resolving conflicts, and show that you know how to get different stakeholders to buy into your product vision.

Product leadership questions asked in product owner interviews

  • How do you facilitate effective communication among designers, engineers, and other stakeholders? (Google)
  • How do you provide clear goals in team sprints?
  • What will you do if the team is not achieving the sprint goal?
  • How do you provide clarity on the product vision?
  • What are the modes of communication within the scrum team?
  • A scrum member is absent from a scrum meeting: how would you ensure that the information is passed to that person?
  • How do you handle escalations?
  • How do you handle conflict resolution between team members?
  • How do you manage conflicts between the development team and QA?

For a deeper dive into questions around product leadership, try these question guides:

2.5 General behavioral questions

Behavioral questions are those that ask you to refer to past experiences in order to answer the question. So, as mentioned above, almost any question listed in this article could be a behavioral question. But we've included it as its own category here to cover general questions that seek to assess the way you work, your experience level, and how good a "fit" you'd be at the company.

We recommend you use a framework to answer behavioral interview questions. Many people use the STAR framework but we think the SPSIL method works better:

  • Situation
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Impact
  • Lessons

For a detailed look at the SPSIL framework, plus other common behavioral questions and example answers, use our guide: The 16-most asked behavioral interview questions.

Behavioral questions asked in product owner interviews

  • Tell me about the highlight of your career so far
  • Tell me about one product you are most proud of creating
  • Tell me about a recent challenge you faced and how you overcame it

  • Tell me about systems, platforms, and architectures that you've already worked with

2.6 Calculation questions

Calculation questions didn't come up in the Google product owner interview reports we analyzed, but some companies do like to make sure their product owner is reasonably good with numbers.

If you do get asked calculation questions, remember to take a deep breath, and talk through your working. Practice a few before the interview to get your mental muscles warmed up.

Calculation questions asked in product owner interviews

  • A brick weighs a pound plus 1/2 a brick. How much does a brick weigh?
  • You're at a dog show and there are 196 legs and 126 eyes. How many dogs and how many humans are there?
  • How much risk does a business undertake by guaranteeing a specific price for one product in contrast to the non-guaranteed price of another product.

For tips and practice dealing with these sorts of questions, check out our guide: How to crack product estimation questions in PM interviews.

3. How to prepare for product owner interviews

Now that you know what questions to expect, let's focus on how to prepare. Here are the three most important things you can do to prepare for your product owner interviews.

3.1 Study the company you’re applying to

It's important to study the mission, strategy, and interview process specific to the company you’re applying to.  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 product manager positions more generally, so you’ll likely find a different categorization of questions and tips for more 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.

3.2 Practice by yourself

The second step of your preparation should be to brush up on the different types of questions listed above and to practice answering them by yourself.

It's also worth using our guide to product leader interview prep, where you'll find more examples of the sorts of questions you might face.

3.3 Practice with ex-interviewers

Practicing by yourself will only take you so far. One of the main challenges of product owner interviews is to communicate your different stories in a way that's easy to understand. As a result, we strongly recommend practicing PO interviews with a peer or friend interviewing you.

You should also try to practice with expert ex-interviewers, as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers.

If you know a product owner or product leader who has experience running interviews at a big tech company, then 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 Google, Meta, and Amazon. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

 

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